This is a question that has been posed since I was a young school boy, learning the names of all fifty (48 back then) states. Delaware has moved to the front of state awareness since our Vice President Joe Biden is from Delaware. And President Obama has just designated a historic site in Delaware a National Historic Monument. Delaware is the only state without a National Park, yet it was the first state to ratify the Constitution. It is the place where Swedes and Finns came ashore to start their new lives in the New World. In fact, the Finns brought the log cabin to the New World.
Appropriately, it will be called the First State National Monument. President Obama will use the Antiquities Act, a law dating back to 1906, to designate the National Monuments on March 25, 2013. Sixteen Presidents have used the law to protect historical and cultural areas such as the Grand Canyon, and the Statue of Liberty.
How did this state get its rather funny name? It is named for Thomas West, the 3rd Baron De La Warr, who was an English nobleman and Virginia’s first colonial governor. Delaware is the sixth least populated state, yet the sixth most densely populated of the fifty states. It has only three counties, Sussex, Kent, and Newcastle, all sounding rather British. Before the arrival of Europeans, the region was inhabited by Native Americans, including the Lenape and Nanticoke. Dutch traders first settled the area in 1631, near the present town of Lewes.
Delaware is the second smallest state after Rhode Island, at only 1954 square miles. It has the only circular boundary in the United States. The northern boundary is defined by an arc extending 12 miles from the cupola of the courthouse of the city of New Castle. It is often called the Twelve Mile Circle.
Today, Delaware has a population just under one million. The per capita income is ninth in the nation at $34,199. Dover Air Force Base is one of the largest air bases in the country. I would guess this is where most of the fighter jets are dispatched when the White House is threatened. But more than 50% of all publicly traded companies are incorporated in Delaware; and 63% of the Fortune 500 as well.
Who else is from Delaware, other than the VP and the MVP? The list includes: Valerie Bertinelli, George Thorogood, Andrew and Elizabeth Shue. Both of Delaware’s Senators are Democrats, Tom Carper, and Chris Coons. The single U.S. Representative is John Carney, also a Democrat.
Alcohol can only be sold here from 9am to 1am, and until 2003, banned alcohol sales on Sunday. As you might guess, the state is highly Democratic, and tended to be a Presidential bellwether until 2000. Delaware’s electoral votes went to Al Gore in 2000. The Blue Hen is the official state bird, often noted for their fighting ability. Super Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco was a Blue Hen. But the Lady Bug is their official state bug. American holly is the official state tree. The peach blossom is the official state flower. Delaware has the fastest internet of any state, with an average connection speed of 10.2 megabits per second.
The Delaware Bicycle Route 1 spans the entire length of the state, north-south, from the Maryland border in Fenwick Island to the Pennsylvania border north of Montchanin. Three ferries also operate on a regular basis here. Amtrak, my means of transport here, has two stops in Delaware, Newark Rail Station, and Wilmington Rail Station. Delaware is the only state without regular commercial air service. However, it only takes two hours to drive from one end of Delaware to the other. The Mason Dixon Line forms the state’s western border.
Best of all, Delaware has tax-free shopping! The Delaware History Trail has 36 significant historical sites. I plan to set foot here only briefly, on my way to New Jersey on Amtrak. Had I known before about the tax-free shopping, I would have brought an extra suitcase and done my Christmas shopping a little early.
I actually fell asleep for most of Delaware.