The New International Encyclopædia/Delaware (State)

Edition of 1905.  See also Delaware on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

DEL′AWARE. One of the thirteen original States of the United States, constituting one of the Middle Atlantic States (Map: United States, L 3). It lies between latitudes 38° 27′ and 39° 50′ N. and longitudes 75° 2′ and 75° 47′ W. It is bounded on the north by Pennsylvania; on the east by the estuary of the Delaware River and by Delaware Bay, which separate it from New Jersey, and by the Atlantic Ocean; on the south and west by Maryland. It is next to the smallest of the States, and has a total area of 2050 square miles, of which 1960 square miles is land and 90 square miles is water surface. It has a length of about 100 miles from north to south, with a greatest width of 35 miles and a least width of 15 miles. At the entrance to Delaware Bay is Cape Henlopen, opposite Cape May, N. J.

Topography. The topography of Delaware is extremely simple, and presents little diversity of features. Almost the entire State is on the nearly level coastal plain, and probably averages less than 50 feet above sea-level. In the extreme north the surface is rolling, but the highest hill only attains an altitude of 280 feet above the sea-level, while the only relief to monotonous level in the central and southern portions is the central sandy ridge, not exceeding 70 feet. The streams of Delaware, while numerous, are all small. In the northern part of the State the streams flow in an easterly or southeasterly direction across it from Pennsylvania and Maryland, and empty into the Delaware. Nearly all the State, however, lies on the peninsula between Delaware and Chesapeake bays, and the divide between their waters traverses the State from north to south, keeping at a uniform distance from the east coast. Thus, as the State broadens southward, a relatively greater part of it lies west of the divide in the south than in the north. None of these rivers is navigable, although the estuary-like mouth of Christiana Creek permits the ascent of vessels to Wilmington. The Delaware coast of Delaware Bay and the estuary of Delaware River offer few advantages in the way of harbors. Portions of the shore are marshy, and the only good harbors are at Lewes, Wilmington, and New Castle. The Delaware Breakwater has been constructed at great expense near the mouth of the bay, in order to remedy somewhat this deficiency of safe harbors. On the southern border of the State there is an area of swamp land covering 70 square miles.

On the Atlantic coast there are a number of shallow bays or lagoons separated from the ocean by sandy reefs; the shallowness of their entrances, however, limits there usefulness. The largest bays are Rehoboth and Indian River bays, which have a common outlet known as Indian River Inlet, which permits navigation by vessels drawing less than six feet of water.

NIE 1905 Maryland and Delaware.jpg


County Map
 County Seat.   Area in 

1890. 1900.

Kent P 4  Dover 434  32,664  32,762 
Newcastle  P 2  Wilmington 615 97,182   109,697 
Sussex Q 6  Georgetown  911 38,647  42,276 

Climate and Soil. Situated on the eastern coast of the continent, Delaware has a temperate climate, with a considerable range of temperature and an ample rainfall.

The average annual temperature is about 55° F., varying from 56° at the extreme south to about 52° at the extreme north. The average daily range of temperature, or difference between the highest and lowest temperatures during twenty-four hours, is from 16° to 20°. The highest summer temperature on record is 103° and the lowest winter temperature -17°; even in midsummer the temperature has descended to 50°. On the average August day the temperature rises to about 85°, and on the average January day the temperature descends to 25°. In the fall frosts seldom occur before October 10th, and may not occur until about November 1st; while in the spring they may occur as late as the latter part of April. The advent of spring (i.e. the awakening of plant life) occurs on the average about the end of March.

The annual rainfall is, on the average, from 40 to 45 inches over the State as a whole, but is slightly greater on the coast than inland. The rainfall is rather evenly distributed over the whole year, although there seems to be somewhat less precipitation in late fall and early winter than at other seasons of the year. Damaging droughts are not infrequent, but killing droughts are unknown. Heavy rainfalls take place; sometimes an average month's rainfall occurs in a single day; but damaging rain-storms are rare. Thunder-storms and hail-storms are most frequent from May to August. The prevailing winds are from the northwest from October to May, from the southwest in June and July, and variable during the intervening spring and fall months.

The soils are sedimentary, derived from the underlying Tertiary rocks. In the rolling northern portion of the State the soil is clay, passing through the various gradations from a heavy clay to a loamy clay, and is well adapted for raising fruits, grasses, and grains. In the undulating middle section, approximately covered by Kent County, the soil is generally loamy. Here fruits, berries, vegetables, and the vine flourish. In the flat southern section of Sussex County the soil is sandy, with here and there outcrops of loamy clay. This region is best adapted for strawberry and peach culture. For flora and fauna see the respective paragraphs under United States.

Geology and Mineralogy. The entire State falls within the Atlantic coastal region, and is therefore underlain by strata of recent geological age (Map: Special Map). Cretaceous strata appear in the northern part of New Castle County, while southward Tertiary and Post-Tertiary beds predominate. Clays suitable for the manufacture of brick and terra-cotta, and kaolin, are found in the vicinity of Wilmington. A small area of granite occurs near this city, from which building-stone and road-material are quarried, and some feldspar has been extracted. Glass-sand, marls, and bog-iron ore are known to form extensive deposits. The output of granite in 1900 was valued at $608,028.

Agriculture. Agriculture is the leading industry, farms constituting 85 per cent. of the total land surface. The figures in this connection have not changed materially in three decades. The fact that the soil is best in the northern part of the State is reflected in the values of land, which average $45 per acre in the northern section, $19 in the middle, and $12 in the southern. During the last half-century there has been a continuous and marked increase in the number of farms, and a corresponding decrease in the average size. In 1850 the average farm was of 158 acres; in 1900, 110 acres. Twenty-seven per cent. of the farms in 1900 were between 50 and 75 acres in extent, while 30 per cent. were between 100 and 175 acres. Compared with other States, a large per cent. of the farms are rented, and the per cent. has increased from 42 in 1880 to 50 in 1900. Share-renting is the prevailing method.

In no State have fertilizers become so generally used, the average amount per farm ($55.65) being three times that for the North Atlantic States. There has been a marked increase during the decade in the two principal crops—corn and wheat. The increased interest in the latter is most remarkable in view of the opposite tendency in most Eastern States. The wheat acreage is several times that for all the New England States. The other cereals are relatively unimportant. The oats crop has decreased to one-third the acreage of 1890. Hay ranks third in acreage. Orchard and small fruits have long constituted one of the main sources of income. In late years, however, the greater number of peach-trees—which greatly excelled all other trees in number and importance—have been destroyed or injured by frosts, and increased attention has been turned to market and farm gardening, tomatoes being the leading crop, to which alone nearly 16,000 acres were devoted in 1899. The proximity of the large coast cities, particularly Philadelphia, is greatly in favor of garden farming. Stock-raising is of secondary importance, and has been about stationary for a number of years. The 1900 census returns show 32,600 dairy cows, 21,600 other cattle, 46,700 swine, and 29,700 horses.

Manufactures. The manufacturing industry employs over 22,000 people, and rivals agriculture in importance. The location is favorable, inasmuch as the coal and iron of the neighboring States can be put down at Wilmington as cheaply as at Philadelphia; while the position on the coast affords an advantage in shipping and in shipbuilding. The falls near the mouth of the Brandywine have been, from an early date, extensively utilized for manufacturing purposes. The manufacture of iron and steel products leads in importance. This industry includes steel and rolling mills, car-shops, foundry and machine shops, and ship-building yards—in all 53 establishments, aggregating a capital of $15,000,000, or 36 per cent. of the total for the State. The leather industry ranks next, and is the most prosperous of any of the manufacturing enterprises. The 20 establishments have trebled their capital and have almost doubled their product during the last decade. The increased production of fruits and vegetables has resulted in a corresponding increase in the canning industry, the number of establishments having increased from 28 to 51 during the decade. Prosperity has not been shared, however, by the textile industries, the establishments having decreased from 10 to 5. There has been some decline also in the manufacture of carriages and wagons.

Fisheries. The fishing industry is increasing in importance, but is much less extensive than in the neighboring coast States. The aggregate value of the product in 1897 was $252,000, the oyster, shad, and sturgeon fisheries being the most important. The men employed numbered 2400.

Transportation and Commerce. A number of the trunk lines connecting the East with the South and the West pass through the northern part of the State. The total mileage in 1899 was 349, or a little less than 18 per 100 square miles of territory or per 10,000 inhabitants. Chesapeake and Delaware bays are connected by a canal 13½ miles long, 66 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. This work was completed in 1829, at a cost of $2,250,000. The massive breakwater at Lewes was begun in 1828, and completed in 1869, at a cost of over $2,000,000. There is some foreign commerce direct through Wilmington, but such trade is generally through Baltimore or some Northern port. The coasting trade is important, especially with New Vork, with which Wilmington is connected by a line of steamers. Wilmington is a customs district, and there are deputy collectors at New Castle and Lewes.

Banks. In 1900 there were 20 national banks in operation in the State, with a combined capital of $2,159,000 and deposits of $6,397,000; two State banks, with a capital of $600,000 and deposits of $1,685,000, and two mutual savings banks, with deposits of $5,027,000 and 20,300 depositors.

Population. In 1790 Delaware had a population of 59,000; in 1820, 72,700; in 1850, 91,500; in 1860, 112,200; in 1870, 125,000; in 1880, 146,000; in 1890, 168,500, and in 1900, 184,700. But three States had less population at the last census, and but six a lower rate of increase for the decade. There were 94 individuals to the square mile. The negroes numbered 30,700; and the foreign-born 13,800, of whom about one-half were Irish. Wilmington had a population of 76,500, or 41 per cent. of the total population, and is the only city exceeding 4000. Dover is the capital.

Religion. The leading religious denominations are the Methodist Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, and Baptist. Wilmington is the see of the Protestant Episcopal diocese of Delaware and of the Roman Catholic diocese of Wilmington. There are over 400 churches.

Education. The public-school system was established in 1875. The State school fund is largely derived from Delaware's share in the United States surplus revenue and from the proceeds of certain fees and licenses. The State Constitution places a minimum limit of $100,000 on the annual appropriation for schools in addition to the school fund. In 1900 $130,000 was distributed to the counties for use in the payment of teachers' salaries and supplying free text-books. There are separate race schools. The school year averages 160 days in length. From an estimated number of 48,800 children between the ages of five and eighteen (1899), 33,100 were enrolled in school, the average attendance, however, being but 22,000. There were 840 teachers, of whom 622 were females. There are 12 high schools. There is an agricultural college for colored students at Dover. The State has no normal schools, but teachers' institutes are held in each county. The only institution for higher instruction is Delaware College at Newark, which is open to both sexes.

Government. The present Constitution was adopted in 1897. To be amended, it requires a two-thirds vote of each House at two consecutive Legislatures. A constitutional convention may be called if demanded by a two-thirds vote of each House, approved by a vote of the people. To enjoy the right of suffrage requires a residence in the State for one year, in the county three months, and in the election district for twenty days. The usual mental qualifications are required, as is also the ability to read the Constitution. Disfranchisement follows for the conviction of felony or implication in attempted bribery in connection with the exercise of the right of franchise. Registration is also required.

Legislative.—Elections and legislative sessions are held biennially—the former on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. There is a Senate of 17 members, 7 from the northern county and 5 from each of the other two, chosen for four years, and a House of Representatives of 35, the northern county having 15 members and the other two 10 each, chosen for two years. Senators must be twenty-seven years of age or over, and be freeholders in their own counties; Representatives must be twenty-four or over; and both must have been citizens of the State three years, and the last year a resident of the districts from which they are elected, to be eligible to seats in the Legislature. The $6 per diem salary is discontinued after the sixtieth day of the session. Revenue bills must originate with the Lower House. The power of impeachment rests with the Lower House, trial for impeachment with the Senate.

Executive.—The Governor is elected for a period of four years and is not eligible a third time. The Governor may veto any bill or any portion of a bill appropriating money, but the veto may be overridden by a three-fifths vote of each House. The Governor grants pardons upon recommendation of the Board of Pardon. The Lieutenant-Governor presides over the Senate, his term of office being identical with that of the Governor. The Attorney-General and Insurance-General also serve four years each.

Judiciary.—There are six State judges, one of whom is Chancellor and one Chief Justice, and all of whom are appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate for a term of 12 years.

Treason, murder in the first degree, arson of a dwelling, rape, and burglary at night, with intent to commit high crimes, are punishable with death. The whipping-post and pillory have been in use for petty offenders. Adultery by a wife or impotence on either side is a cause for divorce; and divorce may be granted for cruelty, abandonment, etc. Until 1828 the Presidential Electors of Delaware were chosen by the Legislature; since then they have been elected by the popular vote. In 1812, 1816, and 1820 Delaware had two Representatives in Congress, and therefore cast four electoral votes; but at all other times, having but one such Representative, it has cast only three electoral votes.

Militia. There is a total organized militia of 368 men. There are 40,029 men of military age.

Finance. In December, 1900, the total assets of the State amounted to $1,128,445.76, of which $1,030,542 represented investments. The State debt for the same date was $769,750, the greater part of which was incurred in the loans of 1887 and 1897. The disbursements for that year amounted to $310,868.86, and the receipts, $381,813.95. The largest item of the receipts ($155,863.73) was returned from licenses.

History. The aboriginal inhabitants of the region belonged to the Lenni Lenape family, but Iroquois hunting parties frequently traversed the country. The name Delaware was first applied to the bay which Lord de la Warr entered in 1611. Mey, a Dutch explorer, built Fort Nassau on Timber Creek in 1623, and in 1631 a Dutch company, headed by De Vries, established a colony on Lewes Creek, near Cape Henlopen, which the Indians destroyed. In 1638 a colony of Swedes erected a fort on Christiana Creek, named the country New Sweden, and subsequently established a military post on the island of Tinnicum, below Philadelphia. The Dutch considered this an invasion of their territory and set up Fort Casimir, near the site of the present New Castle. A settlement on the Delaware, made in 1641 near the present site of Salem, N. J., by a colony from New Haven, existed only for two years. After 1642 the Swedes and the Dutch came into open conflict. The Swedes took Fort Casimir in 1654, but were driven out in the following year by the Dutch, who seized the whole country. When New Netherlands came into the possession of the English the settlements on the Delaware were claimed both by the Duke of York and by Lord Baltimore. In 1683 William Penn received the territory in fee from the Duke of York and effected a compromise with Lord Baltimore, and for twenty years Delaware was governed as a part of Pennsylvania under the name of the ‘Territories or Three Lower Counties on the Delaware,’ each county sending six Representatives to the General Assembly. In 1703 Delaware established a separate legislature, but continued to acknowledge the authority of the Governor of Pennsylvania till the Revolution. In the War of Independence, the ‘Blue Hen's Chickens,’ as the Delaware volunteers were called, rendered efficient service. The State was the first to ratify the Federal Constitution, December 7, 1787.

Though a slave-holding State, Delaware remained faithful to the Union in 1861, and contributed nearly 14,000 troops to the Northern armies. In the southern part of the State, however, the Confederate sentiment was strong, and large numbers went to join the Southern forces. The inhabitants accepted the results of the war with ill grace. The Fourteenth Amendment was denounced by the Legislature, and though no forcible attempts were made, as in the South, to hamper the enfranchised negroes in the exercise of their newly acquired civil and political rights, the feeling of race hatred prevailed for a long time after the war.

The economic history of the State since 1865 has been a happy one. The period has witnessed a remarkable growth of the railway system, the development of the fruit industry, and the rise of Wilmington as a ship-building and manufacturing centre. Progress in public education has been, on the whole, unsatisfactory, owing to the lack of a central Department of Instruction. The rapid growth of Wilmington in population since 1873 has created great opposition to the prevailing system of representation in the Legislature as being unfair to the inhabitants of that city. This is owing to the fact that the State Representatives are apportioned equally among the three countries, with the result that Newcastle County, containing the city of Wilmington, with an industrial population one and a half times that of the agricultural counties of Sussex and Kent, has always been in a hopeless minority. From 1788 to 1852 Delaware was a Federal or Whig State in national elections excepting in 1820, when it cast its vote for Monroe. Since 1852 it has been a Democratic State with the exception of the years 1872, 1896, and 1900. In State politics it was consistently Democratic from 1865 to 1900. In 1895 the Republican Party, owing to internal dissensions, was split into two factions. This led to the assembling of a rump Republican Legislature in 1897, and to a prolonged contest for the choice of a United States Senator. Neither faction would yield, and the Democratic Party was too weak to avail itself of the dissensions in the Republican Party. Delaware, therefore, had only one Senator in Congress from 1895 to 1901, and has had none since 1901. The first Slate Constitution was adopted in 1776, the second in 1791, the third in 1831, the fourth in 1897.