With fewer than one million residents and a total area not much larger than Anchorage, Alaska, the state of Delaware is naturally at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes the rest of the country's appreciation for it. Beyond its status as one of the 13 original colonies, what do you know about the land of liberty and independence? Here are 25 facts to get you started.
1. The first known inhabitants of the region we now call Delaware were the Lenni Lenape and the Nanticoke, tribes that combined to form the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape confederation.
2. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787, five days before any other province or colony. In 2002, a first grade class requested that the nickname “The First State” be made official.
3. Delaware was last to the party in terms of getting a National Monument, which didn't happen until 2013. The First State National Monument, dedicated by President Obama and Vice President Biden, is comprised of 1100 acres of preserved land, plus a handful of historic buildings—including Dover Green, where Delawareans ratified the Constitution.
4. Another nickname for Delaware is the “Diamond State.” Thomas Jefferson reportedly once referred to it as a “jewel” due to its ideal location.
5. Delaware is the second-smallest state in the country. It stretches just under 100 miles long, and is only 35 miles at its widest point.
6. The Delaware River and the Delaware Bay both predate the name of the state. In 1610, English naval officer Samuel Argall named the bodies of water after the governor of Virginia, Thomas West, the 12th Baron De La Warr.
7. The state insect is a ladybug, thanks to a second grade class who petitioned and got it approved by the 127th General Assembly on April 25, 1974.
8. Brigadier-General Caesar Rodney of Dover, the guy on the back of the 1999 Delaware state quarter, rode 80 miles on horseback overnight to Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to cast an important vote—despite suffering from asthma and skin cancer. His vote was the deciding factor in favor of the nation’s independence.
9. According to a 2015 study, buffering is something that Delawareans rarely have to worry about. The state enjoys the fastest Internet speeds in the country, with connection speeds higher than every other country observed with the exception of South Korea.
10. Move over, Florida! Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based finance news and business publication, recently listed Delaware as the top state for retirees in terms of economy, crime, demographics, and tax rates.
11. The state is also pretty popular among cyclists. The League of American Bicyclists named it the third most bike-friendly state in the country in 2015.
12. If team sports are more your speed, several of Delaware's state parks offer 18-hole disc golf courses. Not familiar with the game? Check out the official rules over at the Professional Disc Golf Association's website.
13. The University of Delaware offered the country's first study abroad program in 1923, when a professor and WWI veteran, citing the importance of cross-cultural exchange, set sail for France along with eight juniors.
14. Despite being the second-smallest state, Delaware is also the sixth most densely populated state in America.
15. Delaware plays host to the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association's annual competition, in which nearly 50,000 spectators converge on the town of Bridgeville to watch teams—using homemade devices—attempt to launch pumpkins as far as they can. Unfortunately, the event has been canceled for the past two years because organizers have been unable to secure insurance coverage.
16. Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza hails from Wilmington, Ryan Phillippe is from a few miles down Route 9 in New Castle, and Vice President Joe Biden went to college at the University of Delaware in Newark. He later represented the state as a U.S. Senator from 1973 until 2009.
17. Delaware was also a home to reggae royalty for a brief period. Bob Marley lived in the state between 1965 and 1977, and worked for the Dupont Company and at the Chrysler assembly plant in Newark. One of his children, Stephen Marley, was born in Wilmington.
18. Set at the fictional Welton Academy of Vermont, the film Dead Poet’s Society (1989) was shot at St. Andrews School in Middletown. Some of the actors weren’t used to small town life during production; star Robin Williams was quoted as saying that “staying in a hotel room in a town that shuts down at 5 o'clock at night can be boring.”
20. An insect species, the Bethany Beach firefly, can only be found in Delaware. The firefly was rediscovered in 1998 after disappearing for nearly 40 years.
21. In 2013, the governor of Delaware celebrated the incorporation of state’s one millionth legal entity, which is more than the population of the entire state.
22. Students in Wilmington once held the record for the world’s tallest LEGO tower. The tower stood 113 feet tall and was made of over 500,000 bricks. The new record now stands at 114 feet and over 600,000 bricks, so Delaware has some work to do to reclaim the title.
23. There is no sales tax in Delaware, which means the state's various malls and outlets are major attractions for tourists looking to save year-round.
24. Each year in Bridgeville (also the home of the aforementioned Punkin Chunkin competition), Delawareans attend the Apple Scrapple Festival, a 23-year-old celebration of two products the region is especially proud of.
25. The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was founded in Milton, Delaware in 1995 and now sells its 25 styles of beer in more than 25 states across the country. They even introduced a beer with scrapple in it back in 2014.