Written on: December 13th, 2011 in Research Room
It’s mentioned in songs and it’s image covers wrapping paper and greeting cards. Wreaths are adorned with it and mantles are decked with it. It keeps company with mistletoe. It’s the state tree of Delaware and one of the most recognizable images of the holiday season.
The American holly became the state tree of Delaware by an act of the General Assembly on May 1, 1939. Governor Richard C. McMullen signed the act recognizing the booming export market for this cheap and readily available, native tree.
But why holly? The story of this celebrated holiday icon starts much earlier than this.
Ancient religions believed that the mighty holly kept bad spirits at bay and, thus, holly became a symbol of goodwill. This belief carried on and became associated with modern winter celebrations. The abundance
of American holly in Delaware in the early 20th century made southern Delaware the epicenter for the holly industry. By 1930, Delaware had become the leading producer of holly wreaths. Families capitalized on this cottage industry, often adding $100-$500 to their yearly earnings by producing fresh wreaths and sprays from Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas. These wreaths were marketed all
over the country as coming “From the Land of Holly.”
Beyond its aesthetic value, holly is a vital part of the Delaware eco system. It’s important to know that while generally toxic to humans, the holly tree offers important nutrition and shelter to birds and other wildlife
throughout the winter.
Today, holly is an unmistakable image of the holiday season and like many pieces of American history, Delaware had a hand in it.
In recognition of Delaware Day, December 7, being the day that Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, the Delaware Public Archives has recently created a shadow box exhibit that celebrates the story of Delaware’s role as the First State to ratify the United States Constitution. This exhibit features facsimiles of original documents drawn from the collections of the Delaware Public Archives and will only be displayed for a limited time. These documents, along with the pictures and other Archives resources featured in the shadow box exhibit, describe the state’s role in the ratification process, and the interests and activities of Delawareans during this watershed period in our country’s history. The centerpiece of the Archives’ celebration is Delaware’s Ratification Document. Signed by the thirty delegates on December 7, 1787, this document bears historic witness to Delaware’s role as the first state to approve our nation’s new frame of government. As noted by State Archivist Stephen Marz, “this display truly shows Delaware at a time when it was a leader in determining the type of government that would be implemented at the national level.” To view documents online related to Delaware being the First State check the webpage http://archives.delaware.gov/exhibits/document/index.shtml
To honor this special day in Delaware history, Governor Markell came to the Delaware Public Archives for a ceremony in which he read the official proclamation of Delaware Day and honored Dr. Carol E. Hoffecker as the recipient of the 2011 Governor’s Heritage Award. Congratulations, Carol!
Written on: December 2nd, 2011 in Research Room
One of the great features about the program we use for our blog is that it lets us see what search terms people are using. Recently a lot of you have been searching for “the whipping post” so I thought I’d write about it.
There were three whipping posts: one in each county. The Kent County whipping post was located at the east side of the Old State House on the Dover Green, and was relocated to the Morris Correctional Facility in the 1930’s. The one in New Castle was located at the New Castle County Jail then moved to the New Castle County Workhouse. And the one in Sussex County was in Georgetown at the Jail. The last whipping occurred in 1952. Delaware was the last state to abolish the whipping post when it was removed from the Delaware Code in 1972.
Crimes punishable with whipping included breaking and entering, larceny, arson, and wife beating. The number of lashes ranged between 10 to 60 and depended on the era.
We have photographs, newspaper clippings, governor’s files, a general reference file and even a lesson plan regarding the whipping post. Robert Graham Caldwell wrote a book about Delaware’s whipping post called Red Hannah Delaware’s Whipping Post
Why not stop by and see for yourself.