the largest city and chief manufacturing
center of Delaware
Wilmington is the seat of New Castle
County. It is located at the confluence of the
Christina River and Brandywine Creek, has a land
area of 10.8 square miles, and a population of
In 1638, a group of Swedes
arrived in what is now the Wilmington area to
establish a fur-trading and shipping center. The
colonists chose the site because it had a natural
wharf on what they named the Christina River.
They built Fort Christina, the first permanent
European settlement in Delaware, on the site,
which became the headquarters for New Sweden,
which consisted of most of the lower Delaware
River region (now parts
of Delaware, Pennsylvania,
and New Jersey).
Although the Swedes claimed the entire Lower
Delaware Valley and operated several fur-trading
posts in the region, few Swedish settlers
populated the area.
In 1655, Peter Stuyvesant, the
Governor of New Amsterdam
(now New York City), seized Fort Christina and
made it part of the Colony of New Netherland.
Actual settlement of the region did not begin,
however, until after it was captured by English
forces in 1664. The town that eventually grew
around the fort was originally known as
Willington, after Thomas Willig, the first
developer of the land. In 1739, the settlement
was granted a burough charter by King George II,
who also renamed it Wilmington in honor of the
Earl of Wilmington, a close friend of his.
No major battles were fought in
Delaware during the Revolutionary War, but the British occupied Wilmington
shortly after the Battle of Brandywine on
September 11, 1777, and remained in the city
until vacating Philadelphia in 1778.
Wilmington became a major
manufacturing center after Éleuthère Irénée du Pont built several gunpowder mills in the
area in 1802. Those mills eventually grew into
the Du Pont Company, which is today one of the
largest chemical manufacturing companies in the
world. The completion of the Philadelphia,
Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad line in 1837
furthered Wilmington's importance as a
manufacturing center, and during the Civil War it
was a major supplier of ships, railroad
cars, gunpowder, shoes, and other war-related
goods. By 1868, Wilmington was producing more
iron ships than the rest of the country combined
and it rated first in the production of gunpowder
and second in carriages and leather. It was
chartered as a full city by the Delaware State
Legislature in 1832.
Wilmington is still a major
manufacturing center today, with about one-third
of the city's labor force employed in the
chemical industry alone.
Thanks to Delaware's favorable
corporation laws, over 60 percent of the world's
Fortune 500 companies have offices in Wilmington,
including Du Pont, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of
America, the Dutch banking group ING, and the
British banking giant HSBC.
Wilmington is served by the Port of
Wilmington, a modern full-service deepwater port
and marine terminal handling over 400 vessels per
year. The closest major airport is Philadelphia
International Airport, but regional air service
is available at the New Castle County Airport, a
few miles south of the metropolitan area. Amtrak
operates regular passenger train service into and
out of Wilmington, and two major rail lines
operate freight facilities in the city.
The Wilmington City Council consists of
thirteen members -- 8 elected from geographic
districts, 4 elected at-large, and a City Council
President elected by the entire city. The Mayor
of Wilmington is also elected by the entire city.
Wilmington is served by the Brandywine,
Colonial, Christina, and Red Clay school
districts for elementary, junior high, and high
school public education, as well as several
private and charter schools. Institutions of
higher learning with campuses in the city include
Delaware College of Art and
Design, Delaware State University, Drexel
University, Goldey-Beacon College, Springfield
College, University of Delaware, and Widener
Attractions and Events
Historic sites in Wilmington
include Fort Christina State Park, Old Swedes
Church, and Old Town Hall. The city is also home
to the Business History & Technology Museum,
Historical Society of Delaware, Arden Craft Shop
Museum, and Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of
Fame. Legacies of the Du Pont family are located
near Wilmington, including the Henry Francis du
Pont Winterthur Museum, which has a collection of
Early American furniture, and Nemours Mansion and
The fine arts are represented
in Wilmington by the Delaware Center for the
Contemprary Arts, the Grand Opera House, and the
Delaware Theater Company, the first professional
theater group in Delaware. Annual music events
include the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, the
Riverfront Blues Festival, and the Peoples'
Festival, a tribute to one-time Wilmington
resident Bob Marley.
Wilmington's diverse ethnic population
contributes to several very popular ethnic
festivals held every spring and summer --
Italian, Greek, Polish, African, and Indian, just
to name a few.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks, an Advanced-A Minor
League Baseball team, is the only professional
sports team in the city.
City of Wilmington http://www.wilmingtonde.gov
Wilmington Area Convention and Visitors
Éleuthère Irénée du Pont
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