Delaware Before the Railroads documents the history of the State of Delaware from 1638-1832. Before 1832, business owners had to ship goods to Philadelphia via water since the roads were narrow and wagons could not carry nearly as much as ships. This book takes readers through an eye-opening excursion through these years with the use of brilliant color photographs to create an encapsulating experience.
From the earliest Swede settlers to the building of log cabins and the freeing of slaves to the many trades that have developed over the years, Delaware has a rich history that will have many readers surprised. I didn’t know very much about Delaware when I picked up this book, but the wonderful pictures and descriptions soon had me interested.
Author Dave Tabler gives just enough information in the captions of the photos to allow the reader to understand what he/she is seeing without bombarding the reader with too much reading. I enjoyed learning about the architecture and design of the buildings both inside and out. The Swedish plank house was a simple wood structure built in the late 1700s. And the Dutch architectural influence continued deep into the colonial era with houses built with features close to the ground and details such as leather door hinges. Brick patterns were also introduced as they became popular in Philadelphia. Over time, more and more details were added to the buildings. The furniture and pottery are also wonderfully represented in this book.
I also enjoyed learning about the different trades in Delaware. From milling to hunting, fishing, and trapping, to colonial medicine and blacksmithing, it is so interesting to compare how things were done back in colonial times versus now. I was intrigued by what could be found in a dispensary—saffron and peppercorns are items that can be found in present-day kitchens after all! Procedures such as bloodletting and scary instruments such as “English keys” for pulling teeth are things we don’t hear about anymore because of how humans have evolved in the medical field. I found the tools and procedures to be fascinating.
Overall, I feel that this is a book that covers the history of Delaware during the time before the railroads very nicely. It should be a welcome addition to any school curriculum as it presents the history in such a way that is captivating and engaging. Although most of the book is photos and captions, it should also be noted that Tabler does an exceptional job with his “Notes on Photographs” section in the back of the book which gives a little more in-depth description of each photo if the reader would like to know more.