The New International Encyclopædia/Wilmington (Delaware)

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

WIL′MINGTON. The largest city in the State of Delaware, and the county-seat of New Castle County, 27 miles southwest of Philadelphia and 69 miles northeast of Baltimore, at the junction of the Delaware River and Christiana and Brandywine creeks, and on the Philadelphia. Baltimore and Washington, the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Wilmington and Northern railroads (Map: Delaware, P 2). It is picturesquely situated on hilly ground, the abundant provision of shade-trees adding to the beauty of the streets. The historic Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church was built in 1698 and is the oldest church building in continuous occupation in the United States. Other notable edifices are the fine county courthouse, the new post-office and United States Government building, and the building of the Equitable Guarantee and Trust Company. In or near the city are the Delaware and Homœopathic hospitals, the State Hospital for the Insane, the Ferris Industrial School for Boys, the Delaware Industrial School for Girls, and the Home for Friendless and Destitute Children. The Friends' School is an old and prominent institution. The free library, incorporated in 1788 as the Wilmington Institute, but now public, contains more than 40,000 volumes. The Law Library Association of the county has 15,000 volumes, and the Historical Society 3000. Wilmington is the leading industrial city in the State, its manufactures in the census year 1900 having an aggregate capital of $28,372,043, and a product valued at $34,053,324. Shipbuilding is a prominent industry, the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company having its works here. The Jackson & Sharp Company is an important car-building concern, and the Pullman Company also has shops here. Wilmington is the centre of the morocco industry in the United States. The manufacture of papermaking machinery is another important industry, the plant of the Pusey & Jones Company being one of the leading establishments of its kind in the United States. About four miles from the city is one of the largest powder-manufacturing establishments in the world, that of the E. I. Dupont de Nemours Company, founded in 1801 by Pierre Samuel Dupont (see Dupont de Nemours) and his sons. Large quantities of foundry and machine-shop products and iron and steel are also manufactured. The Pennsylvania Railroad maintains extensive car shops at Wilmington. The city is a prominent distributing centre and a port of entry for the customs district of Delaware, the foreign trade of which in 1901 was valued at $4,911,144, including exports to the amount of $4,679,370. The government is vested in a mayor, elected every two years, and a unicameral council of thirteen members. The mayor appoints the board of directors of the street and sewer departments and the board of water commissioners. The council appoints the city clerk, city auditor, milk, meat, oil, and market inspectors, etc. Members of the board of police commissioners are appointed by the judge of the Supreme Court. Besides the mayor and council, the city treasurer, city solicitor, and board of education (two from each ward) are chosen by direct popular vote. Wilmington spends annually in maintenance and operation about $720,000, the principal items of expenditure being: Schools, $200,000; police department (including police courts, jails, etc.), $85,000; interest on debt, $80,000; water-works, $50,000; fire department, $40,000. The water-works are owned by the municipality, which constructed them in 1827. The system comprises about 106 miles of mains, and has cost $1,875,000. Population, in 1890, 61,431; in 1900, 76,508, including 10,478 persons of foreign birth and 9736 of negro descent.

In 1638 Peter Minuet, with the first Swedish expedition to America, cast anchor in the Christiana, or Minquas, as the Indians called it, and erected a fort named Fort Christina in honor of the infant daughter of Gustavus Adolphus. He also founded a little village, Christinaham, where Wilmington now stands. Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor of New Netherland, stirred by the activity of Minuet's successor, Prinz, bought the region from the Indians, and in 1655 took Fort Christina and ended Swedish supremacy in Delaware. The Dutch rulers were in their turn succeeded nine years later by the English. Under William Penn's proprietorship the city acquired the sober Quaker character which it has never entirely lost. In 1737 Thomas Willing laid out a new town which bore his name, though Willingstown became Wilmington eight years later in honor of the English peer of that name. The battle of Brandywine (q.v.) was fought at Chadd's Ford, about 12 miles away. The first borough charter was issued in 1739. Consult: Ferris, History of the Original Settlements on the Delaware (Wilmington, 1846); Powell (editor), Historic Towns of the Middle States (New York, 1899).