Living in New Jersey for almost 10 years, I recently grew some deep interests in the history of New Jersey. After all, knowing the place we are living make us comfort and proud in our everyday life. The places we are driving by everyday start to become meaningful if we can tell their histories. I don’t feel like a stranger or a foreigner as I felt before. “Blossom where you are planted”, my newly acquired motto, starts from knowing the history of where I am planted.

I just came across a good description of the history of New Jersey. It’s short enough to read through quickly but thorough enough to cover all the important points. I like its way to see the history. Not as a boring sequence of “big events” like we used to read in text books, but as a continuous changes of people’s ways of living, driven by economical, technical and political forces.

Hope discovering the history of the place you live and work will give you the same joy as I do!

History of New Jersey

1. Fortunes in Furs (before 1664)

For centuries, the Lenape Indians lived on the land that would become New Jersey. However, their way of life began to change in 1609 when Henry Hudson explored the Atlantic shoreline. Anticipating potential fortunes from the fur trade, the Dutch established the colony of New Netherland. They soon came into conflict with the Lenape, and then with the English and the Swedes, who also sought control of the region. The program ends with the 1664 English conquest of New Netherland.

2. The Two New Jerseys (1664-1702)

After the English conquest of New Netherland, King Charles II of Britain granted the former Dutch territories to his brother James, Duke of York, who divided the colony into New York and New Jersey. James gave New Jersey to his friends, John, Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret, who sold their shares to other investors, known as proprietors. In 1676, the colony was divided into East and West Jersey. From the outset, the two New Jerseys were beset with problems. In 1702, the proprietors asked the crown to take over the government, reuniting New Jersey.

3. Royal Rule and Religious Revival (1702-1776)

The reunion of New Jersey did not solve its problems. New Jersey shared a governor with New York, Lord Cornbury, who aroused the ire of many New Jerseyans. In 1738, New Jersey obtained its own governor, Lewis Morris. Land ownership continued to be disputed, resulting in widespread rioting. At the same time, a religious revival known as the Great Awakening spread throughout the British colonies, resulting in the founding of Rutgers and Princeton universities. African Americans and Native Americans were drawn into the Awakening. In challenging established church authorities, the revival helped pave the road to the American Revolution.

4. The Republican Rebellion (1776-1791)

New Jersey was the Crossroads of the American Revolution, being strategically located between the British military headquarters in New York City and the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia. This program examines protests in New Jersey against the Stamp Act and other British imperial measures, the passage of New Jersey’s first state constitution in 1776, Washington’s stunning victories over the British at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and the effects of the Revolution on women and African-Americans.

5. Monopolies and Mechanics (1791-1804)

Alexander Hamilton’s vision of a manufacturing center at the Falls of the Passaic River lays the groundwork for a discussion of the founding of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures in Paterson in 1791. The program looks at the chartering of corporations and the granting of transportation monopolies to steamboat and railroad companies and how these monopolies became a major political issue during the Jacksonian period in New Jersey. The so-called Market Revolution resulted in a fissure in the unified world of masters, journeymen and apprentices of the colonial period. The early organization of unions, the development of a political movement of workers and the lives of women and children working in the textile mills are explored. The documentary examines how the Market Revolution changed home life as well as work life, resulting in a new definition of women’s roles.

6. Vistas of Democracy (1804-1865)

The American Revolution unleashed a flurry of new ideas about freedom and equality. But not everyone in the early nineteenth century enjoyed these rights. New Jersey gradually abolished slavery in 1804, but while women and free blacks who owned property could vote under New Jersey’s 1776 constitution, that right was taken away in 1807. African Americans and Quakers helped slaves from the South escape through New Jersey on the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War, the women’s movement split over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution, which guaranteed the right to vote to African American men, but not to women.

7. A State of Many Nations (1865-1876)
New Jersey has been ethnically and religiously diverse since colonial times, but the colonial religious denominations were mostly Protestant. In the early nineteenth century, immigration shifted to Germany and Ireland. Many of these newcomers were Catholics who settled in New Jersey’s cities and brought with them the tradition of drinking beer and wine on the Sabbath, shocking the Protestant establishment. Middle-class reformers attempted to “Americanize” the German and Irish immigrants by promoting temperance and using the newly created public schools to make the immigrants into good Americans (meaning Protestants). The German and Irish immigrants resisted these attempts to use the public schools for religious proselytizing and created their own parochial school system, requesting the state to provide funds for their schools as well.

8. Technology in the Garden (1876-1910)

In 1876, Thomas Alva Edison opened his so-called “invention factory” on a hill in Menlo Park overlooking the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. Between 1876 and 1882 Edison filed more than 300 patents, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the electric light. There were, however, social implications for technological development. When Paterson broad-silk manufacturer Henry Doherty increased the work assignments from two to four looms, his weavers went on strike with the support of the radical Industrial Workers of the World.

9. The Progressive Banner (1910-1947)

In the gubernatorial election of 1910 the Democratic Party nominated the president of Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson. As governor, Wilson proposed reforms, including direct primary elections, banning of ballot box stuffing, an authority to regulate public utilities and a workmen’s compensation act. Despite his reputation as a reformer, as president of Princeton, Wilson continued policies that denied admission of African Americans; and, as governor of New Jersey, Wilson was reluctant to support woman’s suffrage.

10. The Suburban State (1947-Today)

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed a major of shift in political power in New Jersey. In the early 1900s, a coalition of rural Republicans and urban Democrats controlled state politics. In the second half, the century political power shifted to the suburbs. The new state constitution of 1947 established a powerful Supreme Court, which became a flashpoint for controversy in the last half of the twentieth century.

More to read: