History

When it comes to the history of Delaware, you will be hard-pressed to find many other states that can rival it in terms of depth and importance. Because of its location on the northeast coast of the United States, Delaware often found itself in the middle of the country's early historical events. American business and technology has some of its roots dug into the history of Delaware, and no other state can claim that it was the first to join the Union. Delaware is many different things to many different people. It's beaches are a place to vacation, it's State Parks open to all who care to visit. There's no sales tax in Delaware, so to some, it is a shopping destination. NASCAR fans, and those who appreciate a good horse or modified car race, consider it a prime racing destination. One thing that all visitors should notice, regardless of tastes and backgrounds, is how historical this state actually is.

Long before European colonists arrived here in the 1600's, the history of Delaware saw the region as home to a few different Native American tribes, among which figured the eastern Algonquian society. The lived off of the land, both by farming and hunting. The Unami Lenape Indians managed to hang around in the region until in the 1670's, when the Iroquios invaded. The Lenape who remained eventually moved on to the Allegheny Mountains. In the early 1630's Dutch settlers were the first of the Europeans to land in Delaware, marking a significant turning point in Delaware state history. They did so where present day Lewes is found in the year 1631, and their trading post there was known by the name of Zwaanendael. These initial settlers would meet an unfortunate end, as Indian tribes in the area killed them off. 7 years later, Swedish settlers showed up, this time choosing to establish Fort Christina near where present day Wilmington sits. The Dutch would return again to figure in Delaware history, however, and 13 years later, they established a fort at the spot where you will today find New Castle. By the mid 1650's, the Dutch had assumed control over the Swedes, thus including the territory in their New Netherland. The Dutch would not hold on long, as in 1664, the British would give them a dose of their own medicine, marking yet another turn in the history of Delaware.

The British newcomers were led by James, the Duke of York. He would go on to grant William Penn ownership of the Delaware region, doing so in 1682. William Penn is known primarily as an advocate for the unity of the new British territories into a new society, and for being the founder of the state of Pennsylvania. The British colony that was found in present day Delaware eventually turned more and more into a slave society. The slaves had been imported earlier, and when the English economic situation began to improve back home, many of the British colonists returned to their homeland. In Wilmington, the Swedish immigrants that stayed erected a Lutheran church in 1698-1699. This church, which is known as Old Swedes Church, still stands today, and it is one of the top Wilmington attractions. Visitors can enjoy tours of the church and its graveyard, which gives insight into Delaware colonial history. The English colonists didn't all leave, and Britain maintained control of Pennsylvania and Delaware until the seeds for the Revolutionary War were planted. Colonists living in the Delaware region didn't seem to take too kindly to the initial idea of separating from British rule, but over time, this would change. At this time, New Castle was the capital of the region of Delaware, but this would soon change also.

Two leaders of the Patriot forces, Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney, would sway the Colonial Assembly in the direction of declaring Independence, and in 1776 they finally did so. The Declaration of Independence was soon signed, and the United States was on its way to being “born”. The New Castle Court House was where these famed statesmen met, and it dates back to these pivotal times. It can still be visited today, and tours are free. Impressive is the fact that it is the state's oldest government building still standing, so it, perhaps more than other Delaware attraction, figures most prominently in the history of Delaware. Much of New Castle remains as it was when the capital was moved to Dover in 1777, just after the American Revolution. The preservation of the city's historic district has seen some renovations, and you'll still find cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks here. Those interested in Delaware state history will not want to miss New Castle, nor will they want to miss the chance to visit the Dover museums, which tell a lot about Delaware state history.

Delaware was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, which it did on December 7, 1787. This is, of course, a very prominent date in Delaware history, and in the history of the United States. It is for this reason that Delaware's nickname of choice is the First State. The history of Delaware in the 1800's would see the state's city's doing quite well, as industries in the state made economic gains, especially from subsequent wars. Gun powder and leather goods were among some of the industries that Delaware businesses engaged in, and the Hagley Museum and Library is a good place to learn a little bit about this period of Delaware state history. It was the home of E.I. du Pont's gunpowder works, which was the first industry that the family got into. You'll find restored mills here, old gardens, and even a workers' community. Everywhere you go in the state, the rich history of Delaware is evident. This truly is a historic place.

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