15 Fascinating Facts About New Jersey

The oldest functioning lighthouse in the US can be found in Sandy Hook Unit, New Jersey. It was constructed in the 18th century.

Often referred to as “The Garden State,” New Jersey became the 3rd state to join the United States of America on December 18, 1787.

It has a population of 8,882,190 people (as of 2019), making it the 11th most populous state. New Jersey is bordered by Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York.

It spans across 8,722 square miles (22,591 square kilometers) of land and water, ranking as the 47th largest state.

Trenton is the capital of New Jersey, located centrally in the state.

While those are quick facts about the Garden State, let’s delve into some more intriguing ones!

People have inhabited New Jersey since 13,000 BC.

Modern theorists agree that the Paleo-Indians were the first group to settle in most of the Americas.

These early settlers migrated from the far east of modern-day Russia and crossed the Bering Strait into modern-day Alaska between 15,000 and 10,000 BC.

They gradually moved southward and settled in North and South America.

Before the Paleo-Indians arrived, New Jersey was covered by a massive ice sheet that receded around 13,000 BC, allowing the Paleo-Indians to move into the area.

They initially lived as hunter-gatherers, migrating in search of food.

The Lenape lived in New Jersey for over 500 years before the arrival of Europeans.

When Europeans arrived in what is now New Jersey, several different cultures had already risen and fallen.

The Lenape, also known as the Delaware, had lived in the region since 1000 AD.

By the time the first European ships arrived in 1524, at least 20,000 people were a part of this large and complex society.

The Lenape lived in small tribes, surviving on farmed produce, hunted animals, and gathered plants.

Though they were not a centrally organized group, they were highly respected by neighboring tribes for their peaceful nature.

The first Europeans to settle in New Jersey were Dutch.

The first European to sail into the region was Giovanni da Verrazzano, an explorer from Florence who was sailing in service of France in 1524.

It took some time for the news to reach Europe, as the next Europeans to arrive on the Jersey Shore were Dutch explorers in 1611.

These Dutch explorers surveyed the region and claimed it for the Netherlands, naming it New Netherlands.

Within a few years, many Dutch families had settled in the area.

Sweden also attempted to claim parts of New Jersey.

Less than 30 years after the Dutch, Sweden laid claim to the region.

They established New Sweden along the banks of the Delaware River in 1638.

The residents of New Sweden were relatively peaceful towards both their Dutch and Native American neighbors, and focused primarily on building a colony and expanding their trading capabilities.

The population of New Sweden reached its peak around 1654 with a total of approximately 370 people. Despite being captured by the Dutch due to conflicts in Europe, Swedish residents were allowed to continue living in the region.

New Jersey’s early history as an English colony was complex. Although the Dutch settled the region, England claimed it was previously theirs due to a technicality and renamed the New Netherlands capital of New Amsterdam to New York after forcibly taking modern-day New Jersey and New York in 1664. Later, the Province of New Jersey was named after the small British island of Jersey and gifted to two English noblemen, Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton, who then founded the province. Due to conflicts of interest and difficulties in controlling new settlers, the province was split into East and West Jersey ten years later. It wasn’t until 1702 that the two sections reunited to form a royal colony more directly governed by England.

New Jersey was the site of more battles during the American Revolution than any other colony. Although the population was divided between those who wanted to break away from England and those who felt tied to the crown, five representatives from New Jersey signed the declaration of independence on July 4, 1776. During the war, New Jersey gained the nickname “Crossroads of the Revolution” due to the number of battles fought within its boundaries.

New Jersey was where Thomas Edison’s greatest inventions were created. Although he began experimenting in his parent’s basement in Ohio, it wasn’t until he moved to New Jersey that his inventions started gaining recognition. By the age of 24, Edison built the world’s first research and development facility in Menlo Park. There, he created the world’s first functional light bulb, the phonograph, and 400 other inventions.

The largest light bulb in the world is located in New Jersey at a monument constructed to honor Thomas Edison’s inventions. The monument was built in 1938 in Menlo Park, where his research and development facility once stood. At the top of the monument rests the world’s largest light bulb, measuring an impressive 13 feet (3.96 m) tall.

New Jersey was the site of the world’s last passenger airship explosion.

The LZ 129 Hindenburg airship, also known as the Hindenburg, was originally designed to use helium to lift it into the air. However, due to the high cost and control of helium, the airship was redesigned to use flammable hydrogen gas. Despite this dangerous gas, the Hindenburg made successful trips from March 1936 until May 1937 when disaster struck while attempting to dock in New Jersey. The cause of the explosion is still unknown, but it resulted in the death of 13 passengers, 22 crew members, and one of the docking staff.

In 1858, archaeologist William Parker Foulke discovered a dinosaur skeleton in Haddonfield, New Jersey, which would later be classified as a Hadrosaurus foulkii. This almost-complete skeleton was the first of its kind to be unearthed in North America and provided irrefutable proof that dinosaurs existed. Ten years later, the skeleton became the first dinosaur skeleton to be displayed publicly. The Hadrosaurus foulkii is now the official state dinosaur of New Jersey.

New Jersey hosted the first Miss America pageant in 1921, which was created to boost tourism in Atlantic City. Margaret Gorman, a 16-year-old high school student, won the competition and was crowned the “Golden Mermaid.” The competition was later rebranded as the Miss America pageant in 1941.

New Jersey’s nickname, “The Garden State,” was claimed to have been coined by Attorney General Abraham Browning at the 1876 World’s Fair. However, the nickname didn’t gain circulation until 1926 when historian Alfred Heston fabricated the story to add credibility to Browning’s speech. The oldest operating lighthouse in America, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, is located in New Jersey and has been continuously operating since 1764.

Lastly, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the US.

Although many people know that New Jersey has a high population density, there are some interesting details to this fact.

What’s surprising is that certain areas of the state, such as the majority of the southwest, are relatively uninhabited despite the overall high population density.

The reason for this high density is due to Hudson County, which has the four most populated municipalities in the country, each having at least 43,000 people per square mile (26,875 per square kilometer).

New Jersey Has a High Rate of Car Theft Compared to Other States

New Jersey has gained a reputation as the car theft capital of America, although this is not the case throughout the entire state. Some cities like Newark contribute to this negative image.

A study even found which cars are stolen the most in the state, so if you live in Newark or New Jersey, it may be wise to avoid owning a Toyota Camry, Honda Civic or Accord, or a Nissan Altima.

New Jersey’s rivalry with New York has resulted in some unfriendly nicknames such as “The Armpit of America,” but the state has a rich culture and history.

TV shows like The Jersey Shore have not helped the state’s reputation, but there is more to New Jersey than that. It is a fascinating state worth exploring.

Next time you’re in the area, consider giving New Jersey a chance!


1. What is the origin of the name “New Jersey”?

The name “New Jersey” comes from the Channel Island of Jersey in the English Channel. In 1664, the land was given to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, who named it after their home island of Jersey.

2. What is the significance of the Atlantic City Boardwalk?

Atlantic City’s Boardwalk was the first boardwalk in America, built in 1870. It was created to keep sand out of beachfront hotels and train cars. Today, it is a popular tourist destination with casinos, shops, and restaurants lining the boardwalk.

3. What is the most populated city in New Jersey?

Newark is the most populated city in New Jersey, with a population of over 280,000 people. It is located in Essex County and is known for its airport, museums, and performing arts center.

4. What is the state animal of New Jersey?

The state animal of New Jersey is the horse. This was officially adopted in 1977, as horses played a significant role in the state’s history, including being used for transportation and agriculture.

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