Posted by: EdR | July 4, 2015

Remembering World War I in Delaware on July 4th

To celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, we remember seven soldiers who served their country in World War I from Delaware as well as highlighting excerpts from the Sunday Star newspaper exactly 100 years ago as the Great War continues to spiral throughout Europe. Soldiers honored today are Italian-American Michael Amoroso, African-American Jeremiah Blake, William Houston Hindsley, Frank David Marvel, Alfredo Demorest, Charles Prince Bonney, and Chandler Billingsley, a young man who lost his life in France fighting for his country.

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Posted by: japotts | July 1, 2015

This Month in Delaware…

Early Delaware silversmith Bancroft Woodcock was born in Wilmington on July 18, 1732, the fifth and youngest child of Robert and Rachel (Bancroft) Woodcock, who had come to Wilmington from Ireland in 1726. His father and three older brothers were engaged in the shipbuilding business but Bancroft chose instead to learn the trade of gold and silversmith. He set up shop in Wilmington “near the upper Market House” in 1754 and ran a prosperous business until 1794, when he moved to Wells Valley, Pennsylvania. Although it is not known where he learned his craft, Woodcock may have trained in Philadelphia because his work exhibits the high quality and exceptional craftsmanship of the best Philadelphia silver of the time. There is even a coffeepot by him in the collections of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the U.S. State Department. Bancroft Woodcock also served as master to Wilmington silversmiths Thomas Byrnes (with whom he was in partnership from 1790-93), William Poole, and Richard Humphreys. He married Ruth Andrews in 1759 and also trained their son Isaac as a silversmith.

In addition to being a skilled silversmith, Woodcock was also something of a celebrated local character who was renowned for his physical vigor and talents as an ice skater. In her Reminiscences of Wilmington (1851), Elizabeth Montgomery described him as “a remarkably plain, stiff-looking Friend, reminding one of bones and sinew yet famous for his agility. In skating, he excelled the youths of his day; no one could equal him. […] He was celebrated for his exercises and often displayed his skill and graceful movements on the Delaware, opposite Philadelphia. He was also famous for walking. He lived to a very old age, and was so thin that old people used to say he would evaporate.” Woodcock did indeed live to an old age, dying on May 8, 1817. He was buried on the property of his farm in Wells Valley.


Woodcock silver bowl

Silver waste bowl circa 1787 by Bancroft Woodcock. This item is part of a tea set that was given to Sarah Sandwith Drinker (1761-1807) of Philadelphia on the occasion of her marriage to Jacob Downing. (DHS collection, gift of the Honorable Edwin D. Steel, Jr.)

Posted by: EdR | July 1, 2015

Caesar Rodney’s Old Book

With an eye toward the approach of Independence Day, we spotlight Delaware’s most famous patriot, Caesar Rodney. Below is his personal copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Caesar Rodney personally inscribed his name along with various notes in the margins, which give us a glimpse of his inner dialog concerning passages he finds particularly relevant to his experiences.

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The Sunday Star of late June, 1915 covers a wide array of topics, from dissent in the Women’s Suffrage movement to Mexico to the European Conflict. An interesting study of the cause and effect of Italy going to war is provided. Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti personally opposed Italy going to war. Giolitti was a shrewd politician who championed centrist policies. A progressive, he opposed extreme political groups and was opposed to the rise of Fascism in Italy after the war came to a close. Only Benito Mussolini served longer as Italian Prime Minister than Giolitti.

Delaware Soldiers honored today are Alexander Dellin, William Cox, Herman Franklin Gingrich, and Vincenzo Giovannozzi

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Posted by: EdR | June 24, 2015

This Old Book About Anatomy

An old 19th century book about the human body is our focus this week. Below is the eleventh stereotype edition of William A. Alcott’s  “The House I Live In, or The Human Body For The Use of Families and Schools” published in Boston in 1845. The book provides an intriguing analogy between the human body and a typical residential house. Given that Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in November of 1859, well after our Old Book below, the observations made in House are particularly interesting as a ‘preface’ to later treatises concerning human biology and evolution, such as those by Darwin.

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Delaware Soldiers Harrison Howell, Charles A. Hutson, and Frank Albert Horty are honored today.

The Sunday Star indicates Italy and Austria are about to engage in a major naval fight. French morale is up, as they snack on delicious  “bon-bons”, even those made of German chocolate.  Pierre S. DuPont takes over the reins of the DuPont Powder Company, and not a minute too soon, the Funny Papers announce the secret to happiness. Alas, it’s the bliss of ignorance, apparently.


For more soldiers from Delaware and Sunday Star clips, see past posts of Remembering WWI in Delaware

Posted by: EdR | June 17, 2015

Revisiting The Start of the War of 1812

The Delaware Historical Society’s featured Old Book this week concerns the War of 1812. It was this week in June of 1812 that the United States declared war on Great Britain.

The title is The Military Heroes of the War of 1812. Charles J. Peterson. Phila: William A. Leary, 1848. 208 p.

Several excerpts about the war and illustrations from the book are provided below.

Also included in the book is The Military Heroes of the War With Mexico: With a Narrative of the War. By Charles J. Peterson. Phila: William A. Leary, 1848.  282 p.

9.5 x 6.5 inches. Hardbound.

Inscription:   John P. Gillis, Philadelphia, Dec. 2, 1848.

This book was owned by Commodore John P. Gillis (1803-1873) who was born and died in Wilmington, Delaware.  Gillis served with distinction in the Mexican-American War and in the Civil War commanded the ships  Monticello, Ossipee and the Seminole in the Union Blockade.


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This week of June 12th, as Germany announces it is open to making concessions to the Allies according to the Sunday Star newspaper, we honor Delaware Soldiers 2nd Lieutenant Clarence Lowden, Machine Gunner Clarence Baylis, and Private Thomas J. Loughridge. Italy sees its greatest artillery battle to date in the war and Mexico’s future is discussed.

Posted by: japotts | June 12, 2015

Flying the Flag

This Flag Day, as we celebrate the official birthday of the American flag, we would like to mark the occasion with some historic flag stories from our collections.

Rumford flag

Flag made for Charles Rumford by Emily Wollaston (DHS collection, gift of Lewis Rumford)

This hand-sewn, thirty-four star flag was made by Emily G. Rumford Wollaston (1823-1886) of Wilmington for her half-brother, Charles Grubb Rumford (1841-1901), who carried it with him during his service in the Civil War. Charles G. Rumford studied Law under his uncle, Delaware Chief Justice Edward W. Gilpin. During the Civil War, Rumford served from 1862-1865 as a First Lieutenant in the First Delaware Light Artillery Battery, also known as Nields’ Independent Battery, under Captain Benjamin Nields. Rumford clearly did not want to lose this flag as it accompanied him on his tour of duty, so he wrote his name and address, “Rumford, 1401 Market St.,” on the third stripe from the bottom. Both the flag and Rumford survived the war and the flag was later donated to the Society in 1944 by his son Lewis.

Moore flag

Fort Delaware flag presented to Edwin C. Moore (DHS collection, gift of Isabella Klabe)

This thirty-four star flag flew over Fort Delaware in 1863, when the Fifth Delaware Regiment was stationed there to guard Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. The canton originally contained thirty-two printed white stars but two additional stars have also been hand-sewn onto it. According to the donor, this flag was given to First Sergeant Edwin C. Moore of Company E as a souvenir when the regiment was mustered out of service in Wilmington on August 10, 1863. This flag is also marked with the owner’s name, “Edw Moore flag, EM.”

Middleton flag

Middleton family flag (DHS collection)

This thirty-six star flag originally belonged to Mrs. C.S. Middleton of 820 West Street in Wilmington and was made by her mother at the end of the Civil War. The flag is entirely hand-made, with seven red strips of wool and six of white cotton with thirty-six carefully hand-sewn stars. The three edges are also carefully rolled and neatly hand-stitched. This flag was a treasured Middleton family heirloom and later proudly hung in the window of their home to celebrate the end of World War I.

Happy Flag Day!


Posted by: EdR | June 10, 2015

This Old Book by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. He became a Harvard scholar versed in several European languages. He was heavily influenced by romanticism and became famous as a poet and novelist with works like Hyperion,  Poems on Slavery,  Evangeline, and The Song of Hiawatha. He also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy, an ambitious, considerably difficult task. Longfellow died on March 24, 1882, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Longfellow’s poem The Building of the Ship  is allegorical to the building of a country, in particular the United States. It was first published in 1850. Excerpts of the Delaware Historical Society’s edition, which is from 1870, are as follows:


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