Archive for the ‘History’ Category


Like Teri says, “Delaware Rocks”

April 20, 2010

Today’s mail came with a sweet hand-written note from Teri in Room 29 in Califormia.  A couple of months ago, Teri wrote to us asking for information on the state of Delaware.  Vicky, the Executive Assistant, answers student letters like Teri’s.  She laughed so hard at this one because Teri explained to her that she chose Delaware because it has great seafood and “juicy history.”  We didn’t know what it meant, but it was funny!  Vicky did her thing and put a package in the mail to Teri.  Today, she got a “thank you,” the first one she can ever remember receiving from a student request. 

It turns out that young Teri has a bright future for a variety of reasons from our vantage point.  She wrote to let us know that she and her friends had made us a picture.  This letter makes us smile as much or more than the “juicy history” remark.  We’re glad to know that someone in California thinks our state rocks!

Rock on! Ellen


The Monster Mile” before it was a monster! (And the origin of the name.)

March 9, 2010

Aerial view of Dover Downs ca. 1965.

I’ve been cataloguing a collection of photographs representing the professional work of Cypen Lubitsh and Jack Bungarz.  They operated Lubitsh and Bungarz, a photographic studio in Wilmington from ca. 1950 until 1989.  I opened a folder to describe it for the on-line cataloguing project and could hardly believe my eyes!  Here was an aerial view labeled Dover Downs.  But what I saw in this view from about 50 years ago blew my mind- what changes time has wrought!  These days, a racing weekend at the Dover International Speedway means busy lunch counters and hotel/motel rooms all across the state.  Here was a view of a well-groomed track in the middle of almost nothing.  A few horses trot around the track but where is the giant monster holding a truck in the air, where are the lots of trailers parked for a race weekend, where are the slots, casino games and hotel?  And, where is Route 1 that passes so close to the rear of the track?!!  Wow!  (For those of us who have been around, it is easy to remember the track before it was “really big” with slots and the 46’ tall giant monster statue.  This stunning view was taken before the outside, racing track was built, and maybe even dreamed about.  Today the complex covers 750 acres. 

The track opened in 1969 as America’s first multi-purpose sports complex and remains that still today.  It’s busy schedule from opening day in 1969 included thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing  on the interior 5/8 mile oval and world-class auto racing on the outside one-mile track.  The concrete auto racing track boasted a new design called “variable degree” which helped drivers transition from flat straights to high-banked turns.  This new design allowed for drivers to reach unprecedented speeds on the one-mile track, earning it the nickname “The Monster Mile.”  It is fiercely known to have destroyed cars and driver’s hopes, an alternate definition of “monster.” 

Who says history at the Delaware Historical Society is boring.  Ha!



Excitement on Market Street!

October 2, 2009

The Queen 1, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

We had some excitement on Market St. this morning for the groundbreaking of the Queen Theatre – the building right next door to the Delaware History Museum.

The Queen Theater

To put the groundbreaking into historical perspective – it’s not a new building. In fact, there has been something at 500 Market since the 1800s (if not before!)

The Queen 4

However, the groundbreaking was the start a restoration project that will restore the Queen to a performing arts venue called World Cafe Live (there is another World Cafe Live in Philadelphia) and a place to broadcast live with WXPN. In case you can’t tell – I’m excited that there will be such a vibrant musical community right next door to the Delaware History Museum and across the street from our library!!!

The Queen truly is a gem along Market Street (one of my absolute favorite buildings!) It also has an interesting history.

Indian Queen Hotel 1850
Indian Queen Hotel, 1850

It was the Indian Queen Hotel in the mid 1800s.

Clayton House 1893
Clayton House Hotel, 1893

In 1873 the building (as we know it today) opened as the Clayton House hotel. This was an elegant hotel and the second largest building in Wilmington. It had 105 guest rooms, sitting rooms, and parlors. By 1878 it became the first hotel in Delaware to have a passenger elevator and hundreds of people came just to rid up and down. The hotel entrance has two banks and there were stores at the bottom on the King Street side. It closed as the hotel in the early 1900s.

Queen Theater Dressed, 1899

The building reopened in 1916 as the Queen Theatre. It was a movie palace. Vaudeville shows were also performed there regularly.

Queen Theater 1940s
Queen Theatre, 1940s

It remained open as a movie theater but declined in popularity after World War II. It closed in 1959 and it’s been vacant ever since.

So…you can understand why we’re so excited to have such a great space being restored!!! The ground breaking was complete with live musicians, crowds in attendance, and excitement about the project. For more information you can visit the web site of the Light up The Queen Foundation: They have some FABULOUS images of the inside!!!!

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

Some other shots of The Queen Today and Images from the Groundbreaking Celebration:

The Queen 2
The Queen 3
Another Crowd Shot
Performers at the Groundbreaking
Jonatha Brooks @ Queen Groundbreaking
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This is just one of my favorite things…..

July 17, 2009

Dansey Flag, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

You know how when you have kids you aren’t supposed to have a favorite? Or if you’re a teacher you aren’t supposed to have a favorite students? Or a favorite grandchild if you’re a grandparent? Well…I wonder if that’s also true if you work in a museum. If you work in a museum can you have a favorite object? Because I do!

True, this may change from day to day. Also true (b/c I don’t get to work with the collections every day) that when I do get to learn about the artifacts or documents we have in our collection I am always blown away! However, I like certain topics better than others. And so while on any given day I might change what my favorite collection item is, there are some that always remain at the top of my list!!

Like the Dansey Flag (above)!

To me, artifacts are all the more fascinating if you know the story behind them. In many ways artifacts can tell multiple stories: they can tell the story of different times and places, they can tell about culture and life, they can tell the stories of generations if an object is documented throughout its history. To me history is all about stories! Not just names, dates, facts, etc. Stories. The Dansey Flag has one great story!!!

Picture this (are you ready for a long one?):

Captain William Dansey – a professional soldier from England part of the British 33rd Regiment – comes to the colonies in 1776 to fight “the rebels” in the American Revolution. He fought in battles throughout the colonies, including battles in Delaware and Pennsylvania as part of the Philadelphia campaign in 1777.

While I don’t want to get into all of the details of the campaign, in brief, on August 25, 1777, three hundred British ships under the command of Admiral Richard Howe landed at Elkton, Maryland intent on capturing Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – the capital of the American colonies. Dansey was among these men.

As British troops marched north from Elkton, Maryland, the American troops tried to prevent the Red Coats from advancing. Scouting parties from the two armies clashed at the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge on September 3, 1777 in New Castle County, Delaware. The American Army was unable to deter the British and the two armies met again along the Brandywine River. The Americans took a defensive position along the river, but they were defeated by the British. This loss of the Battle of the Brandywine allowed the British to gain control of Philadelphia on September 26, 1777. The Americans were again defeated on October 4, 1777 at the Battle of Germantown when the Continental Army attempted to regain control of Philadelphia. After this loss, Philadelphia remained in British hands and was occupied through June of 1778. Wilmington, Delaware was also occupied by the British for a brief period. While the British occupied Philadelphia the Continental Army wintered at Valley Forge.

Okay – but back to the story of Dansey and the flag. In the four days between the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge and the Battle of the Brandywine, Captain William Dansey captured the flag of the “rebel” Delaware militia. The flag was captured along with a horse, arms, drums, baggage, and a member of the Delaware militia (who was promptly returned). It is not one hundred percent certain who this flag was captured from. However, most of the evidence points to Colonel Samuel Patterson of Christiana. Captain Dansey – proud of his war trophy – wrote to his mother describing the capture of the flag and the British efforts in capturing the city of Philadelphia.

“I must tell you a Piece of good Luck I had a few Days before the Battle of the Brandywine On a Flanking Party I took the Horse, Arms, Colours and Drums belonging to a Rebel Colonel of the Delaware Militia and his Brother Prisoner & caused all his Baggage to be taken, which the General very politely sent back again but the Horse, Arms & Colours came to my share, the later I hope to bring as a Trophy to Brinsop…” (Oct. 9, 2009)

Wow! Can you imagine what it must have felt like for the people on both sides? Dansey was probably elated because what a war prize he collected! (Especially because Dansey – in no uncertain terms – felt the Americans were “cowardly Scoundrels.” The Delaware militia on the other hand not only has their flag stolen, but a horse, weapons, drums, baggage…and even a member of the unit!!! And then they go on to loose the Battle of the Brandywine, The Battle of Germantown, and Philadelphia. Yikes!

Well the story doesn’t end there. Dansey remained in America through the end of the war in 1783. At war’s end, he did not have a positive outlook on the newly formed country. He wrote: “The State of this once happy Country under their new Rulers is worse than the most violent Rage of War and now the Sword is sheath’d Persecutions are begun more iniquitous and horrid than the Inquisitions and they will not only drive the Loyalists away but all peaceable and moderate Men.” (August 22, 1783)

The Arms & Colours eventually made their way to back to Brinshop, England – the home of the Dansey family since 1440. The flag was added to the collection of family war trophies that were displayed in the great hall of his home. This is why today it’s called the Dansey Flag.

But how do we know all of this???

Because the story doesn’t end there. It continues on.

The flag was a part of the Dansey family collection until November 1927 when they put the flag up for auction along with a collection of letters (39 in total) that William Dansey wrote to his mother during the American Revolution. As soon as the Delaware Historical Society heard that the flag was for sale, they began to raise funds from the local Delaware community to purchase the flag and bring it back home. After three months of fundraising, the Delaware Historical Society raised enough money, purchased the flag and letters at auction, and brought them back to Delaware. Today both the Dansey flag and the Dansey letters are located at the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington.

I think both flag and letters are fascinating. And because of this amazing story they are also some of my favorite objects in our collections!!!!

If you’re wondering why exactly the Dansey Flag is on my mind….

We’re currently putting together primary source packets for elementary school students as part of a Teaching Historical Literacy project. The Dansey Flag and selected letters are part of the packet. I’ve been working on transcribing letters and coming up with question and lesson ideas for the past several mornings with our intern, Ali.

Maybe I can convince our collections folk to write a blog about their favorite objects in our collection. Would that be of interest to you? It could be the Delaware Historical Society’s favorite things. Hmmmm….

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

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Where in Wilmington?

April 17, 2009

Arch Still, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Clock Parts Still
Uniform Still
Stock Still

A few months ago – right before we started the Making History 11:45 blog –  both the show “Wilmington – In the Middle of it All” and its section “Where in Wilmington?” were taped at the Delaware Historical Society Wilmington sites.

“The Wilmington – In the Middle of It All” program was filmed right in our Old Town Hall building and “Where In Wilmington?” featured information about all of our Wilmington facilities including Old Town Hall, the Delaware History Museum, Willingtown Square and the Library and Archives.

I was thrilled to be a small part of the process taking the host Rich Neumann and camera man/editor of the program Paul Kennard through Old Town Hall for filming. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them and was impressed by the thoroughness of their research, enthusiasm for Wilmington, creativity, and, of course, capactiy to truly capture the essence and character of what we do….in the process helping us bring history to life!!!

After the filming I couldn’t wait to see the final result! I wasn’t disappointed because they did a wonderful job pulling it together! The segment highlighted all of our buildings and all of the work we do here at the Delaware Historical Society! There is even a small part that highlights Connie – the Director of our library and archives! The original show also talked about the Read House and Gardens as part of the larger panel discussion in “Wilmington – In the Middle of It All.”

The program aired in January on WITN 22 in Wilmington and is a joint production of the City Council and the Mayor’s office in Wilmington, DE. Just in case you missed it (or aren’t a Wilmington resident so don’t get this channel) have no fear!!! It’s available to view in YouTube here:

You can also watch other “Where in Wilmington” sections on the WITN 22 You Tube channel such as sections on Friends Meeting House, Howard High School, DCAD, YMCA…just to name a few! The channel can be found here:

I am so excited about the work they did about the Delaware Historical Society and think the program is an incredibly valuable resource!

Rich Neumann Researching in Library

I’ve seen Rich (he’s caught in the act here) in our library doing research and know he truly does his homework for each section. I want to thank him, thank Paul, thank the City of Wilmington for putting together this truly fantastic program. In fact, the images in today’s blog are stills captured from the Where in Wilmington segment.

I hope you’ll watch the segment about the Delaware Historical Society – and of course check out some of the others as well!!!!

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

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D- Day for National History Day students!

April 8, 2009

Today is the deadline for registering for the Delaware state competition for National History Day. The contest is April 25th and will be held at the Delaware Technical and Community College, Stanton campus. National History Day is a year-long, national program that involves students from grade 6-12 in serious historical research and presentation skills. Each year has a given theme which the students work their topics around- this year the theme is “The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies.”

Students do background research and then delve into the “good stuff” of primary sources meaning photographs, interviews, documents, maps, etc.. To become successful at NHD, a student must not only understand the topic itself but be able to explain why it is important in history. They will provide context and explain why their subject is significant in history- whether it is presented as a small exhibit, a 10 minute performance or documentary, a 10 page paper, or a stand-alone website. While this is the start of the hectic time of preparing for the contest, Andrea and I love working as a team on this project. The students bring so much enthusiasm to their work, and they can do amazing things when they apply themselves! This week, we meet with two students to view their documentary and to offer suggestions on how they can revise their work before the contest to make a stronger entry. Our one-on-one time is valued to us, we spend a lot of time administering the program- it’s only worth that work when we get to meet the students!

But today is the deadline- our numbers are slightly down from past years and we’re wondering why that might be. Is it the economy- is it our ever-growing jam-packed schedules, too many things to choose from? We’ll have to sort that out later. For now, I’m hoping that there will be a few last minute registrants, we’ll just have to wait and see. The entries span the globe and the breadth of history- topics include: Gandhi, Emperor Shi Huang Di, Charles Darwin, Shakespeare, Annie Oakley, the founder of the ASPCA, Roy Croc and Walt Disney along with Pochantas and P.S. duPont. See why we like the program?! We always learn so much at the same time we can encourage our youngest scholars.

Go young scholars! Ellen


Cartoon Museum and Library

March 18, 2009
Andrea @ Cartoon Library and Museum
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

Well I realize I said I was probably just going to hang out all week and not do anything interesting while on vacation…let alone cultural.  Well…I was wrong.  Yesterday I spent the morning touring the Ohio State University campus and was so impressed by its HUGENESS.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a school that is so large!  I got my exercise walking around – that’s for sure.  My friend showed me several of the libraries (which were very cool) but I was most excited about the Cartoon Museum and Library.

Earlier in the year I wrote a blog post on our National History Day in Delaware Blog about the resources this library has for NHD students. So – I was excited to actually get to go there in person!

They had an exhibit up about Ronald Searle.  (I learned something new because I had never heard of him before.)  His drawings were hung around the walls of the library.  Most were illustrations for various magazines such as Life and TV guide.

My favorites were some illustrations he did about the 1964 New york World’s Fair.  This picture (of course) is me giving a big hug to Garfield.  Too bad Odie wasn’t there too.

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

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