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Firsts in Delaware

The Delaware Tercentenary Almanack and Historical Repository, by Christopher L. Ward.

1631 – First settlement, by the Dutch, Zwaanendael, perished same year.
1638 – First permanent settlement, by the Swedes, Fort Christina.
1638 – First negro slave, Anthony, Fort Christina.
1640 – First clergyman, Rev. Reorus Torkillus, Fort Christina.
1652 – First execution by hanging, Anders Jonsson for treason by Gov. Printz.
1654 – First physician, Tyman Stidden, Fort Christina.
1658 – First schoolmaster, Evert Pieterssen, New Amstel.
1669 – First trial by jury, New Castle.
1676 – First lawyer admitted to the bar, Thomas Spry, New Castle.
1687 – First grand jury, Sussex County.
1693 – First tax levied, a penny a pound of property.
1704 – First legislative assembly of Three Lower Counties.
1725 – First lighthouse, Cape Henlopen.
1730 – First Roman Catholic services.
1736 – First market-house, Wilmington.
1738 – First Friends’ Meeting House, 4th and West Streets, Wilmington.
1739 – First charter for Borough of Wilmington.
1739 – First Burgesses and High Constable, Wilmington.
1740 – First election in Borough of Wilmington.
1740 – First inn in Wilmington, “The Foul Anchor,” Water Street.
1740 – First sea-going ship built, brig Wilmington.
1740 – First Presbyterian Church, Market near 10th Street, Wilmington.
1741 – First prison, whipping-post and stocks, Wilmington.
1742 – First large flour-mill, built by Oliver Canby, Wilmington.
1748 – First Friends’ school, 4th and West Street, Wilmington.
1761 – First printing-press, James Adams, Wilmington.
1761 – First book, The Child’s New Plaything published by Adams.
1762 – First newspaper, Wilmington Courant, published by Adams.
1765 – First Masonic lodge instituted, Cantwell’s Bridge (Odessa).
1774 – First town-hall, Wilmington.
1775 – First naval officer to fly American flag, Delaware River, John Paul Jones, ship, Alfred.
1775 – First volunteer fire company, Friendship, organized in Wilmington.
1776 – First election of members of Continental Congress.
1776 – First naval engagement on Delaware River, American fleet of row galleys against two British frigates, Roebuck and Liverpool.
1776 – First vessel to fly American flag in foreign port, brig Nancy of Wilmington, Capt. Hugh Montgomery.
1785 – First almshouse established, Wilmington.
1787 – First paper-mill built, T. & J. Gilpin, Wilmington.
1788 – First election of representatives in U.S. Congress, Senators Richard Bassett and George Read, Rep. John Vining.
1789 – First medical society organized.
1790 – First postmaster in Wilmington, Joseph Bringhurst, office in his drug-store.
1792 – First Chief Justice of Court of Common Pleas, under Constitution of 1792, Richard Bassett.
1793 – First Board of Health, Wilmington.
1793 – First Governor under Constitution of 1792, Joshua Clayton.
1795 – First cotton-mill, Jacob Broom, Wilmington.
1795 – First bank, Bank of Delaware.
1796 – First free school law enacted (ineffectual).
1801 – First gunpowder manufactured, Peter Bauduy, Eden Park.
1802 – First vaccination, by Dr. John Vaughan.
1802 – First duPont powder-mill, near Wilmington.
1803 – First Abolition Society, Wilmington.
1804 – First organized water-supply, Wilmington.
1805 – First Negro church organized, Ezion, Wilmington.
1806 – First Grand Lodge A.F.&A.M. founded, Wilmington.
1812 – First steamboat, Vesta Wilmington to Philadelphia.
1814 – First Wilmington city directory.
1815 – First public water-reservoir, Wilmington.
1819 – First hydrant, house of Joseph Bringhurst, Wilmington.
1825 – First fire insurance company, Delaware Fire Insurance Company.
1827 – First fire-plugs, Wilmington.
1829 – First effective free school law enacted.
1831 – First Grand Lodge I.O.O.F., Wilmington.
1831 – First commercial peach-orchards planted.
1831 – First railroad, New Castle & Frenchtown, horse-drawn cars.
1832 – First steam railroad train operated, N. C. & F. R. R.
1832 – First charter for City of Wilmington; – First election under it; – First Mayor Richard H. Bayard.
1833 – First public-school house, Wilmington.
1833 – First illuminating gas company organized, Wilmington Gas Company.
1833 – First whaling company organized, Wilmington.
1834 – First theatre, 6th and Shipley Streets, Wilmington.
1836 – First railway-car wheels manufactured, Bonney & Bush, Wilmington.
1837 – First board of trade, Wilmington.
1838 – First monthly magazine, Delaware Register, William Huffington, Dover.
1843 – First iron ship building yard in U.S., Betts, Pusey and Harlan, Wilmington.
1844 – First sea-going iron propeller ship in U. S. built, Wilmington.
1847 – First lodge I.O.R.M. instituted, Wilmington.
1850 – First sewing machine, sold by Wm. F. O’Daniel, Wilmington.
1852 – First astronomical observatory, on Meeting House Hill, Wilmington.
1853 – First galvanized sheet-iron in U. S. made in Wilmington.
1855 – First post office building, 6th and King Street, Wilmington.
1856 – First daily newspaper, Daily Enterprise, Wilmington.
1863 – First railway cars built, Jackson & Sharp, Wilmington.
1864 – First State debt created, bonds to pay for substitutes in draft.
1864 – First street-railway, Front and French to Delaware Avenue and duPont Street, Wilmington.
1868 – First lodge, K. of P., Organized, Wilmington.
1870 – First public drinking-fountain, Wilmington.
1878 – First telephone exchange, 3rd and Market Street, Wilmington.
1881 – First Negro called for jury duty.
1882 – First public park system organized, Wilmington.
1883 – First electric street-lights, 35 arc lamps, Wilmington.
1883 – First “telephone book,” Wilmington.
1885 – First trust company, Security Trust & Safe Deposit Company, Wilmington.
1888 – First electric trolley line, 10th and Market to Riverview Cemetery, Wilmington.
1891 – First State College for Negroes chartered.
1900 – First automobile, owned by Alfred I. duPont, Wilmington.
1901 – First moving picture theatre, Nickelodeon now Savoy Theatre, Wilmington.
1920 – First radio sending station for public use, Willard S. Wilson, Wilmington.

Thanks are due to Messrs. Stanley M. Arthurs, Clifford W. Ashley, Albert Kruse, Frank F. Schoonover, Andrew Wyeth and N. C. Wyeth for drawings contributed, to Miss Anna T. Lincoln, Curator of Historical Society of Delaware, Miss Mary B. Eastman of the Reference Department of the Wilmington Institute Free Library, Dr. George H. Ryden, State Archivist and Mr. Leon de Valinger Jr, Assistant State Archivist, for assistance in the compilation of data and to Mr. Richard T. Ware of The Press of Kells for helpful cooperation in the matter of typographical design.