New Jersey’s unique geographical location in North America has put it in the center of many historical events. For starters, it played a significant role in the building of the then new nation. It also played a monumental role in the American Revolution and continues to have a major influence on the rest of the country.
While New Jersey has changed dramatically over the centuries, many historical events have unfortunately been forgotten, but the major ones haven’t. In this article, we look back at some of the key historical events that took place in New Jersey and helped shaped the way America is today.
Historical Events In North Jersey
The Humble Beginnings of “New Netherlands”
The British explorer Henry Hudson was one of the first people to sail through the Newark Bay back in 1609, after which he claimed the land in the name of the Dutch. He was apparently working for the Netherland and hence called it “New Netherlands.” The state was soon populated with hundreds of small colonies including the Swedes, Dutch, and Finns.
Handing Over NJ to the British
A few decades later in 1665, the British took control of New Netherlands and turned it into their colony. At that time it was one of the many British colonies in the Americas. They changed the name to New Jersey, perhaps naming it after the Isle of Jersey located in the English Channel. Later Sir George Carteret was given control of the area since he had previously been the governor of the Isle of Jersey.
New Jersey Strongly Supported the American Revolution
The American Revolution was strongly supported by the people in New Jersey, and they led the charge on declaring themselves independent back in 1776. However, there were many revolutionary battles fought in New Jersey, according to many experts there were more battles in this state than any other. One reason for there being more battles is because it is centrally located between Philadelphia and New York.
The Battle of Trenton
It is perhaps one of the most historic events, which became a turning point for the colony and for the country’s independence. George Washington led the attack right after crossing the Delaware River in 1776; it was at a time when the Hessian mercenaries were sleeping after a night of Christmas celebration. That led to over 900 mercenaries taken prisoner. The American victory helped to boost the morale of other colonies across the Americas.
First State to Sign the Bill of Rights
Back in 1787, New Jersey was amongst the first three states to ratify the constitution. It was also the first to sign the Bill of Rights. Later Trenton was the first capital of the state in 1790. In 1804, New Jersey abolished slavery. Plus, NJ was the 47th state in the USA which was part of the original thirteen colonies.
Way Too Much Produce to Handle
New Jersey was blessed to be in the middle colonies, and because of that, they had many more crops than the state could handle. So, much of the fruit and vegetables were left to rot on the ground. All of this was even happening at a time when many other colonies had barely anything to eat. New Jersey state continues to be amongst the highest producers of produce in America today.
The World’s Boardwalk
Yes! Atlantic City was the first to get a boardwalk in 1870, and it remains the longest one spanning for six miles. The purpose of the boardwalk was to prevent sand from the nearby beaches from being brought into the railroad cars and hotels by patrons. The casino boom of the 1980s led to Atlantic City lifting itself out of what was years of economic decline and consequently decay. That is why casinos are often touted as being the lifeblood of New Jersey.
Opening of the Holland Tunnel
Originally opened in 1927, the tunnel connects New York with New Jersey. The passageway is located 93 feet underneath the Hudson River and was at the time considered to be a significant construction project. Not only that but it is credited with being the first underwater tunnel that had mechanical ventilation. The building of the tunnel led to an economic boom for New Jersey as it made it easier for residents to move back and forth from New York. Not to mention that it was once described as the 8th Wonder of the World.
Saw the Demise of Hydrogen Airships
Did you know that the famous explosion and crash of the Hindenburg airship took place in Lakehurst, NJ? On May 6, 1937, the infamous crash ended what was a 30-year era of hydrogen airships. It is said that if that accident didn’t take place, we’d still have hydrogen airships floating around. Though sabotage and accidental malfunction have been blamed but the fact is that those hydrogen cells led to the destruction of the ship within just 34 seconds killing 36 people onboard.
Center of Urban and Industrial Development
New Jersey saw a rapid growth in the number of oil refineries and factories through the 19th century. That gave rise to high employment numbers, but it soon led to numerous environmental concerns as the state became heavily populated. It was at one point, one of the most densely populated states in the US. It was traffic congestion and urbanization, which led to the rapid decline in the state’s infrastructure.
New Jersey Played A Huge Role In The Founding Of America.
American history is incomplete with the mention of New Jersey. The state has been a part of major events in history and continues to play its role in shaping much of the trends we see in modern America. It continues to serve as a very important state along the East Coast both politically and economically.