Welcome to the DHS Insider, where you’ll get an inside look at some of the innovative and ambitious goings-on at the Delaware Historical Society (DHS) and meet some of the behind-the-scenes folks who make it all happen.


We're making great progress on the Research Library renovation project!

These images detail Phase 1 of the library renovation project, which began with the urgent removal of the decorative aluminum grilles on the Market Street window system. Removal of the grilles allowed us to take a close look at the Market Street window system and entry, followed by Shipley Street. We quickly determined that both the front and rear windows, which date back to the original construction of the building, were very much in need of repair.

Here's a close look at just a small portion of the work we're doing as part of Phase 1 of the project, explained in the order each image appears:

1. The cracks of the granite on either side of the step at the entry to the library was a "red flag" that something was going on.

2. Temporary structural support was installed at the base of both I-beams on either side of the entry so the damaged portions could be safely removed.

3. Rebar was welded onto the remaining sound portion of the I-beams.

4. A new steel plate was welded onto the bottom of the remaining I-beam and over the Epoxy fill.

What comes next? The historic "wedding cake" shaped cover will be reinstalled over the new structural work. We hope to show that historic preservation is complex, technical work. In that process however we are afforded the chance to restore a building that has for so long contributed to the unique character of Market St. If you’re interested in supporting this once-in-a-century restoration, reach out to kbutler@dehistory.org for sponsorship opportunities.


Collections number: 1975.017.391

Marker: Bradley & Hubbard - Manufacturing Co., Meriden, CT. Date: 1880 - 1920 

This past July, the Read House & Gardens kept its doors open late for a special presentation of “The Read House Dozen,” a one-night-only exhibition featuring several of the Read House’s lesser-known collections pieces. The array of objects on display were selected for their historic identities and relationship to New Castle and Read House history, and were interpreted with fresh narratives, revealing how even objects that may appear mundane have stories to tell. While most of the items sourced for this exhibition came from the Delaware Historical Society’s collections, several were loaned for the evening by neighbors and friends who had objects of their own that added context to the history of New Castle and the Read House. It is exhibits like these that strengthen our connection to history, as we collaborate as a community to find new meanings in the things we hold dear.

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The summer is the season of beach days, barbeques, and vacations! But at DHS, summer is also the season of public programs. The Mitchell Center for African American Heritage presented a plethora of enriching programs for all to enjoy, from intellectually engaging book talks and panel discussions to family-friendly historical plays.

We kicked off July with an enthralling presentation by Dr. Yasser Payne, Dr. Brooklynn Hitchens, and Darryl Chambers on their newly released book, Murder Town, USA: Homicide, Structural Violence, and Activism in Wilmington.

August followed up with “I’m Literally Taking It Out The Mud,” a temporary art exhibition honoring black women's resistance in the criminal legal system. “Incorporating Faith: Celebrating the Enduring Legacies of Black Placemaking” was an interdenominational dialogue between Reverends Dr. Ronald Whitaker of Mother African Union Church and Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on the connected legacies of Peter Spencer and Richard Allen.

“I’m Literally Taking It Out The Mud” August 5th 2023

Family & Community Day: “Press On, Peter!” August 25th, 2023

We concluded with “Press on, Peter!” a Family & Community Day program that featured a dramatic presentation on the ideals and actions of Peter Spencer in his work to establish the first-ever incorporated Black church in 1813. Both “Incorporating Faith” and “Press on, Peter” were designed to supplement learning about Spencer and Mother African Union Church during The August Quarterly Festival (August 20 – 27), the oldest African-American religious festival in the nation.

We look forward to seeing you at future Mitchell Center programs! 


Did you know that DHS offers many of our beautiful rooms, spaces, and grounds for rent? We welcome inquiries from individuals, groups, businesses, and nonprofit organizations for private events. Talk to us about hosting your next business meeting, luncheon, lecture, seminar, or cocktail reception at any of our available spaces, including Old Town Hall, Willingtown Square, and the historic gardens at the Read House. If you want a unique and truly memorable space for your small wedding, we may be just what you are looking for.

A recent rental by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester transformed Old Town Hall and brought in hundreds of guests

to enjoy our remarkable facilities, many for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Chris Dilts

Click here to visit our website or contact Carol Washington at cwashington@dehistory.org


The Delaware Historical Society’s Read House & Gardens and the Mitchell Center for African American Heritage are working to share the history of the African American communities who have lived in New Castle. We would love to include your stories!

Click Here to share your stories, memories, and photographs!


Jennifer Potts

Jennifer Potts accepted the role as Curator of Objects at DHS in 2007, and quickly found our collections spaces needed the attention that only a professional curator could provide. She immediately went to work properly caring for our collections, a never-ending task.

Jennifer began her museum career when she came to the United States from England to complete a Museum Sciences Certificate at Harvard University. After working at two museums in Massachusetts, she moved to Delaware. She enjoys working with a wide range of different types of collections items and was attracted to DHS for its long history as a collecting institution (since 1864) and because of the large and diverse collection of objects.

Day to day, Jennifer spends most of her time cataloguing and working to preserve the Society’s collections holdings so that they will remain available to future generations. She embraces the idea that material culture will always remain important and relevant, even in an increasingly digital world. Jennifer initiated, and is continually adding to, DHS’s online artifact catalogue and hopes that users find something to surprise or delight them and remind them of how interesting history can be. She also enjoys sharing the collection by writing artifact-related posts for DHS social media pages.

One of her fondest DHS memories was when she arranged to get a local car collector to loan us a 1929 Rolls Royce Silver Phantom II from his personal collection for a 2011 exhibit to jointly celebrate the completed restoration and reopening of The Queen Theater next door. When asked what she’s most proud of over her 15 years at DHS, she thought for a moment, and told us about how proud she is that she has been able to up the standards of collection care and contribute to helping make our collections more useful and accessible. Though the majority of those visiting DHS visit our archival collections, Jennifer loves it when researchers come to work with our objects because it presents a great opportunity to add to our own knowledge of the objects.

When asked about her thoughts about the importance of preserving and presenting historic objects, she told us that “History is a multi-petaled flower. For those who say they do not like history, you have just not picked your petal yet, some petal is your petal!”

To schedule a research appointment with Jennifer or other members of our research team, click here!


Over Independence Day weekend, we received a special visit from retired Army officer, Robert Byrne. Byrne is a direct maternal descendant of Delaware’s own Captain Aaron Swiggett, an officer in the Seaford militia who fought at the Battle of Lewes during the War of 1812 campaign. Captain Swiggett’s uniform coat, a gift from his grandson Major William Y. Swiggett (himself a Civil War veteran), has been part of the Delaware’s Historical Society’s collection since 1897.

We preserve millions of objects from Delaware's history, but for some people we're not just preserving the state's history, we're preserving a part of their own family's history! Thank you for stopping by Robert, and we're grateful for letting us share this story.

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Our Primary Source Packets cover a range of historical topics and contain enrichment activities designed for students! CLICK HERE to browse our selection of packets, discover primary sources, and learn about history through educational and fun exercises!

Delve into lesson plans, videos, primary sources, activities and more!

Click here to access Liberty In Our Grasp, a lesson plan that utilizes

documents in our collection to analyze African American History in Delaware.

ASK ED - A Yankee Doodle Dandy

America’s upcoming 250th birthday is renewing interest in the fascinating and expansive collection of colonial era manuscripts here at the Delaware Historical Society. Case in point: a 1779 original music manuscript with dance tunes and lyrics written by a colonial era lawyer named George Bush (No known connection to the 41st or 43rd Presidents)! George Bush, son of David and Ann Bush, was born in Wilmington in 1753.

Bush penned various marches, gavots, poems and social dances as the American Revolution was unfolding around him. From July to December 1776, he was lieutenant in Captain Thomas Kean's company of the Flying Camp for Delaware, commanded by Samuel Patterson. Thereafter, he served as captain in various Pennsylvania regiments until the end of the war. A researcher was recently hoping to track down an obscure ditty called General Washington’s Resign. As it turns out, two tunes about George Washington were created by Bush; Resign and General Washington’s March, both presented here. Our audience with some gray in their hair when thinking of the phrase Yankee Doodle may conjure visions of 1940s actor James Cagney, but as we see here the reference goes back much further than that!

Mixed in with the dandy tunes are oddball personal notes like a laundry list, sent to Mr. Bush’s lady friend, Nancy (probably the Lovely Nancy of the tune above Yankee Doodle). You never know what you’ll discover when you dig into the archive. After the war, Bush returned to Wilmington. He became the city's first federal collector of customs in 1790, and held the post until his death in 1797.


One of the highlights of the Delaware Historical Society’s artifact collection is a miniature house that has come to be known as the McComb Doll house, after its original owner Henry Simpson McComb (1825-1881). McComb was a Wilmington Civil War Veteran, leather manufacturer, businessman, and later railroad magnate who acquired it at the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair of 1864, a fundraising event to support the Union Army.

One of the most delightful features of the house is its lilliputian art gallery that contains miniature paintings by several prominent Philadelphia artists of the period including Peter Frederick Rothermel (1817-1895) and Edmund Darch Lewis (1835-1910), among others. McComb installed the miniature house on the third floor of his home at 11th and Market Streets in Wilmington and was later donated to the Historical Society in 1943 by Mrs. Thomas Starr King and Mrs. E.W. Jackson.

This oil painting by Peter Frederick Rothermel, entitled, “Look at Dolly” is one of the larger paintings in the group but still only measures 9 inches high by 6 ¼ inches wide in the frame.

This watercolor of Mount Washington from 1864 by Edmund Darch Lewis measures 9 inches wide by 6 ¼ inches high in the frame.

The framing for both paintings was done by James S. Earle & Son of 816 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

To delve into our digital collections, CLICK HERE!

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