Delaware State Study

DelawareWe’ll explore history, geography, and more in this Delaware state study.  Also, look for the printable map of Delaware.

History of Delaware

Delaware was first settled by the Dutch in 1631.  The entire Dutch colony was killed by native tribes and 1638 a group of Swedes established a colony. The Dutch tried again in 1651 and in 1655 conquered the neighboring Swedes.  But in 1664 the English took the colony from the Dutch.  The English land was sold to William Penn in 1682.  But by 1704 the two areas, Pennsylvania and Delaware, were again acting as separate entities, though they shared a governor.  In 1776 Delaware established its right to be a separate state from Pennsylvania as well as declaring its independence from England.

Delaware entered the Union as a slave state.  Delaware was a tobacco colony and used slaves and indentured servants as the labor force.  Many free blacks and former indentured servants migrated from Maryland to Delaware during colonial days for the cheaper land. Slavery declined naturally in the years following the Revolutionary War as a result of the voluntary freeing of slaves.  So though Delaware was still a slave state in 1860, it remained with the Union throughout the Civil War.

This is Indian River Bay in Delaware. Photo by SheepNotGoats at en.wikipedia.

Today Delaware’s economy is based on poultry, dairy, soy beans, corn, banking, technology, health care, and government and military.  Delaware’s average income is the ninth highest in the nation.  Delaware is the 6th most densely populated state, but its tiny geographical size means it is 45th in total population.

Geography of Delaware

Delaware is the second smallest state in the US at 96 miles long and 9 to 35 miles across.  Delaware’s eastern border is formed by the Delaware river and Delaware Bay.  To the north is Pennsylvania and to the west is Maryland. The whole state is on a low lying coastal plain with flat and sandy ground.  In some coastal areas there are swamps and on the northwest bit of the state there are a few low rolling hills.  Delaware falls between subtropical and continental climates, with the southern part of the state being significantly warmer than the northern.

Fabulous Facts

  • The northern border of Delaware was defined as being a circle, 12 miles in radius, starting from the cupola of the courthouse in New Castle.  It is called the 12 mile circle.
  • Delaware was the first state to ratify the US Constitution.
Thomas Garrett, Abolitionist
  • Log cabins were introduced to the United States by Finnish settlers who first built them in Delaware.
  • The automated flour mill was invented by Oliver Evans in 1785 in Delaware, completely revolutionizing food milling and bringing the industrial revolution to America.
  • Thomas Garrett of Delaware fought slavery before it was popular, aided over 2000 slaves to escape to freedom in the North and lost all of his personal fortune in the fight.
  • Delaware was named for Lord de le Warr, first governor of Virginia.
  • Delaware is one of only five states without a single town with a population of 100,000 or more.


Label and color a Delaware Map. Use a student atlas to help you identify the major cities and landmarks.

Learn the history and meaning behind Delaware’s flag then color it.

Delaware is famous for its seafood, especially blue crab.  Try some Delaware recipes.

Before it was settled by Europeans, Delaware was home to an eastern Algonquin tribe known as the Lenape.  Today these people are called the Delaware tribe.  Learn about their history and culture and create a project featuring these people.  You could do a video, shadow box, model village, poster board presentation, report, or create a game where you quiz over facts.

Additional Layers

  • Delaware was one of the least enthusiastic of the colonies in throwing off British rule.  Find out why and then determine what factors make a people want to change their rulers or system of government.
  • These books are set in Delaware, read one of them: Beloved by Toni Morrison, Packet Alley by Elizabeth Meg, and Big Thursday by Ann Z. Sparklin.
  • Delaware is known for being corporate friendly with low taxes and easy laws.  Over half of all fortune 500 companies have incorporated there and about 60% of all companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange are headquartered (at least on paper) in Delaware.  Learn more about how laws and taxes influences individuals and businesses in their decisions.  Talk about how your local and state laws affect the decisions your family makes and whether this a good or bad influence.

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