Current Society News


Exhibit of Delawareana Opening Oct. 1 at Delaware History Museum

Collecting Wilmington: Place, Perspective & Memory

Wilmington, DE: In a series of five culminating exhibits, the Delaware Historical Society (DHS) will reveal highlights from the Paul Preston Davis Collection of Delawareana, an important and vast collection of rare business trade cards, photography, African Americana, rare print materials, and commemorative objects.

Mr. Paul Preston Davis, a retired Delmarva Power executive, spent more than four decades collecting the thousands of items he generously donated to DHS in late 2018.  Much of  “Collecting Wilmington: Place, Perspective & Memory” relates to Wilmington businesses during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection covers five specific areas and includes:

  • Roughly 12,000 pieces of Wilmington business ephemera (items of collectible memorabilia, usually paper, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity)
  • More than 7,000 rare and early photographs, including the works of most major 19th century Wilmington photographers.
  • 230 one-of-a-kind objects and artifacts, ranging from small commemorative and promotional items to a box of beautiful 19th century pocket watches from Delaware watchmakers.
  • 40 boxes of African Americana from around the state and Civil War Delawareana that will be added to the collection by late 2020.

“The depth and breadth of the collection is stunning, but that is only part of what makes it so unique,” said DHS Chief Curator Leigh Rifenburg. “Mr. Davis cared so deeply for his collection that he took the time to store each item in archival quality materials. Organized and preserved over four decades with the needs of future researchers in mind, the collection represents the dedication of a meticulous collector with a uniquely focused collecting philosophy.”

The collection is important on many levels. It reveals a fascinating and often complex picture of 19th century Wilmington life, including materials from multiple communities, businesses, and social organizations. It highlights businesses owned by women and immigrants, and how gender, race, and ethnicity were represented in early advertising. 

So voluminous is the collection, that the DHS will reveal major sections in a series of unveilings at the Delaware History Museum, 504 N. Market St., Wilmington. Each portion of the collection will remain on display as subsequent reveals are held. The dates are as follows:

  • Reveal 1: Business Ephemera, October 1, 2019 
  • Reveal 2: Rare Books and Print Materials, November 14, 2019
  • Reveal 3: Sheet Music, January 14, 2020
  • Reveal 4: Watches and Commemorative Objects, March 3, 2020
  • Reveal 5: Wilmington Photography,  May 6, 2020

The vast collection fills notable gaps in DHS existing collections, said Rifenburg. For instance, until now, there were only three known tintype images of African Americans in the DHS image collection. The Davis Collection includes an entire album.

While cause for celebration, the massive collection required six staff members, one moving van, 75 crates, and 3,000 feet of bubble wrap to pack and transport to its new, permanent home at DHS.

Mr. Davis’s collecting journey began at age nine with an unusual gift…an 18th century ledger from Philadelphia passed down by his aunt. Even as he collected comic books and baseball cards with his friends, Davis recognized the ledger’s significance. Later, while serving in the Coast Guard during the Korean War, he gravitated to book shops and flea markets during his days off in port. Back in Delaware, his collecting began in earnest with a focus on children’s books and materials related to famed illustrator Howard Pyle.

During the 1960s, while rising through the ranks at Delmarva Power, Davis shifted his energies to focus on Wilmington business ephemera. He often traveled to Lancaster, PA, a regional hub for paper collecting, and developed relationships with dealers throughout the Delaware Valley. Over the next four decades, he built a collection of ephemera that reveals the development of Wilmington during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In conjunction with the exhibits, the Delaware Historical Society has planned evening programs to explore segments of the collection, with hands-on activities that relate to the collection. Additional programs will be announced at a later date. Scheduled programs include:

  • Art in Advertising: Business Ephemera

With the development of chromolithography and the ability to reproduce multicolor artwork quickly and inexpensively, the late 19th century saw an emergence of trade cards as a form of advertising. This collection of a wide variety of trade cards exemplifies the enthusiasm with which Wilmington businesses embraced this popular form of marketing. What can trade cards tell us about life in Wilmington during the 19th century? Join us as we explore Wilmington business history and reimagine trade cards for the 21st century.

October 1, 6 p.m., $5 to cover cost of materials.

  • The Process of Preservation: Rare Books

In 1761 printer James Adams, set up shop in Delaware and printed his first four items - two books, a pamphlet, and a broadside. Examples of Adams’ work in this collection can tell us much about technology, print culture, business and industry, and the dissemination of information in Wilmington during the early republic. Join Book Restorer and Conservation Technician, Domonique Alesi for a talk about the importance and process of preserving rare books. Hands-on demonstration included.

Domonique Alesi attended the University of the Arts, where she studied Illustration and Book Arts and learned artistic bindings and techniques. She has also apprenticed under David Donahue of David Donahue Book Restoration Studio in Philadelphia.

November 14, 6 p.m., $5 to cover cost of materials.


Reservations for evening programs are requested, but not required. To register for the October 1, 2019 event, please call (302) 656-0637 or email Siri Nesheim at The Delaware History Museum is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Delaware Historical Society Names New Director of Mitchell Center

Stephanie LampkinThe Delaware Historical Society (DHS) has selected an expert in African American and Native American history as the next director of the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, located within the Delaware History Museum.

Stephanie Lampkin, who most recently served as the Museum Collections Manager at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, has worked as an historian and museum professional for more than eight years, formerly serving as an educator and Curatorial Assistant at the George Read House & Gardens, which is owned by the DHS. She begins her post in late April.

“On behalf of the board and staff of the Delaware Historical Society and the advisory of the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, I am delighted to bring a person with Dr. Lampkin’s skills, expertise, and experience to be the Director of the Center for African American Heritage,” said Dr. David Young, DHS Executive Director. “We conducted a wide search and spoke with many promising candidates, but Dr. Lampkin’s scholarship and familiarity with Delaware’s diverse history makes her the ideal choice to continue the Center’s work to bring African American history to wider recognition and educational impact.”

Ms. Lampkin holds a B.A. in History & Ethnic Studies from Cornell College, and a master’s degree with a Museum Studies certificate, and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. As an history instructor at the University of Delaware she designed a class website for students to access numerous sources on early history of Africa, China and India.

She served as Chair of the Conference Committee for the Small Museum Association’s 2019 annual conference, was involved with the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Advocacy Day and the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s #SaveTheArts advocacy campaigns.
Volunteer activities by Ms. Lampkin include serving on the Collections and Exhibitions Committee at the African American Museum of Philadelphia and as a board member for the Association for Registrars and Collections Specialists.

Ms. Lampkin said what attracted her to working at the Mitchell center most is the opportunity to engage with the community that is the focus of the center. 

“I am eager to engage with members of the local community and make the rich and varied African American experiences and stories front and center in the history of Delaware,” she said.  “As director of the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, I look forward to continue offering engaging programs and events while developing deeper partnerships with colleagues across the state.”



Gerret and Tatiana Copeland

The Delaware Historical Society’s
2019 Delaware History Makers Award

Transforming Delaware through Philanthropy

Twelfth Delaware History Makers Award Dinner to be held on May 7, 2019 at the Queen/Delaware History Museum

Wilmington, DE April 22, 2019 – The Delaware History Makers Award recognizes individuals and/or entities that have made extraordinary and lasting contributions to the quality of life in Delaware, our nation, or the world. The theme for the 2019 program is Transforming Delaware through Philanthropy.

In its twelfth year, the Delaware History Makers Award Committee has chosen to recognize Gerret and Tatiana Copeland for their longstanding commitment and unmatched generosity towards numerous nonprofit organizations in Delaware and the surrounding region. For more than three decades, the Copelands have made transformational contributions that have had wide-ranging impact on the community. The Copelands’ vision and their commitment to animal welfare, art, education, healthcare, history, music, and the environment are exemplified by their loyal support of countless organizations, including:

Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, Brandywine Valley SPCA, Canine Partners for Life, Christiana Care Health System, Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Center for Horticulture, Delaware College of Art and Design, Delaware Historical Society, Delaware Humane Association, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Delaware Theater Company, Fund for Women at the Delaware Community Foundation, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, The Grand Opera House, Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, Longwood Foundation, Longwood Gardens, Mt. Cuba Center for Piedmont Flora, Multiplying Good (formerly the Jefferson Awards Foundation), OperaDelaware, Planned Parenthood of Delaware, Stockings for Soldiers, Tatnall School, and the University of Delaware.

The Copelands have contributed their time, counsel, and resources, and their magnanimity has rippled through every aspect of our community, enhancing the quality of life for everyone in the region. The Copelands embody the spirit of the Delaware History Makers Award by making extraordinary and lasting contributions to the quality of life in Delaware.

The Delaware History Makers Award Ceremony begins at The Queen, 500 N. Market Street at 6 p.m. The Copeland String Quartet will give a short performance before the Award presentation. Following the ceremony, guests will walk next door to the Delaware History Museum and Old Town Hall to celebrate with live entertainment, wine and beer, wine and food pairings, and buffet dinner.

All proceeds from the event support the Delaware Historical Society’s award-winning educational programs and exhibitions. For tickets go to

The Delaware History Makers Award began in 2007 and annually recognize individuals who have made extraordinary and lasting contributions to the quality of life in Delaware, our nation, and the world. Past honorees include: Ed and Peggy Woolard, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Toni Young, The Hon. Pete du Pont, Ken Burns, Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond, Dr. Carol Hoffecker, Rev. Roberto Balducelli, Rev. Canon Lloyd Casson, Ellen Kullman, The Hon. Michael N. Castle, Bryan Stevenson, Rod Ward III, The Hon. Andre Bouchard, and Sam and Mariah Calagione.


Lynette Overby (foreground) leads a rehearsal in UD's dance studio, photograph by Kathy F. Atkinson DHS Board Trustee Lynnette Overby honored as educator, advocate, mentor

Lynnette Young Overby’s career has included work as a grade-school physical education teacher, doctoral student, college professor, author, researcher, national advocate for arts education, choreographer, performer and mentor to numerous students and young faculty members.web1

“Advocacy is very important to me, and so are mentoring and teaching, research and service,” said Overby, professor of theatre and dance at the University of Delaware.
Read more... 

Right: Lynnette Overby (foreground) leads a rehearsal in UD’s dance studio of “Dave the Potter,” a multidisciplinary performance project that premiered at UD in 2014, with Overby as the art director and choreographer. Photograph by Kathy F. Atkinson

DHS Welcomes Dr. David W. Young as Executive Director

David YoungThe Delaware Historical Society has announced that David W. Young, Ph.D., has been hired as the next Executive Director of the organization, following a months-long national search.

Dr. Young has served as Executive Director of Cliveden, a National Trust for Historic Preservation property in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, since 2006. The innovative and collaborative programming he developed for Cliveden, the Revolutionary-era home of the Benjamin Chew family, engages both the war for independence and the struggle for emancipation. It has been supported by grants from Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and the National Endowment for Humanities, among many others, and has received state and national awards. Dr. Young has also served as president of Historic Germantown, a consortium of independent historic sites united to promote and preserve the shared stories of the neighborhood as a community.

Prior to his tenure at Cliveden, Dr. Young was the Executive Director of the Johnson House Historic Site, one the few intact stops on the Underground Railroad, and of the Salem County Historical Society in Salem, New Jersey. He also served as Director of Education at the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia History. Dr. Young received his Doctoral and Master of Arts degrees in History from Ohio State University and his Bachelor of Arts in German Studies from Northwestern University. He is a member of the National Landmarks Committee, an advisory board of the National Park Service. He has served as a lecturer in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and is the author of books and articles on public history and historical interpretation.  

“We are enthusiastic about Dr. Young’s leadership of the Delaware Historical Society” said Margaret L. Laird, Chair of the DHS Board of Trustees. “We were overwhelmed by the number and extremely high caliber of the individuals who expressed an interest in this position. The selection was challenging in every way, but we were unanimous in our agreement that Dr. Young’s unique combination of skills and experience is an excellent fit for the strategic direction we have laid out for the Delaware Historical Society.”

Young said, “I am eager to build on the great work of the board and staff of the Delaware Historical Society and to continue my interests in the history of the Mid-Atlantic region by engaging audiences, members, and communities statewide to showcase the powerful stories Delaware has to offer.”

Dr. Young will begin his work at the Delaware Historical Society at the end of June.

DHS Announces Delaware Burial Site Discovery

Avery’s Rest Reveals New Evidence of Lives in Colonial Delaware

Left to Right:  Dan Griffith, ASD, Tim Slavin, HCA, Dr. Owsley, NMNH. Photo by A. KimballWhat began as a survey before proposed development in 2005, turned into one of the most significant archeological discoveries in Delaware. In a packed press conference held at the Rehoboth Historical Society on December 6, 2017 Secretary of State Jeff Bullock introduced the panel of speakers including Tim Slavin, Historical and Cultural Affairs, Dan Griffith, Archeology Society of Delaware, Dr. Owsley, Head, Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Angela Winand, Head, Mitchell Center for African American Heritage & Diversity Programs.

Dan Griffith, who first mapped the site in 1976 as a possible place of historic significance, outlined the progression of discovery at Avery’s Rest, now located on land owned by Mr. and Mrs. Waymon Harmon, whom Griffith and the rest of the panel thanked for their permission to excavate the site.  Griffith also noted how the soil played an important part in pin-pointing the age of the burials as well as providing new details about the lives of these early settlers of Delaware.

Detail of “pipe facets” : Photo: Kate D. Sherwood Smithsonian InstitutionDr. Douglas Owsley gave a detailed description of the testing that he and his Smithsonian team have begun and the exciting details they’ve uncovered so far.  He made clear the stunning significance of the history contained in the well-preserved remains of the eleven mid-17th to early 18th century Delawareans discovered at Avery’s Rest, with bone and DNA analysis confirming three of the burials were people of African descent, born in America.  

“You’ve got to love teeth, they tell you so blooming much,” said Dr. Owsley. What those teeth seem to be telling Dr. Owsley and his team is that tooth decay made up 30% of the oral health problems in this small group, some of that decay eventually leading to their undoing.  Pipe smoking is clearly evident as well, with all seven of the males showing signs of “pipe facets” in their teeth.

Dr. Angela Winand_Delaware Historical Society_Photo by A. KimballDr. Angela Winand closed the press conference with the promise of continuing to work with the Archeological Society of Delaware, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Smithsonian to create an interpretation of the discoveries at the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage. “This archeological discovery is truly exciting,” said Dr. Angela Winand “and reminds us that the ancestors will always make themselves known to us if we listen. The stories of their sacrifices in life and remembrances in death are truly ‘written in bone’ for us to interpret, understand and honor.”




George Read II House named a National Historic Landmark

Please click here for more information.

Read House & Gardens

Read House_Hallway

Read House Kitchen_Photograph by Priscilla Smith


Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway's "Byway Bucks" Program

U.S. Representative Lisa Blun Rochester  Mayor-elect Mike Purzycki

Left to right: U.S. Representative-elect Lisa Blunt Rochester;
Mayor-elect Mike Purzycki

On Monday, November 21, 2016, the Delaware Historical Society hosted the kickoff for this year’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway’s “Byway Bucks” program in partners with the Small Business Administration and Deldot at the Delaware History Museum and Mitchell Center for African American Heritage.

Mayor-elect Mike Purzycki and U.S. Representative-elect Lisa Blunt Rochester spoke at the event, sharing their enthusiasm for the program and the ways that participants will support small businesses and Delaware’s economy.

The Delaware Historical Society is pleased to offer half-price admission to the Delaware History Museum with participants’ Byway Bucks and to support this initiative to promote Delaware history and small businesses. The “Byway Bucks” program was created for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which traces the routes of the Underground Railroad in Delaware.

“Byway Bucks” are coupons that give discounts to certain services and goods along the Byway route. “Byway Bucks” can also be used at any of the program’s supporters’ venues. For more information click here.





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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.