This project brings together the governors of the Delaware Colony in the North American Middle Colonies and of the state of Delaware.
Before its coastline was first explored by Europeans in the 16th century, Delaware was inhabited by several groups of Native Americans, including the Lenape in the north and Nanticoke in the south. It was initially colonized by Dutch traders at Zwaanendael, located near the present town of Lewes, in 1631. Within a year all the settlers were killed in a dispute with area Indian tribes.
In 1638 New Sweden, a Swedish trading post and colony, was established at Fort Christina (now in Wilmington) by Peter Minuit at the head of a group of Swedes, Finns and Dutch. The colony of New Sweden lasted for 17 years.
In 1651, the Dutch, reinvigorated by the leadership of Peter Stuyvesant, established a fort at present-day New Castle, and in 1655 they conquered the New Sweden colony, annexing it into the Dutch New Netherland.
Only nine years later, in 1664, the Dutch were conquered by a fleet of English ships by Sir Robert Carr under the direction of James, the Duke of York. Between 1669–72, Delaware was an incorporated county under the Province of Maryland. The Mason-Dixon line is said to have legally resolved vague outlines in the overlap between Maryland and Pennsylvania, which pretty much awarded Delaware to Pennsylvania. Penn strongly desired access to the sea for his Pennsylvania province and leased what then came to be known as the "Lower Counties on the Delaware" from the Duke. William Penn was granted the new proprietary colony in 1681 by Charles II of England in payment for debts owed to Penn's father. Fighting off a prior claim by Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, Proprietor of Maryland, the Duke of York passed his somewhat dubious ownership on to William Penn in 1682.
In contemporary documents from the early Revolutionary period, the area is generally referred to as "The Three Lower Counties on the Delaware River" (Lower Counties on Delaware) or by the names of the three counties: New Castle, Kent and Sussex. Penn attempted to merge the governments of Pennsylvania and the lower counties of Delaware but representatives from both areas clashed heavily, and in 1701 Penn agreed in having two separate assemblies. Delawareans would meet in New Castle and Pennsylvanians would gather in Philadelphia. Delaware, like Philadelphia and unlike Maryland, continued to be a melting pot of sorts and was home to Swedes, Finns, Dutch, French, in addition to the English who constituted the dominant culture.
After Penn became ill in 1712, his second wife Hannah Callowhill Penn served as acting proprietor. Three generations of Penns acted as proprietors of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties (Delaware) from the founding of the colony until the American Revolution removed them from power.
Delaware was one of the 13 colonies participating in the American Revolution and on December 7, 1787, became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby becoming known as The First State.