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Delaware

History

In colonial days Delaware was the subject of an aggressive land feud between Dutch, Swedish and British settlers. The former imported classically northern European middle-class concepts, the latter a plantation-based aristocracy, which is partly why Delaware remains a typically mid-Atlantic cultural hybrid today.

The little state’s big moment came on December 7, 1787, when Delaware became the first state to ratify the US Constitution and thus the first state in the Union. It remained in that union throughout the Civil War, despite supporting slavery. During this period, as throughout much of the state’s history, the economy drew on the chemical industry (originally a gunpowder factory) set up by French immigrant Charles DuPont in 1802. Low taxes drew other firms (particularly credit card companies) in the 20th century, boosting the state’s prosperity.