History Matters digs into the Delaware Historical Society’s archives each month to explore connections between key people, places, and events in history and present-day news.
Delaware’s state flower, the Peach Blossom, recalls a time in the state’s agricultural history when peaches were a critical crop. When the Peach Blossom was officially named the state flower on May 9th, 1895, Delaware had already been a major peach producing state for decades. The First State’s first peach orchards sprouted up in Delaware City in 1832 and spread south with introduction of railroad to the state in the 1850s. By the time railroads lines spread from the north to Sussex County, Delaware had over eight hundred thousand peach trees – making Delaware one of the top peach producing states in the country.
Disease changed the peach’s place in Delaware around the turn of the 20th century. A viral disease spread by aphids called the Peach Yellows began hitting northern Delaware peach orchards. At that time, no one knew how to combat the Peach Yellows. Unchecked, the disease eventually spread to all three of Delaware’s counties. By the time a treatment was found many of the orchards were destroyed or converted to other fruits like apples. Today there are only 3 major peach orchards left in Delaware, a mere shadow of what the peach industry once was.
Despite the demise of its peach crop, two Delaware towns that were once large hubs for peach producing and shipping, Wyoming and Middletown, hold festivals each August to honor the peach and its history in Delaware. Wyoming held its festival this year on August 4th and Middletown hosts its festival on Saturday, August 18th starting at 9 am. For more information on the Middletown Olde Tyme Peach Festival, click here.
This month, History Matters explores Delaware’s historic connection to the peach.