Like other of the original Thirteen Colonies, Delaware changed hands many times. Originally claimed by the Dutch in 1631, settlement ended the first year when Indian attacks killed all the settlers. Settlement began again in 1638 when the Swedes established Fort Christina (present-day Wilmington) and the colony of New Sweden. Two decades later the Dutch again took control and claimed it as part of New Netherland, which fell into English hands a decade later when they captured New Netherland and made it into New York. Maryland also claimed Delaware, but it officially became part of Pennsylvania in 1682, giving that colony access to the mouth of the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Delaware became a separate and distinct colony in 1704.
While Delaware has always been a small colony and state in both size and population it is not insignificant. The Delaware State Quarter indicates two important facts about Delaware’s role in the founding of the United States. In the buildup to the American Revolution, individual colonies voted to seek independence and empower their delegations at the Continental Congress to vote for independence. Some colonies took steps toward independence while others resisted.
As the vote for independence on July 2, 1776 drew near, Delaware had a problem. It had a three-man delegation, but one of the members, Caesar Rodney, was away in Delaware dealing with military matters. The other two delegates were divided on the issue of independence. Rodney rode 70 miles during the night to reach Philadelphia to cast the deciding vote for independence. Rodney’s famous ride is immortalized on the back of the quarter as is the phrase “The First State.” On Dec. 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution making it the official first state to join the Union.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.