“Emeline Hawkins: Her Journey from Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad” at the New Castle Court House Museum

September 16th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del., is currently featuring “Emeline Hawkins: Her Journey from Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad,” an exhibit that chronicles the compelling story of Emeline Hawkins and her family, and their 1845 odyssey on the Underground Railroad from slavery in Maryland, through Delaware, to freedom in Pennsylvania. The exhibit shines a spotlight on the roles played by noted Delawareans of the Underground Railroad including “conductor” Samuel Burris, who led the Hawkins family out of Maryland into Delaware; and “stationmasters” Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, who sheltered the family and aided their escape into Pennsylvania. The exhibit also examines the famous federal trial at the New Castle Court House in 1848 which resulted in the conviction of Hunn and Garrett on charges of violating the Federal Fugitive Slave Act.

Section of the exhibit "Emeline Hawkins: Her Journey from Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad."

Section of the exhibit “Emeline Hawkins: Her Journey from Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad.”

Between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2014, operating hours at the New Castle Court House Museum are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. At other times, the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-323-4453.

New Castle Court House Museum

New Castle Court House Museum

Exhibit at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts features Victor-related items from the state’s collections

September 16th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has recently loaned several Victor Talking Machine Company-related items to the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts. The items—which include two table-top Victrolas, a recording horn, a metal  advertising-sign made in the shape of a record, one side of a Victor shipping crate and a sound-box board—will be featured in the exhibit “Sounds of Camden” that will be on display from Oct. 6 to Dec. 18, 2014 in the Stedman Gallery, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, 314 Linden St., in Camden, N.J.

Victrola VV 1-70 from the collections of the state of Delaware. The machine is featured in the exhibit "Sounds of Camden."

Victrola VV 1-70 from the collections of the state of Delaware. The machine is featured in the exhibit “Sounds of Camden.”

Sounds of Camden” will explore the city through its music, poetry and voices from past to present. The exhibit will present examples of Victrolas and phonographs built at the Victor Talking Machine Company factory which was located in the city, as well as visual memorabilia, artifacts and recordings from the company’s vast playlist. The exhibit will also present live performances and recordings that carry historical and contemporary sounds of Camden including poetry by the 19th-century Camden resident Walt Whitman; music recorded in the city; and contemporary compositions, poetry and recorded oral-history.

Metal  advertising-sign made in the shape of a record. From the collections of the state of Delaware.

Metal advertising-sign made in the shape of a record. From the collections of the state of Delaware.

Core components of the state of Delaware’s collection of Victor-related items are displayed at the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover. The museum highlights the life and achievements of Delaware’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Through phonographs, memorabilia, trademarks, objects and paintings, the museum showcases Johnson, his company and the development of the sound-recording industry.

Panel from a Victor Talking Machine Company shipping crate. From the collections of the state of Delaware.

Panel from a Victor Talking Machine Company shipping crate. From the collections of the state of Delaware.

Curated by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the collections of the state of Delaware help to preserve, and hold in public trust, a record of Delaware’s heritage by acquiring objects made in Delaware or used by Delawareans throughout history.

Division to offer 10 free programs during October 2014

September 15th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

During the month of October 2014, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will be offering 10 special programs at the state of Delaware’s museums. A full schedule of events is included below. All programs listed are free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Cast of “The Trial of William Penn.” The historical-theatre production will be presented at the New Castle Court House Museum on Oct. 25, 2014.

Cast of “The Trial of William Penn.” The historical-theatre production will be presented at the New Castle Court House Museum on Oct. 25, 2014.

On Saturday, Oct. 25, between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., the New Castle Court House Museum, located at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, will present “William Penn Day,” a day-long series of activities commemorating Penn’s Oct. 27, 1682 disembarkment at New Castle, his first landing in the New World. Activities will include a re-enactment of the Livery of Seizen ritual in which Penn received possession of New Castle and a 12-mile circle of land surrounding it; “Tea With Mrs. Penn”; a performance by De Blokfluiters recorder/flute ensemble; and “The Trial of William Penn,” a historical play exploring Penn’s trial on religious freedom and the rights of English subjects under the law.

On Saturday, Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m., the Johnson Victrola Museum, located at 375 S. New St.in Dover, will present “Pioneers in the Music Industry: Emile Berliner,” a program featuring Oliver Berliner, grandson of inventor Emile Berliner, who will discuss his grandfather’s life, his inventions (including the gramophone) and his major contributions to society.

Emile Berliner, inventor of the disk-record gramophone. Oliver Berliner will be speaking about his grandfather at the Johnson Victrola Museum on Oct. 4, 2014.

Emile Berliner, inventor of the disk-record gramophone. Oliver Berliner will be speaking about his grandfather at the Johnson Victrola Museum on Oct. 4, 2014.

Finally, on Saturday, Oct. 11, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, will be alive with music, food, hands-on activities and entertainment during the program “A Day in the Life of the John Dickinson Plantation.”Featured performers will be theSwordmasters who will be demonstrating Colonial muskets and rifles, and giving fencing presentations.

Hearth cooking and other Colonial-era activities will be explored in the “Day in the Life of the John Dickinson Plantation” program on Oct. 11, 2014.

Hearth cooking and other Colonial-era activities will be explored in the “Day in the Life of the John Dickinson Plantation” program on Oct. 11, 2014.

Hearth cooking and other Colonial-era activities will be explored in the “Day in the Life of the John Dickinson Plantation” program on Oct. 11, 2014.

 

Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the six museums of the State of Delaware—the New Castle Court House Museum, the John Dickinson Plantation, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, The Old State House, the Johnson Victrola Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum—tell the story of the First State’s contributions to the history and culture of the United States. Through displays, exhibits and special programs, the museums explore how the state’s distinctive physical environment, in combination with the people who came to live there, gave Delaware an identity that is different from any other place.

Special events, October 2014
Note: Recent program changes are highlighted in yellow.

Saturday, Oct. 4 2014
“The Declaration of Independence.” Guided tours focus on the document in which the newly born United States declared its independence from Great Britain, and the Delaware signers who made this one of the most important documents in American history. First Saturday in the First State program. The Old State House, 25 The Green, Dover. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
“An Illegal Activity.” Utilizing the exhibit “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” as a backdrop, guided tours will explore Delaware’s crucial role in the Underground Railroad and on two Delaware leaders who aided in this “freedom enterprise.” First Saturday in the First State program. First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, Delaware Public Archives building, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover. Tours at 10 a.m., Noon and 2 3:30 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note change in program time.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
River Towns Ride and Festival. Festivals in historic New Castle and Delaware City frame a bicycling event between the two cities. Family-oriented festival held from Noon–5 p.m. at the New Castle Court House Museum and The Green in New Castle will feature music, rides, attractions, games, tours, vendors, craft beers, food and drink. 302-323-4453.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
“His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak.” Held in conjunction with Lewes’ annual Boast the Coast festival, the event will feature a day-long slate of maritime-history and -archaeology activities including block-and-tackle demonstrations and a 2 p.m. presentation on the DeBraak shipwreck. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014
“Pioneers in the Music Industry: Emile Berliner.” Guided tours explore the first pioneers in the music industry including the inventors of talking machines as well as early recording artists. Oliver Berliner, grandson of inventor Emile Berliner, will discuss his grandfather’s life, his inventions (including the gramophone) and his major contributions to society.First Saturday in the First State program. Johnson Victrola Museum, 375 S. New St., Dover. Program at 2:30 p.m. Museum open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-744-5055. Note change in program description and time.

Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014
“A Day in the Life of the John Dickinson Plantation.” Visitors of all ages will enjoy a day of music, food, entertainment and hands-on activities from Colonial trades to hearth cooking in the 18th-century setting of the home of the “Penman of the Revolution.” The featured performers will be the Swordmasters demonstrating Colonial muskets and rifles, and giving fencing demonstrations. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277. Note program addition.

Friday, Oct. 24, 2014
“Lantern Tours of the Plantation.” Programs explore the parties, games, dances and entertainment that would have abounded at the plantation during the nighttime in the 18th century. Activities will also include wagon-ride guided-tours conducted by staff of the St. Jones Reserve exploring the nocturnal life of the estuary. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Programs 6–7 p.m. and 7:30–8:30 p.m. Free admission but, due to space restrictions, reservations are required by calling 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
William Penn Day. Series of programs commemorating the 332nd anniversary of Penn’s disembarkment at New Castle, his first landing in the New World. Activities at the New Castle Court House and The Green include a re-enactment of the Livery of Seizen ritual in which Penn received possession of New Castle and a 12-mile circle of land surrounding it; “Tea With Mrs. Penn”; a performance by De Blokfluiters recorder/flute ensemble; “The Trial of William Penn,” a historical play exploring Penn’s trial on religious freedom and the rights of English subjects under the law; and an evening concert of Baroque music by the Immanuel Bach Consort by the University of Delaware Baroque Chamber Ensemble. New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware St., New Castle. 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Free admission. 302-323-4453. Note programming change.

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
“An 18th-Century Sweet Tooth.” Hands-on workshop in which visitors can learn how to create 18th-century sweets and goodies. John Dickinson Plantation, 340 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. Program 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. 302-739-3277.

Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014
“Mysteries of History.” Walking tour explores the unusual tombstones of St. Peter’s cemetery in Lewes. Zwaanendael Museum, 102 Kings Highway, Lewes. Tour leaves from the museum at 2 p.m. Museum open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 302-645-1148.

“Simple Machines” exhibit at the John Dickinson Plantation

September 11th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “Simple Machines” which focuses on the six simple machines (inclined plane, screw, wedge, pulley, lever, and wheel and axle) that constitute the elementary building blocks of which many more-complicated machines are composed. Each of these machines was in common usage at the plantation during the lifetime of John Dickinson (1732–1808), one of the founding fathers of the United States, signer of the Constitution, and “Penman of the Revolution.”

Operating hours at the John Dickinson Plantation are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-739-3277.

Section of the exhibit “Simple Machines.”

Section of the exhibit “Simple Machines.”

“Simple Machines” is displayed in the rustic setting of the John Dickinson Plantation’s granary.

“Simple Machines” is displayed in the rustic setting of the John Dickinson Plantation’s granary.

 

Zwaanendael Museum features exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812”

September 10th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The service and sacrifice of Delawareans during the British-American conflict that took place between 1812 and 1815 are explored in the exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812” that is currently on display at the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del.

Illustration of a Congreve rocket barge from the exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812.” Congreve rockets were used by the British in the bombardment of Lewes in 1813. This weapon was the inspiration for the term “rockets’ red glare” in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Illustration of a Congreve rocket barge from the exhibit “Delaware and the War of 1812.” Congreve rockets were used by the British in the bombardment of Lewes in 1813. This weapon was the inspiration for the term “rockets’ red glare” in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Designed to raise awareness of the important role that the state played as the front line in the defense of the economically vital Delaware Valley, the exhibit utilizes maps, illustrations and artifacts from the state’s collections to examine the history of the war within Delaware and its surrounding waters including the battle at Crow’s Shoal near the entrance of Delaware Bay and the bombardment of Lewes which both took place in 1813. Artifacts on display include muskets, swords and other weapons; ordnance; and a military drum utilized by the state militia.

Operating hours at the Zwaanendael Museum are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, from Nov. 1 to March 31; and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays from April 1 to Oct. 31. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

“A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” exhibit at the Zwaanendael Museum

September 10th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., is currently featuring the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World” which explores His Majesty’s Sloop of War DeBraak, a British warship that was escorting and protecting a convoy of British and American merchant ships en route to the United States when it was capsized and lost off the Delaware coast on May 25, 1798. The remaining section of the ship’s hull and associated artifact collection have been curated by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs since they were acquired by state of Delaware in 1992.

Section of the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World.”

Section of the exhibit “A Seaborne Citizenry: The DeBraak and Its Atlantic World.”

Because it is the only ship of its type that has been recovered anywhere in the world, the DeBraak represents a significant source of historical information on Royal Navy sloops of war, the fast and agile, yet well-armed, vessels that were seeing expanded service during the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1801). The exhibit tells the story of the vessel, its place within the Royal Navy and the broader historical context within which it operated in the Atlantic World of the late 18th century. Exhibited items shed light on shipboard life and the material culture of the DeBraak’s officers and crew, while hull materials illustrate the many technological advances that were taking place in shipbuilding in the late 18th century. Between June and September, the division also offers lecture/tours of the remaining section of the ship’s hull which is curated in a facility located in Cape Henlopen State Park.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Artistic rendition of the capsizing of the DeBraak by Peggy Kane, 1990.

Operating hours at the Zwaanendael Museum are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, from Nov. 1 to March 31; and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays from April 1 to Oct. 31. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148.

 

 

Old State House holds public program for Summers family reunion

August 28th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

On Aug. 17, 2014, The Old State House in Dover, Del. held a public program in conjunction with a reunion of the Summers family. Thirty-eight family members, from across the United States, attended the program which featured tours of the museum and a special presentation that recounted the story of three Summers family ancestors.

Members of the Summers family at The Old State House on Aug. 17, 2014.

Members of the Summers family at The Old State House on Aug. 17, 2014.

Confirmed by historical documents, the presentation explored the manumission (granting of freedom) of two slave children—Ruth and Thomas Summers—which took place in 1797 in the Kent County Recorder of Deeds office, located in what is now called The Old State House. The children were manumitted by their own father, James Summers, a free African American, who had obtained them from their former owner. Following the presentation, historic-site interpreter Tom Pulmano, dressed in period clothing, gave a living-history performance in which he portrayed Vincent Summers, youngest son of James Summers, who discussed the ordeals faced by his family.

Historic-site interpreter Tom Pulmano portraying Vincent Summers.

Historic-site interpreter Tom Pulmano portraying Vincent Summers.

Every August, Summers family descendants gather in Delaware to renew ties and celebrate their family’s rich and continually unfolding history. Since the 1990s, The Old State House has presented public programs on the Summers’ manumission story which have been attended by family members as well as members of the general public. During the Aug. 17 program, Virginia Harris, a Summers descendant from Kent County, Del. noted that her relatives “look forward to this [The Old State House] event every year.”

A small Old State House display, presented in the very room where the event occurred, features the following text from the manumission document:

To all to whom these presents Shall come I James Summers of Murderkill Hundred in the County of Kent and State of Delaware free negro, send Greeting Know Ye that I the said James Summers for divers Considerations me especially moving do manumit Liberate and set at full Liberty: and by these presents doth manumit liberate and set at full Liberty my affectionate Children namely Thomas Summers who is now aged about five years, and Ruth Summers aged Seven years on or about the twenty fifth day of December next ensuing the date hereof: And I the said James Summers doth covenant promise grant and agree to and with the said Thomas Summers, and Ruth Summers that they the said Thomas Summers and Ruth Summers liberated as aforsd. Shall from and immediately after the date of these presents enjoy their Freedom as Other Free Citizens Can or ought to do, and that they or either of them shall not at any time hereafter be molested or bared by the said James Summers his Executors administrators or any other person. And I the said James Summers the said Thomas & Ruth hereby manumitted liberated and set at Liberty against himself the said James Summers, and his Heirs Executors and administrators, and against all other persons whatsoever claiming the said Thomas & Ruth or either of them shall and will warrant and defend by these presents. In Witness whereof I the said James Summers have set my Hand & Seal this fourteenth day of October Anno domini 1797.

                                                                                                 his
sealed & delivd in presence of                                   James + Summers
us   S. W. Wilson   John Lowber                                             mark

Photo of Thomas and Ruth Summers’ manumission document from the Delaware Public Archives.

Photo of Thomas and Ruth Summers’ manumission document from the Delaware Public Archives.

Allen McLane symposium to take place in Dover on Oct. 25, 2014

August 27th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

On Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wesley College in Dover, Del. will host a symposium on the life and military career of Allen McLane, the noted American patriot from Duck Creek (Smyrna), Del.

Allen McLane

Allen McLane

Speakers will include John A. Nagy, author of “Spies in the Continental Capital: Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution”; Glenn F. Williams, a historian at the US Army Center of Military History and author of “Year of the Hangman: George Washington’s Campaign Against the Iroquois”; retired Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs curator of archaeology Chuck Fithian; Michael Lloyd, long-term McLane researcher; Edith McLane Edson, McLane descendant and writer; and historian Robert Selig. Living-history performances will be provided by the First Delaware Regiment and by Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs historical interpreter Tom Welch who will portray McLane.

The symposium will take place in Wesley College’s Peninsula Room, located in the du Pont College Center at 120 N. State St. in Dover, Del. Admission is free and open to the public but pre-registration is strongly encouraged. The first 50 persons to register will receive a pack of six Allen McLane post cards that were produced in 1976 by the Delaware American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. In addition, all participants will receive a copy of the first book ever written solely about McLane which is scheduled to be published by the Delaware Heritage Commission.

Primary sponsorship of the Allen McLane symposium is provided by the Northern Delaware American Revolution Round Table, the Sons of the American Revolution and Wesley College. Additional sponsorship is provided by the Claymont Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Delaware Historical Society, the First Delaware Regiment, the Friends of Belmont Hall and the Society of the Cincinnati. Financial support is provided by gifts from Ginger Trader, Troy Foxwell, the James Family and Thomas Welch.

To register for the symposium, or for additional information, contact Tom Welch at tompj8129@gmail.com or call 302-736-6345.

About Allen McLane …

Allen McLane (1746-1829) of Duck Creek Hundred served in the House of Assembly from Kent County in 1785 and 1789. He participated in numerous battles during the American Revolutionary War and worked closely with Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge. He was a member of the Delaware Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. Later in life, he moved from Kent County to Wilmington, serving as collector of the customs for many years. He belonged to the Society of the Cincinnati, the Masonic order and was a member of the Methodist Church. His will began with the sentence, “I, Allen McLane, of the Borough of Wilmington, in the State of Delaware, Collector of the Customs of the United States for the Delaware District, and a friend and soldier of the American Revolution … .” His son, Louis McLane, became a U.S. representative, senator, secretary of state, secretary of the treasury and minister to England.


Call for abstracts: “Learning From the Reservation: Using the Traditional Cultural Place Perspective for Better Decision Making in a Diverse Cultural Landscape”

August 27th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

-Deadline for submission of abstracts: Oct. 15, 2014-

National Council for Preservation Education logo

From April 23 to 25, 2015, the National Council for Preservation Education will be hosting “Learning from the Reservation: Using the Traditional Cultural Place Perspective for Better Decision Making in a Diverse Cultural Landscape,” a conference that will highlight and share the innovative work that applies the Traditional Cultural Place perspective beyond its application to Native American historic resources to identify, document and mitigate impacts to properties important to other cultural groups. The conference will take place at Delaware State University, 1200 N. DuPont Highway, in Dover, Del.

The conference will be organized around a single track of papers focused on three aspects of working with non-traditional Traditional Cultural Places: identification, documentation and mitigation. Papers can address all three topics but must focus primarily on one aspect. A stipend to cover travel expenses will be offered to all successful paper authors to facilitate participation in this event.

Paper proposals should be no more than 400 words in length, and should be accompanied by a one-page curriculum vitae. Submit paper proposals by Oct. 15, 2014, via email to Rebecca Sheppard, rjshep@udel.edu and Jeremy Wells, jwells@rwu.edu. Authors will be notified by Nov. 30, 2014 regarding acceptance of papers. Full drafts of selected papers will be due by Feb. 1, 2015.

For additional information about the conference, go to the National Council for Preservation Education website, or contact Robin Krawitz via email at rkrawitz@desu.edu or 302-857-7139.

An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware”–Exhibit extended through Dec. 7, 2014

August 26th, 2014 by Jim Yurasek

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has announced that the closing date for “An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware” has been extended to Dec. 7, 2014. The exhibit, on display at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dover, Del., has been open since Oct. 16, 2013 and was scheduled to close on July 31, 2014. Operating hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. For additional information, call 302-744-5055.

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel D. Burris.

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel D. Burris.

Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Management Organization and the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware, the exhibit explores the First State’s role in the pre-Civil War network of secret routes and safe houses used by black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. Focusing on two Delawareans who played important roles in this illegal and clandestine enterprise—Samuel D. Burris and Thomas Garrett—the exhibit explores the actions of a number of brave people who made principled decisions to follow their consciences rather than what they viewed as the unjust laws of the state and nation.

About Samuel D. Burris …
Born on Oct. 16, 1813 in the Willow Grove area near Dover, Del., Samuel D. Burris was the educated son of George Burris, a free-black man. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Samuel D. Burris is known to have successfully led several enslaved people from Maryland and Delaware to freedom. After an 1847 attempt to bring a young woman, Maria Matthews, out of Kent County, Del. to Pennsylvania, Burris was found guilty of aiding in the escape of a slave and was fined, sentenced to prison and thereafter sentenced to be sold into slavery. After being “purchased” for $500 by Wilmington abolitionist, Isaac S. Flint, he was taken to Philadelphia where he was reunited with his wife, children and friends. He continued to work for the abolitionist cause until his death in San Francisco in 1863.

About Thomas Garrett …
Thomas Garrett was born on Aug. 21, 1789 to a prominent Quaker family in Upper Darby, Pa. After moving to Wilmington, Del. where he was an iron merchant, Garrett operated as the stationmaster on the last stop of the Underground Railroad in Delaware, collaborating with a number of noted conductors including Harriet Tubman and Samuel D. Burris. He is credited with helping over 2,500 fugitive slaves escape to freedom. In 1848, Garrett was tried in Federal District Court meeting at the New Castle Court House under the jurisdiction of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. After being convicted of trespass and debt for aiding and abetting in the escape of runaway-slaves, Garrett was fined several thousand dollars resulting in his financial ruin. Nonetheless, he continued to work for the abolitionist cause. He died in Wilmington in 1871.

Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett