Special Collections Department


Breakwater Light


Settlers discussed the idea of a canal across the Delaware peninsula as early as the mid-seventeenth century. The first serious contemplation of the project, which would shorten by nearly three hundred miles the voyage from Philadelphia to Baltimore, was led by Thomas Gilpin, a Delaware merchant, in 1764. The project took sixty years, hundreds of workers and millions of dollars to complete. First opened in 1829, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is one of the few from that era still in operation.

Upper Level of Canal "Upper Level from Canal Bridge, St. Georges, Del." Wilmington: George A. Wolf, circa 1910. Delaware Postcard Collection.

"The 'Penn' Entering Lock, St. Georges, Del." Wilmington: Eureka Post Card Co., 1910. Delaware Postcard Collection.

Nancy C. Sawin.
Locks, Traps, and Corners on and along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Hockessin, Del.: North Light Studio, c1984.

Joshua Gilpin, 1765-1840.
A Memoir on the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal… Wilmington: Porter, 1821.

Photograph of boaters on the river, 1936. Willard S. Stewart. Delaware Photograph Collection.


Fishing has sustained the communities of southern Delaware since earliest times. In addition to food fishing, dredging for oysters and catching of non-edible fish and crabs have been major industries. Oyster shells and horseshoe crabs have been used as chicken feed and fertilizer. Although commercial fishing has declined, sports fishing still draws vacationers.

Jack Lewis, 1912-
The Bay and River Delaware. Bridgeville, Del.: J. Lewis, c1980.
King Crabs Photograph of crabs on Jones Creek, 1936. Willard S. Stewart. Delaware Photograph Collection..

Return of the Oystermen "The Return of the Oystermen, Milford, Del." Baltimore, Md.: Louis Kaufmann & Sons, 1912. Delaware Postcard Collection.

"The Breakwater Light, Rehoboth Beach, Del." Rehoboth Beach: Horn's, 1911. Delaware Postcard Collection.

A Day's Catch "A Day's Catch, Lewes, Del." Publisher and date unknown. Delaware Postcard Collection.

Chart of Delaware Bay

Joshua Fisher.
Chart of Delaware Bay and River from the original by Mr. Fisher of Philadelphia, 1776.

From 1733 to 1746, Fisher lived in Lewes, Delaware, the home of many of the pilots who guided ships up the Bay to Philadelphia. His long residency in Lewes provided him with contact among experienced pilots, whose practical experience and hand-made maps would have helped him produce his chart.
Pearl Herlihy Daniels Map Collection


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Last Modified 3/19/09