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State of New Jersey


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General New Jersey State History

New Jersey's first residents were the Lenni Lenape Indians who inhabited the territory for over 10,000 years before the first European arrived on its shores. Other tribes, including the Powhatan-Renape, also lived here.

The first European to explore New Jersey was Giovanni de Verrazano, from Florence, Italy, who sailed along the Jersey coast and anchored off Sandy Hook in 1524. Nearly a century later, in 1609, Henry Hudson arrived and New Netherland, a Dutch colony, was established in 1624 in what was then called 'the northeast territory'.

In 1638, a Swedish colony settled along the Delaware River and was taken over by the Dutch in 1655. In 1664, the area fell to the British. King Charles II granted domain to his brother James Duke of York, who granted the land between the Delaware and Hudson to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. They named the land New Jersey, after the Isle of Jersey, in the English Channel. The land was later sold to Quakers, who divided it into East and West Jersey. In 1702, the rights to both Jerseys were surrendered to the English Crown, who united the inhabitants under a royal governor. The governor of New York also served as the governor of New Jersey until 1738, when Lewis Morris became governor of New Jersey. More than 100 battles took place on New Jersey soil during the Revolutionary War. In 1776, Washington crossed the Delaware and surprised and defeated the Hessian garrison at Trenton. A few days after the new year, he defeated a British force at Princeton. His army spent the winter of that year and the 1779-80 winter in Morristown.

New Jersey was the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and the first to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789. Francis Hopkinson, a signer of The Declaration of Independence is credited with designing the first American flag with thirteen stars and stripes. His design was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.

In 1791, Alexander Hamilton selected the Great Falls of the Passaic River as the site of a model factory town. Throughout the 1800s, the state continued to expand economically-roads were built, canals dug and railroads constructed. Rail and steamboat service helped Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, Camden and Trenton become leading industrial areas.

By 1850, New Jersey's population of nearly half a million, and the industries in which most of those people worked, was concentrated in the north. The sparsely populated southern areas remained rural. After the Civil War, industrialization attracted still more workers from the south, along with many thousands of European immigrants. The railroads played a large role in helping the north Jersey lakeland and south Jersey seashore areas expand.

The entire state prospered greatly in the late 1800s. A good part of the state's economic expansion was due to the genius of its inventors-Thomas Edison was one of the most famous-who were responsible for the development of a number of important technological and research areas.

A strong and effective reform movement, which flowered in the early 1900s, brought Woodrow Wilson to power. He was elected governor in 1910 and resigned in 1913 to become President of the U.S. Among the many important social reforms associated with Wilson were a series of welfare acts providing workmen's compensation and protection for laborers, including restrictions on the employment of women and children, as well as a number of important antitrust laws.

During the war, New Jersey's economy expanded still further. The state became the site of important training centers, as well as a major port. Chemicals and munitions were two of its most important and profitable products. As its highway and transportation systems improved, it became one of the most important industrial states in the U.S.

New Jersey produced an enormous amount of war materiel. Twenty-five percent of U.S. Navy destroyers were constructed in the state, along with battleships, heavy cruisers and many aircraft engines. More than 500,000 New Jersey residents served in the armed forces.

Today, New Jersey is recognized for its present as well as its past.

One of New Jersey's premier landmarks, the Statue of Liberty, is America's greatest symbol of freedom. The freshly restored Ellis Island was a port to many in search of the American dream. Atlantic City, with its legendary boardwalk and casinos, is a vacation resort renowned worldwide. Four professional sport teams make their homes here: the 1990 National Football League Champion Giants, American Football Conference Jets National Basketball Association Nets, and National Hockey League Devils. Horse racing is a popular spectator sport. And the abundance of flowers, fruits and vegetables has given New Jersey its well-deserved nickname, the Garden State. New Jersey's tourism industry is currently ranked seventh in the United States.

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