This Month in Delaware…

Wilmington Centennial banner (DHS collection)

Wilmington celebrates its 100th anniversary of being granted city status in May 1932.  Initially founded in 1638 by Swedish settlers, the city began life as Willingtown, after Thomas Willing, an early settler and land developer.  In 1739, this settlement was granted formal borough status, which meant that it could organize its own government and hold its own markets.  It was also at this time that the name of the settlement was changed to Wilmington. Wilmington continued to grow in size and influence, and was finally incorporated as a city in 1832.

Wilmingtonians commemorated this important milestone in their history with a week of events that took place during the week of May 15 – 21, 1932 and were chronicled in the city’s Evening Journal newspaper. The celebrations opened with a special history exhibit on the first floor of the Public Building in Rodney Square prepared by Wilmington schoolchildren under the direction of then-Delaware Historical Society Curator and Librarian, Anna T. Lincoln. The party then continued all week with a lively mix of music, dancing, history, and civic pride-related programming.  Some high-lights of the week included a public dance concert in Rodney Square with music by the 198th Delaware National Guard Band (among others), a huge Boy Scout march and rally in Rodney Square, and visits to important historic buildings, including Old Swedes Church and the Delaware Historical Society’s museum in Old Town Hall. The festivities ended on a high note with a grand banquet in the Gold Ball Room of the Hotel Dupont.  The Wilmington Charter Centennial Commission also oversaw the publication of a commemorative history book that was distributed to schoolchildren at Old Town Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, and Wilmington Public Library.

During the celebrations, the city was decorated throughout with cheerful banners, one of which is now part of our collections.  This machine-stitched, navy blue canvas banner featuring painted yellow text surrounding the Wilmington city seal would have provided a welcoming and memorable sight for visitors and locals.


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