Here’s an interesting brief video on the life of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, African-American educator, journalist and lawyer who was born in Delaware.
Here’s an interesting brief video on the life of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, African-American educator, journalist and lawyer who was born in Delaware.
I didn’t see this until Delaware Day was over. Here’s a video of Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons explaining Delaware Day on the Senate floor. Delaware Day commemorates December 7, 1787, the day that Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution,
A small, unassuming stone in the Wilmington Friends Meeting Burial Ground marks the grave of John Dickinson, lawyer and statesman, known for his political writings as “The Penman of the Revolution.” Dickinson was born in Talbot County, Maryland, the son of a wealthy landowner and was raised at Poplar Hall, his father’s plantation in Kent County, Delaware. Dickinson studied law in Philadelphia with John Moland and then went to England to study law at the Middle Temple. He returned to America and began his career as an attorney in Philadelphia. During his lifetime he lived in both Pennsylvania and Delaware.
In the 1760s he wrote his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, arguing against the Townshend Acts and for the rights of the colonists. These pamphlets made him famous throughout the American colonies. He was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress where he urged moderation and refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. This refusal made him unpopular for a time. He did however, serve in the Revolution as an officer in the Pennsylvania Militia and a private in the Delaware Militia. During the Revolution he was Delaware’s delegate to the Continental Congress and in 1781 was elected president of Delaware and in 1783 president of Pennsylvania. He wrote the first draft of the Articles of Confederation.
In 1787 Dickinson was chosen as one of Delaware’s representatives to the Constitutional Convention and also was president of the committee that revised Delaware’s constitution in 1791. Although he never formally joined the Friends Meeting, most of his family were Quakers and he was influenced by Quaker ideas. He became an abolitionist and freed the slaves on his plantation in 1777. When he died in 1808, he was buried in the Wilmington Friends Meeting Burial Ground.
Poplar Hall, John Dickinson’s boyhood home and plantation in Kent County is still standing. It is now a museum and is open to the public.
For more information on John Dickinson see:
Charles Janeway Stillé. The Life and Times of John Dickinson, 1732-1808. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1891.
Milton E. Flower. John Dickinson, Conservative Revolutionary. University Press of Virginia, 1983. E302.6.D5 F57 1983
The Political Writings of John Dickinson, esquire. Wilmington, 1801.
It’s time for another edition of weird laws of Delaware. This time we’re featuring laws on pawning artificial limbs and selling dead bodies. Our first weird law is:
In Delaware it is against the law to sell a wooden leg at a pawn broker. Status: mostly true.
The law actually says “No pawnbroker … shall take or receive as a pledge or pawn any artificial limb or wheelchair.” 24 Del. C. § 2307(b) So it isn’t illegal for someone to pawn their wooden leg, it is illegal for the pawnbroker to take it. When this law was originally passed in 1907 (24 Del. L. 162) it also prohibited pawnbrokers from accepting workman’s tools, but that provision has been dropped. This is the first law I’ve looked at that is truly an unusual law; as far as I’ve been able to tell Delaware is the only state that prohibits pawnbrokers from taking artificial limbs.
Weird law #2 this week is:
In Delaware you may not sell dead people for money without a license. status: Not true
I have to confess this one has me kind of stumped. It is cited all over the internet but I can’t find any Delaware law, current or old, that comes close to saying this.
There is 11 Del. C. § 1333 Trading in Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects, which makes it illegal to trade in “unlawfully removed human remains,” but it doesn’t mention licenses, except to say that the law does not apply to “A licensed mortician or other professional who transports human remains in the course of carrying out the individual’s professional duties and responsibilities.” There is also 16 Del. C. § 2701, et seq. which regulates obtaining dead bodies for anatomical studies but there is no mention of sales or licenses.
So for now, I’m declaring this weird law not true. If anybody has any idea where this comes from please let me know.
Photo from The Powerhouse Museum Collection on Flickr.
Here’s another look at the weird laws of Delaware. Another commonly cited weird law is:
In Delaware getting married on a dare is grounds for an annulment. Status: True
This is sometimes given as “In Delaware it’s illegal to get married on a dare,” which is not true.
Among the grounds for annulment of a marriage given in 13 Del.C. § 1506 is: “One or both parties entered into the marriage as a jest or dare.” Go to the Delaware Courts’ website, download the Petition For Divorce/Annulment Form and there it is on page 4, “describe how and when you learned of the jest or dare.”
The facts in Davis v. Davis seem to be typical, including the automobile ride:
The plaintiff and the defendant went on an automobile ride with several young people. It was a joyous occasion, and to add to the excitement the defendant dared the plaintiff to marry her. The plaintiff accepted the dare, a license for the marriage was procured in New York state, and the ceremony was at once performed by a justice of the peace there. Neither party intended at the time to enter into the marriage status. They returned to their respective homes after the ceremony and have never cohabited. Each was nineteen years old at the time. Davis v. Davis, 119 Conn. 194, 175 A. 574, 574-75 (1934)
With the lessening of the stigma and increased ease of divorce, these laws have mostly become superfluous. Nowadays, people who wake up after a joyous automobile ride, and realize they’ve married someone on a dare, probably just get divorced.
Reading this recent blog post on weird English laws at the Law Library Congress blog got me thinking about some of the weird Delaware laws commonly posted on websites like www.dumblaws.com or www.bored.com (Warning: obnoxious pop up ads!) Do these laws really exist in Delaware or are they just endlessly cut and pasted filler for content farm websites? I set out to do a little research to find out if any of them are true. Here is the first of my results.
It is illegal to fly over any body of water, unless one is carrying sufficient supplies of food and drink. Status: Once mostly true. Repealed.
This is the most commonly given example of a “weird law” in Delaware and yes, it really did exist. Originally passed in 1929, 2 Del. Code § 506, 36 Del. Laws Ch. 248, § 6 actually read: Aircraft flying over large bodies of water shall be provided with an adequate supply of food and potable water and if engaged in carrying passengers for hire, must be equipped with a Very’s pistol or a signal device the equivalent thereof, and life preservers or other flotation devices of the nature and character approved by the Secretary of Commerce of the United States.
The “large” part is usually not quoted making it sound as though Delaware had banned foodless flights over Lums Pond. In 1929 it perhaps didn’t seem unlikely for the passengers of a hypothetical Ford Trimotor that ditched in the Delaware Bay to survive by bobbing in their flotation devices, eating their adequate supply of food, and firing their Very’s pistol until help arrived.
The language of the law was taken from the then current “Air Commerce Regulations” of the United States. (7 Information Bulletin. Dept of Commerce. Aeronautics Branch 17 (eff. June 1, 1928)) At the time it was passed it was neither weird nor unusual and was in fact the regulation in effect everywhere in the United States. But as early as 1939 the Delaware law was mocked in the Minnesota Law Review as “a fine example of a superfluous effort…” (Newman F. Baker, Legislative Crimes, 23 Minn. L. Rev. 135 at 162 (1938-1939)) The food and drink provision was no longer a federal requirement by the time of the first Code of Federal Regulations in 1938. The law lingered on in Delaware until it was finally eliminated in a revision of the state’s aviation laws in 1996. (70 Del. Laws ch. 575 § 16)
Photograph from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Jacob Broom, a modest and hardworking businessman, is one of the least known signers of the United States Constitution. There is not even a contemporary portrait available of him.
Broom was the only one of the five Delaware delegates to the Constitutional Convention who was not a lawyer. Born in Wilmington in 1752, Broom was a surveyor and conveyor of title. He also dealt in real estate and operated a number of business ventures, including a machine shop and served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Delaware Bank.
Being a delegate to the Constitutional Convention was his only venture into national politics, but he held a number of local offices, including chief Burgess of Wilmington, Justice of the Peace of New Castle County and member of the Delaware state legislature.
He married Rachel Pierce and had eight children. He was a member of Old Swedes Church. He lived originally in the city of Wilmington until 1795 when he built a house for his family near his cotton mills on the banks of the Brandywine. In 1802 he sold the house and mills to Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, who founded his gunpowder mills there. These mills were the beginning of the DuPont Company. Jacob Broom died in 1810 in Philadelphia and is buried in Christ Church Burial Ground.
The Jacob Broom house, also known as Hagley, is privately owned and not open to the public.
Photo by: Jack E. Boucher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Jacob Broom genealogy page: http://www.mccullough.nl/Jacob_Broom.htm
Nomination form of Jacob Broom House for National Register of Historic Places
Signers of the Constitution Biographical Sketches
Campbell, William W. “Life and Character of Jacob Broom,” Historical and Biographical Papers of the State of Delaware, v. 5 (1909)
Drescher, Nuala M. Jacob Broom: A Biographical Sketch. Hagley Museum, 1959
Three miles south of the Widener Law campus, just off route 202, is Lombardy Hall, farm and country home of Gunning Bedford, Jr., Delaware attorney, judge and signer of the United States Constitution. Bedford was born in 1747 in Philadelphia and attended what is now Princeton University where he roomed with James Madison. He studied law with Joseph Reed and eventually moved to Delaware, first to Dover and then to Wilmington. He represented Delaware at the Continental Congress, was a member of the Delaware legislature and was Delaware’s attorney general. Bedford had a cousin, confusingly also named Gunning Bedford, who was also an attorney, an officer in the Continental Army and governor of Delaware.
At the Constitutional Convention, Bedford spoke strongly for the rights of small states like Delaware. Another delegate, William Pearce, described him as “… a bold and nervous Speaker, and has a very commanding and striking manner; -but he is warm and impetuous in his temper, and precipitate in his judgment. Mr. Bedford is about 32 years old, and very corpulant.”
Bedford was selected by George Washington to be federal district judge for Delaware. He held this position until he died in 1812.
Lombardy Hall was Bedford’s country home; he also had a town house in Wilmington at 606 Market St. After his death Lombardy Hall went through several owners and eventually became vacant. In 1967 it was purchased by the local Masonic Lodge (Bedford was the first Masonic Grand Master of Delaware) and restored. It is open to the public by appointment only.
Photos from: Wikimedia Commons
For more information: Conrad, Henry C. Gunning Bedford Junior. Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol 26, 1900.
The United States Supreme Court does not allow photography during its sessions. Only two known photographers have been able to take photographs of the Court in session. Both did it by hiding their cameras.
The most famous of these photos was taken by Erich Salomon. In 1932 Fortune magazine hired Salomon, a German photographer, to make a photographic tour of America. To get a photo of the Supreme Court he faked a broken arm and hid the camera in his sling.
Salomon had an interesting career as a photographer. He was a law student, receiving his law degree in 1913. He served in the German army in WWI, was captured and spent four years in a French POW camp. He tried a number of careers before he became a photographer, including running a car and motorcycle hire business where he offered to drive customers around on a motorcycle and give them legal advice at the same time. He eventually went to work for the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, a German newspaper, where he started his photography career by hiding a camera in his hat to take photos of a murder trial.
He eventually became famous for his photos of international conferences, specializing in capturing the rich and powerful in unguarded moments, often by hiding his camera or himself. Politicians joked that international conferences couldn’t start until Salomon arrived with his camera.
When the Nazis came to power, Salomon left Germany for the Netherlands, but when the Germans invaded the Netherlands he and his family were sent to Auschwitz, where he was killed in 1944.
For more information on Erich Salomon see:
This house at 1310 W. 14th St in Wilmington is today an apartment building near Trolley Square. But in the early 1900s it was the boyhood home of John Biggs Jr. Biggs, born in 1895, was a Wilmington attorney who eventually became chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After his marriage, Biggs moved from the house on 14th St to Wooddale, an estate west of Wilmington.
But perhaps Biggs’ most interesting claim to fame is that he was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton roommate. Biggs and Fitzgerald shared an interest in literature and writing, working on the Princeton literary magazine together. Biggs later wrote several novels and short stories.
In 1927, Fitzgerald was having trouble concentrating on his writing. Biggs convinced him that he should move somewhere quieter and less literary than New York or Hollywood. Somewhere boring. Somewhere like Delaware. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda rented a mansion near Wilmington called Ellerslie. However, Fitzgerald was still distracted from his writing, taking the train to New York for the weekend and throwing raucous house parties at Ellerslie. Zelda took ballet lessons in Philadelphia. They lived in Delaware for two years off and on until they moved to Europe. Ellerslie was eventually torn down and is today the site of the DuPont Edge Moor plant. When Fitzgerald died in 1940, Biggs served as executor of his estate.
Much of this information is from the only biography of Biggs: Seymour I. Toll. A Judge Uncommon: A Life of John Biggs, Jr. Legal Communications, Ltd, 1993.