Milford Museum presents: The Holly Industry of Delaware

Terry RogersCulture, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Workers in Delaware preparing wreaths for transportation and sale

The Milford Museum American History Series continues with this Christmas themed program that will focus on the historical value of American Holly to the State of Delaware.¬† Presented by Dr. Robert Tjaden, this program will take place on¬†Saturday, December 9, at 1:00 p.m. at the Milford Public Library. During the 1930s & 40s, Milton was known as the Holly Wreath capital of the world. Milford and surrounding towns contributed too. These Christmas wreaths were shipped worldwide. The Pennsylvania Railroad had a special train at Christmas time called the ‚ÄúHolly Express‚ÄĚ to pick up and deliver wreaths throughout the region. Many families in Sussex and lower Kent County were involved in making holly wreaths to supplement their income.

In 1939, then-Governor Richard McMullen signed a bill passed by the General Assembly designating the American holly as the official state tree, recognizing not only its beauty, but its importance to the economy. The holly industry in the state employed 8,500 people during the 1920s and 1930s. Farmers found that holly, which was the last crop of the growing season, could be a lucrative businesses. Families earned as much as $500, the equivalent of $9,212 in today’s money, making wreaths between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By 1938, the holly industry in Delaware was close to $1 million, the equivalent of almost $18.5 million today. The industry died out when plastic wreaths were introduced in the 1940s.

Dr. Robert Tjaden is a native Delawarean and a forester. With a great appreciation for Delaware‚Äôs rich forest history, he and the late Walt Gabel wrote the book “Beneath the Canopy: A Historical View of Forestry in Delaware”¬†so others can realize the value of these forests and have historical information in one publication. The authors take the reader on a historical journey with photographs and written documents that were gathered from archival documents and interviews that are part of the Delaware Forest Oral History Project.

Sponsored by the Milford Museum, these monthly programs focus on a variety of topics concerning local, state, and national history.¬†¬†These presentations are held on¬†the¬†second Saturday of each month, at 1:00 p.m., in the Milford Public Library.¬†¬†The Milford Public Library is located at 11 S.E. Front Street in Milford, Delaware.¬†For more information, please contact the Museum at (302) 424-1080,¬†[email protected]. These programs are offered through a generous grant from The Delaware Heritage Commission.


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