Delaware Agricultural Museum to present ‘Crossroads’ open house

By Craig Horleman
Posted 3/17/23

DOVER — On Saturday, the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover will hold an open house and special programming in association with the Smithsonian exhibit “Crossroads: Change …

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Delaware Agricultural Museum to present ‘Crossroads’ open house


DOVER — On Saturday, March 25, the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover will hold an open house and special programming in association with the Smithsonian exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America”.

“Crossroads” explores the rural identity of the nation, an identity deeply rooted in the land and one that has profoundly shaped American history. Visitors will enjoy touring the Smithsonian traveling exhibit and other fascinating displays in the museum’s main exhibit hall and authentic Delaware village.

The open house starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m.

At 1 p.m., author Dave Tabler will discuss his book “Delaware Before the Railroads: A Diamond Among the States”.

Mr. Tabler will present a photo gallery of sites and artifacts from Delaware history, to tell the story of the Diamond State during the colonial period and early years of the United States. His book covers the area’s various native American groups, most notably, the Lenape, and the 17th-century arrival of Europeans, mostly Swedish and Dutch.

Mr. Tabler also discusses African Americans in this period, both as slaves and “freedmen”, and Delaware’s role in the American Revolution. Wrapping up the narrative, Mr. Tabler covers the expansion of the state’s economy in the 1810s with the introduction of steamships and in the 20s with canals.

“Over the centuries, people have experienced rural America in different ways, and their experiences have helped to shape our rural culture,” he said.

Educator and local historian Samuel Derby Walker, Jr. will also discuss the history of the S.H. Derby and Co. farming operation and the history of Woodside,.

At one time, there were more peach and apple trees in Delaware per square mile than any other state and in the mid-to-late 1800s, the small town of Woodside was at the heart of the orchard industry. Fruit farming was made profitable in the state on account of the Delaware Railroad.

Even so, shipping fresh produce via rail wasn’t always practical. This led to the rise of canneries in the state.

By the late 1800s, most

Delaware towns had at least one canning house for peaches, tomatoes, and other crops. Samuel. H. Derby and his wife, Emma, started their own canning company in the kitchen of their home in Woodside.

The demand for their products soon exceeded what they could produce on their stove, so they formed a canning company by selling shares to other farmers. They soon bought back all the shares and started the S.H. Derby & Company.

S.H. Derby and other Delaware growers formed the Delaware Fruit Exchange to market and ship their fruits by rail. The Derbys exhibited a variety of their canned goods at the 1900 Paris Expo where they were awarded a bronze medal.

Woodside is representative of the ways in which Delaware’s rural communities have adapted to changes in American agriculture. Like many of her sister communities, Woodside came into being as a result of the expansion of the Delaware Railroad.

Mr. Walker’s talk will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about this unique community, the industry and other business enterprises in and around the town that helped to shape its growth.

For details on the Satuday open house and special programming at the Delaware Agricultural Museum, visit or call the museum at 302-734-1618.

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