This week in Delaware History

 

Week of December 30

This final week of the Delaware Historical Society’s Sesquicentennial we honor Revolutionary War Soldier Colonel John Haslet who was killed this week in 1777 at the Battle of Princeton. The Delaware Historical Society owns Colonel Haslet’s ledger of 1776.

Excerpt from Colonel John Haslet’s handwritten account ledger, September, 1776. DHS Manuscript Collection Vault Box 13.

Excerpt from Colonel John Haslet’s handwritten account ledger,
September, 1776. DHS Manuscript Collection Vault Box 13.

Also this week, Delaware’s first Board of Trade was organized in Wilmington in 1837. This organization, the ancestor of today’s Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, was first directed by numerous individuals whose family names are deeply rooted in Delaware including  C.I. du Pont, William Chandler, James Canby, Edward Grubb, John Wright, John Bancroft, Vincent Gilpin, and Thomas Garrett, Stationmaster of the Underground Railroad. David C. Wilson was the Board of Trade’s first President.

First page of the original minutes of the Board of Trade of Wilmington, January, 1837. DHS Manuscript Collection Vault Box 179.

First page of the original minutes of the
Board of Trade of Wilmington, January, 1837.
DHS Manuscript Collection Vault Box 179.

 

Week of December 23

The Female Bible Society of Delaware was formed this week in Wilmington in 1821.
This interdenominational organization purchased Bibles from the American Bible Society to sell or give to people who did not have them. Members visited the poor to see if they needed or wanted a Bible, which they either gave or sold at a modest price depending on the circumstances. The organization's annual reports tell stories of their pleasure in helping people who were receptive to their message. The Delaware Historical Society has a rich collection of the Female Bible Society’s original ledgers, as well as a silver presentation cup made by James E. Caldwell of Philadelphia with an engraved tribute to Margaret Johnson (ca. 1790-1857), a leader of the society and its treasurer for 35 years.

Account records from a Female Bible Society Ledger of 1822 and 1823. DHS Manuscript Collection of Society Records.

Silver Cut - Made by J.E. Caldwell in 1853. Gift of Miss Frederica H. Trapnell, DHS Museum Collection.

Account records from a
Female Bible Society Ledger of 1822 and 1823.
DHS Manuscript Collection of Society Records.

Silver cup with slightly flared sides set on a gadrooned foot; raised, beaded rim; simple S-scroll handle: Engraved script tribute at the front : ”To / Miss M. Johnson / a tribute of gratitude & / respect from the female Bible / Society of Wilmington Delaware / for her long & faithful services / as Treasurer of that Society / Dec. 25th 1853 / & presented by her to the / Rev. Wm. H. Trapnell”. Made by J.E. Caldwell in 1853. Gift of Miss Frederica H. Trapnell, DHS Museum Collection.

 

Week of December 16
During this week, The “Nylon Capital of the World” was born. In late 1939, the DuPont Company opened the world’s first nylon plant in Seaford, Delaware. The mass production of Nylon, which was invented in 1935 by a team of DuPont chemists under the direction of Wallace Carothers, began on December 15, 1939. Carothers died tragically in the spring of 1937. He never heard the word nylon, nor did he witness any of the mind boggling commercial success of his invention. Nylon is a made-up word. It does not have an etymology. It was chosen precisely because it was a word without a past, and one which happened to sound like “no run”  (as in ‘no run stockings’) , an image beneficial to the marketing of the new product.

Postcard of bucolic Seaford, Delaware prior to its transformation to the Nylon Capital of the World. DHS Postcard Collection

Women workers at production line in Seaford's Nylon Plant, ca. 1942. DHS Photograph Collection MIT72

Postcard of bucolic Seaford, Delaware prior to its transformation
to the Nylon Capital of the World. DHS Postcard Collection

Women workers at production line in
Seaford’s Nylon Plant, c. 1942.  
DHS Photograph Collection MIT72

 

 
Week of December 9

During this week in 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, earning it the nickname The First State.

Facsimile of the document affirming the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787 by designated deputies of the State of Delaware, with signatures from all three counties. DHS manuscript Collection.

Facsimile of the document affirming the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787
by designated deputies of the State of Delaware, with signatures from all three counties.

DHS manuscript Collection.


Also this week, the ‘driving force’ behind the creation of the first highway to stretch the entire length of Delaware was born. Thomas Coleman du Pont, who was born on December 11th, 1863 was not only the brainchild of a European style thoroughfare through Delaware, he also directed its construction and personally financed the highway which bears his name, DuPont Highway.  U.S. Route 13 follows the DuPont Highway from Wilmington into Dover at which point the highway diverges. DuPont Highway (Rt.113) meanders south from Dover through Milford, Georgetown, and into Selbyville at the Delaware/ Maryland border, whereas Route 13 adopts a slightly southwestern flow through Harringtown, Seaford, Laurel and Delmar.

T. Coleman du Pont in his car. DHS Photograph Collection PPLD132

T. Coleman du Pont in his car.
DHS Photograph Collection PPLD132

 

 
 
Week of December 5

This week, on December 5, 1632, Holland’s David Pietersen de Vries arrived with fifty Dutch settlers at the remains of the ill fated Zwaanendael Colony in what is today Lewes, Delaware. Three years earlier, in 1629, The Dutch West Indian Company had bargained with local natives for a large stretch of land along the coast of today’s Delaware river. It was the earliest official deed for land in Delaware, one that pre-dated the charter of Maryland as well as any European settlement in Pennsylvania. A colony of twenty eight Dutch settled in the area north of Cape Henlopen. However, due to a tragic misunderstanding between the first Dutch settlers and the natives over the theft of an object in camp, the colonists were overrun and slaughtered by a small band of natives. A detailed description of the massacre was provided to de Vries by the Nanticoke Indians. Despite creating a new treaty with natives after his arrival, de Vries decided to relocate his new Dutch colony further north on the Atlantic, to New Amsterdam colony, today’s New York City. Zwaanendael is old Dutch for Valley of Swans. A museum run by the State of Delaware in honor of the colony stands in Lewes, Delaware. Lewes also has a historical society which can be contacted at www.historiclewes.org 

De Vrees Monument in Lewes Delaware. DHS Postcard Collection, Historic Sites.
De Vrees Monument in Lewes Delaware.
DHS Postcard Collection, Historic Sites.

 

 
 
Week of November 25    


Delawareans have celebrated a day of Thanksgiving from the very beginning of our nation. Pictured below is an official proclamation made in 1778 by Caesar Rodney which announces an official day of Thanksgiving. On November 17th, 1778 the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be honored at the end of the year.  Thanksgiving has, of course, become indelibly linked with late November in the modern calendar. However, during the Revolutionary War, Congress picked December 30th for a Thanksgiving celebration, as we see in Rodney’s proclamation.

Proclamation by Caesar Rodney. DHS Manuscript Collection of Oversize Proclamations.
Proclamation by Caesar Rodney.
DHS Manuscript Collection of Oversize Proclamations.

 

 


Also during this week in 1969, Delaware’s first dinner theater opened its doors in what was previously a large barn, the Harvey Barn, at the end of ‘The Mall’ in Arden, Delaware. The Candlelight Dinner Theater saw many talented actors and actresses on its stage through the years, including Jack Klugman (The Odd Couple) and Anthony Perkins (Psycho). Today, the Candlelight Theater continues the tradition of a fine meal with entertaining stage productions in the same charming converted barn, often to sell-out audiences. Before the idea of connecting a feast to a live stage show in 1969, the theater in Arden’s big barn was called the Robin Hood Theater which opened in the 1930’s.

Actresses pose in front of the Robin Hood Theater (today’s New Candlelight Theater). DHS Photograph Collection PRF24

Actresses pose in front of the Robin Hood Theater
(today’s New Candlelight Theater).
DHS Photograph Collection PRF24

 

Week of November 18
 
   

During this week in 1739, England’s King George II approved a petition from an early settler named William Shipley and numerous other landholders for designating a bustling village along the Delaware river as an incorporated borough. Now Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington, Delaware was originally named Willingtown, after an early settler named Thomas Willing. However, when approving self government for the town, the King renamed it, apparently on a whim, to honor a personal friend named Spencer Compton, the first Earl of Wilmington.  The original name lives on in a public space known as Willingtown Square between Market and Shipley streets at the Delaware Historical Society. As noted in an earlier segment, Wilmington was chartered by the State of Delaware as a city (as opposed to an English borough) in January of 1832.

Inset: the first page of the original draft sent to King George II for incorporating the borough of Wilmington, (Willingtown) Delaware. The entire document is available for public review in the library of the Delaware Historical Society. Background: Bird's Eye View of Wilmington, lithograph by Edward Sachse & Co., 1864, DHS Collection.
Inset: the first page of the original draft sent to King George II
for incorporating the borough of Wilmington, (Willingtown) Delaware.
The entire document is available for public review in the library of the Delaware Historical Society.
Background: Bird's Eye View of Wilmington, lithograph by Edward Sachse & Co., 1864,
Delaware Historical Society Collection

 
 
Week of November 11    

President John F. Kennedy was in Delaware for the opening of the newly completed Interstate 95 (I-95) this week in 1963, on November 14 to be exact.  Just eight days after the photograph below was taken, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Interstate 95, which greatly expedited transportation along the east coast of the United States, is also known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway in honor of our 35th president.

President John F. Kennedy in Delaware cutting the ribbon to open I-95, alongside Delaware’s Governor Elbert Carvel (to his immediate left) and Maryland’s Governor Millard Tawes (immediate right).  DHS Photograph Collection ROA54

President John F. Kennedy in Delaware
cutting the ribbon to open I-95,
alongside Delaware’s Governor Elbert Carvel (to his immediate left)
and Maryland’s Governor Millard Tawes (immediate right).
DHS Photograph Collection ROA54


 

 

Also this week, in 1624, King Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden, chartered the Swedish South Sea Company to expand Sweden’s trade opportunities, land ownership, and religion in the New World. The Swedish Crown provided the Swedish South Sea Company with two ships for these endeavors, the Kalmar Nyckel and the Fogel Grip, both of which entered the Delaware Bay in the Spring of 1638.

Painting of King Gustavus Adolphus II, father of Queen Christina of Sweden. DHS Art Collection.

Painting of King Gustavus Adolphus II,
father of Queen Christina of Sweden.
DHS Art Collection.

 

 
Week of November 4    

Vice President Joe Biden was first elected United States Senator this week in 1972. He was 29 years old at the time and not expected to pull off the victory. However he worked tirelessly and with the strong support of his family, he was elected Delaware’s Senator over the better known incumbent, J. Caleb Boggs.  Biden served a distinguished career in the Senate from 1972 until beginning his Vice Presidency in 2009.

Dust Jacket of the book "Promises To Keep, Joe Biden on Life and Politics". New York: Random House Publishers, 2007.

 Dust Jacket of the book
Promises To Keep, Joe Biden on Life and Politics.
New York: Random House Publishers, 2007.

 

 

Revolutionary War soldier, Captain Robert Kirkwood, was killed this week in 1791 in a battle against the Miami Native American tribe near present day Fort Wayne, Indiana. Kirkwood had survived thirty two battles in the Revolutionary War. He fought in every battle in which General George Washington was involved in 1777. After the fight for independence, Kirkwood joined a military expedition to govern the Northwest Territory.  Captain Kirkwood attended Newark Academy, the predecessor of today’s University of Delaware. His troops became known as the Blue Hen Chickens, due primarily to the game fighting of blue feathered hens during lulls between battles. It is from the fame of his troops that the Blue Hen was adopted as a team mascot by the University of Delaware. Kirkwood Highway which spans Newark through Elsmere, Delaware was named in his honor. The Delaware Historical Society owns original military journals handwritten by Captain Kirkwood.

The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood, from the Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware LVI

The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood,
from the Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware LVI

 

 
Week of October 28    

William Penn arrived this week in New Castle in 1682 to take possession of New Castle County. He arrived aboard his ship Welcome and was received formally in the eastern wing of the New Castle Courthouse. It was the first time Penn had set foot on American soil. As a symbol of his proprietorship, he performed the ancient “Turf and Twig” ceremony, known as the ‘livery of seisen’, a custom dating back to 12th century feudal Europe. The ceremony signified the delivery (livery) of land to a new owner, and entailed transference by hand of , literally, a piece of earth and a small branch.

Court House, New Castle, Delaware c. 1910. Center of Survey of “Twelve Mile Circle” by William Penn. DHS Purnell Postcard Collection.

Court House, New Castle, Delaware c. 1910.
Center of Survey of “Twelve Mile Circle” by William Penn.
DHS Purnell Postcard Collection.

 

 

Also this week in 1864, The Historical Society of Delaware, now the Delaware Historical Society, was granted its charter by the Delaware State Assembly. The Society had first formed five months earlier, in May of 1864, making 2014 the Sesquicentennial of the Society.
 

Seal of the Historical Society of Delaware

Seal of the Historical Society of Delaware

 

 
Week of October 21    

This week, as the World Series begins, we spotlight the birth of Delaware baseball great William Julius “Judy “ Johnson.  Johnson was born on October 26, 1899 in Snow Hill, Maryland. His family moved to Wilmington, Delaware when he was five years old. He attended Howard High School. He is considered one of the greatest third basemen of all time in a career which spanned 1918 to 1936. He was a two time All Star and member of the 1925 Negro League World Champions, The Hilldale Club.  After his playing career ended, Johnson became a coach and scout for several major league baseball teams. In 1954 he became the coach of the Philadelphia Phillies, making him the first African American coach in Major League Baseball. The Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball team play each year on Judy Johnson Field in Wilmington’s Daniel Frawley Stadium. The Blue Rocks are, coincidentally, a minor league affiliate of one of the two teams playing in this year’s World Series, the Kansas City Royals.   Johnson died at the age of 89 in Wilmington, Delaware. His house, the Judy Johnson House, still stands in Marshallton, Delaware.
 

Photograph of William Julius “Judy” Johnson; DHS Photograph Collection People J59

Photograph of William Julius “Judy” Johnson
DHS Photograph Collection People J59

 

 

Also this week we mark the passing of one of Delaware’s greatest artists, sculptor Charles Cropper Parks. Parks was born in 1922. He began his education in a one room schoolhouse in Talleyville, northwest of Wilmington, Delaware. After World War II, in which Parks served as Second Lieutenant, he continued his art studies at the University of Delaware and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Sculptures by Parks are usually naturalistic and convey gestures of subtle beauty and tranquility. They seek to embody universal  human values usually through uplifting, confident, and serene poses. Many sculptures seen in public spaces in and around New Castle County, Delaware were created by Parks, including The Brandywine River Museum’s Boy with Hawk; The Student at the Newark Free Library; Father and Son in Spencer’s Plaza between King and French Street in Wilmington; Apprentice  near the Brandywine River in H. Fletcher Brown Memorial Park; and the sculpture of Governor Russell Peterson near the Riverfront Nature Center. He is perhaps best known nationally for his large Madonna sculptures, the first of which, Our Lady of Peace, was displayed in Rodney Square before travelling to its current home in Santa Clara, California. A second large Madonna is now in Indiana at St. John’s Passion Church and a third Madonna can be seen in New Castle, Delaware at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Charles Cropper Parks passed away two years ago, on October 25. His family generously donated a vast treasure of his sculptures to the State of Delaware.

Photograph of Charles Cropper Parks at work in his studio, circa 1955. DHS Bungarz Collection General Prints Box 10
Photograph of Charles Cropper Parks
at work in his studio, circa 1955.
DHS Bungarz Collection General Prints Box 10

 

 
Week of October 14    

To the dismay of pumpkin throwers everywhere and their fans, Delaware’s Punkin Chunkin’ championship has been cancelled this year.  According to Bob Kotowski’s book “Pie in the Sky, the Authorized History of Punkin Chunkin’ “, the idea for ‘chuckin’ pumpkins’ extremely far with catapults happened sometime this week in October of 1986. Not even the four friends who came up with the idea seem to know the exact day they first envisioned airborne pumpkins, but it was two weeks before Halloween in 1986. John Ellsworth, Don Pepper, Trey Melson, and Bill Thompson gathered at Ellsworth’s Blacksmith Shop in Lewes, Delaware to brainstorm about a new way to best eachother in sports. The idea they came up with has ballooned into a major festival, one that attracts huge crowds and a national audience. The team who can catapult a pumpkin the farthest can own the title of World Champions.   Punkin Chunkin was set to take place next week from October 24 through October 26 at a new location in Dover, Delaware, but organizers have not had enough time to prepare for the event this year.

•	Strawberry and Pumpkin patch in Bridgeville, Delaware May 28th, 1925. DHS Photograph Collection AGR40

Strawberry and Pumpkin patch
in Bridgeville, Delaware May 28, 1925.
DHS Photograph Collection AGR40

 

•	Cover of Bob Kotowski’s Pie in the Sky, The Authorized History of Punkin Chunkin’ , DHS Book Collection F172 .S8 .K68

Cover of Bob Kotowski’s Pie in the Sky,
The Authorized History of Punkin Chunkin’
,
DHS Book Collection F172 .S8 .K68

 

 

Also this week in 1829, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal first opened. The C&D Canal stretches fourteen miles. It connects the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River and therefore was an extremely important commercial cargo route between Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as other regional towns. It reduced by nearly three hundred miles the shipping route between Philadelphia and Baltimore. Cargo tonnage through the canal reached a peak in 1872 at 1.3 million tons. The canal is often thought of as the northern edge of the Delmarva Peninsula.

•	Steamship Penn with Passengers on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, c. 1890. DHS Photograph Collection CAN39
Steamship Penn with
Passengers on the Chesapeake
and Delaware Canal, c. 1890.
DHS Photograph Collection CAN39

 

C&D Canal Opening Ceremony Announcement from the October 14th, 1829 issue of the Delaware Gazette newspaper.

C&D Canal
Opening Ceremony Announcement
from the October 14, 1829 issue
of the Delaware Gazette newspaper.

 

 

 
Week of October 7    

This Week in Delaware History would be remiss if it didn’t spotlight, at least once, Delaware’s most famous Patriot, Caesar Rodney. He was born this week in 1723.  October 7th to be exact. Rodney’s famous horse ride from Dover to Philadelphia embodies the fervor and dedication to freedom of our nation’s founding fathers.  On the night of July 1, 1776 Rodney rode 70 miles through a thunderstorm in order to break a deadlocked vote at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He arrived just as voting began and joined Thomas McKean in voting for Independence for Delaware.  During the Revolutionary War, Rodney served General George Washington as Major General of the Delaware Militia. He was elected President of Delaware on March 31, 1778. He died in late June, 1784 and is interred at Christ Church in Dover, Delaware.

Equestrian Statue of Caesar Rodney in Rodney Square, Wilmington, Delaware. Photograph by Ed Richi.

·         Equestrian Statue of Caesar Rodney
in Rodney Square, Wilmington, Delaware.
Photograph by Ed Richi.

 

 

Also during this week in 1977, Wilmington’s first organized shelter for homeless and destitute women opened.  Franciscan Friar Ronald Giannone, who founded The Ministry of Caring, Inc., galvanized local religious community members and volunteers to launch the Mary Mother of Hope House. The Ministry of Caring is still going strong with numerous shelters and several high quality programs in service of the poor and friendless in New Castle County because, in keeping with Brother Ronald’s guiding philosophy, “the poor should never be treated poorly”.

Dust Jacket of the book “Of Hope and Charity” by Cari DeSantis, published in 1999 by White Rose Books in Hockessin, Delaware. Call number F173.5 .M66 .D44 in the DHS library.

Dust Jacket of the book “Of Hope and Charity”
by Cari DeSantis, published in 1999
by White Rose Books in Hockessin, Delaware.
Call number F173.5 .M66 .D44 in the DHS library.

 

 
Week of September 30    

During this week in 1793, George Read, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appointed Chief Justice in Delaware.  As Chief Justice, Read served as the final arbiter in legal disputes in Delaware, a position with broad powers over the First State’s early economic and cultural direction. Read was born on September 18th , 1733. He lived on the Strand in New Castle, Delaware in a house next to the current George Read II House, which was built by the Chief Justice’s son, George Read II.  The Delaware Historical Society owns and operates the George Read II House. Tours, school programs,  and special events are provided, including an upcoming October recital of the prose of Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare by the Delaware Shakespeare Theater Company.

George Read I, from an engraving by artist Samuel Sartain, DHS Photograph Collection, People, PPLR 10

·         George Read I, from an engraving by artist Samuel Sartain,
DHS Photograph Collection, People, PPLR 10

 

 

Also this week in 1664, over a century before George Read signed the Declaration of Independence, the British Crown wrested the city of New Amstel from the Dutch Crown and renamed it New Castle.  It has remained that name for 350 years.  The primary defensive position used by the Dutch along the Delaware River to protect New Amstel  was called Fort Casimir.  It was located near the convergence of Chestnut Street and the Strand,  just a few hundred yards from where George Read and his son George II built their houses over a century later. By capturing New Castle, the British held dominion over all territory south to Lewes, along the Delaware coast.

 

Bird's eye view of Ft. Casimir along the Delaware River, drawn by G.W.T.M.   DHS Print Collection Box 23, Print 1

Bird's eye view of Ft. Casimir along the Delaware River,
drawn by G.W.T.M.
DHS Print Collection Box 23, Print 1

 
Week of September 23    


This week, in the town of New Castle, Delaware,  the first Constitution of the State of Delaware was approved and adopted. George Read, signer of the Declaration of Independence and father of the builder of the Delaware Historical Society’s George Read II House, presided as President of the convention responsible for crafting the Constitution. Thomas McKean was a primary force for the adoption process which distinguished Delaware State from its moniker under the British crown; the lower counties of Pennsylvania. September 20this still celebrated as "Constitution Day" in the state of Delaware.

RBK(v) F164.75 .C76m Delaware. Constitutional Convention (1776). In convention, at New-Castle, for the Delaware state : begun the 27th day of August, 1776, and continued by adjournment to the 21st day of September following. [Wilmington [Del.] : Printed by James Adams, M,DCC,LXXVI [1776]
RBK(v) F164.75 .C76m
Delaware. Constitutional Convention (1776).
In convention, at New-Castle, for the Delaware state:
begun the 27th day of August, 1776,
and continued by adjournment
to the 21st day of September following. [Wilmington [Del.]:
Printed by James Adams, M,DCC,LXXVI [1776]

 

 

Also this week, documentarian Ken Burns, a former resident of Newark, Delaware, raised the bar for effective and popular historical documentary filmmaking. During this week in 1990, Burns’ “the Civil War” first aired on PBS/ Channel 12. It is the most watched event in the history of PBS.

 

Field and Staff Officers of the 4th Regiment Delaware Volunteers/ November 1863.    DHS Oversize Photograph Collection, 1.5
Field and Staff Officers of the
4th Regiment Delaware Volunteers
November 1863.   
DHS Oversize Photograph Collection, 1.5

 
Week of September 16    

On September 17, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the First and Second Delaware Regiments fought for the Union Army in Western Maryland. What was to be the deadliest event on U.S. soil, the Battle of Antietam, (named for a nearby creek), resulted in the deaths of 5,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. 19,000 more were wounded. The broadside below announces a funeral procession to be held in Wilmington, Delaware in honor of Captains Watson and Rickards, both killed at Antietam. They were interred at the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery. The original broadside may be seen in the Delaware Historical Society’s library.

Announcement of Funeral Procession. DHS collection of Broadsides, Folder 10.

Announcement of Funeral Procession.
DHS collection of Broadsides, Folder 10.

 

 


Also this week in 1935, the Wilmington Deepwater Tunnel Company proposed a 10 million dollar engineering project to run a tunnel on the floor of the Delaware River to connect Delaware with New Jersey.  The tunnel, if built, would have rested under the same stretch of water over which the Delaware Memorial Bridge now stands.

Photograph of Delaware River looking east. DHS Aeroservice Collection 88
Photograph of Delaware River looking east.
DHS Aeroservice Collection 88

 
Week of September 8    


On Sept 11, 1777, General Sir William Howe’s British Army engaged General George Washington’s Continental Army near Chadd’s Ford Pennsylvania not far from where today’s Route 1 crosses the Brandywine River. The Battle of Brandywine resulted in the Americans being driven back northeast to Chester, Pennsylvania. Another battle soon took place between the armies in Paoli. Once again, the Americans could not fend off the British and the American capital at the time, Philadelphia, fell. The British entered the city unopposed on September 26th. Washington and his army, meanwhile, settled within striking distance, in Valley Forge, for the winter. Approximately 300 Americans and 100 British were killed at the Battle of Brandywine. Another 1,100 were wounded.

Headquarters of General Washington at the Battle of Brandywine. Print made by Bowan & Co. Lithographers from original drawing by C.P. Tholey. DHS Print Collection.

Headquarters of General Washington at the Battle of Brandywine.
Print made by Bowan & Co. Lithographers from original drawing by C.P. Tholey.
DHS Print Collection.

 

 

 

In 1923 during this week, the Brandywine Springs Amusement Park closed after its’ final season. For over twenty years the amusement park was a popular summer destination, with free trolley service from Wilmington, Delaware. The advent of the automobile led to more visitation to beach resorts and more far flung mid Atlantic recreational sites. Although the amusement rides ceased in Brandywine Springs, the site continued as Shellpot Park, a place for family leisure and picnics.

 

“Let All Who Enter Here Leave Care Behind”. Entrance to Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. c. 1910.   Inscription: “Don’t you wish that was spring -  C.J.E.”   DHS Purnell Postcard Collection, Parks.

“Let All Who Enter Here Leave Care Behind”.
Entrance to Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. c. 1910.
Inscription: “Don’t you wish that was spring -  C.J.E.”  
DHS Purnell Postcard Collection, Parks.

 
Week of September 1    

Beginning this week in 1908, the Brandywine Zoo, originally known as the Wilmington Zoo, was appropriated a regular annual amount of $1,000 for operating expenses by the Wilmington Park Commission. This little treasure along the Brandywine River near the Josephine Gardens has undergone many physical and programmatic changes over the past century. Today, visitors can see Zhanna, a Siberian Tiger, and a pair of red pandas among many other subjects of the animal kingdom. A new exhibit with Tamarin monkeys will be completed this Fall.

Photo of children with deer in the Wilmington (Brandywine)  Zoo/ derived from a 1906 Wilmington Park Commissioner’s Report.  DHS serial collection F173.65 .P23 .R42

Photo of children with deer in the Wilmington (Brandywine)  Zoo/
derived from a 1906 Wilmington Park Commissioner’s Report
DHS serial collection F173.65 .P23 .R42

Inset: Siberian Tiger Zhanna at the Brandywine Zoo.  July, 2014.  Ed Richi, Photographer.

Siberian Tiger Zhanna at the Brandywine Zoo.
July, 2014.  Ed Richi, Photographer.

 

 

The only significant battle on Delaware soil between the British and American Continental Armies took place this week in 1777, near Newark, Delaware. The Battle of Cooch’s Bridge began at roughly 9am on Wednesday morning, September 3, when German mercenaries ventured over a bridge near Aiken’s tavern. They were ambushed by American militiamen, who fired on them from the woods surrounding the bridge. Sporadic fighting occurred all day, with the Americans eventually falling back to  Washington’s Headquarters near Newport, Delaware after having run out of ammunition.  Casualties were estimated at roughly 25 killed and 40 wounded, all told. The armies would meet a week later for a much larger battle in Pennsylvania’s rolling hills along the Brandywine River.

Cooch’s Bridge, DHS Art-Vue Company Collection, Bridges 90.69.48

Cooch’s Bridge, DHS Art-Vue Company Collection,
Bridges 90.69.48

 

 
Week of August 26    

During this week, explorer Henry Hudson sailed into the Delaware Bay in 1609. Although the map which appears below of the Delaware Bay was made in 1673, we see a variety of Delaware area place names were already in use, although spelled differently. For example, Cape Henlopen, Duck Creek,  Brandywine, Red Lion, Crane Hook, Iron Hill, and Christina Creek are referenced on the map.

Facsimile of a map of Delaware Bay . Original is in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island.

Facsimile of a map of Delaware Bay.
Original is in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island.
Originally published in London England by Augustine Hermann and
Thomas Withinbook in 1673. DHS Map Collection #492.

Directional note: North is to the right.

 

Also this week, a twelve mile arc which extends from the courthouse in the city of New Castle, Delaware was established in a 1682 deed to William Penn from England’s Duke of York. The arc’s purpose was to create a boundary between Pennsylvania and New Castle County, Delaware. It is the reason for the curious curve which separates northern Delaware from southeastern Pennsylvania. A portion of the arc intersects the Mason Dixon Line which separates Maryland from Delaware. A small swath of land to the west of the Mason Dixon Line belongs to Delaware as a result of the arc. Also, river boundary conflicts have occurred between New Jersey and Delaware due to the fact that the arc extends well to the east of the Delaware River.

Courthouse of New Castle, Delaware. DHS Postcard Collection, Buildings, circa 1905.

Courthouse of New Castle, Delaware.
DHS Postcard Collection, Buildings, circa 1905.

 

 
Week of August 19    

Underground Railroad Station Master, Thomas Garrett, was born this week in 1789; Garrett and Harriet Tubman were crucial in the escape route, a.k.a. the ‘Underground Railroad’,  used by runaway slaves heading north to freedom. The Tubman-Garrett Park on Wilmington, Delaware’s riverfront is named in their honor.


Photograph of Thomas Garrett, DHS Collection, People PPLG21
Photograph of Thomas Garrett,
DHS Collection, People PPLG21

 

Also during this week in 1907, the cornerstone was set for Adas Kodesch Synagogue at 6th and French streets in Wilmington, Delaware. This magnificent structure replaced a smaller building which served as the first spiritual home for many of northern Delaware’s Jewish immigrants. The new, larger synagogue was dedicated in 1908 and remained central to Wilmington’s traditional Jewish community for over fifty years. In the early 1960’s, a new synagogue was built for the Adas Kodesch community on Torah Way which stems from Washington Street Extension near the Rockwood Museum.

Adas Kodesch Synagogue c. 1930, DHS Sanborn Collection 87.17.230
Adas Kodesch Synagogue
c. 1930, DHS Sanborn Collection 87.17.230

 

Week of August 11
 
   

This week, 63 years ago in 1951, the first span of The Delaware Memorial Bridge opened to the public. This is the span which currently takes traffic eastbound from Delaware to New Jersey. It measures 10,765 feet. Congress approved the building of the steel suspension bridge on July 13, 1946. Its construction began on February 1, 1949. Governors Elbert Carvel of Delaware and Alfred Driscoll of New Jersey dedicated the bridge to soldiers who lost their lives in World War II from both states.

 Delaware Memorial Bridge, DHS Collection BDG62  Inlay: Opening ceremonies; First cars to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge in 1951.  DHS Bungarz Collection, Box 9; 3707.

Delaware Memorial Bridge, DHS Collection BDG62
Inlay:  Opening Ceremonies;
first cars to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge in 1951.
DHS Bungarz Collection, Box 9; 3707.

 

 

Also this week, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played for nearly 5 hours at Newark, Delaware’s Stone Balloon on  Tuesday evening, August 13, 1974. The Boss  was on the eve of stardom at this time in his career. He had recently formed the E Street Band to back him up but had not yet created the album which would bring him national acclaim, Born To Run.  What was Springsteen playing that night?  The set focused on his most recent album at the time; The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.  The single Rosalita had just been released on radio stations. Also, the audience may have been treated to fledgling melodies and lyrics from the developing Born to Run album, which was released a year later in August, 1975. Springsteen played until 2:20 a.m. that evening according to Stone Balloon owner, Bill Stevenson III.

Inset: Book cover of  Stone Balloon: The Early Years by William Stevenson III.  Published in Wilmington, Delaware by Cedar Tree Books, 2005.

Inset: Book cover of
Stone Balloon: The Early Years by William Stevenson III.
Published in Wilmington,
Delaware by Cedar Tree Books, 2005.

 

Week of August 4

   

In 1692, King William of England stripped William Penn of all of Pennsylvania following a controversial eulogy Penn gave at the death of Reverend George Fox. During this week, in 1694, William Penn was formally restored to power over the government of Pennsylvania and its three lower counties (now the state of Delaware). Lord Baltimore of nearby Maryland had attempted to claim the lower counties as his property following Penn’s fall from favor with King William and Queen Mary.

Postcard, "William Penn Man of Vision - Courage - Action A Mural Painting by N.C. Wyeth"

Postcard. "William Penn Man of Vision- Courage- Action
A Mural Painting by N.C. Wyeth" color inset of painting
that hangs at the home office building of
The Penn Mututal Life Insurance Company,
in Philadelphia, printed for the William Penn Tercentenary, 1644-1944.
DHS Postcard Collection, People.

 

Also this week, in 1859, at the southeasternmost point in Delaware, the beacon in the Fenwick Island Lighthouse was officially lit. The lighthouse stands near the Delaware Maryland border.

 

Fenwick Island Lighthouse, DHS Postcard Collection, Beaches

Fenwick Island Lighthouse,
DHS Postcard Collection, Beaches.

 
Week of July 29    

The DuPont scientist who invented Kevlar was born this week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1923. Polish-American chemist Stephanie Louise Kwolek began her career at DuPont in 1946. She moved to Wilmington, Delaware in 1950. Kevlar was invented by Kwolek and her team at the Wilmington Experimental Station as a result of research into tire production in anticipation of an international gasoline shortage. The goal was to create lighter, stronger tires which would result in decreased gasoline consumption. Research began in 1964. Kevlar was introduced commercially in 1971. DuPont’s hunch proved prophetic. The Arab oil embargo occurred in 1973.

Kevlar fiber sample made by the Dupont Company.

Kevlar fiber sample made by the Dupont Company.
The yellow kevlar thread is wound around the
center of a cardboard label with a red Dupont logo
and black text as shown.
D.H.S. Museum Collection; 1998.095.009
Gift of Justin Carisio

 

Kevlar is a synthetic material used in more than 200 applications, including tires, ropes, cables, airplanes, boats, tennis rackets, skis and bullet-proof vests. Itis five times stronger than steel by weight (!)   It has saved countless lives in the form of bullet-proof vests.

Kwolek passed away recently on June 18th at the age of 90. In 1995 she was awarded the DuPont company's Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement . She is the only female employee at DuPont to receive this honor. Also in 1995, Kwolek became the fourth woman added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Commemorative coin issued to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the DuPont company in honor of Stephanie Kwolek and the invention of Kevlar. DHS Collection 2011.008 Gift of the DuPont Company, 2002.
Commemorative coin issued to celebrate the
200th Anniversary of the DuPont company
in honor of Stephanie Kwolek and the invention of Kevlar.
DHS Collection 2011.008
Gift of the DuPont Company, 2002.

 
Week of July 22    

This week marks the birth of artist Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach in 1878 and the death of preacher Peter Spencer in 1843. Leach studied art under Howard Pyle.  She lived and worked primarily in Wilmington, Frederica, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She began her professional career as an illustrator but eventually moved on to easel painting, where she displayed remarkable thematic and stylistic range.  An extensive biography of the artist is provided in volume XXVIII of Delaware History

.

Cover of Delaware History Volume 28, Nos. 2-3 Ethel P. Brown working at her easel, ca. 1910 (Courtesy EPBL Papers)

Cover of Delaware History Volume 28, Nos. 2-3
Ethel P. Brown working at her easel, ca. 1910
(Courtesy EPBL Papers)

 

Peter Spencer was born a slave in Kent County, Maryland in 1782. He was granted freedom upon the death of his owner in the 1790’s and made his way to Wilmington, Delaware where he co-founded Ezion Methodist Episcopal Church in 1805 and later the African Union Methodist Church, which was the first independent Methodist church for members of African descent, as well as the mother church of all A.U.M.P (African Union Methodist Protestant) churches.  At Spencer’s death, thirty one A.U.M.P churches had been established in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Silhouette of Peter Spencer derived from the book “The Mark of A Man” by Lewis V. Baldwin

 

Silhouette of Peter Spencer derived from the book
“The Mark of A Man” by Lewis V. Baldwin

 
Week of July 15    

During this week, eleven summers ago in 2003, the Delaware Shakespeare Festival began. It was originally held on the grounds of Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware.  It currently takes place in the beautiful wooded hills surrounding Rockwood Mansion near Shipley Road. This years’ production is Hamlet which runs from July 11 through July 27, 2014.  For more information see www.delshakes.org

Rockwood Mansion c. 1870; south façade. DHS Collection/ Houses HOU358

·         Rockwood Mansionc. 1870; south façade.
DHS Collection/ Houses HOU358

For several years this building and elevated lawn
served as the set and stage for
Delaware Shakespeare performances.

 

 

Also this week, in 1858, the town of Milford was chartered and a public farmer’s market opened in 1736 in a new river village called Willingtown, Delaware, which we know today as Wilmington, Delaware. The market was open Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

Milford, Delaware  Walnut Street  Saturday Afternoon   c. 1880 H.W.D. Moore / Peacock Series DHS Postcard Collection, Cities & Towns

Milford, Delaware  Walnut Street  Saturday Afternoon,
c.1880; H.W.D. Moore / Peacock Series
DHS Postcard Collection, Cities & Towns

 

 
Week of July 8    

As anyone driving through northern Delaware this summer knows, bridges are important. During this week in 2007, The Senator William V. Roth Bridge, which spans the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal near St. George’s,  was dedicated.  Congressman Mike Castle, Senator Tom Carper, current Vice President (then Senator) Joe Biden, and Judge Jane Roth, widow of the illustrious Senator Roth, were among those in attendance.
 

Photograph of U.S. Senator William V. Roth, The Delaware Historical Society Collection, PPL R161

Photograph of U.S. Senator William V. Roth
The Delaware Historical Society Collection, PPL R161


 

 

Also this week, on July 6, 1969,  NASCAR began in Dover, Delaware.  NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.  A ‘stock car’, as opposed to a ‘race car’, is, traditionally, a vehicle that has not been modified from an original factory design and production. A ‘race car’, in contrast, is custom built, a.k.a. “souped-up”.  The first NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway,  a mile-long concrete oval nicknamed the Monster Mile, was won by Richard Petty.

NASCAR on the cover, Delaware Today Magazine

The June, 1971 cover of Delaware Today Magazine
The Delaware Historical Society Periodical Collection,
SER F161.1 .T63

 

 
Week of July 1    

During this week in 1964, the Cape May -Lewes Ferry began operations.  The Cape May – Lewes Ferry traverses a 17-mile crossing of the Delaware Bay to connect Cape MayNew Jersey with LewesDelaware. The original fleet contained four vessels which ran 24 hours a day. Each of the current vessels can hold 100 cars and 1,000 passengers.

The S.S. Florida & S.S. New York, Delaware New Jersey Ferry Company_Purnell Postcard Collection

The S.S Florida & S.S. New York,
Delaware New Jersey Ferry Company
Purnell Postcard Collection
Delaware Historical Society/Ships

 

Also this week,  on  July 4th 1699,  Old Swedes (Holy Trinity)  Church was dedicated. Old Swedes Church was built by Swedish colonists who founded the oldest permanent European settlement in the region, New Sweden, along the Delaware River in 1638. The church is among the oldest surviving structures in America. Tours of the site are available from the Old Swedes Foundation at oldswedes.org

Old Swedes Church

Old Swedes Church
The Delaware Historical Society Collection/Churches

 
Week of June 23    

During this week, Delaware’s landmark environmental legislation known as The Coastal Zone Act was signed into law in 1971 by Governor Russell Peterson. The Coastal Zone Act regulates industrial activity along Delaware’s waterways, protecting Delaware’s coast, beaches and wetlands from pollution. The act initially met with strong commercial opposition. However, Governor Peterson’s fervent support for environmental protection, along with that of numerous citizen activist groups, prevailed.    In the words of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, “‘Delaware's Coastal Zone Act was the first time in the world any community had ever won such a battle with international oil companies”.

The Delaware Coast  Purnell Postcard Collection/Rivers, The Delaware Historical Society

The Delaware Coast
Purnell Postcard Collection/Rivers,
The Delaware Historical Society

 

 

Also this week, the State of Delaware officially repealed Prohibition in 1933. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the sale of alcohol across the country, had been in effect since 1920. Delaware was the 6th state to repeal Prohibition, on June 24, 1933. The 21st Amendment, which formally repealed Prohibition across the country, was ratified later that year on December 5th.

Statue of King Gambrinus  Sanborn Photograph Collection, The Delaware Historical Society

Statue of King Gambrinus
Sanborn Photograph Collection,
The Delaware Historical Society

This statue decorated the façade of the
Diamond State Brewery at
2nd and West Streets in Wilmington, Delaware

 

 
Week of June 16    

The Delaware Assembly met on June 15, 1776, in New Castle and voted to sever ties with England. Until a new government could be formed it was suggested that business would be directed by the three county representatives rather than the king. This made June 15, 1776, the official birth date of "Delaware State"; the following day, June 16, Delaware separated from the state of Pennsylvania.

Delaware State flag

Delaware State Flag from the DHS Museum Collection

 

During this week, the 65th annual Delmarva Chicken Festival is set to be held  in Ocean View, Delaware, home of Cecile and Wilmer Steele, pioneers of Delaware’s  Broiler Industry. In 1923, Cecile Steele requested 50 chicks for use on the farm she shared with husband Wilmer. 500 chicks were sent to her instead of 50, and it was from this amusing mistake that the extremely lucrative broiler industry arose in the Delmarva Peninsula.

Dust Jacket of “Delmarva’s Chicken Industry: 75 Years of Progress” by William Williams. Cecile Steele highlighted.

Dust Jacket of “Delmarva’s Chicken Industry: 75 Years of Progress” by William Williams. Cecile Steele highlighted. This book is in the DHS Research Library, call number F164.2 .D35 .W728

 
Week of June 9    

During this week in 1966, Judge Collins J. Seitz was confirmed and received his commission from the United States Senate to take the seat vacated by John Biggs, Jr. as Third Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals.

Chancelor Seitz is best remembered for his pivotal role in overturning racial segregation in Delaware schools.

He served as Chief Judge of the Third Circuit from 1971–1984.

The Honorable Collins J. Seitz
The Honorable Collins J. Seitz (1914-1998)

 

Also this week, the first flight of the Bellanca C.F. took place on June 8, 1922. The flight resulted in the first successful line of cabin monoplanes in the U.S. The airplane was designed and built by Italian American, Guiseppe M. Bellanca, who established the Bellanca Airfield in New Castle, now the site of the New Castle County Airport. Bellanca is best known for designing the aircraft originally chosen by Charles Lindbergh for his famous transatlantic flight. Lindbergh was forced to buy the Spirit of St. Louis for his flight instead of the Columbia as a direct consequence of a sale dispute with the owner of the Columbia, Charles A. Levine. Lindbergh personally asked Bellanca to build a second Columbia, but it could not be constructed in the time frame Lindbergh needed.

Bellanca Pacemaker

Bellanca Pacemaker in flight over the
Bellanca Airfield in New Castle, Delaware
Heyford Collection 86.19.38, Delaware Historical Society

 

 

Week of June 3

   

The first European settlement in Delawarewas a whaling and trading post founded by Dutch settlers on June 3, 1631 and named Zwaanendael (Swan Valley). The colony had a short existence. A local tribe of Lenape Native Americans destroyed the settlement in 1632. We know this town today as Lewes, Delaware, so named by William Penn in 1682. Lewes was rebuilt and destroyed several times before Penn’s arrival. It also was shelled by British warships during the War of 1812. Fortunately the last 200 years have been friendlier. Today, Lewes is a peaceful, prosperous beach community of approprimately 2800 residents with a rich tradition of visual art. The First Town in the First State, as Lewes describes itself, is one of the principal jewels in Delaware’s idyllic  Cape region.
 

 
“Lewes, Delaware Beach”  DHS Purnell Postcard Collection

“Lewes, Delaware Beach”
DHS Purnell Postcard Collection

 
Week of May 26    

During this week Emily Perkins Bissell (right) was born in Wilmington, Delaware on May 31, 1861. Bissell was an American social worker and activist, best remembered for introducing Christmas Seals to the United States. She founded the West End Neighborhood House which provided social services to immigrant Irish, German, and Italian families. She also founded the first public kindergarten in Wilmington and was a catalyst for child labor laws in Delaware. Bissell avoided politics and was a supporter of the anti-suffragist movement, family values, and traditional gender roles.

In 1907, she was drawn to the cause of helping people with tuberculosis.  The idea of raising money through postal stamps originated in Denmark. Bissell introduced the same idea in Delaware. She personally designed  her first stamps and convinced local post offices to sell them for 1 cent.

Joining the cause was the prominent Wilmington, Delaware, illustrator, Howard Pyle, who donated the design of the second stamp.

Bissell spent the remainder of her life promoting Christmas stamps and helping to eliminate tuberculosis. She died in 1948. In 1980, on the 119th anniversary of her birth, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 15 cent stamp in her honor.

 


Emily Bissell

 

 
Week of May 19    

The first national council of Colonial Dames was held  in Wilmington, Delaware on May 19th, 1892. The Society’s fundamental purpose was, and is, to honor female descendants of colonists who came to any of the thirteen American colonies prior to 1750 and whose services were rendered during the American Colonial period. During the previous week in that year, The National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Delaware was first incorporated on May 12th . Delaware was the fourth state to form a chapter of the Colonial Dames after  Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

Register of National Society of The Colonial Dames, DHS Book Collection

Register of the National Society of the
Colonial Dames of America in the
State of Delaware, 1913.
DHS Book Collection, F161.C71

 

 

On May 21st  1654, Dr. Tymen Stidham (Timothy Stidham) arrived in New Castle Delaware with a tenth and final Swedish expedition to the New Sweden colony in Wilmington. Stidham is considered the first trained surgeon and physician on Delaware soil. His voyages involved hardship and even tragedy. His wife and children were killed by pirates after a shipwreck near Puerto Rico on the ninth Swedish expedition.

Signature of Tymen Stidham on a land record of New Castle, Delaware, 1678. DHS Manuscript Collection
Signature of Tymen Stidham on a land record
of New Castle, Delaware, 1678.
DHS Manuscript Collection

Book on Herbal medicines by Dr. Tymen Stidham, c. 1653. DHS Rare Book Colleciton RBK (v) MED B21B71

Book on Herbal medicines by
Dr. Tymen Stidham, c. 1653.
DHS Rare Book Colleciton
RBK (v) MED B21B71

 

 
Week of May 12    

During this week in 1829, the infamous Lucretia “Patty” Cannon died in jail while awaiting trial. Patty Cannon led a gang of outlaws who kidnapped slaves and free blacks in the Delmarva area and then sold them to plantation owners in southern states. The U.S. Congress banned the importation of slaves in 1808 which caused the price of a slave to skyrocket in the deep south to $1,000.  This price tag was a major incentive for the kidnapping and re-sale of slaves.

Title Page of The Narrative and Confessions of Lucretia P. (Patty) Cannon DHS Pamphlet Collection

Title Page of The Narrative and Confessions
of Lucretia P. (Patty) Cannon

DHS Pamphlet Collection

 

 

Also during this week in 1846, one of the earliest churches to serve the African American community in Wilmington was established. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, at 6th and Walnut Streets, was legally registered in the State of Delaware on May 10th.

 

Bethel AME Church
DHS Purnell Postcard Collection of Churches

 
Week of May 5    

During this week in 1931, the Empire State Building, which was financed primarily by Delawareans Pierre S. du Pont and John J. Raskob officially opened in New York City. The world’s tallest building at the time, the Empire State Building is still a powerful symbol of Manhattan’s architectural grandeur. King Kong’s last climb was funded by Delawareans. Who knew?

John J. Raskob (left) and Pierre S. duPont (right)
John J. Raskob (left) and Pierre S. duPont (right)
Delaware Historical Society
Photograph Collection, People

 

Also during this week in 1791, commissioners met at the house of Abraham Harris in central Sussex County to purchase land for the founding of a new county seat, courthouse and jail. Prior to this time, Lewes served as county seat but its location on the coast caused unnecessary transportation obstacles to landowners in ‘western’ Delaware. The land that would become Georgetown, in honor of relocation advocate George Mitchell, was surveyed that same day.

Railroad Avenue and Market Street,
Georgetown, Delaware
Purnell Postcard Collection, Delaware Historical Society

 

 
Week of April 28    

81 years ago this week, the first Dover Days occurred. Dover Days is a weekend festival which celebrates the history, culture, heritage and art of the Capital of the First State, Dover, Delaware. It began as a house and garden tour in early May of 1933 and has grown into the largest free family festival in Kent County, Delaware. Last year, 50,000 visitors attended. This year it occurs May 2 through May 4, 2014.

Old Dover Days, c. 1960s. Delaware Historical Society Collection/ Cities and Towns.

 

Also this week in 1974, the Ladybug was adopted as the official state bug by the Delaware State Legislature after an intensive effort on the insect's behalf by Mrs. Mollie Brown-Rust and her 2nd grade students of the Lulu M. Ross Elementary School in Milford, Delaware.

 

 
Week of April 21    

Upton Sinclair, author of the early 20th century novel The Jungle took up residence in Arden, Delaware during this week in 1910. Sinclair was a ardent socialist and reformer. From the image above we can see exactly where Sinclair and his wife Meta lived while in Arden. He held two leases in Arden. The first was at the north corner of the Village Green and Theater Path. His residence abutted Sherwood Forest on the western corner of Lovers Lane at Sherwood Road, close to where the Arden Faire takes place each year.

Arden Leaves_1910

 

In 1975 during this week, the sole remaining lock of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal still in its original design was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The lock is a stone structure, which rested on wooden underpinnings with a wooden floor in Delaware City, Delaware.

C&D Canal lock

     
 
Week of April 14    

Although originally founded in 1683, the historic town of Laurel, Delaware was incorporated exactly two centuries later this week in 1883. Four Delaware Governors hail from Laurel including Bert Carvel, Nathaniel Mitchell, William B. Cooper and Joshua H. Marvil. 

Postcard_Laurel, Delaware

 

On April 17th  1993,  the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball team opened Frawley Stadium (Legends Stadium at the time) with a dramatic 6-5 victory over Winston-Salem. Wilmington scored four times in the bottom of the ninth inning for the victory. The rally was capped with a two-run single by Raul Gonzalez.

Two Major League All-Stars, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran played for the Blue Rocks in the late 1990’s on Frawley Stadium’s Judy Johnson Field before they hit the big leagues. Beltran was American League Rookie of the Year in 1999, has won three Gold Glove awards, and is an eight time Major League All-Star. Damon is a two time World Series Champion and a two time All-Star. Both have over 2,200 major league hits.

 

Week of April 8

   

In 1776 Captain Jonathan Caldwell reported for duty as a commissioned officer this week in Dover, Delaware. Caldwell’s 2nd Company, under Colonel John Haslet, famously fought hens when not occupied with military exercises. Blue hens. The ferocity of these fighting blue hens was remarkable and is the origin for the name of University of Delaware sports teams.

Delaware blue Hen

 

Also this week, celebrated Delaware painter Ed Loper was born in 1916.  He began his long career in the New Deal era working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Project. In 1947, Loper opened his own studio and devoted himself full time to painting and instruction. His colorful, dynamic paintings can be found in many prestigious galleries, locally and nationally, such as the Delaware Art Museum, the Biggs Museum of American Art, the Paul R. Jones Collection of African American Art at the University of Delaware, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.

Ed Loper

 

Week of April 1

   

During this week in the year 1638, the colony of New Sweden was founded in northern Delaware. The settlement was named Fort Christina in honor of Queen Christina of Sweden by expedition commander, Peter Minuit.

New Sweden Stamp_1988

 

This week is also important in the history of Wilmington’s Little Italy.  On March 31st 1906, Ernesto DiSabatino arrived  in America from Teramo, a province of Italy and, on April 1st, 1856,  Nicola Fidanza was born. Fidanza and DiSabatino were two prominent patriarchs of Little Italy.  Fidanza donated the land where the Italian Festival is held every year. DiSabatino built the church which is the origin of the Festival; Saint Anthony’s Church at 9th and DuPont Streets. They also built many of the row homes in Little Italy, most of which still stand, and the original West End Neighborhood House on Lincoln Street.

Ernesto DiSabatino
Ernesto DiSabatino

Nicola and Carmella Fidanza
Nicola and Carnella Fidanza

 

Week of March 24

   

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda settled into a mansion named Ellerslie at this time in 1927. The Great Gatsby author rented Ellerslie, which overlooked the Delaware River in Edgemoor, just south of what is now Fox Point Park. Fitzgerald was working on his novel Tender is the Night while at Ellerslie.  He and Zelda threw outrageous, Gatsby-like parties there. Friend and literary rival Hemingway is said to have visited the couple via the Claymont train station. They left the mansion in 1929. Sadly, the structure no longer exists. However, the photograph below shows Ellerslie in her Roaring Twenties grandeur.

Ellerslie

 

 

On March 27, 1888, one of Victorian America’s most well known illustrators, Felix Octavian Carr (F.O.C.)  Darley, died. Darley’s house in Claymont, Delaware still stands at the intersection of Darley Road and Philadelphia Pike, not far from the same Claymont train station Hemingway used to visit the Fitzgeralds.


 

F.O.C. Darley

 
Week of March 17    

On Saturday, March 13, 1813, the town of Lewes was first bombarded by British warships as a consequence of the War of 1812, which at this time was in its ninth month. Major damage did not result. An intensified bombardment occurred a few weeks later in early April which caused significant property damage. Lewes did not capitulate however, and British ships were driven off into the Delaware Bay.

Soldier's uniform worn in the War of 1812. Delaware Historical Society Collections
Soldier's uniform worn in the War of 1812.
Delaware Historical Society Collections

 

Also during this week, Thomas McKean, Signer of the Declaration of Independence for Delaware,  was born on March 19, 1734 just north west of Newark in New London, Pennsylvania.

 

Thomas McKean

 

Week of March 10

   

The groundbreaking for St. Anthony’s Church at 8th and DuPont Streets occurred this week in 1925. Wilmington’s popular Italian Festival, which is held in June, originates from this church and the community surrounding it.

Ground breaking, St. Anthony's Church, 1925

 

Also this week in 1941, the initial phase of construction was underway for the Municipal Airport in Dover, Delaware. It was known then as the Dover Airdrome. It is now known as the Dover Airforce Base.

Dover Airdrome, now known as the Dover Air Force Base.

 
Week of March 3    

During this week in 1789, a Signer of the Constitution, Richard Bassett, was elected one of Delaware’s first senators. Bassett later became Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas as well as Governor of Delaware. He is the first Governor to allow African Americans to testify in criminal courts in Delaware (1799).

Richard Bassett

 

Also this week, on March 5, 1942, the Dravo Shipbuilding Company, which was based in Wilmington, Delaware and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first corporation to receive the Army-Navy “E” Award, issued by the United States Federal government for excellence in war time production of military equipment.

Dravo Slant -Wilmington Edition, 1945

 

Week of February 24

Nylon, a wildly successful synthetic polymer developed by the DuPont Company, was invented this week in 1935 by DuPont chemist Wallace Carothers.

Dr. Wallace Carothers, inventor of Nylon; also shown: Violet Grenda_DuPont

Dr. Wallace Carothers, inventor of Nylon,
in his laboratory at DuPont Experimental Station
in Montchanin, Delaware, c. 1935.
Gift of Helen Carothers.
Original photo is in the Hagley Museum Collections.

Also pictured, top left,
DuPont employee Violet Grenda stretching fabric.
Late 1938.  Gift of Joseph X. Labovsky.

 

Also this week, legendary Rock-N-Roller George Thorogood was born on February 24th in 1950.  A Brandywine High School graduate and the  son of a DuPont employee,  Thorogood grew up in Naamans Manor, a north  Wilmington suburb. He and his band The Delaware Destroyers once toured with The Rolling Stones (in 1981). Thorogood was also a talented professional baseball prospect before focusing on a career in rock stardom.

 

George Thorogood, publicity photo, 1988.

George Thorogood, publicity photo, 1988.
DHS Collection PPLT77.

 
Week of February 17
 
   

Weather in northern Delaware has been unkind recently, but it could be worse.  This week in 1822, on February 22nd, the Brandywine River surged 20 feet over its banks, flooding houses, mills, and ships, sweeping structures off their foundations, and toppling bridges and dams.  It was called the Great Flood of 1822.


The Great Flood of 1822

 

A happier mid-February event has to do with the Delaware State Fair.  Ninety four years ago this week, on February 17, 1920, thirty acres were purchased for $6,000 from William and Nellie Smith in Harrington, Delaware for use as the first Kent and Sussex County Fair, now known as the Delaware State Fair.

Greetings from the Kent & Sussex Fair

 
Week of February 10
 

This week marks two important events in the history of Delaware’s African American faith communities: the birth of Richard Allen on February 14th, 1760 and the death of Absalom Jones on February 13th, 1818.  Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination as well as the Bethel A.M.E Church in Philadelphia.  Jones, born a slave in Sussex County, Delaware in 1746, became the first black Episcopal priest in the U.S.

The exhibit “Forging Faith, Building Freedom”, currently on display in the Delaware History Museum, highlights the contributions of Allen and Jones in the development of African American religious history.


 
 
Week of February 1
 

During this week in 1892,  Delaware State College, originally known as The State College for Colored Students, opened.

Five courses of study leading to a baccalaureate degree were offered: Agriculture, Chemistry, Classics, Engineering, and Science. John Taylor, wide receiver of the XXIII, XXIV, and XXIX Superbowl Champion San Francisco 49ers, was a Delaware State College graduate.

 

 

Also this week, in 1945, The King of Reggae music, Bob Marley, was born on February 6th. Marley lived at 23rd and Tatnall Streets in Wilmington, Delaware in the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s. The Peoples’ Festival, held each summer at The Tubman-Garret Park along the Christina River, honors Marley’s life and music.

 
Week of January 27

As seen in a recent edition of the News Journal, hundreds of snow geese visited Middletown, Delaware--  a fitting avian tribute given that this week, 137 years ago on January 29th, 1877, Middletown was incorporated as a town by the Delaware General Assembly.

 

 

Also this week, in 1787, inventor and Newport, Delaware native Oliver Evans was granted patents by the Delaware General Assembly. Evans is perhaps most famous for his system of conveyors and other devices used in his Automated Flour Mill. He was also a pioneer in steam engine design, as well as refrigeration and heating systems. He is the first American to receive a U.S. patent for a self propelled vehicle, the Oruktor Amphibious or “Amphibious Digger”, which was designed for dredging dockyards.

 

 
Week of January 20

During this week in 1809, The New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company received a charter from the Delaware General Assembly to build a road from New Castle, Delaware to Frenchtown, Cecil County, Maryland. We know this prominent road today as Pulaski Highway, or Route 40.

 

Also, at the beginning of this week in 1832, the town of Wilmington ( first called Willington after early settler Thomas Willing), was chartered as a city on January 18th.

 
Week of January 13

Delaware’s state seal was adopted during this week.  January 17th, 1777 to be precise. Images of wheat, corn, a farmer, and an ox symbolize the importance of farming to the First State’s economy. Also shown are a ship (for shipbuilding), waves of water (the Delaware river), and a militiaman (protection of home and country). Each of the fifty states has a unique seal which symbolizes the state’s character and culture.


 

 


 

 

Also this week, a town known as Duck Creek was given an official name change by the Delaware General Assembly on January 16th, 1806.  The new name was Smyrna.

 

 
First Week of January

During this first week of January, Colonel David Hall (right)  of Revolutionary War fame was born in Lewes, Delaware in 1752 and eminent statesman Caesar Augustus Rodney(far right), nephew of Caesar “the Signer” Rodney, was born in Dover in 1772. Caesar Augustus Rodney was the first Democrat elected to Congress in Delaware. Colonel Hall’s regiment covered Washington’s retreat at the Battle of the Brandywine. He was Delaware’s Governor from 1802 to 1805.

 

 

     

 

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The Delaware Historical Society is the statewide, non-profit organization that explores, preserves, shares, and promotes Delaware history, heritage, and culture to strengthen our community.