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Though DELAWARE has its beautiful spots - including some of
the mid-Atlantic's best beaches - its tourist boards have their
work cut out. Most of the images potential visitors have of
the state are negative: Delaware is known for the massive chemical
plants of the DuPont Corporation and Dover Air Force Base ,
as well as for tolerating shady business practices - half of
America's largest companies have their official bases in this
tiny state, thanks to its permissive tax, banking and incorporation
laws. The upside of this is that there's no sales tax, which
certainly makes shoppers happy.
To downplay the state's dubious contemporary image, Delaware's
promoters emphasize its past - for example, as the first ex-colony
to ratify the Constitution, it claims the title of America's
First State . Dutch whalers established a settlement at the
mouth of the Delaware Bay in 1631, and soon afterwards the Swedes
built a larger colony at present-day Wilmington . The two groups
fought amongst themselves until the British took over in 1664.
Delaware was part of neighboring Pennsylvania - Philadelphia
is only ten miles north of the present, arching state border
- until hiving itself off in 1776.
Much of Delaware's fortunes (and misfortunes) since then can
be traced directly to the du Pont family , who, fleeing the
wrath of revolutionary France, set up a gunpowder mill that
became the main supplier of conventional explosives to the US
Government. After World War I, the du Ponts went public and
made millions in the stock market frenzies of the Roaring Twenties,
since which time the company has diversified, its labs inventing
such modern essentials as nylon and cellophane.
The du Ponts built huge mansions for themselves in the Brandywine
Valley north of Wilmington, near the perfectly preserved old
colonial capital, New Castle , on the Delaware Bay just five
miles south of I-95. Further south, Dover , the capital, may
not detain you long, but beyond it the small and amiable resorts
of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach mark the northern extent of over
twenty miles of unspoiled Atlantic beaches.
Apart from Wilmington, which is on the main east coast train
and bus lines, Delaware is hard to get around without a car.
Greyhound services are limited to a summer-only route from DC
to Rehoboth , and local public transportation is nonexistent.
I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike converge at Wilmington, from
where US-13 runs south through the state. More often called
the Du Pont Highway , it was paid for and constructed by the
industrialists so that they could ride in comfort between their
Wilmington mansions and Dover. A direct car ferry connects Cape
May, the southern tip of New Jersey and Lewes, at the mouth
of the Delaware Bay.
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