Although there were many Loyalists in Delaware just prior to the American Revolution, Delaware supported independence, with two of its three delegates to the Continental Congress—Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean—voting for independence. George Read, the third Delaware delegate, voted against independence, fearing that Loyalist sentiment was too strong in the colonies. However, Read subsequently signed the Declaration of Independence.
In 1776 the colony of Delaware became a state, with a president as its chief executive. Regiments from the state rendered valiant service to the patriot cause, especially the Delaware 1st Regiment, which was nicknamed the Blue Hen’s Chickens—originally because they carried with them gamecocks bred by a famous hen of Kent and later because they themselves showed the fighting quality of gamecocks. Delaware was a leader in the movement for revision of the form of government under the Articles of Confederation and in 1787 became the first state to ratify the new Constitution of the United States. The state constitution of 1776 was superseded by a new constitution in 1792, which provided that the chief executive be a governor rather than a president.
The late 18th cent. also marked the beginning of industry in Delaware with the establishment of gristmills on the Brandywine and Christina rivers. Wilmington became a center for the manufacture of cloth, paper, and flour—products that helped to build the industrial economy of N Delaware that flourished in the 19th cent. Shortly thereafter, in 1802, Eleuthère Irénée Du Pont established a gunpowder mill on the Brandywine River.