New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north by New York, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the southwest by Delaware, and on the west by Pennsylvania.
Parts of New Jersey lie within the sprawling metropolitan areas of New York and Philadelphia.
Inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, the first European settlements in the area were established by the Swedes and Dutch in the early 1600s.
The State’s name was taken from the largest of the English Channel Islands, Jersey. The English later seized control of the region, which was granted to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton as the colony of New Jersey.
New Jersey was an important site during the American Revolutionary War; several decisive battles were fought there. The winter quarters of the revolutionary army were established twice by George Washington in Morristown, which was called the military capital of revolution.
Later, working-class cities such as Paterson and Trenton helped to drive the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century. New Jersey’s position at the center of the BosWash megalopolis, between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., fueled its rapid growth through the suburban boom of the 1950s and beyond.
As of 2008, New Jersey had more millionaire residents than any other state in the nation.
New Jersey is bordered on the north and northeast by New York; on the east by the Atlantic Ocean; on the south and southwest by Delaware across Delaware Bay; and on the west by Pennsylvania across the Delaware River.
New Jersey can be thought of as five regions, based on natural geography and population.
Northeastern New Jersey, the Gateway Region, lies within the New York metropolitan area, and some residents commute to the city to work. Northwestern New Jersey, or the “Skylands”, is, compared to the northeast, more wooded, rural, and mountainous, but still a popular place to live.
The “Shore” along the Atlantic Coast in the southeast has its own residence and lifestyle characteristics owing to the ocean. The southwest is within Metropolitan Philadelphia, and is included in the Delaware Valley. The fifth region is the Pine Barrens in the interior of the southern part and is covered rather extensively by mixed pine and oak forest, and as such has a much lower population density than much of the rest of the state.
New Jersey can also be broadly divided into three geographic regions: North Jersey, Central Jersey, and South Jersey. However, some people do not consider Central Jersey to exist at all, but still many believe it is a separate geographic and cultural area from the North and South.
The federal Office of Management and Budget divides New Jersey’s counties into seven Metropolitan Statistical Areas, including sixteen counties in the New York City or Philadelphia metro areas. Four counties have independent metro areas, and Warren County joins another Pennsylvania-based metro area. (See Metropolitan Statistical Areas of New Jersey for details.)
It is also at the center of the Boston to Washington megalopolis.
Additionally, the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth, & Tourism Commission divides the state into six distinct regions to facilitate the state’s tourism industry.
The regions are:
Gateway Region, encompassing Hudson County, Essex County, Union County, Middlesex County, Bergen County, and Passaic County.
Skylands Region, encompassing Sussex County, Morris County, Warren County, Hunterdon County, and Somerset County.
Shore Region, encompassing Monmouth County and Ocean County.
Delaware River Region, encompassing Mercer County, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.
Greater Atlantic City Region, encompassing Atlantic County.
Southern Shore Region, encompassing Cumberland County and Cape May County.
High Point, in Montague Township, Sussex County, is the highest elevation, at 1,803 feet (550 m). The Palisades are a line of steep cliffs on the lower west side of the Hudson River.
Major rivers include the Hudson, Delaware, Raritan, Passaic, Hackensack, Rahway, Musconetcong, Mullica, Rancocas, Manasquan, Maurice, and Toms rivers.
Sandy Hook, along the eastern coast, is a popular recreational beach.
It is a barrier spit and an extension of the Barnegat Peninsula along the state’s Atlantic Ocean coast.
Areas managed by the National Park Service include:
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Delaware National Scenic River
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Edison National Historic Site in West Orange
Ellis Island National Monument
Gateway National Recreation Area in Monmouth County
Great Egg Harbor River
Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown
New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.
Prominent geographic features include:
Delaware Water Gap
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
New Jersey Meadowlands
Most of New Jersey has a temperate climate, with hot humid summers and cold winters.
Southern areas of the state, including Cape May and Cumberland counties, are now considered to be in the humid subtropical climate zone.
During the hurricane season, tropical cyclones can hit New Jersey, though it is uncommon for one to remain at hurricane strength so far to the north. During the winter months, nor’easters can dump heavy amounts of precipitation across the state.
Because of its dense population and because most communities of northern New Jersey do not have the widespread reservoir system of neighboring Greater New York City, the slightest dry season leads to drought warnings; but because there are many streams and rivers close to these communities, the slightest above average rainfall causes frequent flooding as many parts of Northern New Jersey are part of a flood plain.
The temperatures vary greatly from the northernmost part of New Jersey to the southernmost part of New Jersey.
For example, these are the average high and low temperatures for Cape May, near the state’s southernmost ocean-facing point, and Sussex, in the mountainous northwest.
Around 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, New Jersey bordered North Africa.
The pressure of the collision between North America and Africa gave rise to the Appalachian Mountains. Around 18,000 years ago, the Ice Age resulted in glaciers that reached New Jersey.
As the glaciers retreated, they left behind Lake Passaic, as well as many rivers, swamps, and gorges.
New Jersey was originally settled by Native Americans, primarily the Lenni-Lenape.
The Lenape were loosely organized groups that practiced small-scale agriculture (mainly based on corn) in order to increase their largely mobile hunter-gatherer society in the region surrounding the Delaware River, the lower Hudson River, and western Long Island Sound.
The Lenape society was divided into matrilinear clans that were based upon common female ancestors.
These clans were organized into three distinct phratries identified by their animal sign: Turtle, Turkey, and Wolf. They first encountered the Dutch in the early 1600s, and their primary relationship with the Europeans was through fur trade.
Since the state’s inception, New Jersey has been characterized by ethnic and religious diversity.
New England Congregationalists settled alongside Scottish Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed migrants from New York. While the majority of residents lived in towns with individual landholdings of 100 acres (0.4 km²), a few rich proprietors owned vast estates.
English Quakers and Anglicans owned large landholdings. New Jersey remained agrarian and rural throughout the colonial era, and commercial farming only developed sporadically.
Some townships, though, like Burlington and Perth Amboy, emerged as important ports for shipping to New York and Philadelphia.
The colony’s fertile lands and tolerant religious policy drew more settlers, and New Jersey boasted a population of 120,000 by 1775.
Much of New Jersey was claimed by the Dutch.
The Dutch colony of New Netherland consisted of parts of modern New York (New Amsterdam) and New Jersey.
Although the European principle of land ownership was not recognized by the Lenape, Dutch policy required formal purchase of all land settled upon, and the first such purchase was of Manhattan, by Peter Minuit.
The entire region became a territory of England in 1664, when an English fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls sailed into what is today New York Harbor and took over the colony, against extremely low resistance.
During the English Civil War the Channel Isle of Jersey remained loyal to the Crown and gave sanctuary to the King. It was from the Royal Square in St. Helier that Charles II of England was first proclaimed King in 1649, following the execution of his father, Charles I.
The North American lands were divided by Charles II, who gave his brother, the Duke of York (later King James II) the region between New England and Maryland as a proprietary colony (as opposed to a royal colony). James then granted the land between the Hudson River and the Delaware River (the land that would become New Jersey) to two friends who had remained loyal through the English Civil War: Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton.
Settlement for the first 10 years of English rule was in the Hudson River region and came primarily from New England. On March 18, 1673, Berkeley sold his half of the colony to Quakers in England (with William Penn acting as trustee for a time), who settled the Delaware Valley region as a Quaker colony.
New Jersey was governed as two distinct provinces, West Jersey and East Jersey, for the 28 years between 1674 and 1702. In 1702, the two provinces were united under a royal, rather than a proprietary, governor.
Revolutionary War era
New Jersey was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. The New Jersey Constitution of 1776 was passed July 2, 1776, just two days before the Second Continental Congress declared American Independence from Britain.
It was an act of the Provincial Congress, which made itself into the state Legislature. To reassure neutrals, it provided that it would become void if New Jersey reached a reconciliation with Great Britain.
New Jersey representatives Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, and Abraham Clark were among the men who signed the United States Declaration of Independence.
During the American Revolutionary War, British and American armies crossed New Jersey numerous times and several pivotal battles took place in the state. Because of this, New Jersey today is often referred to as “The Crossroads of the Revolution.”
On December 25, 1776, the Continental Army under George Washington crossed the Delaware River and engaged the unprepared Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton. Slightly more than a week after victory at Trenton, on January 3, 1777, the American forces gained an important victory by stopping Cornwallis’s charges at the Second Battle of Trenton. By evading Cornwallis’s army, Washington made a surprise attack on Princeton, and successfully defeated the British forces there.
Later, American forces under Washington met the forces under General Henry Clinton at the Battle of Monmouth in an indecisive engagement.
Washington attempted to take the British column by surprise; when the British army attempted to flank the Americans, the Americans retreated in disorder. The ranks were later reorganized and withstood the British charges.
In the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall at Princeton University, making Princeton the nation’s capital for four months.
It was there that the Continental Congress learned of the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war.
New Jersey was the third state to ratify the United States Constitution, which was overwhelmingly popular in New Jersey, as it prevented New York and Pennsylvania from charging and keeping tariffs on goods imported from Europe. In November 20, 1789, the state became the first in the newly-formed Union to ratify the Bill of Rights.
The 1776 New Jersey State Constitution gave the vote to “all inhabitants” who had a certain level of wealth. This included both women and blacks; although not married women, who could not own property. Both sides, in several elections, claimed that the other side had had unqualified women vote, and mocked them for use of “petticoat electors” (entitled to vote or not); on the other hand, both parties passed Voting Rights Acts.
In 1807, the legislature passed a bill interpreting the constitution to mean universal white male suffrage, excluding paupers. (This was less revolutionary than it sounds: the “constitution” was itself only an act of the legislature.)
On February 15, 1804, New Jersey became the last northern state to abolish new slavery and enacted legislation that slowly phased out slavery.
This lead to a gradual scale-down of the slave population, but by the close of the Civil War about a dozen African-Americans in New Jersey were still apprenticed freedmen.
New Jersey initially refused to ratify the Constitutional Amendments banning slavery and granting rights to America’s Black population.
In 1844, the second state constitution was ratified and brought into effect. Counties thereby became districts for the State Senate, and some realignment of boundaries (including the creation of Mercer County) immediately followed.
This provision was retained in the 1947 Constitution, but was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1962 by the decision Baker v. Carr.
While the Governorship was stronger than under the 1776 constitution, the constitution of 1844 created many offices that were not responsible to him, or to the people, and it gave him a three-year term, but he could not succeed himself.
Unlike the Revolutionary War, no Civil War battles took place within the state.
However, throughout the course of the Civil War, over 80,000 enlisted in the Northern army to defeat the Southern Confederacy.
New Jersey was one of the few states to reject President Abraham Lincoln twice in national elections, and sided with Stephen Douglas and George B. McClellan during their campaigns. McClellan later became governor.
During the war, the state was led first by Republican Governor Charles Smith Olden, then by Democrat Joel Parker.
In the Industrial Revolution, cities like Paterson grew and prospered. Previously, the economy had been largely agrarian, which was problematically subject to crop failures and poor soil.
This caused a shift to a more industrialized economy, one based on manufactured commodities such as textiles and silk. Inventor Thomas Edison also became an important figure of the Industrial Revolution, having been granted 1,093 patents, many of which for inventions he developed while working in New Jersey.
Transportation was greatly improved as locomotion and steamboats were introduced to New Jersey.
Iron mining was also a prevalent industry during the middle to late 1800s.
Mines such as Mt. Hope, Mine Hill and the Rockaway Valley Mines created a thriving industry, which spawned new towns and was one of the driving forces behind the need for the Morris Canal.
Through both World Wars, New Jersey was a center for war production, especially in naval construction. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were all made in this state.
In addition, Fort Dix (1917) (originally called “Camp Dix”), Camp Merritt(1917) and Camp Kilmer(1941), were all constructed to help American soldiers through both World Wars.
New Jersey also became a principal location for defense in the Cold War. Fourteen Nike Missile stations were constructed, especially for the defense of New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. PT-109, commanded by Lt.(jg) John F. Kennedy, was built at the Elco Boatworks in Bayonne, and the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) was briefly docked at the Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne in the 1950s before she was sent to Japan to be scrapped.
In 1962, the world’s first nuclear powered cargo ship, the NS Savannah was launched at Camden.
New Jersey became a prosperous state through the Roaring Twenties but fell from prosperity under the Great Depression. Begging licenses were even offered to the unemployed by the state government in order to provide money for those who could not be helped by the exhausted state funds. During this time period, the zeppelin Hindenburg infamously went up in flames over Lakehurst, and the SS Morro Castle beached itself on the Jersey Shore after going up in flames while at sea.
In the 1960s, several race riots sprang up in New Jersey, the first of which occurred in Jersey City on August 2, 1964. Several other riots ensued in 1967, in the cities of Newark and Plainfield. Camden also dealt with race riots in 1971.
Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, New Jersey was afflicted by nor’easters that caused blizzards and flooding. Those are rather common storms in New Jersey and elsewhere on the east coast of the US, although hurricanes and tropical storms occasionally come to visit, such as Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that New Jersey’s total state product in 2004 was $416 billion.
Its per capita personal income in 2004 was $41,636, 2nd in the U.S. and 126% of the national average of $33,041.
Its median household income is the highest in the nation with $55,146. It is ranked 2nd in the nation by the number of places with per capita incomes above national average with 76.4%.
Nine of New Jersey’s counties are in the wealthiest 100 of the country.
New Jersey has seven tax brackets for determining income tax rates.
The rates range from 1.4 to 8.97%. The standard sales tax rate is 7%, applicable to all retail sales unless specifically exempt by law.
Exemptions include most food items for at-home preparation, medicines, clothing (except fur items), footwear, and disposable paper products for use in the home. Approximately 30 New Jersey municipalities are designated as Urban Enterprise Zones and shoppers are charged a 3½% tax rate, half of the rate charged outside the UEZs.
Sections of Elizabeth and Jersey City are examples of communities that are subject to the lower sales tax rate.
All real property located in the state is subject to property tax unless specifically exempted by statute.
New Jersey does not assess an intangible personal property tax, but it does impose an inheritance tax.
New Jersey’s economy is centered around the pharmaceutical industry, chemical development, food processing, telecommunications, electric equipment, printing and publishing, and tourism.
New Jersey’s agricultural outputs are nursery stock, horses, vegetables, fruits and nuts, seafood, and dairy products.
New Jersey has a strong scientific economy.
New Jersey is home to major pharmaceutical firms such as Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Pfizer, Merck, Wyeth, Hoffman-LaRoche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Schering-Plough. New Jersey is home to major telecommunications firms such as Verizon Wireless, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent and AT&T Communications.
Furthermore, New Jersey draws upon its large and well-educated labor pool which also supports the myriad of industries that exist today.
Shipping is a strong industry in New Jersey because of the state’s strategic location. The Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal was the world’s first container port and is one of the world’s largest container ports.
New Jersey also has a strong presence in chemical development, refining and food processing operations.
New Jersey is the ultimate bedroom community since the state is right next to New York City and Philadelphia. Thus, there is a strong service economy in New Jersey serving residents who work in New York City or Philadelphia.
Some of these industries include retail sales, education and real estate. Newark Liberty International Airport is ranked seventh among the nation’s busiest airports and among the top 20 busiest airports in the world.
New Jersey hosts several business headquarters, including twenty-four Fortune 500 companies.
Paramus is noted for having one of the highest retail sales per person ratios in the nation.
Several New Jersey counties such as Somerset (7), Morris (10), Hunterdon (13), Bergen (21), Monmouth (42) counties have been ranked among the highest-income counties in the United States. Four others are also in the top 100.
Federal taxation disparity
New Jersey has the highest imbalance of any state in the United States between what it gives to the federal government and what it receives.
In fiscal year 2005, New Jersey taxpayers gave the federal government $77 billion dollars but only received $55 billion dollars back. This difference is higher than any other state and means that for every $1.00 New Jersey taxpayers send to Washington, the state only receives $0.61 dollars back. This calculation is applied correctly after making the federal government deficit neutral as sometimes the federal government spends more than it takes in.
As of 2005, New Jersey has never been above 48th in rank for per capita federal spending (with a rank of 50th for the majority of that time) since 1982 while being 2nd or 3rd in the per capita federal taxes paid to Washington.
As a result, New Jersey runs into deficits frequently and has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation.
Factors for this include the large federal tax liability which is not adjusted for New Jersey’s higher cost of living and Medicaid funding formulas. Incomes tend to be higher in New Jersey as shown by the study which puts people in higher tax brackets especially vulnerable to the alternative minimum tax, however such higher salaries are negated by the high taxes when you include the high property and state/local income taxes and the low rate of return by the federal government which may cause those high taxes.
New Jersey’s greatest natural resource is its location, which has made the state a crossroads of commerce. Other commercial advantages include its extensive transportation system, which puts one quarter of all United States consumers within overnight delivery range.
Lake and seaside resorts such as Atlantic City have contributed to New Jersey’s rank of fifth among the states in revenues from tourism.
Despite more than three centuries of development almost half of New Jersey is still wooded.
The chief tree of the northern forests is the oak. A large part of the southern section is in pine.
Jersey oak has been used extensively in shipbuilding.
The mineral resources in New Jersey are small. The state, however, does rank high in smelting and refining minerals from other states.