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, indigenous people of North America

Delaware (dĕlˈəwâr, –wər), English name given several closely related Native American groups of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In the 17th cent., they lived in what is now New Jersey, Delaware, E Pennsylvania, and SE New York. They called themselves the Lenni-Lenape or the Lenape and were given the name Delaware by the settlers because they lived in the vicinity of the Delaware River. The Delaware evolved into a loose confederacy of three major divisions: the Munsee (wolf), the Unalachtigo (turkey), and the Unami (turtle). They occupied the territory from which most of the Algonquian tribes had originated and were accorded the respectful title of grandfather by these tribes. They traded with the Dutch early in the 17th cent., sold much of their land, and began moving inland to the Susquehanna valley. In 1682 they made a treaty of friendship with William Penn, which he did his best to honor. In 1720 the Delaware fell victim to Iroquois attack and were forced to move into what is now Ohio.

The western Delaware sided with the French in the last of the French and Indian Wars, took part in Pontiac's Rebellion, and sided with the British in the American Revolution. Some of the Delaware in Pennsylvania had been converted to Christianity by the Moravians. In 1782 a peaceful settlement of Christian Delaware at Gnadenhutten was massacred by a force of white men. Anthony Wayne defeated and subdued the Delaware in 1794, and by the Treaty of Greenville (1795) they and their allies ceded their lands in Pennsylvania and Ohio. They crossed the Mississippi River and migrated to Kansas and then to Texas. They were later moved to the Indian Territory and settled with the Cherokee. A remarkable history of the Delaware, in the form of pictographs, was located by the French scholar Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1836. Known as the Walum Olum, it depicted Delaware migrations and changes; its claim to antiquity, however, is somewhat doubtful. In 1990 there close to 10,000 Delaware in the United States, most of them in Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Around 600 Delaware live in Ontario, Canada.


See D. G. Brinton, The Lenâpé and Their Legends (1884, repr. 1969); M. R. Harrington, Religion and Ceremonies of the Lenape (1921); F. G. Speck, A Study of the Delaware Indian Big House Ceremony (1931) and Oklahoma Delaware Ceremonies, Feasts, and Dances (1937); C. A. Weslager, The Delaware Indians (1972).


, state, United States

Delaware (dĕlˈəwâr, –wər), one of the Middle Atlantic states of the United States, the country's second smallest state (after Rhode Island). It is bordered by Maryland (W, S), and there is a short border with Pennsylvania (N); New Jersey (E) is across the Delaware Bay and Delaware River

Facts and Figures

Area, 2,057 sq mi (5,328 sq km). Pop. (2020) 989,948, a 8.4% increase since the 2010 census. As of the 2020 census, the state's population was: White alone, 69.2%; Black alone, 23.2%; Hispanic or Latino, 9.6%; American Indian and Alaska native alone, 0.7%; Asian alone, 4.1%; Two or More Races, 2.7%. Capital, Dover. Largest city, Wilmington. Statehood, Dec. 7, 1787 (1st of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution). Highest pt., 442 ft (135 m), New Castle co.; lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, First State. Motto, Liberty and Independence. State bird, blue hen chicken. State flower, peach blossom. State tree, American holly. Abbr., Del.; DE


Together with Eastern Shore Maryland and Virginia, Delaware occupies the Delmarva peninsula. It lies on the northeast of the peninsula, facing the Delaware River, which broadens into Delaware Bay; the bay in turn joins the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen. Delaware is sometimes called the Diamond State, a reference to its small size but relative wealth. With the Delaware River and Bay along its entire eastern edge and the Chesapeake Bay and its inlets close by to west in Maryland, no place in the narrow state is far from water.

Many small rivers, often tidal, flow across the state, some E to the Delaware River and Bay and the Atlantic, others W across Maryland to the Chesapeake. In the north the waters of the Christina and Brandywine flow into the Delaware River; in the south the Nanticoke flows SW to Chesapeake Bay. The land is low-lying, from sand dunes in the south to rolling hills on the Pennsylvania border in the north; the average elevation is c.60 ft (18 m), and the highest point, NW of Wilmington on the Pennsylvania border, is only 440 ft (134 m). The capital is Dover, and the only large city is Wilmington.


Because of Delaware's lenient laws regulating business taxation and practice, some of the nation's largest corporations, especially banking and financial services companies, have major offices in N Delaware. Since the 1990s the finance and insurance sectors have become increasingly important for employment and income and now dominant the state's economy, although manufacturing and agriculture are still significant. The manufacturing, credit card, banking, and insurance industries are largely concentrated in the north, while farming is carried on mainly below the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

Chief agricultural products are broiler chickens, soybeans, corn, and dairy products. Potatoes and other vegetables are also grown. Delaware's small fishing industry harvests mainly crabs, oysters, and finfish. Industries around Wilmington include the large chemicals and materials business that was founded by the Du Pont family in the 19th cent., and the biomedical, apparel, processed foods, and rubber and plastic products industries contribute significantly to the economy. Also economically important are Dover Air Force Base, the largest military facility in the state; tourism, mainly to the state's Atlantic beaches; and gambling.

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

Under the provisions of the 1897 constitution, the governor is elected to a four-year term. The state legislature, called the general assembly, is made up of a senate of 21 members and a house of representatives with 41 members. Delaware is represented in the U.S. Congress by two senators and one representative and has three electoral votes. Democrats outnumber Republicans in voter registrations (47.75 vs. 27.57 %), with a large unafilliated group (22.3%).

The main institutions of higher education are the Univ. of Delaware, at Newark; Delaware State Univ., at Dover; and a division of Widener Univ., at Wilmington.


Native Inhabitants and European Claims

Long before Europeans explored the Delaware area, it was inhabited by several Native American groups of the Delaware—notably the Nanticoke in the south and the Minqua in the north. In 1609, Henry Hudson, in the service of the Dutch East India Company, sailed into Delaware Bay. A year later the British captain Sir Samuel Argall, bound for the colony of Virginia, also sailed into the bay. Argall named one of the capes Cape La Warre after the governor of Virginia, Thomas West, Baron De la Warr.

From the time of its discovery, the region was contested by the Dutch and English. The first settlement was established by Dutch patroons, or proprietors, in partnership with the Dutch navigator David Pietersen de Vries; it was called Swanendael and was established (1631) on the site of the town of Lewes. However, within a year it was destroyed by a Native American attack. This attack notwithstanding, the Native Americans were generally friendly and willing to trade with the newcomers.

The Dutch West India Company, organized in 1623, was more interested in trade on the South River, as the Delaware was called at that time, than in settlement (the North River was the Hudson, in the Dutch colony of New Netherland). Several Dutchmen, interested in settling the area, put their services at the disposal of Sweden and colonized the area for that country. The best known of these was Peter Minuit, who had been governor of New Amsterdam (later New York). In 1637–38 Minuit directed the colonizing expedition for the Swedes that organized New Sweden. Fort Christina was founded in 1638 on the site of Wilmington and was named in honor of the queen of Sweden. The colony grew with the arrival of Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch settlers.

English colonists from Connecticut tried to establish trading posts in the Delaware River region and failed, but Dutch interests in the area were not disposed of as easily. Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherland, sailed to the Delaware region in 1651 and established Fort Casimir on the Delaware shore at the site of present-day New Castle. The Swedes captured the fort by surprise in 1654, but their triumph was brief; Stuyvesant returned with an expedition in 1655 and conquered all New Sweden. The Dutch West India Company sold part of New Sweden to the Dutch city of Amsterdam in 1656 and the rest in 1663.

In 1664 the English seized the Dutch holdings on the Delaware. The Dutch recaptured the colony in 1673 and although they held Delaware only briefly, they set up three district courts that marked the beginning of Delaware's division into three counties. The colony was returned to England in 1674 and remained in its hands until the American Revolution.

The Three Lower Counties

The English Duke of York (later James II) annexed the region to New York, land granted him earlier by Charles II. In 1682 the duke transferred the claim to William Penn, who wanted to secure a navigable water route from his new colony of Pennsylvania to the ocean. The three counties of Delaware thus became the Three Lower Counties (or Territories, as Penn called them) of Pennsylvania. The individual counties were called New Castle, Kent (formerly St. Jones), and Sussex (formerly Hoornkill, also known as Whorekill, and Deale). The English proprietors of Maryland contested Penn's claim to Delaware, and the boundary dispute was not fully settled until 1750.

The inhabitants of the Delaware counties were at first unwilling to be joined to the “radical” Quaker colony of Pennsylvania or to have their affairs settled in Philadelphia. They finally accepted the Penn charter of 1701 after provisions were added giving the Three Lower Counties the right to a separate assembly, which first met in 1704. Delaware maintained quasi-autonomy until the American Revolution. The two colonies maintained strong ties, however, and two of Delaware's leading statesmen during the Revolution—Thomas McKean and John Dickinson—were also prominent in Pennsylvania affairs.

Revolution and Statehood

Although there were many Loyalists in Delaware just prior to the American Revolution, Delaware supported independence, with two of its three delegates to the Continental Congress—Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean—voting for independence. George Read, the third Delaware delegate, voted against independence, fearing that Loyalist sentiment was too strong in the colonies. However, Read subsequently signed the Declaration of Independence.

In 1776 the colony of Delaware became a state, with a president as its chief executive. Regiments from the state rendered valiant service to the patriot cause, especially the Delaware 1st Regiment, which was nicknamed the Blue Hen's Chickens—originally because they carried with them gamecocks bred by a famous hen of Kent and later because they themselves showed the fighting quality of gamecocks. Delaware was a leader in the movement for revision of the form of government under the Articles of Confederation and in 1787 became the first state to ratify the new Constitution of the United States. The state constitution of 1776 was superseded by a new constitution in 1792, which provided that the chief executive be a governor rather than a president.

The late 18th cent. also marked the beginning of industry in Delaware with the establishment of gristmills on the Brandywine and Christina rivers. Wilmington became a center for the manufacture of cloth, paper, and flour—products that helped to build the industrial economy of N Delaware that flourished in the 19th cent. Shortly thereafter, in 1802, Eleuthère Irénée Du Pont established a gunpowder mill on the Brandywine River.

Pro- and Anti-Slavery Factionalism

Prior to the Civil War, Delaware was a slave state, but in the early 19th cent. the number of slaves in the state declined, while the number of free blacks increased. Many citizens of Delaware favored manumission of slaves and belonged to the American Colonization Society, but there were few who sympathized with the growing abolitionist movement and there was strong sentiment for separation of whites and blacks. In the Civil War, Delaware remained loyal to the Union, but pro-Southern feeling increased rather than diminished during the course of the war. Delaware refused to accept an emancipation proposal made by Lincoln in 1861 and did not ratify the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution until 1901. Delaware Democrats subsequently became divided, and the Republican Party emerged in 1905 to assume a leading political role for some years.

Maintaining a Rural–Urban Balance

A new state constitution in 1897 reflected the political strength as well as conservatism of Delaware's farmers through provisions that kept the political strength of Wilmington at a minimum and that of rural areas at a maximum. Many European immigrants came to the state in the late 19th and early 20th cent., settling in the Wilmington area. Southern Delaware's population continued to be made up largely of African Americans and persons of English origin.

Delaware's industries flourished during the 19th cent. as transportation facilities improved. Industry continued to expand in the 20th cent., especially during World Wars I and II. The chemical industry built up by the Du Pont family was broken up by a federal antitrust suit in 1912, but was nonetheless large enough to buy control of General Motors corporation in the 1920s and hold it for many years.

Racial tensions appeared in the state in the 1950s and 60s as Delaware's schools were racially integrated, and after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, rioting erupted in Wilmington. In the 1980s, Republican Gov. Pierre S. Du Pont successfully fought to liberalize the state's usury laws. As a result, many large New York banks set up subsidiaries in Delaware (especially the Wilmington area), and thousands of jobs were created. Since the early 1990s a series of Democrats have occupied the governorship, including Ruth Ann Minner (2001–09), the state's first female and only (to date) governor, Jack Markell (2009–17), and John Carney (2017–), however they have continued Du Pont's push to support business development. Markell oversaw passage of laws barring discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and legalizing same-sex marriage.


The standard history of the early period is Benjamin Ferris, A History of the Original Settlements on the Delaware (1846). See also Federal Writers' Project, Delaware: A Guide to the First State (1938, rev. ed. 1955, repr. 1973); J. A. Munroe, History of Delaware (2d ed. 1984); W. H. Williams, The First State: An Illustrated History of Delaware (1985).


, city, United States
Delaware (dĕlˈəwâr, –wər), city (2020 pop. 41,302), seat of Delaware co., central Ohio, on the Olentangy River; inc. as a city 1903. A trade center in a fertile farm area, it also has some manufacturing. Ohio Wesleyan Univ. is in Delaware, which is also the birthplace of President Rutherford B. Hayes. During the War of 1812, the city served as Gen. William Henry Harrison's headquarters.


, river, United States
Delaware (dĕlˈəwâr, –wər), river, c.280 mi (450 km) long, rising in the Catskill Mts., SE N.Y., in east and west branches, which meet at Hancock. It flows SE along the New York–Pennsylvania border to Port Jervis, N.Y., then between Pennsylvania and New Jersey generally S to Delaware Bay, an estuary (52 mi/84 km long) between New Jersey and Delaware. Dams and reservoirs (especially the Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink) on the river's headstreams control flooding and provide water for New York City and New Jersey, but the diversion of water from the upper Delaware has increased the salinity of Delaware Bay. The Delaware River Basin Compact (formed 1961) regulates water use in the entire basin. The Delaware cuts through Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mt.) near Stroudsburg, Pa., forming the Delaware Water Gap, a scenic resort and recreation area. Three sections of the river are included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system. The lower Delaware, from Trenton, N.J. (the head of navigation), past Philadelphia, to Wilmington, Del., flows through a highly industrialized area where water pollution has been a problem. The Delaware has long been commercially and recreationally significant. Its tributaries include the highly industrial Lehigh River, which joins it at Easton, Pa., and the Schuylkill, which joins it at Philadelphia. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal links it with Chesapeake Bay.
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Delaware State Information

Phone: (302) 739-4000

Area (sq mi):: 2489.27 (land 1953.56; water 535.71) Population per square mile: 431.80
Population 2005: 843,524 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 7.60%; 1990-2000 17.60% Population 2000: 783,600 (White 72.50%; Black or African American 19.20%; Hispanic or Latino 4.80%; Asian 2.10%; Other 4.00%). Foreign born: 5.70%. Median age: 36.00
Income 2000: per capita $23,305; median household $47,381; Population below poverty level: 9.20% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $30,869-$34,199
Unemployment (2004): 4.00% Unemployment change (from 2000): 0.70% Median travel time to work: 24.00 minutes Working outside county of residence: 17.10%

List of Delaware counties:

  • Kent County
  • New Castle County
  • Sussex County
  • Counties USA: A Directory of United States Counties, 3rd Edition. © 2006 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
    Parks Directory of the United States, 5th Edition. © 2007 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
    The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



    a state on the Atlantic coast of the United States. It is situated on the eastern part of the low-lying Delmarva Peninsula and lies on Delaware Bay. Area, 5,300 sq km; population, 548,000 (1970 census), 72 percent of whom are urban. Its capital and administrative center is the city of Dover, and Wilmington is its industrial center and port. Its northern end forms part of the suburban area of Philadelphia.

    Delaware is an industrial and agricultural state. Industry forms the main part of its economy and employs 73,000 persons, 70,000 of whom inhabit Wilmington and its suburbs; about 35 percent of the economically active population is employed in industry. The most important industry is chemicals; the plants of the largest chemical monopoly of the United States—Du Pont de Nemours—are in Delaware. Other important industries are shipbuilding, automobile assembly, machine-tool building, rubber, food processing, textiles, production of high-quality steel, and metalworking. There is also an armaments industry. Poultry raising, market gardening, and dairying are carried on intensively near the cities. The number of farms fell from 6,600 in 1954 to 4,400 in 1964.

    Delaware is one of the original states of the United States. It was formed in 1776 during the North American War of Independence (1775-83). Until the appearance of the first settlers from Holland in the first half of the 17th century, the territory of Delaware was inhabited by an Indian tribe, the Delawares. In 1664 the territory was seized by the British; the settlement of the area by Europeans was accompanied by extermination of the native Indian population. Slave ownership became fairly widespread. After the Civil War (1861-65) the state legislature refused to ratify amendments of the United States Constitution that officially abolished slavery. Segregation and domination by conservative elements are still characteristic features of the social and political life of the state.

    The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


    First state; adopted the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787

    December 7 is Delaware Day, commemorating the day it became the first state to ratify the Constitution. In 1939, the state legislature decreed that a commission be set up to organ­ize the annual celebration. Since then, the observance has con­sisted mainly of the singing of patriotic songs, recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance and “Our Heritage,” a poem by Her­man Hanson, and speeches and readings on the state’s history.

    State capital: Dover

    Nicknames: The First State; The Diamond State; The Blue Hen State

    State motto: Liberty and Independence

    State beverage: Milk

    State bird: Blue Hen

    State butterfly: Tiger Swallowtail

    State fish: Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis)

    State flower: Peach blossom (Prunus persica)

    State fossil: Belemnite

    State herb: Sweet golden rod

    State insect: Ladybug (Hippodamia convergens)

    State macroinvertebrate: Stonefly

    State marine animal: Horseshoe crab

    State mineral: Sillimanite

    State soil: Greenwich Loam

    State song: “Our Delaware”

    State star: Delaware Diamond

    State tree: American holly (Ilex opaca)

    More about state symbols at: statefacts.shtml


    AmerBkDays-2000, p. 815 AnnivHol-2000, p. 203


    State web site:

    Office of the Governor 150 William Penn St 2nd Fl Dover, DE 19901 302-577-3210 fax: 302-739-2775

    Secretary of State
    401 Federal St
    Suite 3
    Dover, DE 19901
    fax: 302-739-3811

    Delaware Div of Libraries
    43 S DuPont Hwy
    Dover, DE 19901
    fax: 302-739-6787

    Legal Holidays:

    Day after ThanksgivingNov 25, 2011; Nov 23, 2012; Nov 29, 2013; Nov 28, 2014; Nov 27, 2015; Nov 25, 2016; Nov 24, 2017; Nov 23, 2018; Nov 29, 2019; Nov 27, 2020; Nov 26, 2021; Nov 25, 2022; Nov 24, 2023
    Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
    Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


    first colony to ratify the Constitution; thus, “the first state.” [Am. Hist.: NCE, 738]
    See: Firsts
    Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


    1. a state of the northeastern US, on the Delmarva Peninsula: mostly flat and low-lying, with hills in the extreme north and cypress swamps in the extreme south. Capital: Dover. Pop.: 817 491 (2003 est.). Area: 5004 sq. km (1932 sq. miles)
    2. a river in the northeastern US, rising in the Catskill Mountains and flowing south into Delaware Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic. Length 660 km (410 miles)
    Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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