Indians first entered what is now Delaware several thousand years ago, probably in search of game. At the time of European exploration in the 17th century, the region was populated mainly by the Lenni-Lenape (or Delaware) Indians, an Algonquian-speaking people who numbered about 11,000.

Important dates in Delaware
1609 English explorer Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch, visited Delaware Bay.
1610 A ship commissioned by Lord De La Warr, governor of Virginia, entered Delaware Bay.
1631 The Dutch founded Zwaanendael at present-day Lewes.
1638 Swedish colonists founded the colony of New Sweden. They established Fort Christina, Delaware's first permanent settlement, at present-day Wilmington.
1655 The Dutch captured New Sweden.
1664 The English seized Dutch territory on the Delaware River.
1682 William Penn took over the Delaware counties.
1704 Delaware's first separate legislature met.
1777 The British invaded Delaware and won a small battle at Coochs Bridge.
1779 Delaware signed the Articles of Confederation.
1787 (Dec. 7) Delaware became the first state of the Union.
1802 Eleuthere Irenee du Pont founded a powder mill on the banks of Brandywine Creek.
1861-1865 Delaware fought on the Union side during the Civil War.
1897 Delaware adopted its present Constitution.
1951 The Delaware Memorial Bridge opened, connecting Delaware with New Jersey.
1957 The state began providing funds for needy students to attend the University of Delaware.
1963 The Delaware Turnpike John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway was opened, completing a nonstop highway between Boston and Washington, D.C.
1971 The Delaware Coastal Zone Act prohibited construction of industrial plants in coastal areas.
1981 The Delaware legislature passed the Financial Center Development Act, which made the state attractive for credit card operations.
2000 Ruth Ann Minner became the first woman elected governor of Delaware. She was reelected in 2004.