New Jersey is known as “The Garden State” for its fertile soil. While it may be one of the most densely populated states, about 45% of it is pine forests. New Jersey was one of the 13 original colonies. It was centrally located during the war and as a result was home to the most Revolutionary War battles, around 100. It is also where the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr took place.
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is synonymous with New York City but where is it actually located? Well, that depends on who you ask. The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island but it used to be known as Bedloe Island. It seems the 1664 original land grant for New Jersey gave them Ellis Island and Bedloe Island. In 1824, the City of New York wanted control of the steam ferry services and they brought a suit against New Jersey. It was determined that interstate transport would be regulated by the federal government but it did not resolve the border issues. It was resolved in 1834, when the states came to a compact that was ratified by Congress. It set the boundary between them at the midpoint of the shared waterways. This put Bedloe and Ellis in New Jersey, however there was an exception that they remain territory of New York. Today, it is stated that all land above water on Liberty Island belongs to New York and all riparian rights belong to New Jersey.
New Jersey is home to the first Miss America pageant. In 1920, a fall pageant called The Fall Frolic was held in Atlantic City. It was designed to bring business to the boardwalk. It was so successful that they held another one a year later in 1921, this time calling it Miss America. Many local papers across the East Coast were asked to sponsor local beauty pageants with the winners then competing in Atlantic City. 100,000 people gathered along the boardwalk to watch the contest. The pageant has continued ever since with a few breaks due to The Depression and war. It began broadcasting on TV in 1954 and grew even more in popularity. In 2018, the pageant made changes and took out the bathing suit competition.
New Jersey is known as “The Diner Capital of the World”. Today there are around 525 diners in New Jersey. There are a few reasons that diners flourished there. One of them is that New Jersey connected New York and Philadelphia. The many people who drove that route needed a place to stop and eat, diners were great for that. Another is that New Jersey had one of the earliest and largest public transportation systems. Those who used it needed some place quick to stop for a bite on their comings and goings. One of the main reasons is that New Jersey was home to the biggest manufacturers of diners. The Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company is credited with creating and popularizing the classic diner. Diners used to be made of a long narrow building similar to a railway car. They would manufacture the whole thing and then ship them all across the country and even around the world. You could also ship them back to be updated. Most remaining diners in New Jersey still have that classic, vintage look to them.
New Jersey is home to the folklore creature known as the Jersey Devil that lives in the Pine Barrens, many residents claim that it is real. The origin story goes that in 1735, Jane Leeds, also called “Mother Leeds”, was due to give birth to her 13th child. She went into labor on a stormy night surrounded by friends. The child was born normal but changed into a creature with a goat’s head, hooves, bat wings and a forked tail. The creature then beat everyone with its tail and went up the chimney and ran to the pines. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries the creature had become legend. Throughout the 1800s there were a few published accounts of it. Then for a week in January in 1909, there was a rash of sightings and hundreds of published encounters. People today still claim to have seen it. New Jersey has embraced the Jersey Devil, even naming their hockey team after the creature.
The Hindenburg Disaster occurred in New Jersey. The Hindenburg was a German passenger airship. It left Frankfurt Germany on May 3, 1937. There were no issues as it flew over the Atlantic Ocean. On the morning of May 6, it passed over Boston on its way to Lakehurst to land. Stormy weather had caused it to be hours behind. The captain chartered a course over Manhattan Island to avoid the storms. Then when the weather cleared the airship headed to Lakehurst. At 7:00 p.m. the Hindenburg made its final approach to Lakehurst Naval Air Station. Over the next 15 minutes things would go wrong. The ground crew wasn’t ready, the wind changed, it was stern-heavy, and the port line was overtightened. Then at 7:25, witnesses state they saw gas leaking or a small flame before part of it erupted in large flames and the bow crashed into the ground. There was a total of 35 deaths, 13 of the 36 passengers and 22 of the 61 crew. The Hindenburg Disaster is widely documented. There were many journalists there to document the landing and it was caught on film for newsreels. Nobody quite knows exactly why it went up in flames and there are many theories. There is a memorial at the crash site. It also helped to effectively end airship travel.