NATIONAL DELAWARE DAY | July 13
National Delaware Day on July 13, recognizes the First State to declare independence from the British. Rich in history, Delaware’s lands once belonged to New York and later Pennsylvania. But the independent spirit of this beautiful coastal countryside is more than just legendary.
The Delaware River and Bay derived their names from the 12th Baron del la Warr, Thomas West, a governor of Virginia. The name later carried over to the land as well.
During the Second Continental Congress, Delaware’s delegates created a bit of suspense for the history books! Read more under Caesar Rodney and George Read.
Delaware became official in 1776 when the 13 colonies declared their independence from the British government and Delaware adopted its first territorial state constitution.
Delaware is proud of its First State status. With that comes many other firsts. Delaware boasts the earliest Swedish settlers in 1638 who built the Old Swedes Church which still stands. Now known as the Holy Trinity Church, it is one of the oldest churches in America. Swedish settlers built the first log cabins on American soil, too.
The Stars and Stripes flew for the first time during the Revolutionary War during the only battle to take place on Delaware soil.
Shipbuilding became big business first in Delaware in 1840. The first iron shipbuilding yard in the United States was founded in Delaware by Samuel Harlan of Betts, Pussey, and Harlan – machinery makers.
From ships to rails, Job H. Jackson and Jacob F. Sharp founded the Jackson and Sharp Company of Wilmington in 1863. By 1871 they built the first narrow-gauge railcar in the United States.
The coastal state also lays claim to the first bathing beauty contest in 1880. To attract business to a summer festival, the competition was held at Rehoboth Beach. Thomas Edison was one of the judges.
Known as the Chemical State, Delaware is a hub for manufacturing and munitions. In 1939, the world’s first nylon manufacturing plant opened in Seaford under the name of Dupont.
From land to sea, Delaware satisfies the appetite all season long. Once known as the best producer of peaches until a blight wiped out the orchards in the late 1800s, the state is making a comeback, and the peach blossom is their state flower.
Summer boardwalks and beaches fill with the salty sweetness of taffy and crab cakes made from the regions’ blue crab.
The world’s largest maker of scrapple, RAPA Scrapple Company, calls Bridgeville, Delaware home. Also the home of the World Champion Pumpkin Chunkin competition in the heartland of the state, an autumn drive will fill your basket with fresh produce, poultry and the season’s best baked and canned goods the farmers’ markets can produce.
HOW TO OBSERVE NATIONAL DELAWARE DAY
Explore the history and people of this beautiful state and use #NationalDelwareDay to share on social media.
In 2017, National Day Calendar began celebrating each state in the order they entered the union starting the week of Independence Day and ending with Hawaii. We highlight a small part of each states’ history, foods, and the people who make up the state. There’s so much more to explore!
Representing Delaware at the Continental Congress, Caesar Rodney (October 7, 1728 – June 26, 1784) was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence and began serving Delaware at a young age. Orphaned at the age of 17, Rodney, began his career in the role of clerk of court. He later rose to President of Delaware and served the state until his death in 1784. Absent during the vote for independence from England due to illness, Rodney’s vote was necessary to break a tie. His fellow Delaware delegate cast the only vote against independence, and all 13 colonies had to be in unanimous agreement before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
A counterpoint to Caesar Rodney, educated George Read (September 18, 1733 – September 21, 1798) was born and raised in Maryland and later practiced law in Delaware. The attorney supported the colonies and their right to peaceful protest but did not support independence from the crown. He was the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to originally vote against.
A sensation during his lifetime, Robert Montgomery Bird (February 5, 1806 – January 23, 1854) made a name for America’s first star of the stage and penned the first novel about a serial killer – before the word was coined – Nick of the Woods. His play, The Gladiator, was performed over a thousand times during his lifetime.
Considered to have been the youngest correspondent of the Civil War, George Alfred Townsend (January 30, 1841 – April 15, 1914) wrote under the pen name Gath. While writing for papers in New York, Washington, Pensylvania, and Chicago he came into contact with many notable figures including Mark Twain and George McClellan and covered the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Widely credited as the inventor of the rescue technique for choking, the Heimlich Maneuver, Dr. Henry Heimlich (February 3, 1920 – December 17, 2016) was born in Wilmington. Educated at Cornell University, Heimlich was a thoracic surgeon and received a patent for a cardiac device called a flutter valve in 1969.
Born in Wilmington, Daniel Nathans (October 30, 1928 – November 16, 1999) grew up in an affectionate family of nine children. As the youngest, he benefited greatly from the experience of his siblings and pursued an advanced education like they did. His interest in medicine propelled him into the area of genetics. He earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1978 for the discovery of restriction enzymes along with Werner Arber and Hamilton Smith.
Arriving in Delaware after the French Revolution, chemist E.I. Dupont (1771- 1834) opened a gunpowder mill on the banks of the Brandywine River. The War of 1812 shot his business into the stratosphere when the U.S. government placed orders, securing the company’s presence in Delaware.
Today, Dupont is the second largest chemical company in the world, giving Delaware the nickname The Chemical State.
Best known for her role as Barbara Jean Cooper on the sitcom One Day at a Time, Valerie Bertinelli (April 23, 1960 – ) was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1960. Once married to rocker Eddie Van Halen, Bertinelli later landed sitcom celebrity in the show Hot in Cleveland.
Hailing from Wilmington, Elisabeth Shue (October 6, 1963) got her start in commercials. Her big break came when she landed a role alongside The Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio in 1984. The Harvard graduate has continued her career throughout the years both on screen and stage.