New Jersey – A History Lovers’ Paradise

New Jersey, with its urban centers, country towns, and beaches, offers something for everyone. But its rich history is found everywhere—hidden away on quiet back roads and right out in plain sight. The state’s inhabitants are inventive, creative and often revolutionary.

During the American Revolution, New Jersey played a crucial role in the war’s first major battle, the Battle of Trenton. In this victory, General George Washington defeated British forces and set the stage for independence.

The state is also known for its vibrant music scene and illustrious artists, such as painters William Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Norman Rockwell. New Jersey also has a lot of granite, sand and gravel for mining; is a leader in seafood production—especially clams; and boasts the world’s largest fleet of commercial aircraft.

In the 1800s, northern New Jersey became an industrial powerhouse, with cities like Paterson, Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth, and Jersey City hosting factories that produced textiles, railroads, silk, clay products, iron and steel. Southern New Jersey remained more rural, and the state was a leader in growing crops for urban markets.

By the 1900s, the economy diversified with the addition of electronics and chemical industries. The state is home to many well-known inventors, including Thomas Edison, who developed the light bulb, sound recording, motion pictures and commercial electric service, and whose inventions helped propel America to economic prosperity. Hollywood also thrived here, with stars such as Fatty Arbuckle and Mary Pickford gracing the silver screen.

Today, New Jersey has become a center of commerce and industry. The state’s manufacturing sector remains a significant part of its economy, but it is increasingly complemented by high tech and biotech firms. It is also a popular retirement destination, with more than half of its residents over the age of 65.

In addition to its many human residents, New Jersey is also home to many animals, from black bears and bobcats to hummingbirds and Tuckahoe masked shrews. Its reptiles include spotted turtles and five-lined skinks, and the state’s forests are home to sugar maple, American chestnut, flowering dogwood, and pitch pine trees. New Jersey’s wildflowers include queen Anne’s lace, orange daylilies and purple violets.

New Jersey’s history is on display throughout the state, in museums and historic sites that tell the story of this storied, diverse and innovative place. At the Historical Society of New Jersey, everyday breeches and coats, cotton-printed dresses from the 1820s, smocks and gowns from a 19th-century orphanage, and nurses’ uniforms from every decade since the early 1880s offer insight into the state’s past. Thomas Edison’s early light bulbs and phonographs are on display at Menlo Park Museum in his hometown of Menlo Park, and visitors can see where the famous General George Washington crossed the Delaware River into Trenton at Washington Crossing State Park. And, in downtown Trenton, you can visit the house where singer and actress Judy Blume grew up. This two-story Victorian-style house was her childhood home, and the tour includes a recreation of Judy’s bedroom as it appeared when she was a child.