History of Delaware

The first signs of human population in the Delaware territory date back to 10,000 years ago. The tribes that met the first Europeans who explored the region were of the Algonquin group: the Naticoke and the Lenni lenape. The Spanish and Portuguese traveled the coast of Delaware in the sixteenth century, but did not establish any colony there. In 1609, the Dutch explored the Delaware Bay, although the expedition was commanded by the Englishman Henry Hudson. A year later, Samuel Argall landed in the Delaware Bay and took possession of the territory, and gave it this name in honor of Lord de la Warr, governor of Virginia. Cornelius May and Cornelius Hendricksen explored the coast in 1613 and 1614.

Dutch and Swedes were the protagonists of a long struggle for control of this region during the 17th century. Following an expedition led by Peter Minuit, the Swedes landed in 1638 near Wilmington, on the banks of the Christina River, where they founded a fort which they gave, like the river, the name of the Queen of Sweden. Later, the Swedes managed to wrest Fort Casmir from the Dutch, where they founded the colony of New Sweden. However, in 1655 the Dutch led by Peter Stuyvesant took over these lands again, and founded the colony of New Netherlands. The presence of the Swedes in Delaware left an important influence in the state which was reaffirmed in later times.

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The center of this colony was established in New Amstel, now New Castle. When the Dutch abandoned their possessions in North America in 1681, Delaware became part of the Pennsylvania colony. In 1701, however, these three counties were granted independent administration, although technically they continued to depend on Pennsylvania. In 1776 at the New Castle Convention, delegates declared the constitution of the state of Delaware, and in the Second Continental Congress of Philadelphia they voted for independence from England. Delaware supplied more than 4,000 troops to the revolutionary army. L’ the only battle that was fought on state territory between the British and North Americans was at Cooch’s Bridge, near Newark, in September 1777. In that year, the capital was moved from New Castle to Dover. Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution in 1787, which is why it got its nickname as the first state. Delaware wrote its first constitution in 1797.

After independence, Delaware developed rapidly thanks to agriculture, and the manufacture of gunpowder. One of the milestones of the state was the invention of the automated mill, the work of Oliver Evans in 1785. The chemical industry, one of the great sectors of Delaware, arose from the company EI du Pont de Nemours and Company, founded by Du Pont in Wilmington. The construction of the railroad in 1838 to connect Baltimore and Philadelphia was a key element in the growth of Delaware, as it boosted industrial production in the north and succeeded in integrating southern farmers into the region’s economy.

Despite being a slave state, Delaware was loyal to the Union during the civil war (1861-65). The Proclamation of the Emancipation of Slaves dictated by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, was not implemented in Delaware at first. However, in 1865 the Delaware slaves were freed, when the United States Constitution introduced the amendment that effectively abolished legal slavery. The current constitution of the state of Delaware was adopted in 1897.

As in much of the country, the crisis that began in 1929 halted the enormous prosperity that had characterized the previous decades. The Second World War, however, had a positive effect on the economy of this state, as its industries had to cover the enormous demand for belic material. After the war, some factors contributed to the growth of the state, such as the construction of the Delaware Memorial Bridge which connected New Jersey with Delaware, or the tax advantages that its congress granted to the industries that decided to settle in this small state. Delaware is home to a large number of large companies.

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Tom Carper, of the Democratic Party, was chosen in 1993 as governor of Delaware, after representing his state in the United States Congress for five terms and six years as state treasurer. Chosen for the second time, he held the position until 2001 as the Delaware constitution prohibits him from running for a third term. During the last few years, Carper’s government has focused especially on reforming the school system, developing programs to diversify the economy, fight unemployment, and public security issues.

Delaware: what to see

New Castle – The former capital of Delaware today is a well-preserved historic site, featuring restaurants, shops and residential areas. At the New Castle Courthouse are exhibited objects that illustrate the multi-ethnic origins of the city, claimed by Sweden, Holland and England. A short distance from each other there are several historic houses.

Wilmington – The city is home to one of the finest art museums in the country, the Delaware Art Museum. Its extraordinary collections contain works by American illustrators.

Cultural tourist places and curiosities– The two most important museums in Delaware are the Winterthur Museum Gardens, founded by the Du Pont family which exhibits a splendid collection of works of applied arts from the United States in its one hundred and fifty rooms, and the American Hagley Museum, specializing in industrial archeology. Other interesting museums are those of Delaware Natural History, the Delaware Museum of Art, the Delaware State Museum, and the Zwaanendael Museum, dedicated to the Dutch presence in Delaware. There are numerous house-museums open to the public, among them, John Dickinson’s palace, in Dover, and that of Parson Thorne, in Milford.

The presence of the Swedes in Delaware has left a great cultural, social and religious influence in this state. Thus, in Wilmington remains one of America’s oldest Protestant churches, the Old Swedes Church, built in 1698. In homage and reminder of the state’s Swedish heritage, Fort Christina Park houses a sculpture by Carl Milles, an image allegorical of ‘The Rocks’, the place where the first Swedish explorers landed in 1638. Wilmington has an important theater, the Playhouse, and an opera house, Grand Opera House, where the Delaware Theater Company performs.

The most important sport in delaware is horse racing, such as the Dover Downs which takes place in the city of Dover.

Delaware State Flag

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