New Jersey: The Garden State
Geography and Industry
New Jersey shares its northern border with New York. Aside from that, all of its other borders are formed by water: the Delaware River to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Delaware Bay to the south. Northern New Jersey is very hilly, and southern New Jersey is very flat. The big rivers running through New Jersey are the Passaic and the Raritan.
New Jersey is one of the smallest of the United States (only Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware are smaller), but it is also one of the most populous. This means that New Jersey has a lot of people living in its borders. New Jersey ranks in the top ten of all the states in population numbers. That is a lot of people living in a very narrow space! New Jersey is a very crowded state in part because it is right between the huge eastern cities of Philadelphia and New York City. In fact, the metropolitan areas of both of these cities have expanded into New Jersey over the last few decades. As a result of this, many of the residents of New Jersey commute to jobs in other states!
WORDS TO KNOW
Quakers are a religious group that believes that everything in life was meant to be simple and straightforward. They call themselves the Society of Friends, and got the nickname “Quakers” because during some early sermons preached among some of their members, the people shook violently while “possessed by the Holy Spirit”!
Remember how eastern Pennsylvania was originally settled by the Swedes (people from Sweden)? Well, the same thing happened in New Jersey, which is just on the other side of the Delaware River from Pennsylvania. And just like in Pennsylvania, the Swedes were forced out by the Dutch, who after a few years lost a war with the English, who then claimed New Jersey and Pennsylvania for themselves. The Dutch left their mark in this area through the names of villages such as Hoboken (which is a large city today).
Two of the most important battles of the American Revolution were fought in New Jersey. Have you learned in school about General Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware? Maybe you've seen the famous painting, which shows him and his soldiers crossing the river in big boats. If you have, did you wonder where he was going when he and his army crossed the river?
Well, the answer is that he was going to New Jersey! Washington's army crossed the Delaware the night before Christmas, and attacked Hessian soldiers the next morning in their camp at Trenton. He and his troops took the Hessians completely by surprise, killed many soldiers, and captured many others. A few days later, Washington struck again, this time at Princeton, New Jersey (now home of the famous university that bears its name), and again won an overwhelming victory! These two battles were very important because up to that point, General Washington had not won many battles against either the British or the Hessians, and his winning at Trenton and Princeton gave the patriots everywhere hope that they would win independence from England.
ALL ABOUT New Jersey
LARGEST CITY: Newark
POPULATION: 8,414,350 (2000 Census)
STATE BIRD: Eastern Goldfinch
STATE TREE: Red Oak
STATE FLOWER: Purple Violet
STATE MOTTO: “Liberty and Prosperity”
STATEHOOD: December 18, 1787
POSTAL ABBREVIATION: NJ
New Jerseyite of Note
One of the ways in which New Jersey has had a major impact on the world since the end of the American Revolution was by helping launch the motion picture industry. Did you know that before there was a Hollywood, there was a Menlo Park? Menlo Park, New Jersey, that is. It's true, the first American movies were filmed in New Jersey!
And guess who filmed many of those movies? Thomas Edison. Have you heard of him? Yes, he invented the light bulb (well, he actually improved the design of another scientist, allowing a light bulb to burn for longer than a few minutes before it burned out), but he did much more, and he did it all in his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. In fact, one of his many nicknames was “the wizard of Menlo Park.”
Aside from improving the light bulb, Edison also invented the phonograph (an old-fashioned record player). Ask your parents or grandparents what a phonograph is. They might even have one they can show to you. Phonograph records work a lot differently than CDs and MP3s work today! Other inventions that Edison improved include the typewriter, which did some of the things that computers do today (again, ask your parents or grandparents) and the motion picture camera. Some of the oldest home movies ever taken were shot in the 1890s in New Jersey, in and around Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park. In fact, Edison even started the first movie studio. When movies began to be shown around the country a few years later, many people called them “Edison shows.”
WORDS TO KNOW
Hessians were soldiers from Hesse-Cassel (pronounced “hessCASS-ul”), a region of what is now Germany. Their king “rented” their services out to the English king, King George III. In exchange for the money that George III paid the Hessian ruler, these soldiers came to America to fight against the rebelling colonists.