As the first state in the union, Delaware has a rich history. Long before the arrival of European explorers, the eastern Algonquian tribes lived all over the Delaware Valley, and next to rivers leading to Chesapeake Bay.
The Agonquian, also called the Unami Lenape tribe, of the Delaware Valley, had a society based on agriculture and hunting. They also become heavily engaged with another tribe called the Minqua in the rapidly increasing fur trade. In the 1670s, the Iriquois nation destroyed the Minqua tribe, and forced the remaining Unami Lenape migrated to the Alleghany mountains by the 1750s.
Spanish and Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in Delaware, but the Dutch were the first to settle in Delaware, at the trading post in Zwaanedael in about 1631. The colony was short lived, however, as local Indian tribes wiped out the settlers during a dispute a year later. The Swedish established New Sweden in 1638 at Fort Christina, which is located in present-day Wilmington, while the Dutch settled a new fort in modern-day New Castle in 1651. The Dutch eventually overthrew the Swedish in 1655 and re-incorporated New Sweden into New Netherland.
Just nine year later, the English dethroned the Dutch under the direction of James, the Duke of York. Ownership was then passed to William Penn in 1682, who had wanted the sea access for the province of Pennsylvania. A representative government was established, and these Lower Counties on the Delaware were combined with the province of Pennsylvania until 1704, when Pennsylvania grew so large that it needed its own government, which was based in Philadelphia.
Delaware’s early government business was conducted in New Castle, but continued to share a governor with Pennsylvania for many years. Around the time of the Declaration of Independence, Delaware declared itself both free of Pennsylvania and the British, and formed its own government. The state boundaries were surveyed in 1760s.
Delaware was the first of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Delaware officially became the first state in the new Federal Union following the Revolutionary War, on December 7, 1787.