Delaware Public Archives shares list of daily historical events

The Delaware Public Archives building. This Day in Delaware History has been issued by the archives for about 15 years. It consists of four Delaware-related items that often span centuries and a photo pertaining to one of the facts. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The Delaware Public Archives building. This Day in Delaware History has been issued by the archives for about 15 years. It consists of four Delaware-related items that often span centuries and a photo pertaining to one of the facts. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Every day, the Delaware Public Archives publishes a brief listing of historic Delaware events on that date. The listed occurrences can be serious and monumental (Caesar Rodney’s ride), unusual and startling (the fatal poisoning of two daughters of a congressman) or just plain quirky and interesting (a town taxing dog owners).

Compiled by historian Roger Martin, This Day in Delaware History has been issued by the archives for about 15 years. It consists of four Delaware-related items that often span centuries and a photo pertaining to one of the facts.

Mr. Martin, a former state senator, is very well-versed in Delaware history, a subject he has written several books on. After reading about a history of the United States in the mid-1990s, he was inspired to begin developing a work on the First State. Relying mainly on a book published in the 1930s, he developed an initial 10- to 15-page collection.

“God knows it’s much more than 15 pages now,” he said.

His research became the basis for the archives’ daily publication, which covers a wide variety of topics. Mr. Martin said he tried not only to focus on key fields like state politics, the DuPont Company and agriculture but to also “make it human.”

Delaware historian Roger Martin creates the daily listing of historic state events for the Delaware Public Archives. (Delaware State News file photo)

Delaware historian Roger Martin creates the daily listing of historic state events for the Delaware Public Archives. (Delaware State News file photo)

“Having taught history there’s nothing worse than reading some old stuff that’s very hard to get interested in,” he said.

Today in History is certainly not boring.

Some selected events are amusing, like an excerpt from June 26 of last year, referencing a 1933 happening: “Delawarean George Messersmith, Consul General in Berlin, warned the US State Department that Hitler and the Nazis were psychopaths who really needed psychiatric help.”

Others refer to important happenings in state history, such as this occurrence on Sept. 6, 1950, included in the publication last year: “The University of Delaware ended its racial segregation by admitting 10 African American students, three of whom were women.”

Events occasionally relate to ones included in prior releases. In 2015, Sept. 13’s publication noted “Delaware’s first governor, President John McKinly, was taken prisoner by the British in Wilmington” in 1777. On Sept. 14, the archives’ daily issue informed readers McKinly was set free that day — one year later.

The publication helps generate interest in the Delaware Public Archives, especially from people who are new to Delaware and unfamiliar with its history, Director Stephen Marz said.

“They don’t know about the rich history of the First State, they don’t even know why it’s called the First State,” he said.

Employees at the archives all help find photos for each day in what has become almost a competition. In the event no relevant photos can be found (rare, since the archives, as Mr. Marz proudly noted, has more than 1 million images), staffers can turn to a large collection of documents.

Employees are typically informed what will appear on a date’s listing about six weeks beforehand, according to Mr. Marz.

A look at different items included over the past year can tell a lot: that 52 cents per hour was solid pay in 1944, that Delaware harbored a dislike of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, that someone threw a 5-pound block of scrapple a record 127 feet, that John Dickinson was once governor of both Delaware and Pennsylvania for a brief time at the close of the American Revolution… the list goes on.

Mr. Marz urged anyone interested to follow the archives on Facebook or Twitter or join the email list by registering at https://denotificationservices.bbcportal.com/.

THIS DAY IN DELAWARE HISTORY What follows is small selection of historic events that have appeared in the Delaware Public Archives’ daily publication over the preceding year. Some are notable only for their quirkiness, while others are undoubtedly key events in state history. July 20, 2002: “Nearly 21,000 Du Pont employees and family members showed up on 150 acres of Winterthur Museum to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the company in Delaware. The fare included 48,000 lbs. of chicken, 20,000 hamburgers, 18,000 hotdogs, 30,000 lbs. of ice, 15,000 ears of corn, and 1.5 million ounces of beverages.” Aug. 3, 1954: “Carole Lois Art from Carney’s Point, New Jersey became the first baby born on the Delaware Memorial Bridge.” Sept. 2, 1885: “Coeducation at Delaware College in Newark was discontinued when women were no longer admitted as students. Some critics said they were a distraction to the men who were trying to get an education.” Sept. 18, 1787: “George Washington, on his way back home from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, narrowly escaped disaster on Wilmington’s 4th Street bridge when one of the horses drawing his carriage fell through a rotten bridge plank.” Sept. 19, 2005: “A Purdue chicken truck from Georgetown caught fire on Route 1 near Biddles Corner and held up traffic for nine hours. For some time front end loaders were scooping up frozen chickens along the highway, none of which could be salvaged.” Sept. 28, 1949: “Inez Brennan, 45, and her 15 year old son of Dover received life imprisonment for luring two older men to their deaths in what became known as the Lonely Hearts murders.” Oct. 4, 1964: “The Delaware State News of Dover put out a Sunday edition for the first time.” Oct. 23, 1899: “E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company was incorporated in Delaware with a capitalization of $2,000,000.” Dec. 15, 1954: “President Dwight Eisenhower’s crusade to have a nationwide 24-hour accident-free day lasted only two hours and 45 minutes when a Smyrna man drove his car into a ditch.” Jan. 16, 1930: “Delaware officials in Wilmington stated that women who refused to tell their age would not be issued a driver’s license.” Feb. 5, 1941: “The City of Dover began construction on an airport southeast of town. Comprised of 587 acres, it is the present site of Dover Air Force Base.” March 7, 2013: “Morris Market in Frederica advertised dressed muskrats and raccoons for sale. Some customers declared they could eat muskrat three times a day and that it tasted better than chicken.” March 18, 1869: “The legislature rejected the 15th Amendment (voting rights for African Americans) even though it was the law throughout the United States.” March 26, 1875: “The General Assembly enacted a law to give women the right to make a will without the consent of their husbands.” March 26, 1936: “In Lewes, large numbers of live perch and rockfish were discovered on the beach. Afterward, it was known as the ‘Miracle of the Fishes.’” March 29, 1638: “In what was the first permanent settlement of European colonists in Delaware and the entire Delaware River Valley, a Swedish expedition commanded by Peter Minuit arrived in Wilmington.” April 12, 1935: “After a photo of a Delaware whipping had been published all across the country, the Legislature made it illegal to photograph a state public whipping.” May 4, 2006: “Part of the Widener School of Law campus in Wilmington had to be roped off for graduation exercises because two protective geese in the area became too belligerent toward passersby.” May 5, 1919: “P. S. du Pont, II paved Kennett Pike at $85,000 per mile and turned it over to the state for one dollar.” May 6, 1846: “House Speaker William Temple of Smyrna, due to the deaths of two others in the line of succession, became Delaware’s third governor within two months.” May 8, 1671: “A census of what became Kent and Sussex Counties indicated there were approximately 50 colonists living in the region.” May 8, 1998: “President William Clinton spoke on education before the General Assembly in the Senate chambers.” June 12, 1991: “President George H. W. Bush spoke at the James H. Groves Adult High School commencement in Seaford.” June 13, 1806: “John Dickinson wrote to a friend from Dover: ‘The mosquitoes are so thick in many parts of this county as to kill the sheep, cattle and horses...’”  July 6, 1972: “Governor Russell Peterson signed the Revised Delaware Code abolishing the whipping post which had been on the books since 1717.” July 11, 1863: “General Robert Schenck, military commander in Baltimore, placed the State of Delaware under martial law.”

THIS DAY IN DELAWARE HISTORY
What follows is small selection of historic events that have appeared in the Delaware Public Archives’ daily publication over the preceding year. Some are notable only for their quirkiness, while others are undoubtedly key events in state history.
July 20, 2002: “Nearly 21,000 Du Pont employees and family members showed up on 150 acres of Winterthur Museum to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the company in Delaware. The fare included 48,000 lbs. of chicken, 20,000 hamburgers, 18,000 hotdogs, 30,000 lbs. of ice, 15,000 ears of corn, and 1.5 million ounces of beverages.”
Aug. 3, 1954: “Carole Lois Art from Carney’s Point, New Jersey became the first baby born on the Delaware Memorial Bridge.”
Sept. 2, 1885: “Coeducation at Delaware College in Newark was discontinued when women were no longer admitted as students. Some critics said they were a distraction to the men who were trying to get an education.”
Sept. 18, 1787: “George Washington, on his way back home from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, narrowly escaped disaster on Wilmington’s 4th Street bridge when one of the horses drawing his carriage fell through a rotten bridge plank.”
Sept. 19, 2005: “A Purdue chicken truck from Georgetown caught fire on Route 1 near Biddles Corner and held up traffic for nine hours. For some time front end loaders were scooping up frozen chickens along the highway, none of which could be salvaged.”
Sept. 28, 1949: “Inez Brennan, 45, and her 15 year old son of Dover received life imprisonment for luring two older men to their deaths in what became known as the Lonely Hearts murders.”
Oct. 4, 1964: “The Delaware State News of Dover put out a Sunday edition for the first time.”
Oct. 23, 1899: “E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company was incorporated in Delaware with a capitalization of $2,000,000.”
Dec. 15, 1954: “President Dwight Eisenhower’s crusade to have a nationwide 24-hour accident-free day lasted only two hours and 45 minutes when a Smyrna man drove his car into a ditch.”
Jan. 16, 1930: “Delaware officials in Wilmington stated that women who refused to tell their age would not be issued a driver’s license.”
Feb. 5, 1941: “The City of Dover began construction on an airport southeast of town. Comprised of 587 acres, it is the present site of Dover Air Force Base.”
March 7, 2013: “Morris Market in Frederica advertised dressed muskrats and raccoons for sale. Some customers declared they could eat muskrat three times a day and that it tasted better than chicken.”
March 18, 1869: “The legislature rejected the 15th Amendment (voting rights for African Americans) even though it was the law throughout the United States.”
March 26, 1875: “The General Assembly enacted a law to give women the right to make a will without the consent of their husbands.”
March 26, 1936: “In Lewes, large numbers of live perch and rockfish were discovered on the beach. Afterward, it was known as the ‘Miracle of the Fishes.’”
March 29, 1638: “In what was the first permanent settlement of European colonists in Delaware and the entire Delaware River Valley, a Swedish expedition commanded by Peter Minuit arrived in Wilmington.”
April 12, 1935: “After a photo of a Delaware whipping had been published all across the country, the Legislature made it illegal to photograph a state public whipping.”
May 4, 2006: “Part of the Widener School of Law campus in Wilmington had to be roped off for graduation exercises because two protective geese in the area became too belligerent toward passersby.”
May 5, 1919: “P. S. du Pont, II paved Kennett Pike at $85,000 per mile and turned it over to the state for one dollar.”
May 6, 1846: “House Speaker William Temple of Smyrna, due to the deaths of two others in the line of succession, became Delaware’s third governor within two months.”
May 8, 1671: “A census of what became Kent and Sussex Counties indicated there were approximately 50 colonists living in the region.”
May 8, 1998: “President William Clinton spoke on education before the General Assembly in the Senate chambers.”
June 12, 1991: “President George H. W. Bush spoke at the James H. Groves Adult High School commencement in Seaford.”
June 13, 1806: “John Dickinson wrote to a friend from Dover: ‘The mosquitoes are so thick in many parts of this county as to kill the sheep, cattle and horses…’”
July 6, 1972: “Governor Russell Peterson signed the Revised Delaware Code abolishing the whipping post which had been on the books since 1717.”
July 11, 1863: “General Robert Schenck, military commander in Baltimore, placed the State of Delaware under martial law.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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