Delaware Before the Railroads by Dave Tabler was a very informative and enjoyable read. This book’s title perfectly sums up its contents – Delaware from 1609-1832. It gives a basic introduction to the history of the state of Delaware, taking the reader through colonization, the revolution, and much more.
The format of this book took me by pleasant surprise. The majority of the pages are filled with images of standing monuments, artifacts, and other historical treasures relevant to the history of Delaware. Each picture comes with a descriptive caption, and the reader can reference the back of the book for a more in-depth explanation if they so choose. Again, I loved this composition. When it comes to history, the material can be dense which is why pictures are such a great way to bring the story to life. I also loved how short, sweet, and to the point his captions are. This made the history easy to follow and enjoyable for the average reader, whether they are a history buff or not. Giving someone the option to read more in the back if they so choose will please all parties, something I thought was a great touch. My only critique would be to work a bit more on the interior page formatting between the picture and caption. Depending on the page, sometimes the picture size could feel a little overcrowded with multiple pictures, and captions. Tabler could benefit from rearranging his interior design a bit to make every page cohesive.
As far as book content, I genuinely learned a lot about Delaware. Admittedly, I knew slim before I read this, but afterward, I felt I possessed a good working knowledge of its history. I especially found the story of oyster dredging in Delaware Bay to be interesting. A south Louisiana native, oysters are very much part of our culture and are found in basically every restaurant. I was fascinated to learn that in Delaware, oyster shells were used for lime mortar in brick buildings, ash fertilizer, and road surfacing. I also loved reading about the general shock that early Swedish and Dutch settlers had in this new colony. Sea life was very different from the “Old World” which led to much misinformation; a great example of this was in reference to Thomas Campanius Holm’s writings of “sea spiders” (crabs) which had “tails like edged swords with which they could saw down trees.”
As a whole, I think Delaware Before the Railroads gives great general information to the average reader about Delaware. I also think this would be a great read for middle schoolers, or elementary school, giving them a more fun look into history with pictures.