A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 10, 2016
Delaware: Diamond State (nickname)

Delaware was called the “Diamond State” in 1847. The nickname means that Delaware is small, but very strong a valuable, just like a diamond. The Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), first made the comparison on January 17, 1835:

“The friends of that State may rest assured that size and physical power are not the tests by which the value of Delaware is estimated. Like the diamond among minerals of larger size, it is her brilliance and her incorruptibility, and not her relative magnitude, by which her value in the Union is rated.”

A newspaper titled “Delawarian and Diamond State Democrat” was proposed in January 1847 for Wilmington, Delaware. The “Diamond State” nickname has been only infrequently used.

The book Delaware: A Guide to the First State (1938) by the Federal Writers’ Project stated, “it ("Diamond State”—ed.) may have come from Thomas Jefferson’s reference to Delaware as ‘a jewel among the States.’” However, there is no record that Thomas Jefferson ever called Delaware a “jewel among the States.”


Monticello.org (Thomas Jefferson)
Jewel among the states (Quotation)
Quotation: According to legend, the state of Delaware got its nickname of the “Diamond State” from Thomas Jefferson, who called it a “jewel among the states.”
Variations: None known, although it is possible that Jefferson used some other terminology that was paraphrased as “diamond.”
(...)
Earliest known appearance in print: 1948
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: See above.
Other attributions: none known
Status: This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. Many reference works claim that he is the source of Delaware’s nickname, “The Diamond State,” but others simply state that it is called such because of its small size but great importance. The nickname “Diamond State” was current as far back as the 1850s, and thus probably dates to even earlier.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Diamond State n. U.S. the state of Delaware (see quot. 1934).
1866 Galaxy 15 Oct. 386 Without other significance than such..as attaches to the ‘Diamond State’, ‘the Empire State’, [etc.].
1934 G. E. Shankle State Names 107 Delaware gets the nickname, the Diamond State, from the fact that it is small in size but great in importance.

17 January 1835, Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), pg. 3, col. 4:
It has been remarked to us (whether in jest or earnest we are not quite sure) that our reference to the pugnacious passage, in the Message of the Governor of the State of Delaware to the Legislature thereof, looked like a reflection upon the State. We should be seriously sorry if any one could put such a construction upon it. The friends of that State may rest assured that size and physical power are not the tests by which the value of Delaware is estimated. Like the diamond among minerals of larger size, it is her brilliance and her incorruptibility, and not her relative magnitude, by which her value in the Union is rated.

21 January 1847, The North American (Philadelphia, PA), “Items of Fact and Fancy,” pg. 1, col. 7:
“MORE HELP AT HAND.”—Wm. Penn Chandler has issued proposals for publishing, in Wilmington, (Del.,) a newspaper to be called the “Delawarian and Diamond State Democrat,” of locofoco politics.

26 February 1847, New-Bedford (MA) Mercury, “Delaware Forever!,” pg. 3, col. 1:
Not one of them breathes in Delaware, but the good Whig spirit, the spirit of freedom without fanaticism, has wrought the change in “the diamond State.”

1 March 1847, The Evening Post (New York, NY), pg. 2, col. 3:
DELAWARE.—The “Blue Hen and Chicken,” printed in Wilmington, Del., alluding to the vote of Hon. John W. Houston, Representative in Congress from that State, for the Wilmot Proviso, says:

“This faithful and fearless Representative from the ‘Diamond’ State has voted in favor of the ‘Wilmot Proviso’ which prohibits slavery from all acquired Mexican territory.”

Google Books
The Poetical and Prose Writings of Dr. John Lofland, the Milford Bard
By John Lofland
Baltimore, MD: Printed and Published by John Murphy & Co.
1853
Pg. 105:
Delaware is like a diamond, diminutive, but having within it inherent specific value.
(From “Tour to Valley Forge” on July 31, 1847.—ed.)

Chronicling America
17 July 1853, Nashville (TN) Union and American, “Nicknames in the United States,” pg. 3, col. 1:
... Delaware, the Diamond State; ...

OCLC WorldCat record
Delaware, the diamond state, the garden spot of the country, some pictures, facts and figures of especial value to prospective settlers.
Author: Delaware. State Board of Agriculture.
Publisher: Wilmington, Del., The New Amstel magazine Company, 1911.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

Google Books
Delaware: A Guide to the First State
Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration
New York, NY: The Viking Press
1938
Pg. 3:
“DELAWARE is like a diamond, diminutive, but having within it inherent value,” the Milford Bard, John Lofland, wrote in 1847. This was perhaps the origin of Delaware’s popular name, the Diamond State. But it may have come from Thomas Jefferson’s reference to Delaware as “a jewel among the States,” probably because of its compact area and rich soil, certainly in tribute to the brilliance of its statesmen in his day.

OCLC WorldCat record
Seaford, Delaware, a diamond within the diamond state.
Author: Seaford (Del.). Chamber of Commerce.
Publisher: [Seaford, Del.] : [The commerce], [1940]
Edition/Format: Print book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Delaware : the Diamond State.
Author: Leon De Valinger
Publisher: [Dover] : [State Board of Agriculture], [1948]
Edition/Format: Print book : English

13 September 1959, Washington (DC) Post, “Your Motor Trip: Delaware Seen ‘Jewel’ Of States” by Walter W. Hubbard, pg. B19, col. 1:
THOMAS Jefferson once called the Diamond State of Delaware, “a jewel among the States,” because of its compact area, fertile soil and the brilliance of its early statesmen.

Google Books
Encyclopedia of Delaware
By Nancy Capace
Santa Barbara, CA: Somerset Publishers, Inc.
2000
Pg. 1:
The second nickname (Diamond State—ed.) was originated by Thomas Jefferson, who referred to Delaware as being similar to a diamond—small yet of great value.

Posted by Barry Popik
Other ExpressionsOther States • Wednesday, February 10, 2016 • Permalink