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


D-Day Program at Delaware Public Archives to Commemorate 70th Anniversary

May 29th, 2014

The D-Day invasion of Normandy is remembered as an American triumph and the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. On Saturday, June 7, 10:30 a.m. the Delaware Public Archives will commemorate the 70th anniversary of this pivotal day in American and World history with a special program at the Archives about the battle. This program will explore elements of the battle often left out of the narrative including the high level of risk and uncertainty faced by American officers and the sacrifices made by the troops on the blood-soaked beaches. How did these soldiers survive situations in which they had to sometimes offset the miscalculations of their superiors with their own raw courage? What was it like, on June 6, 1944, to ride the first troop transports onto the beaches, to land by parachute in the French countryside, or to have to wait in England to find out if the mission had succeeded or failed? Join us at the Delaware Public Archives for this program and find out.

Delaware Public Archives to Accept World War II Collection at June 3rd Ceremony

May 27th, 2014

Delaware in World War II

The “Wooden World Revealed”: The Archaeology and History of His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak

April 22nd, 2014

The wars on land and sea during the late eighteenth century were an important part of Atlantic history, and unite the naval and maritime histories of many countries around the world. Consequently, a British warship named the DeBraak was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. With its discovery in the 1980s, the DeBraak and its nearly 20,000 artifacts have provided us an unparalleled opportunity to examine and understand what it meant to be a sailor in the Royal Navy during this critical period. On Saturday, May 3, 1:30 p.m. Charles Fithian, Curator of Archaeology with the State of Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs Division, will present this special program at the Delaware Public Archives focusing on the DeBraak’s role in the wider historical context of the times, the archaeological analysis of the artifacts found, and what life was like aboard a ship in the Royal Navy.

Mr. Fithian, a resident of Dover, is an historical archaeologist who has directed the research and conservation of the DeBraak and its large associated collection. With a concentration in colonial, military and naval history, Fithian is a graduate of Wesley College and Salisbury University, and has worked for the State of Delaware for more than 27 years. He has also conducted extensive research on 17th century Delaware, the Delaware Regiment during the American Revolution, and the War of 1812.

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

Charles (Chuck) Fithian

Charles (Chuck) Fithian

Delaware Public Archives to Feature “Behind the Scenes” Tour

March 27th, 2014

If you were born, married, or attended public school in Delaware, eventually the Delaware Public Archives (DPA) will receive the information that documents these important events. On Saturday, April 5, 10:30 a.m. the staff of the Archives will conduct a tour of this remarkable facility.

This annual “behind the scenes” tour of the building, conducted by Tom Summers, Manager of Outreach Services, offers the public a rare opportunity to learn more about the role of the DPA, and see how the Archives preserves and protects the records that are important to every Delawarean. Archives Director Stephen M. Marz notes that “many people who have toured the Archives are surprised by the amount of documents and photographs that are stored at the facility. Because the Delaware Public Archives serves as the official government repository for state, county and local government records, the Archives is well known as a valuable resource for researchers, genealogists, and historians.” Part of the tour will include a viewing of the new display honoring the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision which led to the desegregation of schools in Delaware and throughout the nation. The tour is free to the public. No reservations are required.