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State DELAWARE

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DOVER
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REHOBOTH BEACH
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Though DELAWARE has its beautiful spots - including some of the mid-Atlantic's best beaches - its tourist boards have their work cut out. Most of the images potential visitors have of the state are negative: Delaware is known for the massive chemical plants of the DuPont Corporation and Dover Air Force Base , as well as for tolerating shady business practices - half of America's largest companies have their official bases in this tiny state, thanks to its permissive tax, banking and incorporation laws. The upside of this is that there's no sales tax, which certainly makes shoppers happy.

To downplay the state's dubious contemporary image, Delaware's promoters emphasize its past - for example, as the first ex-colony to ratify the Constitution, it claims the title of America's First State . Dutch whalers established a settlement at the mouth of the Delaware Bay in 1631, and soon afterwards the Swedes built a larger colony at present-day Wilmington . The two groups fought amongst themselves until the British took over in 1664. Delaware was part of neighboring Pennsylvania - Philadelphia is only ten miles north of the present, arching state border - until hiving itself off in 1776.

Much of Delaware's fortunes (and misfortunes) since then can be traced directly to the du Pont family , who, fleeing the wrath of revolutionary France, set up a gunpowder mill that became the main supplier of conventional explosives to the US Government. After World War I, the du Ponts went public and made millions in the stock market frenzies of the Roaring Twenties, since which time the company has diversified, its labs inventing such modern essentials as nylon and cellophane.

The du Ponts built huge mansions for themselves in the Brandywine Valley north of Wilmington, near the perfectly preserved old colonial capital, New Castle , on the Delaware Bay just five miles south of I-95. Further south, Dover , the capital, may not detain you long, but beyond it the small and amiable resorts of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach mark the northern extent of over twenty miles of unspoiled Atlantic beaches.

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