The Delaware Collection is a constantly-evolving collection which strives to document all aspects of history and life in Delaware from the prehistoric period and earliest plans for settlement by the Swedes in 1624 to contemporary life. The collection includes the history, culture, domestic, business, and social aspects of Delaware as documented in correspondence, manuscripts, legal documents, diaries, journals, account books and ledgers, maps, printed ephemera, family papers, business records, archival material, photographs and graphic materials, and miscellaneous items.
The Delaware Collection encompasses all geographic areas of the state, but has particular strengths in Newark and New Castle County. A number of collections document Delaware politics and political history. These holdings include the personal papers of United States Representative Thomas R. Carper, and United States Senators George Gray, Willard Saulsbury, Willard Saulsbury, Jr., J. Allen Frear, Jr., John J. Williams, Ted Kaufman, and Joe Biden. Collections of broader historical import include the George Handy Bates Samoan Papers, and the papers of career diplomat George S. Messersmith. Family papers of Delaware residents present the daily and business life in the state over the past several hundred years. Collections include the Latimer Family Papers (1690-1927), which includes prominent figures such as James Latimer (1719-1807), founder of Newport, Delaware and Henry Latimer (b. 1752), surgeon in the Continental Army; the personal, professional, and family papers of James Curtis Booth (1810-1888), chemist and the first state geologist of Delaware; and the notebooks and diaries of Delaware resident and physician John Janvier Black (1837-1909).
One particularly intriguing collection is the archive of forty-eight volumes of typescripts compiled and written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Delaware in 1938 for the guidebook, Delaware: A Guide to the First State. This archive includes hundreds of short essays on Delaware history, buildings, and people. Other scrapbooks and reminiscences housed in Special Collections, both printed and manuscript, describe Delaware’s past. A series of archaeological reports published by the Delaware Department of Transportation during the past fifteen years document the State’s pre-industrial past. A large collection of city directories, commercial directories, telephone books, and maps dating from the early nineteenth century is also available in the Delaware Collection.
A wide variety of images of Delaware is available in Special Collections. Images range from a series of pencil drawings of Newark by Seth C. Brace, done between 1842 and 1844 when he was a member of the faculty of Newark College, which later became the University of Delaware, to a collection of over two thousand postcards of Delaware scenes. Trade catalogs and other advertising ephemera also depict Delaware locations and are often the only existing images of buildings that no longer exist. A Delaware photograph collection as well as many photographs in manuscript collections provide additional pictures of the region.