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Mrs. Steele's Broiler House

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c. 1925. 1973 renovated. Exhibited indoors at museum

In 1923, Ocean View housewife Cecile Steele received a shipment of 500 chicks from a hatchery, ten times more than she had ordered. Making a virtue of this crisis, she raised them to two pounds each, then sold them. Surprised by the profit she made, the Steeles began raising chickens for sale as broilers—young chickens meant expressly for eating. By the third year, they were growing 10,000 birds. From this beginning sprang the Sussex County broiler industry, which revolutionized the raising of chickens in the United States. Consumption nationwide went from fourteen pounds of chicken annually in 1934 to seventy-five pounds in 1997, with 600 million broilers produced annually on Delmarva alone. The same period saw Delmarva's share of American broiler production decline from 66 percent to 8 percent, but the industry remains a major (and highly polluting) employer here, with 14,000 workers. Mrs. Steele's Broiler House, sixteen feet square, commemorates the early days when 500 broilers were housed in little sheds heated by a coal stove.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


What's Nearby


W. Barksdale Maynard, "Mrs. Steele's Broiler House", [Dover, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 248-248.

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