Did you know?
- After the passage of the 15th Amendment, Thomas Mundy Peterson was the first African American to cast his vote. He voted in Perth Amboy in 1870.
- The story of Molly Pitcher is based on the actions of Mary Ludwig during the Revolutionary War battle at Monmouth. She carried pitchers of water to soldiers, thereby earning her nickname.
- Princeton, NJ served as the capital of the U.S. during the 1783 Continental Congress, and Trenton, NJ served as the country’s capital during the 1784 Continental Congress.
- In 1998, most of Ellis Island was declared to be a part of New Jersey.
- The first “drive-in” movie theater opened in Camden, New Jersey in 1933.
- New Jersey’s own Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, incandescent lamp in 1879 (both in Menlo Park), and the motion picture was developed in West Orange in 1889. The first town to be lighted by his incandescent bulbs was Roselle in 1883.
- The first modern submarine was built in 1878 by John Holland of Passaic County, and one of his early submarines can be seen at the Paterson Museum.
- The first nearly-complete skeleton of a dinosaur was found in Haddonfield in 1858 (the Hadrosaurus foulkii). It was also the first dinosaur skeleton to ever be mounted and put on display in 1868.
- The first organized game of baseball took place in Hoboken on June 19, 1846 between the New York Nine and the New York Knickerbockers.
- The first college football game in the United States was between two New Jersey schools, Rutgers University and Princeton University, and it took place on November 6, 1869 in New Brunswick. Rutgers won 6-4.
- The first “condensed” soup was cooked and canned in Camden, New Jersey in 1897.
New Jersey State Symbols
Pierre Eugene du Simitiere designed the state seal in May 1777. The three plows in the shield honor the state’s agricultural tradition, while the horse head represents speed and strength. The female figures of the seal are Liberty on the left and Ceres on the right. Liberty carries the liberty cap on her staff while Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain, symbolizes abundance and cradles a cornucopia filled with harvested produce. The banner below, “Liberty and Prosperity,” is the official state motto.
Adopted in 1896, the state flag proudly displays the official state colors: Buff and Jersey Blue. The state seal is emblazoned in blue on a brilliant buff background.
The Eastern Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) was adopted as the New Jersey state bird in 1935.
The Red Oak (Quercus rubra) was named the official state tree in 1950. New Jersey also named the Dogwood as the state memorial tree in 1951.
New Jersey is the birthplace of the cultivated blueberry, thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth C. White of Whitesbog in 1916. In 2004, the blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) became New Jersey’s official state fruit.
The Hadrosaurus foulkii became the state dinosaur in 1991.
Learn more about our state symbols here.
Brief History of Early NJ
5000 B.C.E.: New Jersey’s first inhabitants arrived. DL’s a PDF**
The area now known as New Jersey was once populated by a prehistoric people who lived here earlier than 9000 B.C.E. Their descendants became known as the Lenape.
Giovanni da Verrazano was the first European to explore the New Jersey coast. You pay homage to his legacy every time you cross the Verrazano Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York.
Henry Hudson explored the Hudson and Delaware Bays in 1609. Later, the first houses in New Jersey were built in 1633 in the Dutch settlement now called Jersey City.
The British took over the Dutch New Amsterdam colony and granted the land between the Delaware and the Hudson to John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. They named it “New Jersey” after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel (You now know for whom the New Jersey towns of Berkeley Heights and Carteret were named).
William Trent was a successful merchant who established an outpost on the banks of the Delaware around 1721, later to be known as “Trent’s Town.” In time, the name became Trenton, and the village developed into the state’s capital city. Trent’s house still stands as the city’s oldest historic museum.
Prior to 1738, the New York and New Jersey royal colonies shared a governor. Lewis Morris was the first governor of the royal colony of New Jersey alone. His name is found in Morris County, Morristown, and Morris Plains.
Princeton University, one of the world’s most respected institutions of higher learning, was originally founded in Elizabeth. It soon moved to Newark, then finally to Princeton, where it has been since 1756.
From its roots as a colonial college and land-grant institution, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has developed into one of America’s leading public research universities. With main campuses in northern, central and southern New Jersey, Rutgers is the state’s premier public institution of higher education, serving a diverse community of over 50,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff employees.
New Jersey is known as “The Crossroads of the Revolution;” in part because of the nearly 300 Revolutionary War battles or skirmishes took place here. The most famous of which occurred on December 25 & 26, 1776, when George Washington made his famous overnight crossing of the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to surprise the Hessian soldiers in New Jersey. He defeated the British forces in the Battle of Trenton. This victory, combined with the victory at Princeton a few days later, prevented the British from achieving the early, easy victory they expected. On June 28, 1778, the last major battle of the North was fought at Monmouth.
On December 18, 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the new Constitution of the United States. New Jersey was also the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789.
This section was compiled with information from the Official State Website and the state Division of Travel and Tourism.