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  Archived Posts From: 2015


December Meeting of the Downstate Delaware Genealogical Society

Written on: December 7th, 2015 in Events at the Archives

The December meeting of the Downstate Delaware Genealogical Society will take place on Saturday, December 12, 2:00 p.m. A non-profit organization for people who have an interest in genealogy, this group meets every other month at the Delaware Public Archives beginning in October and ending in June. The public is welcome to all meetings and guests are encouraged. The December program speaker will be Mike Dixon. Mr. Dixon will be presenting on “Saving Family Treasures” and his program will focus on the basic methods of preserving and protecting family relics and papers.

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Vice President Burr

Written on: November 6th, 2015 in Delaware HistoryInside the DPA

Tom Summers, Outreach Services Manager

Sometimes the signature on a letter is more important than the message contained within. Written on November 6, 1804, this correspondence to Delaware Governor David Hall documents the resignation of Delaware’s Senator William Hill Wells. However, the most interesting section is the signature. Located in the lower right corner is written “A. Burr, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate.” Aaron Burr signed the letter four months after he had shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in the famous duel. While dueling was controversial at the time, it was not illegal and Burr remained the Vice President until his term expired in 1805.



Correspondence from Vice President Burr to Delaware Governor David Hall. Executive Papers Collection (RG 1300.000)

1804 correspondence from Vice President Burr to Delaware Governor David Hall. Executive Papers Collection (RG 1300.000)


This document can be found in the Executive Papers at the Delaware Public Archives. This collection contains the papers of Delaware Governors from the eighteenth through the late-nineteenth centuries.

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The Davis Collection

Written on: October 23rd, 2015 in Blog PostsInside the DPAPhotographs

To celebrate Archives Month, we’ll be sharing some of our recent accessions. Check back each Friday for a new post.

Connor Graham, processing archivist

Vera Gilbride Davis was a prominent figure in Delaware politics for more than forty years. She was called the “Grande Dame of Delaware Politics” and was known for achieving a number of firsts for women during her career. She was the first woman bill clerk in the House of Representatives, first woman secretary of the Senate, first woman elected president pro tempore of the Senate, first women to serve as House majority leader, and first woman elected state treasurer of Delaware. In addition to her political accomplishments, Mrs. Davis served on the state Board of Welfare, was president of Easter Seals of Delaware, served on the Mothers Pension Commission, and at the time of her death was the longest serving member of the Board of Directors of Kent General Hospital. Her contributions were many, and her successful career opened the doors for thousands of Delaware women who aspire to serve their fellow citizens.

Vera Davis (1894-1974), Davis Collection (RG 9200-D22-014)

Vera Davis (1894-1974)
Davis Collection (RG 9200-D22-014)

The Davis Collection consists of a wide variety of documents, photographs, and newspaper clippings that the Davis family saved for over 100 years. Mrs. Davis’ State Treasurer certificate is included in the collection as well as private correspondence, papers from the many boards she served on, an invitation to Harry Truman’s inauguration, and Equal Rights papers from her fight for women’s rights in the beginning of the 20th century. The collection also contains many documents regarding her husband, Frank Hall Davis, Sr., and sons Frank Jr. and John who both served in World War II.



Vera Davis Wedding Photo. Davis Collection (RG 9200-D22-014)


Frank H. Davis, Jr. and John G. Davis. Davis Photograph Collection (RG 9200-D22-014)


Vera Davis Wedding Photo. Davis Collection (RG 9200-D22-014)


Patricia Mercer, Mrs. Davis’ granddaughter, recently donated the Davis Collection to the Delaware Public Archives. After the collection was processed, Patricia and her husband Tom visited the Archives to help archivists identify photographs, which will enable even more researchers to connect with the collection.

Photo of Patricia and Tom Mercer review photographs with DPA processing archivist Connor Graham (Davis Family)

Patricia and Tom Mercer review photographs with DPA processing archivist Connor Graham


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Caesar Rodney Student Hand Book

Written on: October 16th, 2015 in Blog PostsInside the DPAPhotographs

To celebrate Archives Month, we’ll be sharing some of our recent accessions. Check back each Friday for a new post.

Connor Graham, processing archivist

The Caesar Rodney Student Hand Book was originally printed in 1935 and then revised in 1938. The handbook is broken down into six chapters: school activities, a history of the school and its building and grounds, program of studies, awards, honors, and the point system, extra-curricular activities, and athletics.


Photo of Caesar Rodney Student Handbook, 1938 , State Reports Collection (RG 1325-003-147-8065)

Caesar Rodney Student Handbook, 1938 State Reports Collection (RG 1325-003-147-8065)

The Caesar Rodney School officially opened in 1916. This handbook provides background on the school’s beginnings and the changes they had seen since 1916. With the growing enrollment and consolidation of a number of rural schools, the need for a larger building was necessary. In 1921, a wing was added to the original building and later an additional wing and gymnasium. At this point, grades 1-12 were all located under one roof. In 1934, they expanded again and created a building for the high school and that was connected to the original structure. When this handbook was created the enrollment for the twelve grades exceeded 700 students.


Photo of Caesar Rodney School Building, March 24, 1932, Board of Education Photograph Collection (RG 8005-000-015)

Caesar Rodney School Building, March 24, 1932 Board of Education Photograph Collection (RG 8005-000-015)


School activities included a Halloween dance, the Dover-Caesar Rodney Football game on Thanksgiving Day, senior play, Junior Prom, Senior Trip to Washington, All School Banquet, and baccalaureate sermon.

In 1938, there were six different programs of study that were offered at the Caesar Rodney School:

Academic: for students who intended to go to college
Scientific: for students who planed to go to college but who did not want to take four years of foreign language
Commercial: for students interested in business training
Vocational Home Economics: for girls who wanted their life vocation to be home making, nursing, etc.
Vocational Agriculture: for three groups of boys; (1) those going to work on a farm after graduation, (2) those going to related agricultural colleges, (3) those who planned to attend agricultural colleges
General: for students who do not wish to major in any one field

In addition to the programs of study, students had the opportunity to take special subjects such as manual arts, mechanical drawing, auto mechanics, art, and music.


Photo of Caesar Rodney Homemaking Class April 1940, Board of Education Photograph Collection (8005-000-015)

Caesar Rodney Homemaking Class, April 1940 Board of Education Photograph Collection (RG 8005-000-015)


Awards and honors included National Honor Society, earning an All School letter, and scholarships. The handbook detailed how to qualify for National Honor Society and lists the members from 1934-1938. Introduced as an incentive program for students, a point system was adopted for students to earn awards. If a student earned 10 points freshman year, 20 points sophomore year, 30 points junior year, and 40 points senior year they would be awarded an All School letter. Points were awarded for involvement in school activities and associations. A list of students who received All School Letters is listed in the handbook.

Photo of Caesar Rodney Student Handbook, 1938 State Reports Collection (RG 1325-003-147-8065-CR) handbook inside

Caesar Rodney Student Handbook, 1938 State Reports Collection (RG 1325-003-147-8065)


Extra-curricular activities are also included in the handbook:

Student Association: organized for the purpose of bringing all student organizations under one head, helping to maintain law and order, and supporting all school activities.
The Traffic Squad: helped and maintained order in halls before school and between classes, plan and direct fire drills, work with the Safety Council for the safety of children on the playground.
The Crisp: the school magazine that was published quarterly.
Assemblies: held at the Caesar Rodney School to promote school spirit, give students a broader education, and offer an opportunity for students to express themselves.

Safety Council: in charge of safety regulations outside the building.
Dramatic Club: helped students speak more freely and without difficulty in public as well as to teach them to become better actors and actresses.
Manners and Etiquette Club: organized to teach students to meet situations gracefully.
Library Club: helped boys and girls to learn more about books.
Bachelor’s Club: organized to provide an opportunity for boys to put on an apron and learn a few of the “finer” arts of housekeeping.
Agriculture Club: the Caesar Rodney Chapter of The Future Farmers of America.
Handy Club for Girls: girls learned to construct small household items and make minor repairs around the home with ordinary hand tools.
Home Craft: composed of boys who have a special interest in building small articles of household furniture.
Junior Girl Reserves: a branch of the Y.W.C.A. The group sought to help girls ages 12-18 develop a well-balanced personality, grow physically, and take on social responsibility.
Home Economics Club: teach girls how to knit, cook, and how to act in company.
Glee Club

In 1938, Caesar Rodney had football, basketball, baseball, and track available for boys to participate in. Football had recently been added to the handbook, replacing soccer. Girls could play basketball or volleyball, and also had physical education classes.

As we celebrate one hundred years of the Caesar Rodney School District, it is exciting to be able to look back through this handbook and see how far the schools have come in the past 77 years.

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Survival Strategies for Personal Digital Records

Written on: October 10th, 2015 in Blog PostsInside the DPApreservationRecords Management

In recognition of Electronic Records Day (10/10/15), we’re sharing some helpful tips for maintaining your personal digital records courtesy of The Council of State Archivists. 

Electronic files are much more fragile than paper records, and their long-term survival requires attention and planning. These tips can help you better preserve your personal digital collections.

Personal Files:

  • Focus on your most important files. These files may include: resumes, school papers, financial spreadsheets, letters, maps, and family histories.
    • Decide which documents have long-term value and focus your efforts there.
  • Print out your most critical files to protect them against loss. Doing so increases the chances that your documents and images will remain accessible and allows you to focus upon backing up and copying/migrating files that cannot easily be printed out (e.g., databases, video files).
  • Create multiple copies of the files and manage them in different places. Doing so will keep your information safe even if your computer crashes.
    • Make at least two copies of your files – more copies are better.
  • Organize your files by giving individual documents descriptive file names. Creating a directory/folder structure on your computer will help you organize your files. Write a brief description of the directory structure and the documents for future reference.
  • Check your files at least once a year to make sure you can read them. Every 3 – 5 years you will need to copy and migrate your files to a newer media. Storage media have limited life spans, and hardware and software changes can keep you from accessing files stored on media that hasn’t deteriorated.
    • Use new, high-quality storage media. Avoid unknown brands.
  • Convert important files to a universal output format such as plain text (.txt), Rich Text Format (.rtf), or PDF/A (a form of PDF designed to support long-term preservation).
    • Files created with obsolete software should be converted to newer formats to avoid losing access.


Digital Images:

  • Back up and copy/migrate your images as outlined above
  • Organize them as you create them. It is much harder to identify thousands of images as time passes.
  • In addition to facing the threats outlined above, image files are often compressed, which reduces file size but can permanently remove some visual information. Save important images either uncompressed or with lossless compression. Good choices format choices include TIFF (.tif), and JPEG2000 (.jp2).
  • The resulting files are often quite large, so treat them as “master copies” and create GIF (.gif) or JPEG (.jpg) “use copies” to share via e-mail or the Web.
  • You can also print out your images. To ensure that your images last for decades, order prints from a lab that will place them on an archival medium.


Additional Resources:

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Robert J. Bennett Photograph Collection

Written on: October 9th, 2015 in Blog PostsInside the DPAPhotographs

To celebrate Archives Month, we’ll be sharing some of our recent accessions. Check back each Friday for a new post.


Mary Hanes, processing archivist

Photo of Indian River Life-Saving Station. Robert J. Bennett Photograph Collection (RG 9015-036-001), (9015-036-001_Indian_River_Lifesaving_Station)

Indian River Life-Saving Station. Robert J. Bennett Photograph Collection (RG 9015-036-001)

Have you ever wanted to tour the state of Delaware without the hassle of driving around for hours?  If so, visit the archives and view the recently acquired collection of photographs taken by Delaware photographer Robert J. Bennett. A lifetime resident of Bridgeville, Mr. Bennett started his career in photography when he served as an Army Signal Corps photographer in Europe from 1951 to 1953. After returning home, he continued pursuing photography, and took more than four thousand photographs for his book Sussex County Delaware – 301 Years Later and contributed many photos to the books The Great Storm of March 1962 and The Storm of ’62 – From Ruin to Recovery. Mr. Bennett also became Delaware’s first certified professional photographer, the official photographer for the Delaware State Fair, and provided photos for stock photography for newspapers and magazines.


Photo of Pumpkin Art Robert J. Bennett Photograph Collection (RG 9015-036-001), (9015-036-001 Pumpkin Art Folder 4 portrait001)

Pumpkin Art Robert J. Bennett Photograph Collection
(RG 9015-036-001)


This extensive collection was donated by Mr. Bennett’s wife, Eleanor Bennett, and contains over 22,000 of Mr. Bennett’s black and white photographs and color photo slides. The collection spans from 1951 to 2003 and features the many facets of Delaware life in all three counties, such as agriculture, churches, historic houses, and beaches.  Additionally, Mr. Bennett photographed events like Punkin Chunkin and the annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow. Other fun categories in the collection include pumpkin art, vanity license plates, and outhouses.  A finding aid for the collection has recently been developed to help researchers access the collection by subject. Visit the research room to learn more and to view the collection.



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Downstate Delaware Genealogical Society to meet at Archives on Saturday

Written on: October 5th, 2015 in Blog PostsEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

The October meeting of the Downstate Delaware Genealogical Society will take place at the Archives on Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. Professional Genealogist Angela Rodesky will be presenting a program titled “Searching Newspapers.” She will focus on some of the hidden information which can be found in newspapers such as obituaries, birth announcements, social events, elections, advertisements, court docket information and police reports. The public is welcome to attend and guests are encouraged.

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National Preparedness Month and You!

Written on: September 29th, 2015 in Blog PostsPhotographspreservationResearch Room

Katie Hall, reference archivist

Photo of Tornado Damage in Felton, 1967 State Highway Dept. Photo Collection (RG 1540.009)

Tornado Damage in Felton, 1967
State Highway Dept. Photo Collection
(RG 1540.009)

A tornado struck Felton in 1967 leaving behind this trail of damage. Disasters can strike quickly and without warning, rendering even the most prepared of us feeling helpless. September is National Preparedness Month and also falls in the middle of hurricane season, which is a great time for us on Delmarva to think about and prepare for what to do in case of an emergency.

FEMA has declared September 30 National PrepareAthon Day, a day devoted to readying citizens to respond to a disaster. If you need ideas on how to get started with creating an emergency plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a website full of useful tips for participating in the PrepareAthon and for creating your own emergency plan: If you’re looking for more Delaware-specific tips, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency also has tips on preparing for a disaster

September leads into October, which is Archives Month, when we celebrate all things archives-related. If you already have an emergency plan in place, then you can celebrate National PrepareAthon Day AND Archives Month by thinking about a plan to protect your valuable family records, heirlooms, and your genealogy research in case of an emergency. As I always like to say, memories don’t preserve themselves!

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Justice Randy J. Holland to speak on Magna Carta

Written on: September 28th, 2015 in Blog PostsEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland will speak at the Delaware Public Archives on Wednesday evening, Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m., on the topic of the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, the so-called Great Charter of 1215, which serves as the foundation for both the British and American systems of government. Justice Holland is the editor of the book, Magna Carta, Muse and Mentor, published in 2014 by the Library of Congress and Thomson Reuters to commemorate the anniversary. Among the book’s authors are Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and other eminent British and American jurists and legal scholars. As Justice Roberts noted in his foreword to the book, “Whether King John and the barons knew it or not, the events at Runnymede 800 years ago marked the commencement of a social transformation. Magna Carta laid a foundation for the ascent of liberty and the rule of law.” Justice Holland’s talk is the final event in a day of activities marking the 110th anniversary of the establishment of the Delaware Public Archives. Copies of Justice Holland’s book will be available for purchase at the event and he will sign copies for those wishing to have him do so.

Photo of Justice Randy Holland

Delaware Supreme Court
Justice Randy Holland

Randy J. Holland was first appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court in 1986 and was recently reappointed to an unprecedented third twelve-year term and is now Delaware’s longest-serving justice. He is the past National President of the American Inns of Court. Justice Holland was elected to be an Honorary Master of the Bench by Lincoln’s Inn Court in London. He has written, co-authored, or edited nine books: Delaware Corporation Law, Selected Cases (2011 Chinese (Taiwan) only); State Constitutional Law, the Modern Experience, co-author (West 2010); Middle Temple Lawyers and the American Revolution, co-author (Thomson-West 2007); Appellate Practice and Procedure, co-author (West 2005); The Delaware Constitution: A Reference Guide (Greenwood Press 2002); Delaware Supreme Court: Golden Anniversary (2001), co-editor; The Delaware Constitution of 1897 – The First One Hundred Years, co-editor; Delaware’s Destiny Determined by Lewes (2013), and Magna Carta, Muse & Mentor (2014) editor. He has also published several law review articles, primarily dealing with judicial ethics and legal history.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

The Delaware Public Archives is located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard North in Dover. The Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room is open to the public Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. On the second Saturday of every month the research room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

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The Life and Times of Ann Moore Ridgely

Written on: September 21st, 2015 in Blog PostsDelaware HistoryEvents at the ArchivesResearch Room

On Saturday, October 3 at 10:30 a.m., Dr. Susanne Fox will present a program at the Delaware Public Archives about Ann Moore Ridgely. A most unusual woman, Ridgely lived in Dover from 1775 until 1810 when she died. She was a wife, mother, estate manager, widow, and active member of the Dover community. Married to Dr. Charles Ridgely, her husband died in 1785, leaving her with five young children whom she reared by herself. To complement this program, the Delaware Public Archives will be displaying a set of documents related to Ann Moore Ridgely and the Ridgely family.

Dr. Susanne Fox recently retired from Wesley College where she taught U.S. History, American Culture, Irish History, and Travel Courses to Ireland, Italy, France, Belgium, and Spain for forty years. She holds an A. B. in History from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, an M.A. in History from the College of William and Mary, and a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation “Gentry Family Dynamics: The Ridgelys of Kent County, Delaware, 1775-1810” was based on over 800 Ridgely family letters, and other Ridgely family papers and account books housed in the Delaware Public Archives.

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

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