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State of Delaware
State flag of Delaware State seal of Delaware
(Flag of Delaware) (Seal of Delaware)
State nickname: The First State
Map of the U.S. with Delaware highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Dover
Largest city Wilmington
Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D)
Senators Joe Biden (D)

Thomas Carper (D)

Official language(s) None
Area 6,452 km² (49th)
 - Land 5,068 km²
 - Water 1,387 km² (21.5%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 783,600 (45th)
 - Density 154.87 /km² (7th)
Admission into Union
 - Date December 7, 1787
 - Order 1st
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Latitude 38°27'N to 39°50'N
Longitude 75°2'W to 75°47'W
Width 48 km
Length 161 km
 - Highest point 137 m
 - Mean 18 m
 - Lowest point 0 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-DE
Web site

Delaware is one of the 50 states of the United States of America. It was one of the original 13 states and is known as the "First State" as it was the first of them to ratify the United States Constitution, which it did on December 7, 1787. It is a Mid-Atlantic state located on the western shore of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay and geographically is the second smallest state in the United States. The state capital is at Dover and its major city is Wilmington.



Main article: History of Delaware

Native Americans

Before Delaware was settled by Europeans, the area was home to the Delaware (also known as Lenni Lenape), Susquehanna, and other Native American tribes.

Colonial Delaware

The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle in present day Delaware by establishing a trading post at Swanendael, now Lewes, Delaware in 1631, although it was soon destroyed in a war with native Americans. In 1638 a Dutchman named Peter Minuit at the head of a group of Swedes, Finns and Dutch established a Swedish trading post and colony at Fort Christina, now in Wilmington, Delaware. Meanwhile the Dutch, reinvigorated by the leadership of Peter Stuyvesant, established a new fort in 1651 at present day New Castle, Delaware and in 1655 took over the entire Swedish colony and incorporated it into Dutch New Netherlands.

Only nine years later, in 1664, the Dutch were themselves forcibly removed by a British expedition under the direction of James, the Duke of York. Fighting off a prior claim by Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, Proprietor of Maryland, the Duke passed his somewhat dubious title on to William Penn in 1682. Penn badly wanted an outlet to the sea for his Pennsylvania province and leased what were now known as the "Lower Counties on the Delaware" from the Duke.

Penn established representative government and briefly combined his two possessions under one General Assembly, but in 1704, the representatives of the Lower Counties began meeting on their own at New Castle. Penn and his heirs remained the Proprietors and always appointed the same person Deputy Governor for the Province of Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties.

American Revolution

Delaware was one of the thirteen colonies which revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. The colonial General Assembly declared itself separated from British rule on June 15, 1776, and because of the midnight ride of Caesar Rodney, its delegates voted for American independence in July 1776. In September 1776, Delaware adopted the first state constitution and its first leader went by the title of "President." Contributing leaders such as Thomas McKean, George Read, John Dickinson and John Haslet to the cause, Delaware provided one of the premier regiments in the Continental Army, known as the "Blue Hens." The state was invaded and partially occupied by the British from September 1777 until June 1778 and the important Battle of Brandywine was fought just over the border in Pennsylvania.

Following the American Revolution, statesmen from Delaware were among the leading proponents of a strong central United States government with equal representation for each state. Once the Connecticut Compromise was reached creating a U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the leaders in Delaware were able to easily secure ratification of the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787, making Delaware the first state to do so.


With two-thirds of the state settled by descendents of slave holding Maryland tobacco farmers, large parts of Delaware had a long tradition of acceptance of the institution of slavery. This was in spite of the fact that farmers increasingly had such little use for slaves that by the 1860 census there were only about 1,800 slaves in a state of 90,000 people, including nearly 20,000 free African Americans. When he freed his slaves in 1777, John Dickinson was Delaware's largest slave owner with 37 slaves.

The oldest black church in the country was chartered in Delaware by former-slave Peter Spencer in 1813 as the "Union Church of Africans," which is now the A.U.M.P. Church. The Big August Quarterly which began in 1814 is still celebrated and is the oldest such cultural festival in the country.

During the American Civil War, Delaware was a slave state that remained in the Union (Delaware voters voted not to secede on January 3, 1861). Delaware had been the first state to embrace the Union by ratifying the constitution, and would be the last to leave it, according to Delaware's governor at the time. While most Delaware citizens that fought in the War served in the regiments the State answered Lincoln's call to arms with, some did in fact serve in Delware companies on the Confederate side in Maryland and Virginia Regiments.

Two months before the end of the Civil War, however, Delaware voted on February 18, 1865 to reject the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution and so voted unsuccessfully to continue slavery beyond the Civil War. Delaware symbolicaly ratified the amendment on February 12, 1901—40 years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery ended in Delaware only when the 13th Amendment took effect in December of 1865. Delaware also rejected the 14th amendment during the Reconstruction Era.

Law, government, and politics

Delaware's fourth and current constitution, adopted in 1897, provides for executive, judicial and legislative branches.

Legislative branch

The Delaware General Assembly consists of a House of Representatives with 41 members and a Senate with 21 members. It sits in Dover, Delaware, the state capital. Representatives are elected to two-year terms, while Senators are elected to four-year terms. The Senate confirms judicial and other nominees appointed by the Governor.

Judicial branch

The Delaware Constitution establishes a number of courts:

  • The Supreme Court of Delaware is the state's highest court.
  • The Superior Court of Delaware is the state's trial court of general jurisdiction.
  • The Court of Chancery deals primarily in corporate disputes.
  • The Family Court handles domestic and custody matters.
  • The Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over a limited class of civil and criminal matters.

Minor non-constitutional courts include the Justice of the Peace Courts and Aldermen's Courts.

Significantly, Delaware has one of the few remaining Courts of Chancery in the nation, which has jurisdiction over equity cases, the vast majority of which are corporate disputes, many relating to mergers and acquisitions. The Court of Chancery and the Supreme Court have developed a worldwide reputation for rendering concise opinions concerning corporate law which generally (but not always) grant broad discretion to corporate boards of directors and officers. In addition, the Delaware General Corporation Law, which forms the basis of the Courts' opinions, is widely regarded as giving great flexibility to corporations to manage their affairs. For these reasons, Delaware is considered to have the most business-friendly legal system in the United States; therefore a great number of public and private companies are incorporated in Delaware.

Executive branch

The executive branch is headed by the Governor of Delaware. The present governor is Ruth Ann Minner (Democrat), who was elected as the state's first female governor in 2000. The lieutenant governor is John C. Carney. Delaware's U.S. Senators are Joseph R. Biden (Democrat) and Thomas R. Carper (Democrat). Delaware's single US Representative is Michael N. Castle (Republican).


Delaware has only three counties: Kent County, New Castle County, and Sussex County. See: List of counties in Delaware Each county elects its own legislative body (known in New Castle and Sussex counties as County Council, and in Kent County as Levy Court), which deal primarily in zoning and development issues. Most functions which are handled on a county-by-county basis in other states -- such as courts, law enforcement, and the like -- have been centralized in Delaware, leading to a significant concentration of power in the Delaware state government.

The Democratic Party holds a plurality of registrations in Delaware. Until the 2000 Presidential election, the state tended to be a Presidential bellwether, sending its three electoral votes to the winning candidate for over 50 years in a row. Bucking that trend, however, in 2000 and again in 2004 Delaware voted for the Democratic candidate. John Kerry won Delaware by eight percentage points with 53.5% of the vote in 2004.

Historically, the Republican Party had an immense influence on Delaware politics, due in large part to the monied du Pont family. This trend was so notable that Ralph Nader assembled a working group to investigate Delaware's political-industrial complex, resulting in a book published in 1968 entitled The Company State. As DuPont's might has declined, so has that of the Delaware Republican Party. The Democrats have won the past four gubernatorial elections and currently hold only three of the nine statewide elected offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, U.S. Representative-at-large, and two U.S. Senators). However, this belies the fact that the Democratic Party gains most of its votes from heavily-developed New Castle County, whereas the lesser-populated Kent and Sussex Counties vote Republican.


Map of Delaware
Map of Delaware

Delaware is bounded to the north by Pennsylvania, to the east by the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean and to the west and south by Maryland. Small portions of Delaware are also situated on the far, or eastern, side of the Delaware River Estuary, and these small parcels share land boundaries with New Jersey. The largest city is Wilmington, and the capital is Dover.

The state of Delaware, together with the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland and two counties of Virginia, form the Delmarva Peninsula, a geographical unit stretching far down the Mid-Atlantic and into the South Atlantic Coast.


Delaware lies on a level plain, the highest elevation being less than 450 feet above the sea. The northern part is associated with the Appalachian Piedmont and is hilly, with a rolling surface. South of Newark and Wilmington, the state follows the Atlantic Coastal Plain with flat, sandy, and, in some parts, swampy ground. A ridge about 75 to 80 feet in altitude extends along the western boundary of the state and is the drainage divide between the two major watersheds of the Delaware in the east and of several streams falling into Chesapeake Bay in the west. The principal streams draining into the Delaware are the Christina and the Brandywine rivers. The Christina is navigable for large ships as far as Wilmington, and for small ships as far as Newport. The coast of Delaware Bay is marshy; the Atlantic coast has many sand beaches, enclosing shallow lagoons. The largest of these are Rehoboth Bay, Indian River Bay, and a portion of St. Martin's Bay. The only harbors of consequence are Wilmington, Lewes, and New Castle.


Since the great majority of Delaware is a part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the climate is moderated by the effects of the ocean. The southern third of the state has a mild subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and mild winters. The middle portion is the transition to the upper portion of the state, which has a warm continental climate and receives occasional winter snowfall.


Historical populations

1790 59,096
1800 64,273
1810 72,674
1820 72,749
1830 76,748
1840 78,085
1850 91,532
1860 112,216
1870 125,015
1880 146,608
1890 168,493
1900 184,735
1910 202,322
1920 223,003
1930 238,380
1940 266,505
1950 318,085
1960 446,292
1970 548,104
1980 594,338
1990 666,168
2000 783,600

As of 2004, there were an estimated 830,364 people living in Delaware.

The racial breakdown of the state is:

The five largest ancestries in Delaware are: African American (19.2%), Irish (16.6%), German (14.3%), English (12.1%), Italian (9.3%). Delaware has the largest African American population, percentage-wise, north of Maryland, and had the largest population of free blacks (17%) prior to the Civil War.

As of 2000, 90.5% of Delaware residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 4.7% speak Spanish. French is the third most spoken language at 0.7%, followed by Chinese at 0.5% and German at 0.5%.


The religious affiliations of the people of Delware are:

Important cities

Wilmington is the state's largest city and its economic hub. It is located within commuting distance of both Philadelphia and Baltimore. Despite Wilmington's size, all regions of Delaware are enjoying phenomenal growth, with Dover and the beach resorts expanding immensely.

Suburbs of Wilmington
Other locations
Delaware cities
Delaware cities

Top 10 richest places in Delaware

Ranked by per capita income

  1. Greenville: $83,223
  2. Henlopen Acres: $82,091
  3. South Bethany: $53,624
  4. Dewey Beach: $51,958
  5. Fenwick Island: $44,415
  6. Bethany Beach: $41,306
  7. Hockessin: $40,516
  8. North Star: $39,677
  9. Rehoboth Beach: $38,494
  10. Ardentown: $35,577


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The gross state product of Delaware in 2003 was $49 billion. The per capita personal income was $34,199, ranking 9th in the nation.

Delaware's agricultural output consists of poultry, nursery stock, soybeans, dairy products and corn. Its industrial outputs include chemical products, processed foods, paper products, and rubber and plastic products. Delaware's economy generally outperforms the national economy of the United States.

The state's largest employers are concentrated in government (State of Delaware, New Castle County, University of Delaware), chemical and pharmaceutical companies (E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Syngenta, AstraZeneca, and Hercules, Incorporated), banking (MBNA America, Wilmington Trust Company, First USA / Bank One, JPMorgan Chase, AIG, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank), manufacturing (General Motors, Chrysler), and farming, specifically chicken farming in Sussex County (Perdue, Mountaire Farms).

The United States headquarters of ING Group, and the U.S. operations of its online bank, ING Direct, are located in Wilmington, as are the world headquarters of MBNA.

Dover Air Force Base, just outside Dover, is one of the largest in the country and is a major employer in Central Delaware. In addition to its other responsibilities, the base serves as the entry point and mortuary for American military persons (and some U.S. government civilians) who die overseas.



There are no network broadcast-television stations operating solely in Delaware. A public-television station from Philadelphia, WHYY, maintains a studio and broadcasting facility in Wilmington. Philadelphia's ABC affiliate, WPVI, maintains a news bureau in downtown Wilmington. The northern part of the state is served by network stations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the southern part by network stations in Baltimore and Salisbury, Maryland. Salisbury's CBS affiliate, WBOC, maintains a bureau in Dover.


Delaware is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and the Episcopal Diocese of Wilmington. The A.U.M.P. Church, the oldest African-American denomination in the nation, was founded in Wilmington and still has a very substantial presence in the state. Delaware also hosts an Islamic temple in the Ogletown area, as well as a Hindu temple in Hockessin.

Synagogues include Beth Emeth Congregation (Reform) and Congregation Beth Shalom (Conservative) in Wilmington, and Congregation Beth Sholom (Conservative) in Dover.


Delaware's professional sports teams are the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team, a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox who play at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, and the Delaware Griffins, part of the Women's Professional Football League. Delaware is also home to the Delaware Smash who play World Team Tennis. The Smash were led in 2005 by Wimbledon champion Venus Williams.

In place of in-state professional sports teams, many Delawareans follow either Philadelphia, New Jersey, or Baltimore teams, depending on their location within the state, with Philadelphia teams receiving the largest fan following. In addition, the University of Delaware's football team has a loyal following, with Delaware State University's team enjoying popularity on a much lesser scale.

Delaware is home to Dover International Speedway and Dover Downs. DIS, also known as the Monster Mile, hosts two NASCAR races each year. Dover Downs is a popular harness racing facility. In what may be the only co-located horse and car-racing facility in the nation, the Dover Downs track is located inside the DIS track.

Botanical gardens

Music in Delaware


The Big August Quarterly is an annual religious festival held in Wilmington, Delaware, and is sometimes called "Big Quarterly" or "August Quarterly". The festival began in 1814 by Peter Spencer in connection with the "quarterly" meeting (or "conference") of the African Union Church. Out of the four meetings during the year, the one in August became the "annual conference" of the Church when ministers' assignments for the next year were announced, among other business -- it was a time for free blacks and slaves alike to come together (from the multi-state area) and celebrate their faith with singing, dancing, testifying, and feasting. It is the oldest such celebration in the country. Senator Biden's remarks on the significance of the "Big Quarterly" were published in the Congressional Record for 30 July 1981 (Vol. 127, No. 117) and for 9 August 1984 (Vol 130, No. 106).

Every year, the Delaware Sängerbund (German for Singers Alliance) holds a three day long Oktoberfest. Although the cultural significance of the Sängerbund has diminished over the years, the festival is extremely popular and attracts visitors from all over the East Coast.

Wilmington's substantial Polish-American population supports a yearly Pulaski Day Parade in March as well as a summer Polish Festival, hosted by Saint Hedwig's Roman Catholic Church.

In Bethany Beach, the end of the summer season is honored each year with a traditional jazz funeral down the town's boardwalk. And at the end of October, Rehoboth Beach holds its annual "Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers' Festival".

One of Delaware's most bizarre -- and enjoyable -- traditions is Sussex County's Punkin Chunkin, where unused pumpkins from the Halloween season are ejected almost one mile high in the air by hydraulic or air-powered cannons. Putatively a competition to see which team can create the most powerful cannon, it is also a popular occasion for drinking and tailgate parties.


Delaware was the origin of Belton v. Gebhart, one of the four cases which was combined into Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court decision that led to the end of segregated public schools. Significantly, Belton was the only case in which the state court found for the plaintiffs, thereby ruling that segregation was unconstitutional. Even more ironically, Delaware's segregated school system was substantially supported by donations from the wealthy du Pont family beginning with the Civil War, when the Du Pont Company's profits grew thanks to a high demand for its gunpowder products.

Unlike many states, Delaware's educational system is centralized in a state Superintendent of Education, with local school boards retaining control over taxation and some curriculum decisions. A statewide standardized test, the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP), was implemented to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act.

A "three-tiered diploma" system fostered by Governor Ruth Ann Minner, which awarded "basic", "standard", and "distinguished" high-school diplomas based on a student's achievement, was recently discontinued by the General Assembly after a popular outcry questioned its fairness.

Colleges and universities

Miscellaneous information

  • The USS Delaware was named in honor of this state.
  • Delaware is also known as The Diamond State and the Small Wonder.
  • There is no sales tax in Delaware.

Other places named Delaware

There are cities, towns, boroughs, townships, and counties named "Delaware" in the states of Indiana, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, Minnesota, and several "Delawares" in each of the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There's even a "Delaware" in the province of Ontario, Canada.

The Delaware River is a major river in the eastern United States, rising in New York State, forming the boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and emptying into Delaware Bay, which separates New Jersey from the state of Delaware.

Delaware Native Americans

Delaware is also the name of a Native American group (called in their own name Lenni Lenape) that was very influential in the dawning days of the United States. However, a band of the Nanticoke tribe of Indians still remains in Sussex County.

See also

External links

Flag of Delaware

State of Delaware
Cities | Government | History | U.S. Congress

State capital:



Delaware Valley | Chesapeake

Cities & Towns: Wilmington | Dover | Newark | Milford | Seaford | Georgetown

Kent | New Castle | Sussex

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