Maintaining a Rural–Urban Balance

A new state constitution in 1897 reflected the political strength as well as conservatism of Delaware’s farmers through provisions that kept the political strength of Wilmington at a minimum and that of rural areas at a maximum. Many European immigrants came to the state in the late 19th and early 20th cent., settling in the Wilmington area. Southern Delaware’s population continued to be made up largely of African Americans and persons of English origin.

Delaware’s industries flourished during the 19th cent. as transportation facilities improved. Industry continued to expand in the 20th cent., especially during World Wars I and II. The chemical industry built up by the Du Pont family was broken up by a federal antitrust suit in 1912, but was nonetheless large enough to buy control of General Motors corporation in the 1920s and hold it for many years.

Racial tensions appeared in the state in the 1950s and 60s as Delaware’s schools were racially integrated, and after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, rioting erupted in Wilmington. In the 1980s, Governor Pierre S. Du Pont fought to liberalize the state’s usury laws and won. As a result, many large New York banks set up subsidiaries in Delaware (especially the Wilmington area), and thousands of jobs were created.