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ZipUSA: 19886 On Assignment

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ZipUSA: 19886
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ZipUSA: 19886 @ National Geographic Magazine
   
By Mary McPeakPhotographs by David McLain



There are people in Wilmington, Delaware, who want to give you all the credit you deserve—and maybe more.



Read or print the full article.

It's that time again: Write the check to pay for the holiday splurge and mail it to zip code 19886, Wilmington, Delaware. No one lives in the zip code, but several credit card companies get their mail there. On a peak day they receive almost two million payments—enough to fill a Hummer.
 
Delaware has been good for business ever since Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours fled the French Revolution and built his gunpowder mills along Wilmington's Brandywine Creek 200 years ago. The mill was the start of the DuPont Company, the city's major private employer for generations.
 
That role is now played by MBNA, a giant in the credit card industry, which moved to Delaware in the 1980s to take advantage of the state's favorable banking laws. Consumer debt has become an American way of life, one that many find addictive. Wilmingtonians themselves aren't immune to credit card debt.
 
"You've been approved." Those were sweet words to Reema Patel when she was in college. With eight credit cards, she wasn't able to pay down the $28,000 she had spent traveling, shopping, and partying by the time she was 21. "I loved having a credit card," Patel says. "I had a great time. I didn't think twice." Patel, now 25, is working as a teacher's aide and waitress to finish paying off her debt on a three-year plan. "I went shopping every day. Now I have to contain myself."

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Location, location, location. Where Wilmington sits on the eastern seaboard may not be so important in this age of virtual commerce, however, geography played a vital role in the 18th-century development of the city. At that time, waterpower was one of the prime sources of energy for driving the machinery of industry, and Wilmington's river, Brandywine Creek, was the largest of several streams in the northern part of Delaware capable of being harnessed for power.
 
Brandywine Creek flows from its source in Pennsylvania, joins the Christina River at Wilmington, and together they empty into the Delaware River. Along this route, Brandywine Creek crosses the fall line—the intersection of the Piedmont (foothills) of the Appalachian Mountains and the Coastal Plain. Where these two geologies meet rapids and waterfalls are common, and Wilmington lies within this zone: In the four-mile (six-kilometer) reach behind Market Street Bridge in Wilmington, Brandywine Creek's elevation drops 120 feet (40 meters).
 
As many as 130 mills were constructed along the river. The mills powered their machinery by diverting water into raceways and directing the flow over waterwheels before returning it to the river below. The mills that helped turn Wilmington into the largest city in Delaware made flour, paper, textiles, and, in the early 19th century, gunpowder. As steam supplanted waterpower and other industries replaced mills, Wilmington continued to be a manufacturing center and owes a measure of its industrial history to its geography.
 
 —M. Reese Madrid
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Related Links
City of Wilmington, Delaware
www.ci.wilmington.de.us
This site includes information about Wilmington history, geography, and demographics as well as city government offices and officers.
 
Historical Society of Delaware
www.hsd.org
Find out about Delaware's rich history through tours, publications, and exhibitions listed on the site.
 
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware
www.cccs-inc.org
Test your credit knowledge and examine your financial fitness. You can also review tips to reduce expenses, learn more about credit counseling, or make an appointment with a credit counselor.
 
National Foundation for Credit Counseling
www.debtadvice.org
For information on locating a credit counseling agency, questions to ask before selecting one, or general information about credit counseling agencies, refer to this site.
 
Nellie Mae Credit Card Tips
www.nelliemae.com/managingmoney/cc_tips.html
Students can get advice on credit cards, including things to watch out for and questions to ask before applying for a credit card.

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Bibliography
Hoffecker, Carol. Delaware: A Bicentennial History. W. W. Norton and Company, 1977.
 
Stuever, Hank. "Just One Word: Plastic." Washington Post Magazine, June 16, 2002.
 
Weatherford, Jack. The History of Money: From Sandstone to Cyberspace. Crown Publishers, 1997.

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NGS Resources
Burbank, Linda. "Can Renting a Car Wreck Your Credit?" National Geographic Traveler (March 2004), 22, 24.
 
Sparks, Katherine. "Cards That Travel Well." National Geographic Traveler (March 2004), 26.
 
Newman, Rick. "What's in Your Wallet?" National Geographic Traveler (March 2003), 24.

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