Delaware is one of the South Atlantic states of the United States. It occupies part of the peninsula between Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. Delaware was one of the 13 original states. Delawareans played a major role in the events that occurred during and after the American Revolution (1775-1783), and on December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
Delaware is divided into three counties, New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. Historically, industrialized New Castle County has contrasted with the other two counties, which have been predominantly agricultural areas. Today more than two-thirds of the population live in New Castle County, the northernmost county, in and around Wilmington, the state’s only large city. Dover, in Kent County in the center of the state, is Delaware’s capital. The history of Wilmington and of the state’s early large-scale industrial growth is, to a great extent, the history of the famous du Pont family and E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, one of the world’s largest chemical companies. Delaware is primarily an industrial state. Most of the manufacturing industries are located in New Castle County, although a number of industrial plants have been established in the two southern counties. For the most part, the south remains an agricultural area, and farmers produce a wide range of products for such urban markets as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City. The people of Delaware commonly denote parts of their state as either "north of the canal," meaning in the industrialized and densely inhabited region around Wilmington, or "south of the canal," meaning in Delaware’s rural and lightly settled farming region. The canal referred to is the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which effectively bisects New Castle County.
The state’s name is derived from the name of Thomas West, Third Baron De La Warr, Virginia’s first colonial governor. In 1610, Sir Samuel Argall, sailing for Virginia, sighted what is now called Cape Henlopen in Delaware Bay. Argall named it Cape De La Warr in honor of the governor. Although the cape itself was later renamed, the name Delaware came to be applied to the Delaware River and Delaware Bay and later to the land along the western shore of the bay and the river. Delaware’s official nickname is the First State, which commemorates Delaware’s early ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Delaware is also known as the Diamond State, because its value, like that of a diamond, is said to be out of all proportion to its small size. Another nickname, the Blue Hen State, dates from the American Revolution when the fighting spirit of the Delaware First Regiment was compared with that of their mascots, a brood of gamecocks reared by a famous blue hen. The blue hen was later designated the official state bird.
The state’s ocean coastline is only 28 miles long. The shoreline, which includes all bays and inlets, is 381 miles long. Extensive saltwater marshes are found along the shores of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. By contrast, south of Cape Henlopen the seacoast is fringed by sand dunes and long sandy barrier beaches. Indian River Inlet, which allows small vessels to reach the shallow lagoons behind the coast, is the only break in the barrier beaches. Behind the beaches are Rehoboth Bay, Indian River Bay, and other lagoons.
Delaware has generally hot and humid summers and mild winters. In July, average daytime temperatures are usually in the upper 20°s to lower 80°s or even higher. But because summer nights tend to be cooler than the days, July averages are about 75°. In addition, onshore sea breezes can reduce daytime temperatures along the coast by 5° to 10°. January averages range from 31° at Newark, in the north, to 38° at Bridgeville, in Sussex County. Nearly three-fifths of Delaware’s days are classified as sunny.
Precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) in Delaware is evenly distributed throughout the year, with slightly more in June and July than in any other month. Most of the state receives between 40 and 46 inches a year. Severe droughts are uncommon. Thunderstorms occur frequently in summer, and in winter there is generally light snowfall.