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Wilmington is the largest city in the state of Delaware, United States and is located at the confluence of the Christina River and Brandywine Creek, near where the Christina flows into the Delaware River. It is the county seat of New Castle County and one of the major cities in the Delaware Valley metropolitan area. Wilmington was named by Proprietor Thomas Penn for his friend Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, who was prime minister in the reign of George II of Great Britain.
According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 72,826.
The area now known as Wilmington was first colonized by settlers from Sweden in March, 1638, establishing the colony of Fort Christina, New Sweden. Sweden claimed and, for the most part, controlled the lower Delaware River region (parts of present day Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), but settled few colonists there. In 1655 the Dutch arrived and took over the colonies from the Swedes and Finns. Dr. Timen Stiddem (Timothy Stidham) was a prominent citizen and doctor in Wilmington. He is recorded in history as the first physician in Delaware (ref. J. Thomas Scharf, History of Delaware, p. 471). In 1664 British colonization began, the area stabilized under British rule, with strong influences from the Quaker communities, and was granted a borough charter in 1739 by King George II which changed the name from Willington, after Thomas Willing the first 'developer" of the land who organized the area in a grid pattern similar to that of its northern neighbor Philadelphia, to Wilmington, presumably after Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.
The greatest growth in the city occurred during the Civil War. Delaware, though officially a Union State, was divided in its support of both the Confederate and the Union soldiers; the northern part of the state was largely Union, while the southern part of the state leaned toward the Confederacy. The war created enormous demand for goods and materials. Older establishments expanded, and many new industries were attracted to the city. The city turned out products including ships, railroad cars, gunpowder, shoes, tents, uniforms, blankets and other war-related goods. By 1868, Wilmington was producing more iron ships than the rest of the country combined and it rated first in the production of gunpowder and second in carriages and leather. Due to the prosperity Wilmington enjoyed during the war, city merchants and manufacturers expanded Wilmington's residential boundaries westward in the form of large homes along tree-lined streets. This movement was spurred by the first horsecar line, which was initiated in 1864 along Delaware Avenue.
The late nineteenth century saw the development of the city's first comprehensive park system. William Bancroft, a successful Wilmington businessman, led the effort to establish open parkland in Wilmington and was heavily influenced by the work of Frederick Law Olmsted. Rockford Park and Brandywine Park owe their creation to his generous donation of land and efforts.
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