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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Delightful Facts About Delaware

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

With fewer than one million residents and a total area not much larger than Anchorage, Alaska, the state of Delaware is naturally at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes the rest of the country's appreciation for it. Beyond its status as one of the 13 original colonies, what do you know about the land of liberty and independence? Here are 25 facts to get you started.

1. The first known inhabitants of the region we now call Delaware were the Lenni Lenape and the Nanticoke, tribes that combined to form the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape confederation.

2. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787, five days before any other province or colony. In 2002, a first grade class requested that the nickname “The First State” be made official.

3. Delaware was last to the party in terms of getting a National Monument, which didn't happen until 2013. The First State National Monument, dedicated by President Obama and Vice President Biden, is comprised of 1100 acres of preserved land, plus a handful of historic buildings—including Dover Green, where Delawareans ratified the Constitution.

4. Another nickname for Delaware is the “Diamond State.” Thomas Jefferson reportedly once referred to it as a “jewel” due to its ideal location.

iStock

5. Delaware is the second-smallest state in the country. It stretches just under 100 miles long, and is only 35 miles at its widest point.

6. The Delaware River and the Delaware Bay both predate the name of the state. In 1610, English naval officer Samuel Argall named the bodies of water after the governor of Virginia, Thomas West, the 12th Baron De La Warr.

7. The state insect is a ladybug, thanks to a second grade class who petitioned and got it approved by the 127th General Assembly on April 25, 1974.

8. Brigadier-General Caesar Rodney of Dover, the guy on the back of the 1999 Delaware state quarter, rode 80 miles on horseback overnight to Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to cast an important vote—despite suffering from asthma and skin cancer. His vote was the deciding factor in favor of the nation’s independence.

Aeropixels Photography, Flickr //CC BY 2.0 

9. According to a 2015 study, buffering is something that Delawareans rarely have to worry about. The state enjoys the fastest Internet speeds in the country, with connection speeds higher than every other country observed with the exception of South Korea.

10. Move over, Florida! Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based finance news and business publication, recently listed Delaware as the top state for retirees in terms of economy, crime, demographics, and tax rates.

11. The state is also pretty popular among cyclists. The League of American Bicyclists named it the third most bike-friendly state in the country in 2015.

12. If team sports are more your speed, several of Delaware's state parks offer 18-hole disc golf courses. Not familiar with the game? Check out the official rules over at the Professional Disc Golf Association's website

13. The University of Delaware offered the country's first study abroad program in 1923, when a professor and WWI veteran, citing the importance of cross-cultural exchange, set sail for France along with eight juniors.

14. Despite being the second-smallest state, Delaware is also the sixth most densely populated state in America. 

15. Delaware plays host to the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association's annual competition, in which nearly 50,000 spectators converge on the town of Bridgeville to watch teams—using homemade devices—attempt to launch pumpkins as far as they can. Unfortunately, the event has been canceled for the past two years because organizers have been unable to secure insurance coverage. 

16. Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza hails from Wilmington, Ryan Phillippe is from a few miles down Route 9 in New Castle, and Vice President Joe Biden went to college at the University of Delaware in Newark. He later represented the state as a U.S. Senator from 1973 until 2009.

Ryan Phillippe, I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997),YouTube 

17. Delaware was also a home to reggae royalty for a brief period. Bob Marley lived in the state between 1965 and 1977, and worked for the Dupont Company and at the Chrysler assembly plant in Newark. One of his children, Stephen Marley, was born in Wilmington.

18. Set at the fictional Welton Academy of Vermont, the film Dead Poet’s Society (1989) was shot at St. Andrews School in Middletown. Some of the actors weren’t used to small town life during production; star Robin Williams was quoted as saying that “staying in a hotel room in a town that shuts down at 5 o'clock at night can be boring.”

19. One of the first “resort beauty pageants” was held in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in 1880. Thomas Edison served as one of the judges. 

20. An insect species, the Bethany Beach firefly, can only be found in Delaware. The firefly was rediscovered in 1998 after disappearing for nearly 40 years.

21. In 2013, the governor of Delaware celebrated the incorporation of state’s one millionth legal entity, which is more than the population of the entire state.

22. Students in Wilmington once held the record for the world’s tallest LEGO tower. The tower stood 113 feet tall and was made of over 500,000 bricks. The new record now stands at 114 feet and over 600,000 bricks, so Delaware has some work to do to reclaim the title.

23. There is no sales tax in Delaware, which means the state's various malls and outlets are major attractions for tourists looking to save year-round.

24. Each year in Bridgeville (also the home of the aforementioned Punkin Chunkin competition), Delawareans attend the Apple Scrapple Festival, a 23-year-old celebration of two products the region is especially proud of. 

25. The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was founded in Milton, Delaware in 1995 and now sells its 25 styles of beer in more than 25 states across the country. They even introduced a beer with scrapple in it back in 2014.


Dogfish Head Beer on Facebook
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Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Badge: Gift of Dr. Patricia Heaston; Tin: Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.; Sign, Photograph of Walker Agents: Gift of A’Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives. All from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background/photo border, iStock
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Retrobituaries
Madam C.J. Walker, the First Self-Made Female Millionaire in the U.S.
Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Badge: Gift of Dr. Patricia Heaston; Tin: Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.; Sign, Photograph of Walker Agents: Gift of A’Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives. All from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background/photo border, iStock
Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Badge: Gift of Dr. Patricia Heaston; Tin: Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.; Sign, Photograph of Walker Agents: Gift of A’Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives. All from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background/photo border, iStock

Like many fortunes, Madam C.J. Walker’s started with a dream. As she later explained to a newspaper reporter, Walker was earning barely a dollar a day as a washerwoman when she had a dream about a man who told her how to create a hair-growing tonic. When she awoke, Walker sent away for the ingredients, investing $1.25 in what she eventually dubbed “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” The venture would propel her to become one of America’s first black female entrepreneurs—and reportedly the first self-made female millionaire in the nation.

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 to freed slaves on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana, the woman who would become known as Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned by age 7 and married by 14. The couple had one child, Lelia (later known as A’Lelia), but six years into the marriage, Walker’s husband died, by some accounts in a race riot. Walker then worked washing clothes while dreaming of building a better life for her daughter. “As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds,” she later told The New York Times, “I said to myself: ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’”

By 1903, Walker had relocated to St. Louis and started to work for an African-American hair care company before then moving to Denver, where she had heard that the dry air exacerbated hair and scalp issues. At the time, such complaints were widespread among African-Americans, in part due to a lack of black-focused products and access to indoor plumbing. By the early 1900s, Walker herself had lost much of her hair.

Then came her dream. “[I] put it on my scalp,” she later said of the tonic, “and in a few weeks my hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out.”

In 1905, Walker began selling her solution door-to-door and at church events. She took the product on tour, traveling throughout the South and Northeast and recruiting other door-to-door saleswomen. A year later, she married Charles Joseph Walker and established the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, and in 1908 founded Lelia College in Pittsburgh, a beauty parlor and school for training Madam Walker brand ambassadors. Two years later, she relocated her business headquarters to Indianapolis—then a commercial hub—where she and a mostly female cadre of top executives produced Wonderful Hair Grower on an industrial scale.

A’Lelia, however, was not content with the Midwestern milieu. In 1913 she convinced her mother to open an office in New York and decamped to Manhattan, acquiring a stately Harlem townhouse designed by Vertner Tandy, the first registered black architect in the state. The home, later nicknamed the Dark Tower after poet Countee Cullen’s “From the Dark Tower,” included a Lelia College outpost on the first floor and living and entertaining spaces on the top three. A’Lelia frequently threw lavish parties there, attended by Harlem Renaissance luminaries such as Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes.

Walker followed A’Lelia north, where she purchased the adjacent townhouse. Soon, she was a cultural mover and shaker in her own right, joining the NAACP’s New York chapter and helping to orchestrate the Silent Protest Parade in 1917, when roughly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue as a demonstration against the East St. Louis race riots earlier that year, in which dozens of African-Americans had been killed.

“She became politically active and very much an advocate of women’s economic independence,” Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, a journalist and biographer, tells Mental Floss. “She used her national platform to advocate for civil rights.”

The same year as the Silent Protest, Walker and a handful of Harlem leaders traveled to the White House to petition for anti-lynching legislation, and donated $5000 to the NAACP’s Anti-Lynching Fund—the largest single gift ever recorded by the fund. In 1916, she established the Madam C. J. Walker Benevolent Association, a program that encouraged Walker brand ambassadors to engage in charity work and hygiene education outreach.

As her empire grew, Walker continued to monumentalize her success. In 1916, she bought a four-acre parcel of land in Irvington, New York, and enlisted Tandy to design her a home to rival the nearby estates of Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller. Her determination only swelled in the face of realtors who tried to charge her twice the price of the land to discourage her, and incredulous neighbors who reportedly mistook the hair care baroness for a maid when she arrived at the property in her Ford Model T.

Villa Lewaro
Villa Lewaro
Library of Congress, Flickr // No known copyright restrictions

Like her Manhattan residence, the mansion became a popular hang-out for the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Walker also used the home to give back. “She made a blanket invitation to the returning African American soldiers [from World War I] to please come visit the home,” Bundles says. It also served as a kind of early safe space for A’Lelia and her largely LGBTQ social network.

But almost as soon as the home was complete, Madam Walker’s health began to crumble. Though she was diagnosed with high blood pressure and kidney problems, Walker continued to work and roll out new products. “Like most entrepreneurs she couldn’t figure out how to slow down,” Bundles says. “She needed to rest, but she couldn’t really make herself.”

In the spring of 1919, while on a business trip to St. Louis to unveil five new formulas, Walker fell gravely ill and was shuttled back to Irvington in a private car. That May, she died of kidney failure at the age of 51.

Yet her influence would live on. At the time of her death, an estimated 40,000 black women had been trained as Walker saleswomen. In 1927 the Madame Walker Theatre Center opened in Indianapolis, housing offices, a manufacturing center, and a theatre. Her name on the building reflected her unprecedented imprint on black entrepreneurship.

Madam Walker items at the Women's Museum in Dallas, Texas
Madam Walker items at the Women's Museum in Dallas, Texas
FA2010, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Madam C.J. Walker brand also survived. In fact, it’s recently been revitalized, after black-owned hair care company Sundial acquired it in 2016, debuting two dozen new formulas exclusively at Sephora last spring. “It’s very glam,” says Bundles, who serves as the line’s historical consultant. In a historic deal in November 2017, consumer goods conglomerate Unilever acquired Sundial’s $240 million portfolio, and as part of the agreement designated $50 million to empower businesses led by women of color.

Walker’s house, known as Villa Lewaro, has had a rockier afterlife, having been owned by the NAACP and then used as an assisted living center for decades. In 1993, stock broker and U.S. ambassador Harold Doley and his wife Helena purchased the property, committing to a years-long restoration process. They’ve recently secured a protective easement for the site, which prevents future buyers from altering the appearance of the home—a means of preserving the house’s history, and that of Madam Walker.

Walker’s legacy is also likely to gain a new round of admirers with the recently announced Octavia Spencer-fronted television show about her life, which is based on a biography by Bundles and is allegedly courting distribution by Netflix.

With her brand in full swing and her life story about to be immortalized on the small screen, it seems that even in death, Madam Walker’s dream lives on.

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Hulton Archive//Getty Images
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Newly Discovered 350-Year-Old Graffiti Shows Sir Isaac Newton's Obsession With Motion Started Early
Hulton Archive//Getty Images
Hulton Archive//Getty Images

Long before he gained fame as a mathematician and scientist, Sir Isaac Newton was a young artist who lacked a proper canvas. Now, a 350-year-old sketch on a wall, discovered at Newton’s childhood home in England, is shedding new light on the budding genius and his early fascination with motion, according to Live Science.

While surveying Woolsthorpe Manor, the Lincolnshire home where Newton was born and conducted many of his most famous experiments, conservators discovered a tiny etching of a windmill next to a fireplace in the downstairs hall. It’s believed that Newton made the drawing as a boy, and may have been inspired by the building of a nearby mill.

A windmill sketch, believed to have been made by a young Sir Isaac Newton at his childhood home in Lincolnshire, England.
A windmill sketch, believed to have been made by a young Sir Isaac Newton at his childhood home in Lincolnshire, England.
National Trust

Newton was born at Woolsthorpe Manor in 1642, and he returned for two years after a bubonic plague outbreak forced Cambridge University, where he was studying mechanical philosophy, to close temporarily in 1665. It was in this rural setting that Newton conducted his prism experiments with white light, worked on his theory of “fluxions,” or calculus, and famously watched an apple fall from a tree, a singular moment that’s said to have led to his theory of gravity.

Paper was a scarce commodity in 17th century England, so Newton often sketched and scrawled notes on the manor’s walls and ceilings. While removing old wallpaper in the 1920s and '30s, tenants discovered several sketches that may have been made by the scientist. But the windmill sketch remained undetected for centuries, until conservators used a light imaging technique called Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to survey the manor’s walls.

Conservators using light technology to survey the walls of Woolsthorpe Manor,  the childhood home of Sir Isaac Newton.
A conservator uses light technology to survey the walls of Woolsthorpe Manor, the childhood home of Sir Isaac Newton.
National Trust

RTI uses various light conditions to highlight shapes and colors that aren’t immediately visible to the naked eye. “It’s amazing to be using light, which Newton understood better than anyone before him, to discover more about his time at Woolsthorpe,” conservator Chris Pickup said in a press release.

The windmill sketch suggests that young Newton “was fascinated by mechanical objects and the forces that made them work,” added Jim Grevatte, a program manager at Woolsthorpe Manor. “Paper was expensive, and the walls of the house would have been repainted regularly, so using them as a sketchpad as he explored the world around him would have made sense," he said.

The newly discovered graffiti might be one of many hidden sketches drawn by Newton, so conservators plan to use thermal imaging to detect miniscule variations in the thickness of wall plaster and paint. This technique could reveal even more mini-drawings.

[h/t Live Science]

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