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New Jersey State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1524—Giovanni da Verrazano discovers the coast of New Jersey

1609—Henry Hudson explores New Jersey

1660—Dutch establishes Bergen, the first permanent European settlement

1664—England gains control of New Jersey

1676—New Jersey Colony is divided into East Jersey and West Jersey

1702—East and West Jersey combined into one colony

1746—Princeton University is founded

1774—The Greenwich Tea Burning

1776—Battle of Trenton

1787—New Jersey becomes the 3rd state

1807—Women lose the right to vote

1858—First dinosaur skeleton found in North America is in Haddonfield

1884—Grover Cleveland becomes the 22nd President of the United States

1892—Grover Cleveland becomes the 24th President of the United States

1927—The Holland Tunnel is completed

1952—New Jersey Turnpike opens

1967—Riot in Newark kills 26 and causes $10 million in damage

1976—New Jersey organizes a state income tax

Native Americans from the Delaware tribe lived in New Jersey when Europeans explorers first arrived.  They built villages along the Delaware River, spending most of their time hunting and planting corn, beans, and other crops for food.

Giovanni da Verrazano was the first to explore the coast of New Jersey in 1524 for France.  In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson River and claimed New Jersey and New York for the Dutch.  Many other Dutch explorers followed.  In 1614, Cornelius May discovered the Delaware River. 

By 1630, Dutch settlement of New Jersey began along the Hudson River.  Due to Indian attacks, the first permanent town, Bergen, wasn’t established until 1660.  Swedish fur traders began settling southern New Jersey in 1638, but were quickly forced out of the area by the Dutch.

England gained control of New Jersey in 1664, when soldiers arrived from colonies along the Atlantic Ocean.  Many settlers arrived as land was sold inexpensively with the promise of political and religious freedom.  In 1674, a Quaker colony arrived.  Two years later, the colony was divided into West and East Jersey.  After land disputes caused rioting in the 1690s, England again united the two colonies into one colony.

During the 1760s, colonists began protesting high taxation and trade restrictions by England.  In 1774, colonists from New Jersey burned a supply of tea from a British ship in what became known as the Greenwich Tea Burning.  As the Revolutionary War began in 1775, New Jersey’s loyalties were split; many fought for independence while others fought for Britain.

Several important battles were fought in New Jersey, most importantly the battles of Trenton in 1776, Princeton in 1777, and Monmouth in 1778.  George Washington and his troops spent two winters in Morristown.  New Jersey also was home to two temporary national capitals in Princeton and Trenton.

In 1776, New Jersey claimed independence from Great Britain.  Two years later it adopted the Articles of Confederation.  Finally, on Dec. 18, 1787, New Jersey became the 3rd state of the Union as it ratified the U.S. Constitution.  Trenton became the capital in 1790.

New Jersey became a massive industrial center during the early 1800s. Trenton, Camden, Passaic, Jersey City and Newark all became major manufacturing cities.  Mills in Paterson created textiles and later specialized in silk.  Industries increased as transportation expanded by railroad and canal construction.  Thousands came from Europe to work in the factories.

Although many sympathized with the South, New Jersey soldiers fought for the Union during the Civil War (1861-1865).  After the war, several large corporations moved to New Jersey.  The state then passed several laws that restricted business monopolies and provided workers’ compensation and a public utilities commission.

During World War I (1914-1918), thousands of soldiers left for Europe from the Hudson River.  New Jersey factories made chemicals.  Soldiers trained at Fort Dix.  When the Great Depression hit in 1929, factories closed and many lost their jobs.  World War II (1939-1945) helped the economy begin to recover.  Factories opened to build airplane engines and warships.  Electronic and chemical industries expanded greatly during this time.

After the war, New Jersey’s population shifted away from the cities to rural areas.  The New Jersey Turnpike was completed in 1952, linking the state to New York City and Philadelphia.  The Garden State Parkway soon followed in 1955, running along the New Jersey coastline.

Poverty stricken and overcrowded cities led to riots during the 1960s.  New Jersey’s state government started rebuilding inner cities.  Several bonds were issued to provide money for better government programs.  The Pinelands National Reserve was established to protect plants, animals, land, and water. 

In 1969, a state lottery was approved to raise money for education.  Several schools were built or expanded.  Gambling casinos were also allowed in 1977, to raise money for the disabled and the elderly.

Recently New Jersey is attracting new industries.  Several computer companies have created thousands of jobs.  The state is still facing problems of pollution and high government costs.