America’s First State
Posted by Mike Huber
at February 14th
Did you know that the state flags of Delaware are given the first position at important national events such as the Presidential Inauguration? Delaware earned that right by becoming the very first state when it ratified the federal constitution of the United States on December 7, 1787.
Delaware was first settled by the Dutch and the Swedes in the mid-1600s. For the next hundred years, the area of Delaware was contested between different groups who all wanted control of the good shipping in the Delaware River.
You’ve probably heard of the “Mason-Dixon” line. You may not know this famous symbol of the Civil Rights era came out of the border disputes that the people of Delaware had with Maryland and Delaware. To settle these issues, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed western Delaware in 1768 and set up the ”Mason-Dixon” line.
The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 and required each state to sign it. Delaware was the first to do so, two months after it was written. Even so, the first Delaware state constitution wasn’t actually written until 1792. Delaware was still a slave state at the start of the Civil War, but about 92% of the African-Americans living there were free, not slaves. So you wouldn’t be surprised to know that Delaware stayed in the Union during the war.
Perhaps you have seen the distinctive Delaware state flag with the colonial blue background, and buff color diamond. The colors are said to be taken from George Washington’s uniform. In the center of the flag is a coat of arms and below is Dec. 7, 1789, commemorating the day Delaware became the first state.
The distinctively revolutionary style of state flags with the picture of a militiaman and farmer might make you think it is a colonial flag, but it was actually adopted on July 24, 1913. The militiaman with the musket represents the important role of Delaware in fighting for the nation’s liberty. The corn, wheat and farmer and ox are a reminder of the importance of agriculture and animal husbandry in the state economy. The ship and water are a tribute to the commerce and transportation importance of the Delaware River.
You can find a replica of this flag from Delaware, “The First State” and other state flags at the all star flag website.