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The first Europeans to colonize that area of Delaware where Wilmington is now located were the Swedes who, in 1638, established a colony here which they called New Sweden, and built a fort named Christina, after their Queen. In 1654, the Governor of New Sweden seized a nearby Dutch fortification, and a year later, the Dutch retaliated by seizing all lands controlled by the Swedes and establishing Dutch rule. A series of wars between the Dutch and the English resulted in the English laying claim to large parts of North America including the prior Swedish and Dutch settlements along the Delaware Bay. The land was subsequently granted by James, Duke of York, to William Penn who would establish the colony of Pennsylvania which included what came to be known as the “Three Lower Counties on Delaware.” In the early eighteenth century, Thomas Willing, an Englishman, laid out lots and streets for a village known as Willingtown, which was located near the site of the old Swedish fort, and in 1739, a petition was filed with sons of William Penn to request that a letters patent be issued to establish at that location, a Charter for a Borough to be called Wilmington.


Wilmington’s 1739 colonial Charter called for the formation of a “body politic and corporate” to be held in perpetuity in the name of the Burgesses and inhabitants of the Borough of Wilmington. Two Burgesses were appointed as were five assistants to aid them in carrying out the powers and authorities granted by the Charter. The Charter also named two additional officials, a High Constable, and a Town Clerk who, along with the Burgesses, were to manage the affairs of the Borough and keep the peace, removing all nuisances and encroachments on the streets and public landing places and arresting and imprisoning rioters and those who broke the peace. The Burgesses could also call Town meetings at which ordinances or rules necessary for governing the Borough were to be enacted, amended, or revoked. Those who had resided in the Borough for at least one year and who owned a residence with a value of at least five pounds were eligible to participate in an annual election to determine the names that would be placed in nomination with the colonial Governor and from whom the Borough’s new public officials would be selected. The Borough was to be laid out in accordance with a plan that was annexed to the Charter which document also provided for the streets of the Borough to be regulated and improved, and for wharves to be built into the river. Two markets were to be held each week, one on Wednesday and one on Saturday, and two fairs were to be held each year, one in October and one in April; a Clerk of the Market was to be appointed by the Burgesses.1


By 1772, a number of irregularities and controversies had arisen regarding the public streets of the Borough, as well as regarding the party walls of buildings and the laying of building foundations. Richard Penn, the Lt. Governor of the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex upon Delaware and Province of PA, with the advice and consent of Delaware’s General Assembly enacted a law entitled an ACT for better regulating the wharfs, public streets, party walls, and partition fences in the Borough of Wilmington in the county of New Castle upon Delaware and for raising monies on the inhabitants of the said Borough for the public use and benefit thereof (Act). The Act stipulated the boundaries of the Borough of Wilmington, indicating that the boundaries would be marked by posts in the streets. The Burgesses were to choose three or more skilled Surveyors or Regulators who were directed to lay out proper gutters, channels, and conduits to demarcate the extent of the streets, as well as indicate the placement of foundations and regulate the party walls as to breadth and thickness. The Surveyors also had the power to regulate partition fences between lots ensuring that fences were kept in good repair with the costs shared by the adjoining parties. The Act also provided for the laying out or extending streets and indicated the procedures for addressing a situation in which any part of a house, pump, well or other valuable improvement encroached onto another’s property. Another section of the Act called for the Burgesses to annually assess the public debts of the Borough determining the sum of monies that would be necessary to pay the cost of repairing and regulating the streets and other public purposes. An Assessor, to be elected annually, was to determine the annual rate of assessment which was not to exceed one shilling for any taxable freeholder. A Collector/Treasurer, who was also elected annually, was to keep a record of the monies received from the assessment and was responsible for settling the accounts of the Borough. The Burgesses were vested with the same authority as County Justices of the Peace and were authorized to commit offenders and debtors to the county goal (jail) with the assistance of Borough Constables. The Act also appointed Commissioners who were to regulate the wharfs.2 Thirteen years later, in a supplement to the 1772 Act, the High Constable, who was by that time appointed annually, was assigned the responsibility of acting as the Borough’s Collector.3 In 1799, because the survey of Wilmington, which had been the basis of the description of the Borough contained in the 1772 Act, had been lost, the Burgesses of Wilmington called for a re-survey which, when complete, would be deemed the true map. The 1799 law also made changes in the way in which property owners were to be compensated when existing streets were extended or new streets opened; provided for any pumps or wells that were located in the streets and alleys to become the property of the Borough, which would assume the responsibility for their repair and maintenance; required the Burgesses to address, on complaint, any nuisance(s) which might be injurious to the health of the Borough’s inhabitants, as well as to issue a warrant for the owner of occupier of the property if these were not abated or removed; and directed the Burgesses to install footways, curbs and gutters when petitioned by five or more freeholders, with the cost of this work paid proportionately by owners of the property on which it was installed.4


In 1801, an amendment to the 1799 law indicated the specific criteria for determining the extent of the street which must be paved; how high the curbs must be; the required setbacks of steps and cellarways from the curb; and the guidelines for determining the ascents and descents of streets. The law also vacated and discontinued Water Street from Market Street westward to the limits of the Borough and provided for property owners to be paid for any damages sustained because of this action.5 In 1804, a private water company was established in the City,6 and in 1810, it was purchased by the City.7 Seventy years after it was first granted a Charter, an 1809 law revised and re-established it, incorporating the Borough as “The Burgesses and Borough Council of the Borough of Wilmington.” Free white male citizens of twenty-one years of age and over who resided within the Borough’s boundaries and paid their assessed taxes were deemed to be citizens who could enjoy all rights and privileges of the Charter, including the right to elect its officers. The officers of the Borough were to include two Burgesses, thirteen members of Council, a High Constable, a Treasurer, and an Assessor, all elected annually, who were required to be freeholders who resided within the Borough during their term of office. The Charter also provided for the appointment of any other officer deemed necessary by the municipal corporation including the appointment and commissioning of additional Constables to ensure compliance with the Borough’s ordinances. The Burgesses constituted the executive power of the Borough and were the keepers of the seal of the Borough; they were conservators of the peace and were authorized to carry out all duties assigned to New Castle County Justices of the Peace. The Burgesses and members of Council were to constitute the legislative body known as the Borough Council and were to meet in public session at least once a month with one of the Burgesses presiding. Nine members of the Council would constitute a quorum of the Council, and the concurrence of a majority of Council members was required in order to establish or repeal an ordinance. Among the powers assigned to the Borough Council were adopting ordinances to preserve the health of the Borough by preventing the introduction of infectious diseases; defining and removing nuisances; providing night-watches and erecting lamps; ascertaining the boundaries of streets, lanes and alleys; establishing new streets and repairing or amending those that existed; providing for the regulation of auctions and auctioneers; cleaning the docks and regulating the wharves; providing for the safe-keeping of standard weights and measures; regulating public amusements; fixing and declaring the weight of bread and the size of a brick; regulating the cordage of wood and bark, appointing woodcorders and establishing their fees; regulating party walls; establishing market-houses and regulating the markets; regulating the sweeping of chimneys and establishing the rates; erecting and repairing pumps or any other apparatus for supplying citizens with good water and assessing and receiving a tax for providing water; appointing gaugers and inspectors of flour, salted provisions, and lumber, and establishing their fees; providing for the weighing of hay and for the measuring or weighing of coal, lime, grain, or other goods sold; regulating the storage of gunpowder and other dangerously combustible matter; fining illegal vendors of spirituous liquors; and collecting fines on the owners of any dog or hog which was found running at large in the streets. Annually, the Borough Council was to determine how much money was needed to meet the needs of the Borough in the upcoming year and also calculate the rate of assessment for each property. Property owners were given an opportunity to appeal their assessment rate, but once set, if not paid, taxpayer’s goods could be sold to pay the tax owed, or if no goods could be located, they would be sent to jail.8


In 1822, a new map of the ascents and descents of the Borough’s streets was prepared as it was found that the ascents and descents of the streets shown on the existing map were impracticable to regulate. In addition, the power to regulate and fix these ascents and descents was added to the list of powers vested in the Burgesses and Council that were contained in the Charter.9 An 1825 law provided the Burgesses and Borough Council with the authority to borrow money in order to enable the payment of public debts, requiring that such a decision would be made by ordinance adopted by two-thirds of the members. The law also allowed for borrowing to make improvements to the Borough, but in such cases, the ordinance was required to be adopted by three-fourths of the members.10


In January of 1832, a law was enacted which substantially revised the provisions contained in the Charter of the Borough of Wilmington. The Charter revisions provided for the Borough to become a City and a separate and distinct hundred within the State of Delaware, incorporated as “The Mayor and Council of the City of Wilmington.” There were to be two executive officers, the Mayor, who was to be elected for a three-year term and was assigned all powers that had previously been vested in the First Burgess of the Borough, was to ensure that the City’s ordinances were carried out, to certify deeds, and to solemnize marriages; and the Alderman, elected to a five-year term who was assigned the powers previously assigned to the Second Burgess. There was now to be a twelve-member City Council, which was to be the City’s legislative body. The members were each to serve a three-year term with one-fourth of the members elected annually. The City Council was to elect a member to serve as President, and other officers including a Clerk of the Council who was to keep a journal of their proceedings. The powers that had been vested in the Borough Council were vested in the City Council and the adoption of ordinances required the approval of a majority of all members. Other elected City officials included the High Constable, Treasurer and Assessor, all serving annual terms; appointed officials included the City Solicitor. One of the major responsibilities of the City Council was to maintain the City’s streets and footways. The law provided that, if requested by five freeholders, the City Council would ensure that curbs were installed along a street and that footpaths and gutters were paved with bricks or stones to a maximum width of five feet from the curb with the remainder to the ground to the building or building line filled with gravel. The cost of completing this work were to be paid by the owner of the property where the work was being carried out, but property owners could opt to carry out the work themselves rather than be charged.11 The 1832 Charter established two judicial bodies within the City. The first of these was the Mayor’s Court which was vested with the jurisdiction to inquire of, hear, try, and determine those criminal matters committed within the City which were enumerated in the fifteenth section of the sixth article of Delaware’s Constitution, among which were cases involving larceny, assault, battery, rioting, unlawful assembly, nuisances, and other offenses; the Court could also establish punishment for the offender(s). The Mayor, the Alderman, and the President of the City Council, or at least two of them, were to preside in the Mayor’s Court as judges. The Charter also called for the establishment of a City Court which was vested with the same powers and authority as the State’s Superior Court related to debt, contract compliance and disagreements, stealing, selling stolen goods, and trespass in cases where the cause of the action occurred within the City and the defendant was a City resident.12 While the powers of the Mayor’s Court would be curtailed in future laws, there was no further mention of the City Court, and when Wilmington’s Charter was next published in full, only the Mayor’s Court was cited indicating that the City Court may never have been implemented.13 The only other 1830’s laws related to the City were enacted in 1836 and 1837; these laws increased the width of the streets and extended the limits of the City.14


In 1841, a law authorized Wilmington’s City Council to levy and collect a tax in order to provide lighting for the City’s streets, and also authorized them to widen the footpaths or sidewalks if petitioned by the property owners along a street. In another 1841 law, Wilmington’s Charter was amended, dividing the City into five wards, and enlarging the City Council to include fifteen members, with three members representing each ward, each serving a three-year term. Those elected to serve on the City Council must have resided in the City for two years as well as in the ward which they were elected to represent; however, they were to be elected at-large. Electors were to be free white male citizens of twenty-one years or over who had resided in the City for one year preceding the election and paid their City tax for the year in which the election was being held. Rather than being elected, the Mayor and Alderman were now to be appointed by the City Council biennially and could be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Council. Another section of the law revised the Charter provisions related to the Mayor’s Court to declare null and void any powers vested in it which would take jurisdiction away from the Court of General Sessions; the law also provided for the Court to be opened or closed by one judge. Just two years later, another law indicated that any common law jurisdiction granted to the Mayor’s Court was null and void.15 Wilmington had been granted the authority to borrow money beginning in 1825, but in 1843, a law was enacted which amended the City’s Charter to limit the City Council’s ability to contract further debts or liabilities and indicating that any Council member who voted to exceed the current debt limit would become personally liable for this increase. The law allowed for an exception to increasing the debt limit only to make repairs to the City’s waterworks, if it was damaged to the extent that the supply of water to City residents was interrupted and the ordinary means of the City were insufficient to make the needed repairs. The City Council was directed to prepare an annual budget which was balanced based on estimated expenses and revenues, and the City Treasurer was authorized to make only those payments included in the approved budget unless the additional expense was approved by two-thirds of the members of the City Council and such payment would not cause the City to exceed its debt limit. In order to initiate the process of extinguishing the current City debt, a Sinking Fund of at least five hundred dollars was to be established from monies paid for water rents, and thereafter, five hundred dollars was to be added annually. The City Treasurer was to be appointed Commissioner of the Sinking Fund, reporting to the City Council quarterly on his progress in extinguishing the debt. In order that City residents be kept informed of the financial condition of the City, the City Council was directed to annually publish in two Wilmington newspapers, a statement which was to include the amount of the existing debt, by type (certificate, municipal bond or note), its interest rate and date due; the amount of debt extinguished, both in the previous year and since it began reporting; the amount of receipts to the City Treasury for that year and their source; and the amount of the payments made that year, the date paid, to whom and for what service. Other sections of the same law revised the Charter to limit City expenditures by indicating that the City Council did not have the authority to release any City resident from the requirement to pay taxes for which they were liable and restricted the City to donating no more than $150 annually to any City volunteer fire company imposing a city-wide annual cap of $1,000 for this purpose.16 An 1845 law revised the provisions of Wilmington’s Charter so that rather than having all Council members and Assessors be elected at-large, only those who resided in a ward could vote for these officials while the City Treasurer, which was a City-wide official, would continue to be elected at-large. The same law provided for all City Assessors to organize themselves into a five-member Board of Assessors, choosing a Chair and a Secretary, and adopting rules and regulations to produce fairness and equality in carrying out the assessment. Yearly, each of the five Assessors was to complete an assessment of their ward so that when the City Council determined the amount necessary to be raised to meet the City’s annual fiscal needs, each Assessor could calculate the amount per hundred dollars of assessment that each taxpayer would be required to pay in order to raise the funds to meet the City’s budgetary needs. The Assessor was also to serve as the Collector of the taxes for his ward.17 In an 1847 law, death certificates were required to be issued for all those who died within the City creating a public death registry and were also required to presented to the cemetery at the time of burial.18 In 1849, five laws were enacted. The first of these provide for minor revisions related to lighting of the streets; another allowed the City Council to vacate an old road; and a third law provided for the Mayor and Alderman to once again be publicly elected rather than appointed by the City Council; the law also assigned new powers to the Mayor and provided the City Council with the power to impose fines and penalties in order to ensure that City residents paid their City taxes. A fourth law increased the amount which the City allotted to its Sinking Fund annually from $500 to $1,500, and also authorized the City to invoke the exception contained in the 1843 law placing a cap on the amount of debt which the City could incur by allowing a temporary loan of no more than $10,000 to make repairs related to the City waterworks. A fifth 1849 law clarified that in order to vote, electors must be a free white male of age twenty-one years and upwards who, had paid both their poll tax and their property taxes for the year in which the election was held.19


Growth in the City and the changes it necessitated were reflected in the number of laws enacted in the 1850’s to vacate streets.20 In 1851, the 1847 map of the City of Wilmington was to be recorded as the true and correct map except for certain streets that had been vacated as noted in the law. Also in that year, Wilmington revised its Charter to split the cost of street paving proportionately between the abutting property owners and the City; received State authorization to require that the Levy Court of New Castle County appoint an additional Constable for the City of Wilmington; and after securing public support for carrying out the work at the City’s waterworks by conducting a referendum, authorized the City to secure the $10,000 loan for this work.21 In 1852, the citizens of Wilmington approved a proposition to fund floating debt in the amount of $14,000, so that the City could discharge its outstanding debts with the loan to be redeemed in fourteen years; the City was to appropriate $1,000 to the Sinking Fund annually for this purpose.22 Eight laws were enacted in 1855, of which several changed the City’s Charter. In the first of these, a City Assessor position, to be elected at-large, was created, thereby eliminating the election of Assessors from each of the five City wards. The same law also established a Board of Revisions appointed to act as a Board of Appeals which could alter or revise any assessment prepared by the City Assessor; the Board consisted of one Council member from each of the five wards. Another law provided for the High Constable and other Constables to be appointed by the Mayor, with the approval of the City Council, rather than by the City Council. The City Treasurer was relieved of his duties as Commissioner of the Sinking Fund, a position he had held since 1843, and a Sinking Fund Commission was appointed to oversee the payment and retirement of all municipal bonds, with its three members drawn from City landholders appointed to three-year terms by the City Council. The City Council was mandated to appropriate $1,000 semi-annually to the Sinking Fund in addition to an amount equal to the interest on any bonds to be retired, and to create a Finance Committee of the City Council which would be responsible for issuing bonds under new procedures outlined in the law. In other 1855 laws, the City Council was to appoint Commissioners to carry out an engineering study and determine the appropriate maximum length of wharves to be placed in the Christiana Creek; additional funds were authorized for work on the City’s water system; and the election procedures were revised.23 In 1857, a law was enacted which made numerous revisions to Wilmington’s Charter including incorporating and further revising the changes made in 1855 related to the City’s assessment and tax collection procedures; authorizing the appointment of a Receiver of Taxes; capping the City’s poll tax at $2,000; codifying the changes to the process described in the 1855 law for appointing Constables; changing the date of the City elections; revising the regulations on extending and opening new streets, paving or re-paving of streets, and paving or curbing the sidewalks; awarding the City Council the authority to lease the landings at the ends of the streets on the Brandywine and Christiana Creeks; and directing that a new official map of the City be made. In a separate 1857 law, the 1836 law which called for the widening of Water Street was repealed.24 In 1859, three laws related to the City of Wilmington were enacted, the first of these directed the City Council to appoint Commissioners to correct an error in the map drawn to regulate the City’s wharves; the second related to providing funding related to the City’s waterworks; and the third mandated the City to incur all costs associated with street paving.25


In 1861, eleven laws were enacted related to the City of Wilmington. In various Charter revisions, City election procedures were revised; the City Council was authorized to pass ordinances to regulate shows, exhibitions, and public representations of all kinds and to receive licensing fees; the Mayor and Alderman were vested with the same authority as a Justice of the Peace in New Castle County and also had concurrent jurisdiction with the Mayor’s Court in punishing those who committed an offense against the City’s ordinances or regulations; and a City Auditor position was created with duties that included oversight of street paving, a task which had previously been assigned to a City Commissioner. In other laws, Wilmington’s corporate boundaries were extended; the Old Kings Road was vacated within the boundaries of the City; five Wharf Commissioners were appointed to oversee the repair the banks, sluices and drains within the marsh meadow along the Christiana Creek and to collect the fees from impacted property owners; and the City was authorized to remove soil or other accumulations in the creek beds of the Christiana and Brandywine in order to improve navigation with the cost of this work shared equally by the City and adjoining property owners. In an 1861 supplement to an 1855 law regulating the City’s wharves, corrections were made to address the issue of wharves longer than the standard maximum length as cited in the earlier law. In another 1861 law, a Board of Fire Wardens was created which allowed for the private citizens who made up the Board to exercise control over the City’s volunteer fire companies; this law was very unpopular with the fire companies and was repealed in the following legislative session at which time the City’s annual appropriation to volunteer fire companies was increased from $200 to $250.26 Two laws were enacted in 1862 that made minor changes to existing legislation.27 In 1863, a law provided for the appointment of two Collectors of road taxes within the City, and an 1849 law which had placed a limit on the amount of money which Wilmington could borrow was revised, increasing the limit from $10,000 to $40,000.28 In 1864, the powers of the Mayor and the Alderman were expanded to address cases of assault and battery,29 and an 1865 law vacated several City streets.30 In 1866, several laws were enacted to make changes to the City’s Charter; these included expanding the City’s boundaries; prohibiting ordained clergymen and ministers from holding City office; revising voter eligibility; assigning oversight of street paving to the City Council’s Street Committee rather than the City Auditor; and granting the City Council jurisdiction and control over drainage including the right to open gutters, drains, and sewers and maintain them, and to assess the cost of this work against those who particularly benefited by these actions.31 Laws were enacted in 1867 to again allow for an increase in the City debt in order to expand the City’s waterworks; to make it illegal to remove the markers in the river by which the extent of the wharf lines was measured; and to increase to $1,000 the amount which the City could contribute annually to any one volunteer fire company.32 In 1869, the boundaries of the City of Wilmington were expanded again and the boundaries of all of the wards were changed. Each of the nine newly formed wards would be represented by two Council members who were to serve two-year terms with one Council member elected from each ward annually. In addition to the Council members, certain other City-wide officials to include a newly created President of City Council, the City Assessor and City Treasurer, were all to be elected to serve one-year terms, and the City Mayor was to be elected to serve a three-year term. The position of Alderman, which had previously been an elected office, was abolished, and the duties and powers of that office were vested in the Justices of the Peace who were charged with hearing cases within the City. In other 1869 laws, the City was authorized to carry out a number of public projects including the opening and widening of King Street from Second Street to the Christiana Creek and the expansion of the City’s water system which involved further changes to the City’s debt structure.33


In 1871, a number of significant changes were made to the City’s governmental structure, one of which was to decrease the size of the heavily populated First Ward, creating a Tenth Ward which began at Monroe Street and encompassed the area west to the City line; the addition of another ward also resulted in an increase in the size of the City Council which now totaled twenty members. Another change made at this time was to divide the City into two assessment districts. The First Assessment District was to contain the First Second, Third, Fourth, and Tenth Wards, and Second Assessment District, the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Wards. Each District was assigned an Assessor, each of which was elected to a three-year term. In addition, the City’s Office of Receiver of Taxes was abolished, and the Assessors were appointed as Collectors of Taxes for the areas which they served. Another Charter revision increased the term served by the President of the City Council from one year to two. In other actions, property owners were now assessed a fee for the implied benefit they received when the City opened or extended a public street, and the City was authorized to construct a reservoir to ensure an adequate water supply for Wilmington. Two other laws were enacted which related to agreements between the City and railroad companies with rail lines through Wilmington.34 Several laws related to Wilmington were enacted in 1873. The first authorized the City to alter or change the natural water courses within its boundaries; changed its regulations on paving sidewalks and made minor revisions to the regulations for opening and widening of streets; and authorized it to incur funded debt. The second directed the City’s Chief Engineer and Surveyor to create a book of maps showing lots and buildings within each City block as well as the name of the current and subsequent owners with dates of property transfer; the law also contained procedures for ensuring that this information was initially provided and consistently updated.35 In 1875, two laws were enacted related to the City’s debt and the issuance of bonds to fund the debt, and another law clarified the section in the City’s Charter on voter qualification.36 In 1877, a law was enacted which eliminated the City Council’s Board of Revisions and formed a three member Board of Assessment, Revision and Appeals to ensure that a fair and complete assessment was carried out, to hear appeals of assessments, and to oversee the City’s two Assessors/Collectors. The law directed that the rate of assessment was to be determined annually by the City Council and that each property’s taxes were to be determined by applying this rate per $100 of the estimated value of the property as calculated by the City Assessor. If unpaid, the tax constituted a lien on the property which was to be paid within a certain time and prescribed remedies available to the Assessor/Collectors to ensure that the taxes were paid. School taxes were to be similarly but separately assessed and were not to exceed 30% of the total raised by taxation annually for city and school purposes. In another 1877 tax-related law, the tax rate of those residents who lived in the Second Ward south of the Christiana, in the Sixth Ward east of Buttonwood Street and in the Ninth Ward north of the Brandywine, except for the area around Market Street known as Brandywine Village, was halved because these areas were very sparsely populated and derived very little benefit from being included in the City’s limits. Charter amendments implemented through legislation in 1877 included revisions to the boundaries of the Sixth and Eighth Wards; changes to the City’s election district boundaries, and revisions to election procedures; granting of authority to regulate party walls to allow the City to prescribe the height, thickness of walls and materials of buildings and the mode of erecting them; and an increase in the amount that could be appropriated annually to an individual Wilmington’s fire companies from $1,000 to $2,500. In another 1877 law, the City enacted an ordinance, which was confirmed by the General Assembly, to vacate certain streets so that the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad could erect a depot roundhouse and other related purposes.37 Various additional laws enacted in 1879 called for imposing a tax of $1 annually on any horse, mule or ass which was stabled within the Wilmington City limits; eliminating any a restrictions on farmers selling fresh meats or other products they produced in the City streets; and authorizing the City to borrow $145,000 for the purpose of paying the City’s present floating and unfunded indebtedness for which bonds were to be issued.38


In 1881, the City’s boundaries were expanded to the southwest and the number of City wards was again increased, from ten to eleven, resulting in an increase in the size of the City Council to twenty-two members. The City Auditor and City Solicitor, which had previously been appointed positions, were now to be elected to three-year terms, and there was a new appointed City official, a Registrar, who was responsible for recording all births, deaths, and marriages within the City. Other laws enacted in 1881 directed that real property located within certain sections of Wilmington’s Second, Eighth and Ninth Wards would be exempt from taxes for a period of ten years if manufacturing or industrial facilities were constructed on the parcel; authorized the City Council to levy and collect taxes on all telegraph poles within the City limits; authorized spur railroad tracks to be laid for private commercial use along any City street if all related costs were paid by those who benefited by this connection to the main rail lines; and vacated Water Street between French and Poplar so that the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad could enlarge its buildings.39 In 1883, Wilmington was authorized to appoint several Boards to regulate and control various aspects of City government. One of these Boards was the Board of Water Commissioners which was to provide a permanent and adequate system of water distribution for the City and to control all matters related to the City’s water supply, management of the City waterworks, supervision of the water distribution system, and the collection of all revenues related to providing water to the City. The second Board created was a Board of Park Commissioners which was charged with making recommendations related to the purchase or acquisition of parkland; making improvements to and overseeing the maintenance of park land; and supervising the expenditure of monies to accomplish this work. The third Board established in 1883 was a Board of Port Wardens, appointed to oversee activities for Wilmington’s docks, wharves and harbors, the waters of the rivers, and the ships and vessels within the rivers or at the docks and wharves. Another law enacted in 1883 revised and consolidated the Wilmington Charter to include all amendments that had been made since 1809. The revised Charter indicated that the City was incorporated under the name of the Mayor and Council of the City of Wilmington with corporate boundaries which were defined in the law and through reference to a map or plan of the City, dated 1857, which showed all of the City’s streets, squares, lanes, and public alleys with their dimensions, ascents, and descents. The officers of the City of Wilmington included a Mayor, the City’s Executive Officer and conservator of the peace elected to serve a three-year term; a City Council, its legislative branch, which at meetings held at least monthly was empowered to enact ordinances in accordance with provisions in the Charter, and which was composed of two members from each of the City’s eleven wards in the City with one member from each ward elected annually to a two-year term; the President of the Council, elected at-large to serve a two-year term, who was ex-officio a member and presiding officer of the Council; a City Treasurer who was charged with overseeing all monies in the City treasury, elected biennially; a City Auditor, who served as an accountant for the City, elected to a three-year term; a City Solicitor, who was charged with the City’s legal business, serving as legal advisor to all departments within the City and as prosecutor in the City’s judicial system, who served a three-year term; a High Constable, Constables and Patrolmen who were appointed by the Mayor and were to assist the Mayor in enforcing the City’s ordinances, and who possessed the same powers to keep the peace as Constables in New Castle County; two Assessors who were also the Tax Collectors elected to a serve three-year terms; and an Inspector and two Assistant Inspectors of Elections for each of the twenty-six election districts, who were responsible for overseeing the election process in their district, elected annually to serve during the following year’s election. Other City employees included the Clerk of the City Council, appointed by the Council; the Clerk of the Municipal Court, appointed by the Judge of the Municipal Court; the Chief Engineer of the City; and the Registrar of Deaths, Births and Marriages appointed by the City Council. City Boards included a Board of Assessment, Revisions and Appeals, appointed by the City Council; a Board of Health, appointed annually by the Mayor; the Board of Water Commissioners; the Board of Park Commissioners; and Board of Port Wardens. City government also included a judicial function through its Municipal Court for the City of Wilmington which had sole and exclusive jurisdiction to inquire of, hear, try and determine all criminal matters and offenses committed in the City which included those enumerated in the fifteenth article of the sixth section of Delaware’s amended Constitution, as well as those offenses committed against the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the City of Wilmington, and to punish all persons convicted, presided over by a judge appointed by the Governor to serve a twelve-year term.40 The 1883 Charter discussed in detail the procedures for carrying out elections in which a plurality of votes cast would decide a ballot. Qualified electors were males, age twenty-one and over, who had resided in the City for at least three months and who were qualified to vote in State elections. The Charter consolidation also addressed the fiscal concerns of the City which annually were to be published in a local newspaper and which were to include an accounting of the whole amount of the City’s existing debt; the purpose for which each loan had been issued; and the amount and source of funds received for that year. The procedures for carrying out the fiscal matters of the City were also outlined including payments, extraordinary appropriations, temporary loans, appropriations to fire companies, and regulations for borrowing money which was not to exceed the amount authorized by law. In addition, the Charter consolidation contained an extensive section on the how the City’s assessment was to be carried out and the role of the Board of Assessment, Revisions and Appeals in this process as well as methods to ensure that taxes were collected. The City Council was to determine a rate of taxation annually for both City and school purposes. In addition to the general tax on real estate, every male resident above the age of twenty-one years was required to pay a capitalization or poll tax which, in total, was not to exceed $2,000 annually. The City Council could not grant exemptions to payment of taxes; however, by law, a reduction by half of the rate of taxation had been granted to property owners in a certain defined sections of the City. Special taxes were placed on horses stabled in the City, and on telegraph, telephone, and electric light poles. Real estate transfers were to be reported to the City Engineer who maintained a book of plans of the entire city with the various properties and their current and prior owners noted. The Charter acknowledged the responsibilities of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages which were unchanged since the position had been initiated two year earlier. It also discussed the process for opening and extending the streets, for their paving and curbing, for assessing damages and benefits, and for placing liens and collecting against them. Footways (sidewalks) and gutters were similarly discussed. Other sections of the Charter gave the City Council the authority to award ten-year leases for wharves or street landings on the Christiana and the Brandywine Creeks; allowed for the introduction of steam-power or heating pipes, or underground telegraph, telephone, or electric light wires; authorized the construction of railroad tracks to afford businesses easier access to the main rail lines for shipping; appointed three surveyors to oversee the regulation of party walls and foundations or partition fences; and opened and maintained gutters, drains and sewers, and also altered and/or maintained watercourses within the City limits. Regulations related to the Board of Public Education in Wilmington, which had responsibility for overseeing education in Wilmington’s public schools, were outlined. In separate 1883 laws, Sixteenth Street between Scott and DuPont Streets was vacated so that for the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad Company could erect a rail depot, and the part of Christiana Turnpike located within limits of the City was made a free road.41 In 1885, a law was enacted which changed the membership of the City’s Board of Assessment, Revision, and Appeals; it previously had been composed of three City residents appointed by the City Council but was now to consist of the President of the City Council, the Chair of the Finance Committee of the Council, and the two City Assessors. Another law clarified that the Judge of the Municipal Court was to exercise all power and jurisdiction of a New Castle County Justice of the Peace when prosecuting criminal cases, and that the High Constable was an officer of the court charged with carrying out the Court’s commands; it also discussed the duties of the Clerk of the Court and other court procedures. Another 1885 law called for formally establishing and regulating a Farmer’s and Trucker’s Curbside Market as well as several subsidiary markets within the City. For some time, a market had existed informally along King and Madison Streets, but now, oversight of the market was to be assigned to a Clerk of the Market, who was to assign spaces to vendors, ensuring that they purchased annual certificates as well as act as the Sealer of Weights and Measures within the market. Additional 1885 laws expanded the City’s limits; made minor changes related to the control of the sewers; revised the duties of the Assessors and the Board of Health and other City Boards; made amendments to laws enacted to protect Wilmington’s harbor and its navigable waters; provided authorization for the Board of Park Commissioners to borrow up to $150,000 to purchase lands for parks; expanded the area in which taxes would be decreased by half to include the area between the Brandywine Creek on the south and Fourteenth Street on the north near Railroad Avenue; reversed the decision to vacate the Wilmington and Kennett Turnpike within the City’s limits; and authorized the City to borrow monies and vacate certain streets.42 In 1887, Wilmington created two City departments. The Street and Sewer Department had jurisdiction and control over the City’s streets, squares, lanes, and alleys; its drainage; and the removal of ashes, dirt, and other rubbish; it was assigned all powers that had previously vested in the Mayor and City Council of Wilmington related to streets and sewers and was to supervise the City’s Chief Engineer and Surveyor as well as all those currently employed by the City in caring for its streets and sewers. The three-member Department of Elections, was assigned duties which included dividing the City into election districts of between one and three hundred qualified voters; designating the place of registry and the polling place in each district; maintaining the voter registration books for each district; annually submitting a record of the deaths of registered voters to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages; furnishing the materials needed to carry out the election including a ballot box; and appointing election officials including the Inspectors of Elections and Poll Clerks. In addition to those cite above, other 1887 laws which amended the City’s Charter called for increasing the number of wards in the City to twelve and the number of City Council members to twenty-four; increasing the maximum appropriation to any one Wilmington fire company annually from $2,500 to $3,000; changing the term of office of the City Treasurer from two to three years; clarifying that certain appointees were to serve for three years, including the City Clerk who was also the Clerk of the Council, the Bailiff of the Council who was charged with the care and custody of all parts of City Hall except that used by the Municipal Court or the Police, the Clerk of the Market who was also to be a Sealer of Weights and Measures within the public markets and market houses, and the Inspector of Oils and Fluids used for illuminating purposes within the City; removing both Assessors from the Board of Assessment, Revision and Appeals and making the City Building Inspector a member of the Board; revising certain procedures impacting the Municipal Court; and making some revisions to the regulations allowing the sale of meat at curbside markets. Other 1887 laws which did not amend the Charter included those which authorized the City to borrow $70,000 secured by Certificates of Indebtedness to be re-paid in two years; extended the Sinking Fund which had been established in 1855; and determined that any former turnpike made into a public street would be subject to the same provisions as other City streets.43 In 1889, the entire election portion of the City’s Charter was re-published; revisions included changing the City elections from annual to biennial; revising the terms of office of the Mayor, City Treasurer, City Solicitor, the City Auditor, and the Assessors so that they were elected to two-year terms rather than three; and decreasing the number of members on the City Council to include only one Council member from each ward who would be elected to serve a two-year term. Another 1889 law amended the City’s regulations related to its sewers and sidewalks while still another exempted all marsh and meadow land located within the City from taxes for a period of ten years.44


While a High Constable had been among the earliest public officials in Wilmington, in 1891, the duties of this official and other Constables were assigned to a Police Commission overseen by a Board of Police Commissioners. In other 1891 laws, the section of Wilmington’s Charter describing its election procedures was once again amended and re-published in its entirety; various streets were vacated; and the City’s boundaries were expanded in the area known as the Highlands.45 Laws enacted in 1891 and 1893 made further revisions to the Street and Sewer Department and called for Wilmington’s election process to comply with State law, as well as revising the Charter so that the Governor rather the Mayor would appoint the members of the City’s Department of Elections. An additional boundary expansion was approved in 1893, this time in Northwest Wilmington, and in another 1893 law, the City established the position of Inspector of Meats, charged with inspecting all cattle, swine, sheep, or other animals to be used for food so as to prevent the sale or use for food of diseased, tainted animals. In a continuing effort to regularize the terms of office of all City officials, the Charter was revised in 1893 so that various appointed City positions including the City Clerk, also known as the Clerk of the Council, the Bailiff of the Council, the Clerk of the Market, and the Inspector of Oils and Fluids, all of whom were appointees of the City Council, now had two-year appointments, and two newly created positions, the City Auditor’s Clerk and the City Treasurer’s Clerk who was also the Clerk for the Finance Committee of the City Council, were also to be appointed for two years.46 In 1895, a Commission was established by the General Assembly to consider whether there should be changes to the municipal government in the City of Wilmington, and a report on this issue was submitted during the next legislative session. It would be a number of years before any of the recommendations in the report were reflected in State law, but in 1911, the Governor and Mayor of Wilmington were directed to appoint a Wilmington Charter Commission to frame a charter or scheme of government that was to be an adaptation of the present Charter or a wholly new Charter. Other 1895 laws would again expand the City’s boundaries, and a number of additional laws were enacted related to the City’s health regulations and its water system.47 In 1897, laws revising the City’s Charter created an Assistant City Solicitor position; established a new authority for the City to license, tax and regulate auctioneers; funded the construction of a City Crematory; revised the regulations guiding the City’s Sinking Fund; granted tax reductions in certain areas of the City; and revised the regulations of the Street and Sewer Department.48 In addition to laws which addressed certain revisions to the Department of Elections and the Municipal Police Commission, the most significant law enacted in 1898 would change the way in which properties in Wilmington were assessed. Prior to this time, tax reductions had been implemented for large areas of Wilmington in which the majority of the area’s property owners received little benefit from being within the City’s boundaries. However, the length of time for which such reductions were granted, usually ten years, did not allow the City to appropriately tax properties within these areas that were developed before the tax reduction period had elapsed. In 1898, the method of assessment was changed include only two rates of taxation, one for those properties located within well-developed sections of the City and one for rural properties in which property owner(s) would receive a reduction in their assessment equal to half of the City’s tax rate. When preparing the assessment lists, it was the responsibility of the Tax Assessors to note “rural” on each parcel which was undeveloped or was in farm or agricultural use. When subsequent development of these properties took place, the notation of “rural” was to be removed by the Tax Assessor, and the full tax rate of taxation would be owed from that point forward. In addition to the tax reductions, tax exemptions were also provided for certain City properties to include a total tax exemption all marsh or meadow lands which the property owner had protected from overflow by tides, but on which no house has been built; a ten-year tax exemption for ten years after this land was filled so as to be above the highwater mark; and a ten-year tax exemption for those properties which were used for a manufacturing establishment or industrial improvement.49


In a 1901 law, Wilmington added a Deputy to assist the City Judge in carrying out his responsibilities in the Municipal Court. Other 1901 laws authorized bonds to be issued to raise monies for projects associated with the sewer system and parkland and authorized the City to annually appropriate $ 1,500 to the Phoenix Fire Company in support of a free ambulance service.50 In 1903, amendments were made to the City Charter regarding primary elections and another law directed the State to assist in funding Wilmington’s Department of Elections. Other 1903 laws re-assigned the duties of the Gas Inspector to the Inspector of Plumbing who would now be responsible for inspecting buildings for violations of the City’s rules and regulations governing gas pipes; expanded the City’s sewer system and street grid; provided additional funding for the water system; authorized annual appropriations by the City to the Wilmington Institute in support of creating a free library for City residents; and directed that Ninth Street remain free of railway tracks so as to allow an unobstructed passage for carriages and wagons (This prohibition was later terminated at Union Street.).51 In 1905, additional funds were made available for the purchase of parkland and improvement of parks, and the City’s initiative to improve streets by eliminating at grade railroad crossings, and to extend the sewer system also received additional funding.52 A 1907 law contained extensive revisions to Wilmington’s Charter; these included revising the Charter to make clear that the terms of office of Wilmington’s Mayor, its City Council members, the President of the City Council, the City Treasurer, the City Auditor, the City Solicitor, and the two Assessors/Collectors were to be two years; provided for the Mayor to appoint the City Solicitor; required that appointments by the Mayor to a City position be confirmed by the City Council; provided for Clerks to be appointed to assist the City Treasurer and the City Auditor; charged the Board of Health with responsibility for the City’s Crematory; capped the amount that the City could borrow at no more than 10% of the assessed value of Wilmington real estate as well as placed restrictions on how much could be borrowed in any one year; revised the amount which the City would receive in franchise taxes from street railways, gas mains, electric light and telephone and telegraph poles and wires, conduits, or other underground construction; and created an Executive Board consisting of the Presidents of all City Departments as well as the President of the Board of Public Education in Wilmington. The members of the Board were to be considered ex-officio members of the City Council and, as such, were entitled to take part in debates and deliberations, but were not entitled to vote upon any matter before the Council. They were to meet monthly for the purpose of providing advice and consultation in regard to matters concerning the municipality, but the actions of the Executive Board were not binding on any Department except in cases of disputes among them. In other 1907 laws, a Police Pension Fund was established; monies to continue the expansion of the City’s sewer and water systems was made available; and any question related to the affairs of the City on which at least 10% of Wilmington’s population petitioned the Mayor and Council was required to be included as a referendum question on the ballot during the next City election and any changes resulting from the vote were to be implemented without unnecessary delay.53 In 1909, several laws were enacted which made technical corrections and clarifications to the Charter including one which specified that the City’s Executive Committee would consist of representatives of the Water Department, Street and Sewer Department, Parks Department, Police Commission, Board of Health, and Board of Public Education in Wilmington, as well as two members of City Council. Other 1909 laws called for all of the City’s volunteer fire companies to be put under contract with the City; provided for police matrons to be considered members of the Police Department for purposes of participating in the benefits of the Police Pension Fund; authorized the adoption of ordinances to license pool rooms, pool tables, bowling alleys, billiard rooms and billiard tables open to the public; and prohibited railways on Tenth Street to the west of N. West Street.54


In 1911, the Governor and Mayor of Wilmington appointed a Wilmington Charter Commission to frame a charter or scheme of government that was an adaptation of the present Charter or a wholly new Charter which was to be submitted to Wilmington’s citizens for referendum approval in 1912. (The Laws of Delaware give no indication as to the outcome of this task.) In other 1911 laws, the City was authorized to borrow $250,000 for the purchase and improvement of parkland and playgrounds; the Water Department received additional water rent monies for its operation and was authorized to distribute water to within a mile outside the City limits; the City’s Department of Engineering and Surveying was placed under the jurisdiction of its Street and Sewer Department; the Street and Sewer Department was given the power to regulate the City’s steps porches and cellarways that encroached upon the footways and trees located in the footways; there were minor amendments related to the procedures of the Board of Assessment, Revisions and Appeals; the City’s election laws were better aligned with State law for municipal elections; and technical corrections were made to the 1907 law related to the two-year terms for all City officials. Another 1911 law created a Board of Public Utility Commissioners to have supervision over all public utilities in the City.55 Additional revisions to the Charter were made in 1913 including the elimination of a requirement for males of over twenty-one years of age to pay a capitalization or poll tax; revisions to the franchise tax fee schedule on rail lines and utilities; placement of placing the registration system for births and marriages under the oversight of the State Board of Health; placement of Wilmington’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages the Local Registrar for the Wilmington District within a statewide system for recording vital statistics; and the appointment of a Board of Examiners to examine and license those who wished to work as a journey plumber in the City. In other actions legislated in 1913, a Wilmington Building Commission was appointed to determine a location for and oversee the construction of a new municipal building that could be used jointly by both the City and New Castle County. An associated law directed that the old County Courthouse which was located in Wilmington on the block bounded by Market, King, Tenth and Eleventh Streets was to be torn down and the land given to the City to be used as a park. (This is now the location of Rodney Square.)56 The Wilmington Building Commission replaced in 1915 by the Public Building Commission for the City of Wilmington and for New Castle County, appointed to assume the duties associated with the building’s construction as well as responsibility for the ongoing care of the Public Building once complete. In order to keep the front of the building open for public access, another law prohibited King Street on which the Farmers or Truckers Market had operated for many years could no longer to be used for any market purpose. A major change in the structure of City government took place in 1915 when the duties and responsibilities held by Wilmington’s Assessor/Collectors and its Board of Assessment, Revision, and Appeals were repealed and a three-member Board of Assessment was established. The Board of Assessment was to have charge of any and all assessments for City and school taxes and could adopt any rules and regulations which allowed for good, fair, equal, and complete assessments of all property within the City. Appeals of assessment were to be heard by the Board who had the right to alter an assessment. School taxes were calculated separately and listed separately on the tax bills; these would include not only the funds needed for general support of schools, but now also included funds required for school construction. Two Collectors of Taxes were to be elected biennially. Early payment of taxes resulted in an abatement of 5%; payments which were delinquent were subject to fines. In order to collect delinquent taxes, legal proceedings could be initiated a year after payment was due and could include selling of real or personal property at Sheriff’s Sale in order to ensure payment of the amount owed. In other laws enacted in 1915, Wilmington revised the regulations of the Street and Sewer Department, widened Grant and Bayard Avenue into a parkway in order to furnish recreation grounds through a portion of the City; authorized the repair, scouring and cleansing of the banks, sluices and drains along any river or creek within the City’s limits or one mile adjacent to it; and authorized Wilmington’s Council to enact ordinances to allow for money to be borrowed in order to accomplish a public purpose if approved by two-thirds vote of the Council with bonds issued to secure the debt.57 In 1917, the laws related to the Farmer’s and Truckers Curbstone Market were consolidated into one law and the Market was placed under the jurisdiction of the Street and Sewer Department. Curbstone markets were to be limited to farmers and truckers whose principal business was the raising of farm productions for the sale of fruit, vegetables, fowls, and other farm products as well as meats raised or fed on land which they occupied as owners, lessees, or sharecroppers. The Clerk of the Market continued to be responsible for oversight and regulation of the Market. Also, in this year, the Board of Port Wardens was replaced by a three-member Board of Harbor Commissioners which assumed the duties of the Board of Port Wardens Board included constructing, maintaining, and operating all wharves, docks, piers, slips, harbors, bulkheads, terminals, and warehouses in the port as well as fixing, regulating, and collecting rates and charges for wharfage, tonnage and other services rendered in loading and unloading vessels as well as warehouse and storage charges. Other 1917 laws called for an expansion of the City’s water rights; a change in the way in which the City recovered the costs of paving streets; a revision to the regulations regarding tax collection; revisions to the City’s 1843 Sinking Fund Act; and a expansion to the City’s boundaries.58 In 1919, legislation called for further revisions to the regulations associated with Wilmington’s Sinking Fund, and made additional changes in its boundaries; in addition, laws were enacted which limited the rate of assessment for franchise taxes on utilities to cap them at two and a half times the rate fixed on real estate; eliminated the requirement for property owners to be assessed for improving street roadways; received approval to construct a bridge to carry Washington Street across the Brandywine Creek, connecting it to Baynard Boulevard; provided for establishing an ambulance service; adopted rules and regulations for pool tables and billiard halls; and licensed and regulated pawnbrokers and junk dealers as well as those who transported passengers in motor vehicles for a fee.59


In 1920, Wilmington was authorized to issue licenses to the owners of any vehicle who resided in the City, as well as to license anyone who operated a business within the City. Other laws that year revised the method of assessing Wilmington’s sewer costs against abutting property owners and gave the Municipal Court of Wilmington concurrent jurisdiction in prosecuting violations of several additional areas of law.60 In 1921, the Board of Police Commissioners was replaced by a Wilmington Department of Public Safety which was created to have full jurisdiction, management, and control over the City’s Police Department as well as to establish a City Fire Department. Other laws revised the regulations related to Wilmington’s harbors and the City’s Crematory; authorized the City to contract for the collection and disposal of garbage; and provided for the City to contract with the Wilmington Institute to establish and manage a free library and reading room.61 In 1923, the State authorized municipalities to institute zoning regulations, and soon Wilmington would form a Zoning Commission as well as a Board of Adjustment to hear appeals to the City’s comprehensive zoning plan. Other 1923 laws authorized the establishment of a detention home for juveniles to be located in Wilmington with the City responsible for providing funds to acquire, equip, and provide maintenance for the home; provided for the City to determine the number of buses which would be licensed for the City and their routes; made further revisions to the City’s Sinking Fund Act, as well as further revising the procedures for the collection of delinquent City taxes.62 In 1925, laws were enacted to revise the terms of office of certain City officials; ensure an adequate water supply; revise provisions of the Police Pension Fund; and revise the responsibilities of the Board of Harbor Commissioners.63 Because of the many small amendments that had been made to the City’s boundaries over time, in 1927, the section of City’s the Charter which described its boundary was re-written in its entirety. Additional 1927 laws revised earlier legislation related to the Firemen’s Pension Fund, the Police Pension Fund, the City’s Sinking Fund, and the method of collecting delinquent taxes. A new issue raised in a 1927 law addressed the unsightly and obnoxious conditions present along one of the public highways leading into the City; in order to enable this condition to be addressed under the City’s existing ordinances for abating nuisances so that the conditions which existed along the road could be deemed unlawful and owners could be prosecuted.64 In 1929, the 1915 law on the Board of Assessment was amended; a new process for selling properties in cases of non-payment of delinquent taxes was determined; the City’s Sinking Fund Act was again revised; the City was granted and conveyed all of the land under water in any navigable streams within the its limits was conveyed to the City by the State; and the regulations related to paving and curbing along a street as well as the 1917 law related to apportioning the cost of paving and improving roads was amended.65


In 1931, a number of laws were enacted to further amend earlier legislation, to include those governing street trees, franchise licenses, road improvement costs, and distributing water to New Castle County outside the City’s boundaries. In addition, the City was invited to participate as part of a newly formed County Regional Planning Commission.66 In 1933, the City’s boundaries were expanded once again; the law on Wilmington’s Department of Public Safety was revised; and the types of violations over which Wilmington’s Municipal Court could have concurrent jurisdiction were also revised.67 In 1933, the U.S. Congress had enacted an Industrial Recovery Act (Act) to combat the widespread unemployment which had resulted from the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and in a special session of the Delaware legislature held in 1934, the City of Wilmington was authorized to exceed its debt limitation and to borrow up to $750,000 from the U.S. government under the provisions of the Act if public projects to be funded with these monies were approved by the City Council. The law also authorized the City of Wilmington to receive grants from the federal Public Works Administration. In another 1934 law, the 1923 law granting municipalities the ability to adopt zoning regulations was repealed and re-written.68 In 1935, the boundaries of Wilmington were re-published in their entirety;69 and a 1937 law required that a special election be held before any additional land be annexed into the City of Wilmington.70 In 1939, the Department of Elections for the City of Wilmington was abolished, and all of its powers and duties vested in a newly established Department of Elections for New Castle County.71


Revisions to the City Charter in 1941 called for the Inspector of Oils and Fluids and the Clerk of the Market to be appointed by the departments which supervised them rather than the City Council; re-defined the north and south assessment districts to ensure that it included all land within the City’s boundaries; placed liens on properties where the owners were delinquent in paying water rents; amended the qualifications for serving as a member of the Street and Sewer Department; made revisions to the pension plans for the City’s police and firemen; and made further revisions related to the election’s process within the City.72 The Revised Code of Wilmington, DE of 1942 indicated that the officers of the City continued to consist of a Mayor, a Council consisting of one member elected from each of the City’s twelve wards, a Council President elected at-large, a Treasurer, an Auditor, a Solicitor, a High Constable, and two Collectors of Taxes. The Mayor’s Advisory (Executive) Board, as created in 1907 and consisting of the heads of the various City departments, was also still in existence. The rules and regulations governing the City’s departments and certain governing boards, including the Water Department, the Street and Sewer Department, the Parks Department, and the Department of Public Safety (Police and Fire), the Board of Health, Board of Assessment, and the Board of Harbor Commissioners were also discussed in detail in the 1942 Charter and Revised Code, as were the fiscal affairs of the City, elections laws, and other matters governing the City.73 After the United States entered World War II, a law was enacted in 1943 to address the how military service would impact City employment; the same year, another law was enacted to revise Wilmington’s 1939 election law.74 In a 1945 law, the pension plans of the City’s police and firemen were combined;75 and in a 1947 law known as the City of Wilmington Employees’ Retirement Plan, pension eligibility was awarded to full-time City employees who they had been employed for thirty-five years or were retiring at over age sixty for females or sixty-five for males if they had been employed by the City for the last fifteen years. In other laws enacted in 1947, the City’s corporate limits were expanded; revisions were made to the manner in which the cost of sewer installation was assessed; and the provisions of the City’s Sinking Fund Act were amended so that all bonds issued under the law would mature in equal annual installments within a period of no more than twenty-five years from the date of issue.76 In 1949, the City’s Charter was amended to repeal the 1898 law which had allowed those properties which the City Assessors judged to be “rural” as defined in the law to receive a reduced tax rate; to eliminate the position of Inspector of Meats within the City; and to replace the City’s Board of Health with a Wilmington Department of Health. In other 1949 laws, the City was provided with monies to fund a sewage treatment plant; the public utilities overseen by the Board of Public Utility Commissioners was amended to include buses; and the police pension plan benefits were changed; and the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund were authorized to decide whether the rate of interest on the bonds issued for public improvements would be determined by them prior to the sale or negotiated with the buyer at the time of sale.77


In 1951, the 1947 law which had established the Wilmington Employees’ Retirement Plan was amended to provide guidance on the impact which service in the U.S. Armed Forces would have on an employee’s pension benefits and similar revisions were made to the pension laws for firemen and policemen. In addition, revisions were made to the law which expanded Wilmington’s authority related to eminent domain when taking actions to reduce pollution in the rivers and streams of the City; and another law clarified that appointees for any Wilmington Board or Commission must be a qualified voter of the State and a resident of the City for at least five years prior to their appointment.78 In 1953, the Wilmington City Charter was amended so that the Mayor, all members of the City Council, the City Treasurer, and the Collectors of Taxes for the Northern and Southern Districts of the City were all to be elected to four-year terms; established a provision that rules or regulations adopted by any Board, Commission or Department of the City were required to be submitted to the Mayor for approval and if not approved, could then be submitted to the City Council for their consideration; and established a City Planning Commission which was to adopt a comprehensive development plan. Other laws clarified the responsibilities of the City’s new Department of Health including transferring jurisdiction over garbage collection and the maintenance and operation of the City crematories to the Street and Sewer Department; made changes to all City pension plans; and provided that any bonds issued for the purpose of providing water to the City and those issued in accordance with the Wilmington Sewer Revenue Bond Act of 1949 were not be included in Wilmington’s limit on bonded debt.79 In 1955, all aspects of the election process in the City of Wilmington were brought into conformance with those of the general elections of the State; a City Department of Motor Vehicles was created to maintain all City vehicles; the City was authorized to borrow up to $1 million in order to make grants to the Wilmington Housing Authority to fund slum clearance and redevelopment; financing was provided for projects that would improve Wilmington’s waterfront and enlarge its harbor terminal and shipping facilities; and additional changes were made to Wilmington’s retirement plans.80 Laws enacted in 1957-1958, would eliminate the assessment of property owners associated with paving the streets; appropriate $22,750 annually for three years for the maintenance of fire apparatus and equipment; and clarify that those who had been appointed to full-time, paid positions within the City government qualified for eligibility in the Wilmington Employees’ Retirement Plan.81 In 1959, the City’s contracting regulations were revised, and the City was vested with the power to issue municipal bonds to finance the cost of carrying out project(s) which were not included in the City’s current expenses to include projects associated with the City’s water supply system, sewage disposal systems, electric systems, school buildings, fire houses and fire-fighting equipment, police stations, libraries, museums, auditoriums, hospitals, municipal buildings, highways, streets, curbs, sidewalks, gutters, bridges, parks, playgrounds, recreation areas, incinerators, wharfs, docks, harbors, sea walls, storm sewers, culverts, and drains. Legislation was also enacted to repeal Wilmington’s 1843 Sinking Fund Act and it many amendments; the Sinking Fund Commissioners, who had responsibility for governing the provisions of the law, were abolished and the City Treasurer assumed the role of selling the bonds and ensuring that all bonded debt payments were made. Due to the increase in vehicular traffic, another 1959 law indicated that the Farmer’s Markets currently operating along certain Wilmington streets were to be moved to a building to be located on the block bounded by Seventh, Eighth, French and Walnut Streets which would be used as a public market by farmers and truckers selling fruits, vegetables, fowls, meats, and other farm products raised or produced on their land; the Mayor was to appoint a Market Manager to oversee the operation of the Market.82


The land on which the City intended to relocate the Farmer’s Market had been purchased by Wilmington’s Parking Authority using funds provided by the City, and in a 1960 law, the Parking Authority surrendered the property to the City to enable the construction of a building in fulfillment of the 1959 law. Also, in 1960, the Wilmington Planning Commission was merged with the Wilmington Zoning Commission to form a Wilmington Commission on Planning and Zoning which was vested with the same functions, rights, powers, and duties as the Commissions it replaced. Other 1960 laws authorized the acquisition, maintenance, and operation of recreational facilities on City park lands; gave exclusive power to the City’s Board of Assessment to determine which properties would be exempt from taxes; and authorized the Governor rather than the Associate Judge of Superior Court from New Castle County to appoint the Associate Judges of the Municipal Court of Wilmington.83 In 1961, laws were enacted to amend the Wilmington Employees’ Retirement Act; to reduce the number of members on the Wilmington Planning and Zoning Commission from eight to five; to rename the Street and Sewer Department as the Department of Public Works; and to authorize a new procedure under which the City could sell or dispose of surplus and abandoned land and property.84 A significant piece of legislation enacted by the State in 1961, which was applicable to all municipalities with a population of over 1,000, offered these municipalities the ability to seek self-governance under home rule authority granting them all of the powers currently held to the General Assembly except those which were specifically denied in the law which included any increase in financial burdens on the taxpayers and certain protections for those serving in public office [22 Del. C. § 8]. A referendum approving the adoption of home rule within the municipality was required prior to implementation (Wilmington would take this action in 1965 becoming one of only five municipalities, all located within New Castle County, that would seek this status).85 Laws enacted in 1963 revised the Police, Firemen’s and Park Police pension plans; made changes to the Wilmington’s bidding laws, and increased school taxes.86 In 1965, revisions were made to the laws on assessment and collection of taxes; the tax rate on utility lines was increased to three and a half times the rate of real estate; a tax on real estate transfers was established at a rate of 2%, half of which was to be apportioned to the State and the other half to the City; the amount of monies which could be borrowed to fund the erection of schools in Wilmington was increased; and the land, which a 1960 law indicated was to be used as a public market, was returned by the City to Wilmington’s Parking Authority.87

By mid-1965, Wilmington had satisfied all of the requirements for becoming a home rule municipality and was granted sovereignty. Wilmington’s home rule Charter called for the continuation of a municipal corporation under the name of the City of Wilmington. The City was to exercise all express and implied powers and authority of local self-government and home rule and was to have complete power of legislation and administration in relation to its municipal functions which could be locally enforceable. The legislative power of the City was vested in and exercised by a City Council and the executive and administrative power was vested in and exercised by a Mayor and various officers, department, boards, and commissions. The City Council consisted of twelve members, eight elected from Council districts and four from the City at-large, all to serve four-year terms and eligible for re-election. A Council President who was to preside over all Council meetings and had the same rights as all other Council members was also to be elected at-large to serve a four-year term. The Council was to meet at least every two weeks with a majority of members including the Council President constituting a quorum. They were to appoint a City Clerk who was not a Council member to be Secretary of the Council. Along with enacting ordinances, the Council was responsible for annually adopting a balanced operating budget as well as a capital budget. The administrative work of the City was carried out by various elected and appointed officials headed by a Mayor who was elected at-large to serve a four-year term and was eligible for re-election for no more than three consecutive terms. The only other elected Citywide official was a Treasurer who was also to serve a four-year term. Citywide appointed officials included the City Auditor and the City Solicitor, both of whom were appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The Mayor was assisted in administering City government by the elected and appointed City officials and by the heads of the thirteen departments, as follows:

• Law Department, headed by the City Solicitor;
• Department of Commerce, headed by the Director of Commerce;
• Department of Personnel, headed by the Director of Personnel;
• Department of Planning and Development, headed by the Director of Planning;
• Department of Finance, headed by the Director of Finance;
• Department of Public Safety, headed by the Public Safety Commissioner;
• Department of Public Health, headed by the Health Commissioner;
• Department of Public Works, headed by the Public Works Commissioner;
• Department of Parks and Recreation, headed by the Director of Parks and Recreation;
• Water Department, headed by the Water Commissioner;
• Department of Licenses and Inspections, headed by the Commissioner of Licenses and Inspections;
• Auditing Department, headed by the City Auditor; and
• Department of Civil Defense, headed by the Director of Civil Defense.

The new Charter also called for the continuance of some independent boards including the Board of Public Education in Wilmington; the Board of Pensions and Retirement; the Public Building Commission; the Wilmington Housing Authority; and the Wilmington Parking Authority. A Mayor’s Cabinet consisting of an Administrative Assistant, the Director of Finance, and the City Solicitor met with Wilmington’s Mayor monthly to report on the condition of the City and make plans for the better administration of government and progress of the City. An Administrative Board consisting of the Mayor, his Administrative Assistant, the Director of Finance, the City Solicitor, the President of the Council, and the Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee met, as needed, to approve internal rules of government for the various departments, boards, and commissions; consider personnel issues, and make determinations on other administrative matters.88


The majority of the laws enacted at the state level since 1970 either addressed one of the issues which the home rule legislation indicated needed state consideration or revised a law that was not a part of the Charter. In 1970, a law increased the maximum amount of the City’s allowed bonded indebtedness in relation to the financial support of its public schools from 3% to 10%, and also assigned the responsibility for determining the annual tax rate for school taxes in Wilmington to a Wilmington School Tax Commission;89 this law was further amended in 1971. Also, in 1971, Wilmington was authorized to provide funds to the Wilmington Parking Authority to construct parking facilities by issuing revenue bonds as long as the amount issued would not cause the City’s yearly payments of principal and interest on all bond payments to exceed more than 17½% of its annual operating budget. Other laws revised the pension regulations for police and firemen. In 1972, the State increased its portion of the real estate transfer tax in the City from 1% to 2%, increasing the total tax to 3%.90 The implementation of the City’s urban renewal plan in the early 1970s resulted in the closing of French Street, restrictions to traffic on Market Street, and the re-direction of, as well as increased traffic on, King Street. While a previous attempt to move the Wilmington Farmer’s and Trucker’s Market to a building had been unsuccessful, the current changes in traffic patterns made the removal of the curbstone markets located along King Street and Madison Streets vital to the safety of the public so, in 1974, all previous laws with regard to the curbstone market were repealed and the City was given complete authority and power over the establishment, location, regulation, and supervision of the Market which was to be used exclusively by farmers and truckers and was now to be known as the Farmer’s Market.91 (The Farmer’s Market was first relocated to Orange Street, but is now located in Rodney Square.) Laws enacted in 1975 saw an increase in the penalty for non-payment of taxes and made other minor revisions in tax law,92 and revisions were made to the City’s elections laws in 1978.93 During the City’s election in 1978, a referendum was proposed to consider updating the Charter of the City of Wilmington. The referendum was approved, and this Charter was ratified in 1979. While many of the Charter’s provisions were not significantly changed from the 1965 Charter, re-structuring of some City departments which resulted in the following changes:

• The responsibilities of the Department of Public Safety were assigned to two new departments, the Department of Police headed by the Chief of Police (currently part of the Office of Public Safety) and the Department of Fire headed by the Chief of Fire (currently part of the Office of Public Safety);
• The Department of Planning and Development was replaced with a Planning Department, a Real Estate and Housing Department, and an urban renewal agency;
• The Water Department was merged into the City’s Department of Public Works;
• The Department of Public Health was eliminated as many of its duties had been assumed by the state and other were re-assigned within the City; and
• The Department of Civil Defense was eliminated with some of its duties assumed by the State’s Emergency Management Agency and other assigned to an Office of Emergency Management within the Mayor’s Office.
The Charter revisions also eliminated the Mayor’s Cabinet, the Board of Public Education in Wilmington, and the Public Building Commission from the list of independent boards within City government.94 The 1978 Charter referendum had also contained a clause related to the procedures for altering the City’s boundaries. However, in a 1979 law, the Delaware General Assembly negated the annexation clause because the statutory law governing home rule prohibited a municipality from altering the power or procedures for altering the boundaries of a municipality without General Assembly approval which the City had not requested, and as the law indicated that the process that had been included was unwise and proposed acceptable language, the annexation clause was removed.95


No laws were enacted in the 1980’s related to Wilmington, and only a few in the 1990’s including one to revise Wilmington’s competitive bidding law in 1990;96 one related to the Wilmington Parking Authority in 1994;97 and one related to defining the City’s contractual obligations in 1998.98


In the decade of 2000-2009, only one or two laws related to revising Wilmington’s Charter were enacted each year, including the following:

• To allow the hiring of limited-service employees (2001);99
• To amend regulations on contractual bidding (2003);100
• To eliminate the term for the City Auditor and require the Auditing Department to conduct its work in compliance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), and to rename the Mayor’s Administrative Assistant as his Chief of Staff (2004);101
• To amend the citizenship and residency requirements for elected officials (2005);102
• To amend the appeals procedures of the Commissioner of Licensing and Inspections (2006);103
• To amend procedures on absentee voting (2007);104
• To increase the number of years for which a lien would apply when there were unpaid charges for water and sewer service (2008);105
• To rename the Department of Personnel as the Human Resources Department (2009);106


In recent years, there have been even fewer pieces of legislation brought to the General Assembly for consideration. These included revisions regarding contract and procurement requirements in 2017, and in 2018, to the qualifications to serve as Wilmington’s Mayor, lowering the eligible age from thirty to twenty-five.107



View selected photographs and documents about Wilmington



For further reading on departmental histories as well as the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Finance, and more please view this searchable PDF.

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

(Volumes 1-72 of the Laws of Delaware are available as searchable pdfs: Laws of Delaware – Delaware Public Archives)

 (Volumes 40-83 of the Laws of Delaware have been digitized and can be found at: Session Laws – Delaware General Assembly)

1 ORIGINAL CHARTER OF THE BOROUGH OF WILMINGTON | Code of Ordinances | Wilmington, DE | Municode Library (1739)

2 1 Del. Laws, c. 206 (1772) amended by 9 Del. Laws, c. 91 (1837)

3 2 Del. Laws, c. 123 (1785)

4 3 Del. Laws, c. 18 (1799)

5 3 Del. Laws, c. 70 (1801)

6 3 Del. Laws, c. 150 (1804)

7 From Creek to Tap: The Story of Wilmington’s Public Water System – Local Government Publications – The Delaware Collections (oclc.org)

8 4 Del. Laws, c. 97 (1809)

9 6 Del. Laws, c. 96 (1822)

10 6 Del. Laws, c. 269 (1825)

11 8 Del. Laws, c. 108 (1832) amended by 8 Del. Laws, c. 171 (1832) and c. 299 (1835)

12 Ibid.

13 Revised Statutes of Delaware, 1852, Chapter 73, [Charter] of the City of Wilmington.

14 9 Del. Laws, c. 16 (1836) and cc. 91-92 (1837)

15 9 Del. Laws, c. 298 and c. 337 (1841) amended by c. 502 (1843)

16 9 Del. Laws, c. 488 (1843) amended by 10 Del. Laws, c. 129 and c. 192 (1847)

17 10 Del. Laws, c. 88 (1845) amended by 10 Del. Laws, c. 127 (1847)

18 10 Del. Laws, c. 199 and c. 223 (1847)

19 10 Del. Laws, c. 280, c. 282, c. 304, c. 347, and c. 369 (1849)

20 10 Del. Laws, c. 625 (1852); 11 Del. Laws, c. 30 (1853); and 11 Del. Laws, cc. 146-147, c. 163, and c. 197 (1855)

21 10 Del. Laws, c. 454, c. 469, c. 487, c. 505, and c. 513 (1851)  

22 10 Del. Laws, c. 617 (1852)

23 11 Del. Laws, c. 181, c. 186, c. 220, c. 237, c. 261, and c. 263 (1855)

24 11 Del. Laws, c. 376 and c. 391 (1857)

25 11 Del. Laws, c. 495, c. 520, and cc. 643-644 (1859)

26 12 Del. Laws, c. 21, c. 31, c. 41, c. 52, c. 62, c. 67, c. 75, cc. 83-84, c. 102 (1861) and c. 270 (1863) 

27 12 Del. Laws, c. 213 and c. 222 (1862)

28 12 Del. Laws, c. 283, c. 307, and c. 313 (1863)

29 12 Del. Laws, c. 482 (1864)

30 12 Del. Laws, c. 460 (1864) and c. 547 (1865)

31 13 Del. Laws, cc. 33-35 and c. 37 (1866)

32 13 Del. Laws, cc. 171-173 (1867)

33 13 Del. Laws, cc. 465-470 (1869)

34 14 Del. Laws, c. 106, cc. 111-113, cc. 115-117, c. 120, c. 125, cc. 127-128, and c. 167 (1871)

35 14 Del. Laws, c. 407 and cc. 520-532 (1873)

36 15 Del. Laws, cc. 147-150 (1875)

37 15 Del. Laws, cc. 443-444 and cc. 446-453 (1877)

38 16 Del. Laws, c. 32, and cc. 118-125 (1879)

39 16 Del. Laws, cc. 308, 500, and 502-513 (1881) 

40 17 Del. Laws, cc. 200-203, 204-206, and 207-209 (1883)

41 Ibid.

42 17 Del. Laws, cc. 585-599, cc. 600-601 and cc. 603-607 (1885)

43 18 Del. Laws, cc. 177-194 (1887)

44 18 Del. Laws, c. 466, cc. 654-656, cc. 658-661, and cc. 662-669 (1889)

45 19 Del. Laws, c. 37, c. 39, c. 202, and cc. 204-223 (1891)

46 19 Del. Laws, cc. 724-741 (1893)

47 20 Del. Laws, Part 1, c. 5, cc. 92-102, c. 184, and cc. 201-202 (1895)

48 20 Del. Laws, Part II, cc. 547-575 (1897)

49 21 Del. Laws, c. 38, cc. 40-42, c. 67, and cc. 104-109 (1898)

50 22 Del. Laws, c. 70, c. 163, and cc. 171-175 (1901)

51 22 Del. Laws, cc. 261-262, c. 285, c. 360, and cc. 396-407 (1903)

52 23 Del. Laws, c. 92 and cc. 161-164 (1905)

53 24 Del. Laws, cc. 74-75 and cc. 177-185 (1907)

54 25 Del. Laws, cc. 166-168, c. 170, and cc. 172-175 (1909)

55 26 Del. Laws, cc. 43-46 and cc. 192-207 (1911)

56 27 Del. Laws, c. 65, cc. 84-85, c. 110, and cc. 200-214 (1913)

57 28 Del. Laws, cc. 91-92, cc. 108-125, and cc. 165-176 (1915)

58 29 Del. Laws, cc. 121-123, cc. 125-131, and cc. 133-136 (1917)

59 30 Del. Laws, c. 99 and cc. 112-127 (1919)

60 31 Del. Laws, cc. 27-29 and cc. 56-61 (1920)

61 32 Del. Laws, c. 109, cc. 111-115, c. 160, and c. 163 (1921)

62 33 Del. Laws, cc. 114-121 and c. 228 (1923)

63 34 Del. Laws, cc. 106-107 and cc. 117-124 (1925)

64 35 Del. Laws, cc. 86-90 and cc. 91-94 (1927)

65 36 Del. Laws, cc. 140-148 (1929)

66 37 Del. Laws, c. 88, c. 114, cc. 117-120, cc. 135-137, cc. 139-147, c. 202, c. 203, and c. 204 (1931)

67 38 Del. Laws, cc. 125-127 (1933)

68 39 Del. Laws, c. 20 and c. 22 (1934)

69 40 Del. Laws, c. 178 and c. 179 (1935)

70 41 Del. Laws, c. 168 and c. 169 (1937)

71 42 Del. Laws, c. 115, c. 116, and c. 117 (1939)

72 43 Del. Laws, c. 142, c. 143, c. 144, c. 145, c. 146, c. 147, c. 148, c. 149, and c. 150 (1941)

73 Revised Code of Wilmington, DE 1942. Manuscript Copy filed in Delaware Public Archives (5100-000-198)

74 44 Del. Laws, c. 110 and c. 137 (1943)

75 45 Del. Laws, c. 156, c. 167, c. 168, and c. 169 (1945)

76 46 Del. Laws, c. 218, c. 219, c. 234, c. 235, c. 236, and c. 237 (1947)

77 47 Del. Laws, c. 14, c. 66, c. 224, c. 225, c. 257, c. 267, c. 269, c. 296, and c. 328 (1949)

78 48 Del. Laws, c. 18, c. 132, c. 248, c. 280, c. 284, c. 340, c. 341, c. 342, c. 346, c. 347, and c. 348 (1951)

79 49 Del. Laws, c. 109, c. 110, c. 111, c. 180, c. 230, c. 273, c. 275, c. 328, c. 329, c. 332, c. 392, c. 393, c. 401, and c. 415 (1953)

80 50 Del. Laws, c. 88, c. 116, c. 297, c. 323, c. 390, c. 391, c. 392, c. 399, c. 444, c. 457, c. 500, c. 501, c. 624, c. 626, c. 635, and c. 636 (1955)

81 51 Del. Laws, c. 4, c. 58, c. 59, c. 159, c. 165, c. 229, c. 230, c. 276 (1957), and c. 310, c. 314, c. 352, and c. 353 (1958)

82 52 Del. Laws, c. 4, c. 150, c. 151, c. 152, c. 161, and c. 175 (1959)

83 52 Del. Laws, c. 232, c. 251, c. 255, c. 269, and c. 343 (1960)

84 53 Del. Laws, c. 12, c. 26, c. 33, c. 37, c. 97, c. 113, c. 150, c. 164, c. 211 (1961), and c. 317, c. 365 (1962)  

85 53 Del. Laws, c. 260 (1961)

86 54 Del. Laws, c. 44, c. 74, c. 75, c. 169, c. 204, and c. 207 (1963)

87 55 Del. Laws, c. 4, c. 9, c. 93, c. 94, c. 172, and c. 196 (1965)

88 City of Wilmington Code: The Charter, Related Laws and The General Ordinances, Vol. I, Part I, published 1969. (5100-000-198)

89 57 Del. Laws, c. 310 and c. 367 (1970)

90 58 Del. Laws, c. 225, c. 232, c. 233, c. 271 (1971), and c. 338 (1972)

91 59 Del. Laws, c. 294 (1974)

92 60 Del. Laws, c. 88 and c. 184 (1975)

93 61 Del. Laws, c. 428 (1978)

94 Code of the City of Wilmington, Delaware: The Charter, Related Laws, and the General Ordinances, Vol. I. Part I. published 1981. (5100-000-198)

95 62 Del. Laws, c. 2 (1979)

96 67 Del. Laws, c. 328 (1990)

97 68 Del. Laws, c. 401 (1992)

98 71 Del. Laws, c. 389 (1998)

99 73 Del. Laws, c. 192 (2001)

100 74 Del. Laws, c. 96 (2003)

101 74 Del Laws, c. 192 and c. 193 (2004)  

102 75 Del. Laws, c. 214 (2005)

103 75 Del. Laws, c. 268 (2006)

104 76 Del. Laws, c. 22 and c. 52 (2007)

105 76 Del. Laws, c. 306 (2008)

106 77 Del. Laws, c. 115 (2009)

107 81 Del. Laws, c. 132 (2017) and c. 245 (2018)


The records of the City of Wilmington on file at the Delaware Public Archives include:

Charter and Deeds

[For the current text of Wilmington’s Charter, see https://library.municode.com/de/wilmington/codes/code_of_ordinances]
  • Deeds (1739-1917) – 5100-000-461
  • Charter of the City of Wilmington (1809) (Note: Charter found within noted record) – 5100-000-050
  • Revised Code of the City of Wilmington (1942) – 5100-000-198
  • Charter of the City of Wilmington (1965) – 5100-000-198
  • Charter of the City of Wilmington (1979) – 5100-000-198
  • City Charter Files (1962-1981) – 5100-000-364

General Interest

  • Printer’s Blocks of Wilmington Scenes from c. 1920’s to c. 1940’s – 5100-000-280
  • Dover Public Library – Local Historical Slide Programs and Filmstrips (1979-1985) – 6100-009-022
  • Wilmington 1876 – 6100-009-022
  • Wilmington in the Marine World – 6100-009-022