And They’re Off!!!

September 12th, 2014
Dawn Mitchell, supervisor, Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room

That’s what the Harrington Raceway track announcer will be saying around 7:30 on Monday night when the country’s top pacers will be set to do battle in the 8th Annual Bobby Quillen Memorial Pace. This race honors longtime Delaware legislator Bobby Quillen. Representative Quillen was known for his smile, optimism, and the fact the he never wore socks. He served two separate stints in the state House of Representatives from 1966 to 1972 and from 1982 to 2004, spending two of his terms in leadership as the majority whip from 1992 to 1996. Quillen was also a director of the Harrington Raceway and loved the great Delaware tradition of harness racing. With one of the biggest purses offered in Delaware at over $200,000 this harness race draws not only the top pacers in the country, but the top harness drivers. Last year a new track record was set with an amazing 1:49.2 mile! The richest pacer of all time, Foiled Again, is starting in the 1 hole. The United States Trotting Association is calling for an exciting race after last Monday’s elimination races.

If you would like to learn more about Delaware’s Harness Racing, why not stop by and check out Harness Racing Minutes from 1949-2003. Or drop in and look at old photographs from Harrington Raceway. For all of you going on Monday night to see a great Delaware tradition continue, we thought you may enjoy this photo from Harrington Raceway from 1947.

Harness Racing in Harrington, 1947. 1325-003-036-106pn

Harness Racing in Harrington, 1947. 1325-003-036-106pn


“Well Broken Chincoteague Pony For Sale”

August 28th, 2014

Katie Hall, reference archivist

While searching old beach newspapers for Labor Day-related articles, this full-page advertisement for an auction of lots in the Heights section of Rehoboth Beach in the August 31, 1934, edition of the Delaware Coast Press caught our eyes.

Delaware Coast Press August 31, 1934

Delaware Coast Press
August 31, 1934

The auction took place on Labor Day weekend “on the premises near the ocean in the heights.” Henry Conant, a developer from Chincoteague, had initially acquired the 150 acres that would make up the Rehoboth Heights section of Rehoboth in 1923 from Col. Robert Hinckley. By 1934, The Heights section contained the areas made up by Philadelphia Avenue to the North, the Atlantic Ocean to the East, Silver Lake to the South, and the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal to the West. The Rehoboth Beach Country Club golf course was in the western part of The Heights until it moved in 1966. The Heights later became part of South Rehoboth—one of the last sections annexed into the city. This 1938 map of Rehoboth shows the location of The Heights just a few years after the Labor Day auction.

Delaware Cities & Towns Map Collection II (RG 1325.203) Rehoboth Beach, 1938

Delaware Cities & Towns Map Collection II
RG 1325.203
Rehoboth Beach, 1938

The lots “with all their natural beauty, adorned with lovely big oaks and pines, high land and near the boardwalk” would have been extremely desirable. To sweeten the pot further, Mr. Conant offered anyone who bought a lot an entry in a drawing to win a Chincoteague pony, along with a bridle and saddle! An item in the Coast Press from September 7, 1934, called the auction a success, with all 25 lots selling at a “reasonable price.” A Miss Nancy Ingram was the lucky winner of “Mick,” the Chincoteague pony. The pony got to live in the garage, while the family’s car “remains in the rain.”

Delaware Coast Press September 7, 1934

Delaware Coast Press
September 7, 1934

All must not have been rosy between Mick and Miss Ingram. A notice in the September 21 Coast Press advertised a “Well Broken Chincoteague Pony including a bridle and saddle” for sale. Interested parties were to contact Nancy Ingram.

Delaware Coast Press September 21, 1934

Delaware Coast Press
September 21, 1934

Civil War Blogging Project Comes to an End

July 25th, 2014

Katie Hall, reference archivist

Earlier this month, we reached the end of our three-year Cyrus Forwood: Diary of a Delaware Soldier in the American Civil War blogging project. The project was a collaboration between the Delaware Public Archives and the Delaware Government Information Center (GIC) and followed the diary of Cyrus Forwood, a soldier in Company A of the Second Delaware Regiment. Forwood was a native Delawarean from Brandywine Hundred who kept a diary of his experiences with the Second Delaware from May 1861 through May 1863. During this time, we posted notes and observations that Forwood wrote in his diary day-by-day, 150 years from when he first wrote the entries. We also provided context for the entries by researching contemporary newspapers, battle reports, compiled service records, and other related records and created a Google Map to trace his travels during the war.

Although Cyrus’ diary ended in March 1863, he continued serving with the Second Delaware until he died on May 15, 1864, as a result of wounds sustained at the East Angle in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse a few days earlier. Cyrus was 28 years old when he died and left behind two sisters, Emily and Caroline, as well as his parents, Samuel and Eliza Ann (Weldin) Forwood.

We’re no longer actively adding content to the blog, but it’s not too late to delve in and learn about Cyrus’ experiences in the Civil War. If you’re interested in learning even more, the majority of the materials that were used in the course of the project are available to researchers at the Delaware Public Archives. Some have been digitized and are even available online if you’re unable to visit us in person.

Top 10 Tips for Researching at DPA

July 24th, 2014

Katie Hall, reference archivist

Summer is flying by faster than a gull searching for a French fry on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk (Purnell Collection)

So far this summer, we’ve had researchers visit us from at least FIFTEEN different states! Are you still planning a trip to the Delaware Public Archives to research with us this summer? If so, here are our Top 10 Tips to make the most of your visit.

1. Visit Our Website

Our website has a wealth of information that can help you plan to make the most of your visit. The section of our website devoted to the Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room lists our address, contact information, hours of operation, rules and regulations, and other helpful items.

2. Do Your Homework
Are you planning to research probates, maps, photographs, naturalizations, coroner’s reports, apprentice indentures, or orphans court records during your visit? If so, you can search indexes to some of most popular collections on our online Collection Gateway before coming to see what records we have relating to your research interests. Are you searching for a specific type of record or a particular subject? Search our Online Guide to the Collection to read series descriptions of related materials.

3. Make a Plan
Although browsing the collections in the Research Room can be a great way to spend the day, we recommend making a research plan based on records you found on the Collection Gateway or Online Guide to make the most of your time here. Print out or make note of the records that you would like to see while you’re in Dover to minimize the amount of time you need to spend before beginning to delve into the records.

4. Pack
Pencils, a notebook, laptop, tablet/ipad, magnifying glass, your research notes, a USB flash drive, and your reading glasses are all items that might come in handy while researching with us. It’s typically about 72 degrees in the Research Room, so if you get chilly in air conditioning, plan to wear a long-sleeved shirt.

5. Copy Cat
Unless you have a photographic memory, please plan to bring money for photocopies. Our fee structure for photocopies is as follows:
• Microfilm printer copies and manuscript/book copies: $.50 a page
• Computer print outs: $.10 a page
• Maps of Delaware Hundreds: $1.00 per map
• Architectural Drawings/Oversized maps: $3.50 a sheet

Payment is accepted in cash, check, or credit card (except for American Express).

Please note that we do not allow cameras or scanners in the Research Room. However, we do have two snazzy new microfilm scanners that let researchers scan and save digital versions of microfilmed records at no charge. Make sure you bring a USB flash drive with you!

6. Lock it Up

Don’t want to leave valuables in your vehicle while you’re researching, but not sure where to keep your laptop bag or pocketbook while you’re in the Research Room? The Delaware Public Archives provides quarter-operated lockers for researchers while they are in the Research Room to secure your belongings.

7. Snack Time
Bringing your lunch with you can save valuable research time, and munching on snacks in the lobby or on a shady bench on nearby Legislative Mall can also provide a much-needed burst of energy. There are also several nearby eateries that serve lunch if you need a break and a change of scenery.

8. Are We There Yet???
Planning to explore Delaware to find where your long-lost relatives used to live or are buried? Looking for something to do in the evening when the Research Room is closed? Bring a map or GPS device to help you uncover Delaware’s nooks and crannies. Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Delaware Tourism are great resources for learning about tourist attractions, special events, and places to explore while you’re visiting our fine state.

9. You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile!
As we all know, genealogy research comes along with its share of frustrations. Our Research Room staff is top-notch, but please remember to pack your patience as we help you connect with those records you’ve traveled all the way to The First State to discover.

10. Be Social
Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest? Do you read blogs or watch YouTube videos? The Delaware Public Archives has an active social media presence on all of these platforms. Check in with us often for the latest news on our holdings, our hours, and other goings-on.


The History of Farming in Delaware

July 22nd, 2014

Farming and its related agricultural industries have been a major force in the social, cultural, and economic history of Delaware. Today, agriculture remains the state’s largest industry, generating over $1 billion in income from an array of crops, poultry, and livestock. On Saturday, August 2, at 10:30 a.m., Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, will discuss the rich history and tradition of Delaware farming and the major role it has played in the progress and evolution of the First State.

Ed Kee, a nationally and internationally recognized expert on vegetable science, is a native of Delaware who has spent his entire career in agriculture. Appointed as the Kent County agricultural agent for the University of Delaware in 1978, Kee eventually became the state vegetable crops specialist. In 2004, he was appointed as the extension agricultural program leader. Retiring from the University in 2008, Kee worked for Hanover Foods Corporation as director of agriculture before being confirmed as the Delaware Secretary of Agriculture in 2009.

The program, to be held at the Delaware Public Archives, is free to the public and will last approximately one hour. No reservations are required. For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail


Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee

50 Years Afloat: The Cape May – Lewes Ferry

July 1st, 2014
Governor Carvel at the  dedication of the Cape May - Lewes Ferry, June 30, 1964. (General Collection)

Governor Carvel at the dedication of the Cape May – Lewes Ferry, June 30, 1964. (General Collection)

Sarah Denison, processing archivist

Today is the 50th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Cape May – Lewes Ferry. Operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the fleet carries passengers and automobiles on the 80 minute journey across the mouth of the Delaware Bay 13 times a day on peak summer weekends. We’ve found some images from the early days of the ferry, like this image of Governor Carvel at the dedication on June 30th 1964, and we’re sharing them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Fun ferry fact: On its first day, the Cape May – Lewes Ferry departed Lewes at 6:47am (7 minutes behind schedule) and carried 8 vehicles and 15 passengers.

Fact provided by the Cape May – Lewes Ferry:

The Eagle Has Landed: ILC Dover’s Development of the Apollo Spacesuit

June 26th, 2014
Collection: Caley Postcards Filename: 9015-028-000-00533.jpg

Collection: Caley Postcards

With the 45th anniversary of America’s landing on the moon taking place in July, the Delaware Public Archives will honor this historic event by hosting a program on Saturday, July 5, 10:30 a.m. about the development of the early space suit at International Latex Corporation (ILC). This program, presented by Bill Ayrey, will explain the Apollo space suit and the impact that it had on the success of the Apollo program which culminated with man’s landing on the moon. In addition to discussing the Apollo space suit, Mr. Ayrey will describe the development of the Space Shuttle and Space Station space suits. The presentation will also include information about ILC Dover’s creation of the airbags that landed the rovers on Mars.

Employed at ILC since 1977, Ayrey is the quality test laboratory manager and company historian for ILC Dover, located in Frederica, Delaware. As the laboratory manager, he is responsible for testing advanced materials for many product lines. Mr. Ayrey oversees the manned testing of the space suits and the testing of all space suit parts before delivery to NASA. He has provided training to Smithsonian docents on the details of the space suits in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (NASM) collection. Ayrey will also provide assistance as NASM forms a working group to determine the best practice for displaying Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 suit in 2017.

The program is free to the public and will last approximately one hour.  No reservations are required.  For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail


Celebrating the Final Year of the Delmarva Chicken Festival

June 18th, 2014


Governor Elbert Carvel and Delmarva Chicken Festival Queen Jane Mustard flash their smiles as she pretends to place a chef’s hat on the Governor’s head at the 1950 Delmarva Chicken Festival.

Governor Elbert Carvel and Delmarva Chicken Festival Queen Jane Mustard smile as she places a chef’s hat on the Governor’s head at the 1950 Delmarva Chicken Festival.

Sarah Denison, processing archivist

This year marks the 65th and final year of the Delmarva Chicken Festival. Started in 1948, the Delmarva Chicken Festival is a celebration of the area’s poultry industry. Over the years, people flocked to the festival to see the world’s largest frying pan. With a 10 foot diameter and weighing in at 650 pounds, the fry pan holds 800 chicken quarters.

Aside from a new fry pan in 1988, not much about the festival has changed through the years.  The Delmarva Chicken Festival will remain a fond memory for many residents of the Delmarva Peninsula and an important part of the history of the poultry industry. We’ll be sharing images from our holding of past festivals on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Check them out and share your Delmarva Chicken Festival memories with us.

“Annie Oakleys” at the New Castle County Workhouse

June 6th, 2014

Last week, Delaware Public Archives staff dedicated a new historic marker at the New Castle County Workhouse at Greenbank. The Workhouse dates back to 1901 and  holds the unique distinction of being the first penal institution in the United States to employ armed female guards.

Nicknamed “Annie Oakleys” for their excellent shooting ability with the machine guns and rifles they carried, the women were first introduced to the Workhouse in 1943 as a solution to the loss of many male guards due to the war effort. They were chosen from a pool of more than 50 applicants who responded to a newspaper advertisement for “women, age 21 to 35 for outside guard duty in towers.” All of those hired were Delawareans; many were married with children and made their home either in Wilmington or in the suburbs. Stationed in the Workhouse’s three towers, the female guards worked 8-hour shifts, 48 hours per week and were compensated with a monthly salary of $110.00. Out of concern for their safety, the names of the eleven guards were not released; as of 2013 only four guards had been successfully identified. 


Warden Elwood Wilson on the steps of the New Castle County Workhouse Delaware in World War II Photograph Collection RG 1325.206 Image #2962

Warden Elwood Wilson on the steps of the New Castle County Workhouse
Delaware in World War II Photograph Collection
RG 1325.206
Image #2962


The Delaware Public Archives operates the Historic Markers Program as part of its Outreach Services Section and places markers at historically significant locations and sites throughout the state. For more information about this program, please contact Kate Fair, Historic Markers Coordinator, at 302-744-5016.

Voices of War-World War II Series Donated to the Delaware Public Archives

June 5th, 2014

On Tuesday June 3rd, Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, State Archivist Stephen Marz and members of the Delaware General Assembly commemorated Delaware’s role in World War II at a ceremony where the Delaware Public Archives formally accessioned the “William J. Kitchell Collection – Voices of War, World War II Series.”
The ‘Voices of War’ Project, started in 2001 by local filmmaker Thomas J. Healy II, includes interviews with over 100 Delawareans who served or were active on the home front during World War II. The William J. Kitchell Collection is an ongoing project that includes the World War II, Korea and Vietnam Series. The collection is a first-person, oral history project intended to memorialize the accounts and experiences of our veterans, create a documentary and develop a comprehensive educational program for use in middle and high school social studies classes.
Students from Central Middle School in Dover participated in the ceremony by leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Governor Markell speaking at the ceremony

Governor Markell speaking at the ceremony


Central Middle School students gather for a photo after the program

Central Middle School students gather for a photo after the program