A person from Delaware was called a “Muskrat” in the 19th century, from the abundance of the animal in the state. “Delaware, Muskrats” was cited in an 1845 list of national nicknames.
The “Muskrat” nickname is very infrequently used today, although muskrats are still hunted in Delaware and have been included on some restaurant menus.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
muskrat, n. (and adj.)
U.S. colloq. (usu. derogatory). A person thought to resemble a muskrat in some way; spec. an inhabitant of a low-lying district, esp. the state of Delaware or the St Clair Flats, Michigan.
1823 J. K. Paulding Koningsmarke I. iv. ii. 1203 ‘Delawares, Minks, Mingoes, Muskrats, and Mud Turtles, listen!’ said the Heer, feeling all the dignity of his situation.
1845 in C. Cist Cincinnati Misc. 240 The inhabitants of..Delaware [are called] Muskrats.
Koningsmarke, the Long Finne:
A Story of the New World
By James Kirke Paulding
New York, NY: Charles Wiley
“Delawares, Minks, Mingoes, Muskrats and Mud Turtles, listen!”
By James Fenimore Cooper
Paris: Baudry’s European Library
“Well, Sarpent,” cried Hurry, always the first to speak, “what news from the Muskrats? Did they show their teeth, as you surrounded their dwelling?”
“I no like him” — sententiously returned the Delaware.
April 1845, Cincinnati Miscellany (Cincinnati, OH), pg. 240, col. 1:
25 July 1864, Indianapolis (IN) Daily Journal, “National Nick-Names,” pg. 4, col. 2:
An Index to the United States of America
Compiled by Malcolm Townsend
Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company
NICKNAMES APPLIED TO THE PEOPLE OF THE STATES.
Delaware...Musk-rats...The abundance of musk-rats and the smallness of the State implied that only musk-rats could get a foothold.
3 June 1896, The Morning Herald (Lexington, KY), “The Nicknames of Twenty-Eight States of the Union,” pg. 6, col. 3:
Delaware people are called “Muskrats,” an allusion to the former abundance of these animals.
Universal Dictionary of the English Language
Edited by Robert Hunter and Charles Morris
New York, NY: Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher
Delaware. Musk-rats (from the abundance of these animals).
New York (NY) Times
Muskrat Hunting Issue Is Polarizing Delaware
By JANE BROOKS, Special to the New York Times
Published: March 27, 1988
Trappers, farmers and wildlife managers criticize the alternative, citing the likelihood of the animals being maimed in the process. They argue that present state laws are fair, humane, in tune with the ecological balance and should be left alone. Taking away the traps, they say, would kill the industry as swiftly as the traps now dispatch their catch.
The muskrat industry adds a million dollars a year to the state’s economy. ‘’We’re not talking about a few old men setting half a dozen traps out behind the barn,’’ said Thomas W. Whittendale Jr. of the state wildlife management section. ‘’Muskrat trapping is a big business in Delaware.’’ Coats, Oil and ‘Marsh Rabbit’
Delaware diner says goodbye, muskrat
Patricia Talorico 11:26 p.m. EDT September 16, 2014
The Wagon Wheel restaurant, the Smyrna landmark well-known as one of the few remaining places in Delaware that still served muskrat, has closed its doors after more than 40 years.
Muskrat seekers are still among us
Patricia Talorico, The News Journal 12:01 p.m. EST January 14, 2015
Just when I thought the muskrat eating tradition has begun dying out in Delaware, I started receiving phone calls from diners who have a taste for these furry, marsh-dwelling rodents.
Seasonal muskrat dinners aren’t just relics from bygone days, and muskrat trapping now is in full swing.
In New Castle County, the season runs from December through March 10, and it continues for five more days after that in Kent and Sussex counties.