Geography and Landforms:

The state of Delaware consists of two major land regions: The Piedmont and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Piedmont, an area of gently rolling hills found in the northwest corner of the state, is 10 miles wide at its widest point. The highest point in Delaware, just 450 feet above sea level, is found in the Piedmont. The Atlantic Coastal Plain stretches across the rest of the state. It is a low, flat region that rises only about 80 feet above sea level. A 30,000-acre swamp lies along southern boundary of the state. A long sand bar -- 28 miles long -- forms a border with the Atlantic Ocean. This sandy strip to the east is a popular vacation region.

Delaware is our second smallest state. It is only 96 miles long and ranges from 9 to 35 miles in width.


The history of Delaware begins with the early explorations of the Portuguese, Spaniards, and Dutch. The name of the state can be traced to an event that occurred in 1610. While attempting to seek shelter from a storm, English Captain Samuel Argall of the Virginia Colony sailed into a body of water that he later named the De Le Warr Bay, in honor of Virginia's governor, Lord De La Warr.

In 1631, a group of Dutch colonists established the first settlement in the region. Located at the site of present day Lewes, it was called "Zwaanendael" - valley of swans. Within a year, the colonists had been massacred, and their buildings were burned to the ground. Evidently, problems had developed between these Dutch settlers and the Native Americans in the area. The Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes commemorates this first European settlement in Delaware.

Delaware's first permanent settlement was not established in 1638 when the Swedish founded Fort Christina (named for the Swedish Queen), at the site of present-day Wilmington. Today, a statue in Fort Christina State Park honors these early settlers of Delaware and the many cultural contributions they made to the region.

The Dutch arrived in 1651 to establish Fort Casimir, where New Castle, Delaware is today. They soon established their authority throughout the entire region, ending Swedish rule.

In 1664, the Delaware region came under possession of the English. The Duke of York presented it to William Penn in 1681. Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, was happy to gain possession of this land that provided direct access to the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Pennsylvania continued to govern this region until the Revolutionary War.

In 1776, just two months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Delaware region officially established a government independent of Pennsylvania and became known as Delaware State. It became the first state to approve the United States Constitution in 1787.

Delaware maintained strong ties to both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865). Although a slave state, Delaware fought for the North, even though many of its citizens felt that Confederate states should have been allowed to separate (secede) peacefully from the Union. Because of its loyalty, Delaware was not required to free its slaves when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Slavery in Delaware ended in 1865 when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was ratified.


The city of Wilmington, Delaware is the heart of the state's economy. This city is home to the DuPont Company - one the largest chemical companies in the world. DuPont has developed such well-known products as Nylon, Teflon, Cellophane, Stainmaster carpets, and Lycra brand spandex.

In addition to the DuPont Company, many other industries are located in the Wilmington area. These manufacturers produce clothing, processed food, rubber and plastic products, paper products, metals, and printed materials, and transportation equipment.

While the state is primarily industrial, agriculture still plays an important role. Delaware is a leading producer of broiler chickens. Potatoes, soybeans, corn, and dairy products are also important to the state's economy. Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean has resulted in the growth of a fishing industry that produces crabs, clams and oyster.

Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, is the state's largest military facility and a major employer.

First Inhabitants:

European explorers reached the coast of what is now our nation's first state during the 16th and early 17th centuries. They found the region already populated by tribes of Algonkian Indians. These groups of Native Americans were among the first to come into contact with early settlers. The Leni-Lenape tribe lived along the Delaware River to the north. The Nanticoke tribe occupied the area along the Nanticoke River in the southwestern part of the region. Because they lived close to the Delaware River and Bay, these Native Americans became known as the Delaware.

Books Related To Delaware

Bewildered for Three Days - Andrew Glass
(978-0823414468) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 670, ESL level: 3 - 4
This imaginative tale explains how Daniel Boone lost his famous coonskin hat.

F is for First State: A Delaware Alphabet - Carol Crane
(978-1585361540) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about Delaware.

The Heights, the Depths, and Everything in Between - Sally Nemeth
(978-0553494990) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-8, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 3 - 4
A very tall girl and a dwarf become friends during middle school, but their friendship arouses interests among their middle-school classmates.

Hill Hawk Hattie - Clara Gillow Clark
(978-0763625597) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 770, ESL level: 3 - 4
In a boy's disguise, Hattie accompanies her father on a wild logging trip down the Delaware after her mother dies.

Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware - M.T. Anderson
(978-1442408388) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 740, ESL level: 3 - 4
With elements of science fiction, parody, and high adventure, this book takes readers on a quest to Delaware's forbidden mountain area to try and find the whereabouts of missing teachers while in pursuit of the Stare-Eyes squad.

The Light in the Forest - Conrad Richter
(978-0394814049) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-9, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 3 - 4
True Son is returned to the whites after having been raised by Native Americans after being kidnapped at age 4; his confusion and hostile feelings make it difficult for him to go back to life among whites.

Reaching Tidewater - Noreen Moore
(978-1572493582) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, ESL level: 3
Anna gets to accompany her family on an exciting trip down the Delaware Canal during the Civil War.

Water Rat - Marnie Laird
(978-1890817084) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-6, Lexile: 690, ESL level:
An orphan boy uses his considerable experience with the rougher things in life to befriend and protect a newly found family of friends from pirates.

Famous Citizens:

Eleuthere Irenee du Pont
The founder of one of the world's largest chemical companies, Eleuthere Irenee du Pont, was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Du Pont recognized the need to improve the quality of gunpowder available in the United States. He started a gunpowder works along the Brandywine River. By the year of his death, it had become a major American business, producing over 1 million pounds of gunpowder per year. Since du Pont's death, his company has grown from an explosives manufacturer to a major company producing science-based solutions to food, health care, electronics, apparel, and transportation.

Henry Heimlich
Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Dr. Henry Heimlich, surgeon and inventor, has become a household name. In 1974, Dr. Heimlich published findings describing a technique that can save a person from choking on an object caught in the throat. Just one week after the findings were published, the first choking victim was saved by this procedure. It became known as the Heimlich Maneuver.

Howard Pyle
One of America's best-loved illustrators was Howard Pyle, a native of Wilmington, Delaware. Pyle founded the Brandywine School of Painting whose students included N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. Pyle was also a writer who authored as well as illustrated many books including The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Men of Iron, and The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.

Caesar Rodney
Caesar Rodney was one of Delaware's earliest heroes. Rodney, a strong supporter of the American Revolution, was a delegate in the First and Second Continental Congresses. He is remembered for his dramatic ride to Philadelphia on July 2, 1776, which enabled the Delaware delegation to vote two-to-one in favor of the Declaration of Independence. Rodney became Delaware's first President in 1778 and he was instrumental in guiding his state through ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1779.

Capital: Dover
Entered Union: December 7, 1787
Population: 935,614
Area 2,489
Bird Blue Hen Chicken
Flower Peach Blossom
Nickname: The First State, The Diamond State
Governor Jack Markell

Places to Visit in Delaware: (Click the links to learn more.)

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum - Fenwick Island
This museum highlights Delaware's maritime history, revealing the lives of those who lived and worked centuries ago through artifacts from shipwrecks that occurred along the Delmarva Peninsula.

Fort Delaware - Delaware City
During the Civil War, this fort housed more than 30,000 Confederate prisoners. A short ferry ride takes you to Pea Patch Island and back in time to the summer of 1863. In addition, the island features nine species of herons, egrets, and ibis. Its remote marshes are home to one of the largest wading bird habitats on the East Coast.

Delaware History Museum - Wilmington
Located in a renovated 1940s-era Woolworth store, the museum uses high-tech interactive exhibits to illustrate state history from 1600 through the 20th century. Displays include artifacts of everyday life, toys, paintings, and regional crafts. The "Grandma's Attic" center provides hands-on activities for children.

Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village - Dover
This museum offers costumed interpreters, living history events, and 19th century workshops. The Lookerman Landing Village, part of the exhibit, is a representation of a rural 1890s village where you can discover the life of a Delaware farmer at the turn of the century.