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Delaware (DE) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Delaware is the second-smallest state in the country, located on the East Coast and sharing a peninsula with the state of Maryland. It is surrounded by large cities and metropolitan areas, with much of the land area of Delaware being given over to suburbs.
Counties and Regions: Delaware has only three counties, all of them obviously named after places in England: Kent, New Castle, and Sussex. Being such a tiny state, it only has a few general geographic regions as well, which are the Delaware Coast, the Delaware Valley, and the Cape Region.
Population: Barely 900,000 people live in Delaware, giving it one of the smallest populations in terms of absolute numbers. Its population density, however, is quite high due to its small size, ranking it 6th in the nation.
Major Cities: The state capital, Dover, is the second-largest city in Delaware with more than 160,000 people in its metropolitan area (which is actually the entire county of Kent). The state’s largest city, Wilmington, is a part of the metropolitan area of Philadelphia, which all together encompasses more than six million people throughout several states.
Story Behind the Name: The name “Delaware” refers both to the state and to the Native American tribe that once lived there. It was named after a Baron called De la Warr, and truncated into its present form.
History and Colonization: Like other Native American groups that lived near the eastern coastline, the natives of modern-day Delaware were decimated by disease and warfare early on. The arrival of European colonists and the growth of the fur trade sparked conflict and aggravated longstanding rivalries between the tribes, and the natives of Delaware ended up scattered and have since mostly disappeared.
The first European arrivals came from Scandinavia, as the Swedish and the Dutch founded competing colonies along the coast. Many of these colonies failed in the harsh conditions, but the Dutch were eventually victorious and claimed the region as New Netherland. Later, English explorers arrived and claimed the area for themselves, eventually defeating and absorbing the Dutch colonies.
During the colonial period, Delaware was considered to be a part of the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, giving it crucial access to the sea. The people of Delaware and Pennsylvania did not share many cultural similarities, however, and the counties that formed Delaware peacefully seceded.
Delaware was one of the Thirteen Original Colonies that declared independence from Great Britain, although Loyalist sympathies tended to be relatively common there. It has, however, the distinction of being the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, making it technically the first state of the union. Delaware was always in favor of a strong, central constitution that privileged all states equally (being a small state, this was in its interest). Though it had been a slaveholding state, it stuck strongly with the Union during the years of the American Civil War.
Even though it is a densely populated state without much land mass, Delaware still manages to have a strong agricultural sector in its economy. Its corporate-friendly tax laws encourage the headquarters of many Fortune 500 companies to be located there, although the state still has problems with unemployment. Government and educational services comprise the bulk of jobs that the state has to offer.