250 Wilmington, DE: Corporate Haven

SAS had a Wilmington connection: it was started by the DuPonts. In 1791, several French families fled to Wilmington to escape a slave insurrection in Santo Domingo. One of them convinced his friend Eleuthére Irénée du Ponts de Nemours to settle here, where DuPont opened his black powder mill in 1802. DuPont grew to be the largest manufacturer of black powder throughout the nineteenth century, supplying it to the United States government in the War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish American War, and World War I.

Before the DuPonts et al., Wilmington was founded by Swedes, some of the most successful colonists in the new world. When the men left for a year, they returned to find all the women and children still alive. Six years before William Penn was born, these Swedes negotiated for the land from the local Lenni Lanape, whose name meant "the original people." In Wilmington's harbor, you can tour a reproduction of the 139-foot Kalmar Nyckel, the ship that brought these settlers. Fort Christiana Park now stood where the ship's Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, and German settlers landed along with Anthoni "the Black Swede," a freeman from the Caribbean. Here they built the first log cabins in America. The Dutch laid siege to Fort Christiana in 1655, and the Swedes surrendered without firing a shot after negotiating for twelve days. Perhaps this foreshadowed its settling by pacifist Quakers as part of William Penn's Pennsylvania Colony, whose lower three counties became what we know today as the state of Delaware. These counties are part of a peninsula called Delmarva, for the three states with parts of it: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Delaware is thus on an isolated peninsula, like Hopper's Cape Cod.

The town was chartered by the Crown in 1739, but on June 15, 1776, Delaware declared its independence from England ahead of the other 12 colonies, and became the first state to ratify the Constitution. "The First State" is still its nickname and on their license plates. Wilmington became capital of the second-smallest state in area, about 1/108 the size of Texas, whose entire population is 750,000.
A sign I saw at the town limits read: "Wilmington: A place to be somebody."

Delaware is also home to most of the country's corporations due to the founding Quakers' liberal business laws. More than 300,000 corporations, including half of the Fortune 500, incorporate in Delaware, though they don't have to bother to relocate there. It further enticed the banking industry to relocate within its borders by offering tax breaks and rigging its laws governing how much interest a bank can charge. Eight of the ten largest credit-card firms in the country operate within Delaware. In the meantime, personal bankruptcy nationwide rose sevenfold.1

1An ad in a Wilmington newspaper said, "We all want our kids to be the same thing when they grow up: financially secure." Whatever happened to "happy"?

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