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Delaware History, Language and Culture

History of Delaware

The Swedes were the first to formally colonize what is modern-day Delaware in 1638, after wresting control from the Dutch West India Trading Company, who had established posts for trade with the local Native Americans. The Swedish fort was near modern-day Wilmington and dubbed Fort Christina.

Before long, the English laid claim to Delaware and led by James the Duke of York, took control of the region in 1664; he administered Delaware from his other colony, New York.

A century later, Delaware became of the 13 colonies that rebelled against the English crown, and the three counties of Kent, Sussex, and New Castle became known as Delaware. The colonies won their independence in 1776, and in 1787 created the US Constitution. Delaware was the first state to ratify the document, giving them the nickname of “The First State.”

The Du Pont family, founders of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, called Delaware their home after immigrating in 1800. Historically one of America’s richest families, the Du Pont’s company produced gun powders and chemicals, all manufactured at a plant near Wilmington. Today, E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. is still one of the largest employers in the state. 

During the Civil War, however, Delaware, though a slave state, sided with the Union. However, once the north won the war, Delaware did not abolish slavery like the majority of the north. The state also voted against the eventually successful 13th amendment that abolished slavery nationwide in 1865.

In the early 1900s, Delaware’s agriculture expanded, and corn and wheat crops flourished, along with soybeans and poultry. Their agriculture is still today a huge industry and large supporter of the state economy. During WWII, Delaware’s manufacturing industry improved and expanded as they produced ships, chemicals, and airplanes for the Allied forces.

In the 1970s, Delaware’s economy took a downward turn, but was quickly revived as Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV (of the Du Pont family) decreased state spending and business taxes, which drew many companies including Fortune 500 and banking, to Delaware.

Delaware Culture

Religion in Delaware

Delaware is mostly Christian, with Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants composing the largest groups. Delaware is also home to the oldest Protestant church in the country, Old Swedes Holy Trinity Church built in 1698.

Social Conventions in Delaware

The three counties of Delaware were once individual entities, and the local pride carries through today. Though Delaware is now a single unit, residents of Kent, Sussex, and New Castle have very strong local pride and tradition.

The Lenape, or Delaware, tribe originally resided in Delaware, and their ancestors still live there today. They have many customs and traditions that have survived into current culture, and their history is a celebrated part of Delaware’s culture.

Language in Delaware

English is the predominantly spoken language in Delaware, though they have not declared an official language. Few people speak other languages, but like the rest of the US, they have a climbing Spanish speaking population.