New Jersey was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, with historical tribes such as the Lenape along the coast. In the early 17th century, the Dutch and the Swedes made the first European settlements in the state. The English later seized control of the region, naming it the Province of New Jersey after the largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey, and granting it as a colony to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton. New Jersey was the site of several decisive battles during the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century.
In the 19th century, factories in cities, Camden, Paterson, Newark, Trenton, Jersey City, and Elizabeth helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. New Jersey's geographic location at the center of the Northeast megalopolis, between Boston and New York City to the northeast, and Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., to the southwest, fueled its rapid growth through the process of suburbanization in the second half of the 20th century. In the first decades of the 21st century, this suburbanization began reverting with the consolidation of New Jersey's culturally diverse populace toward more urban settings within the state, with towns home to commuter rail stations outpacing the population growth of more automobile-oriented suburbs since 2008.
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, with the Lenni-Lenape being dominant at the time of contact. Scheyichbi is the Lenape name for the land that is now New Jersey. The Lenape were several autonomous groups that practiced maize agriculture in order to supplement their hunting and gathering 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 17th century, and their primary relationship with the Europeans was through fur trade.
The Dutch became the first Europeans to lay claim to lands in New Jersey. The Dutch colony of New Netherland consisted of parts of modern Middle Atlantic states. Although the European principle of land ownership was not recognized by the Lenape, Dutch West India Company policy required its colonists to purchase the land that they settled. The first to do so was Michiel Pauw who established a patronship called Pavonia in 1630 along the North River which eventually became the Bergen. Peter Minuit's purchase of lands along the Delaware River established the colony of New Sweden. The entire region became a territory of England on June 24, 1664, after an English fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls sailed into what is today New York Harbor and took control of Fort Amsterdam, annexing the entire province.
During the English Civil War, the Channel Island of Jersey remained loyal to the British Crown and gave sanctuary to the King. It was from the Royal Square in St. Helier that Charles II of England was 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. The area was named the Province of New Jersey.
Since the state's inception, New Jersey has been characterized by ethnic and religious diversity. New England Congregationalists settled alongside Scots Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed migrants. While the majority of residents lived in towns with individual landholdings of 100 acres (40 ha), a few rich proprietors owned vast estates. English Quakers and Anglicans owned large landholdings. Unlike Plymouth Colony, Jamestown and other colonies, New Jersey was populated by a secondary wave of immigrants who came from other colonies instead of those who migrated directly from Europe. New Jersey remained agrarian and rural throughout the colonial era, and commercial farming developed sporadically. Some townships, such as Burlington on the Delaware River and Perth Amboy, emerged as important ports for shipping to New York City and Philadelphia. The colony's fertile lands and tolerant religious policy drew more settlers, and New Jersey's population had increased to 120,000 by 1775.
Settlement for the first 10 years of English rule took place along Hackensack River and Arthur Kill – settlers came primarily from New York and New England. On March 18, 1673, Berkeley sold his half of the colony to Quakers in England, who settled the Delaware Valley region as a Quaker colony. (William Penn acted as trustee for the lands for a time.) New Jersey was governed very briefly as two distinct provinces, East and West Jersey, for 28 years between 1674 and 1702, at times part of the Province of New York or Dominion of New England.
In 1702, the two provinces were reunited under a royal governor, rather than a proprietary one. Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, became the first governor of the colony as a royal colony. Britain believed that he was an ineffective and corrupt ruler, taking bribes and speculating on land. In 1708 he was recalled to England. New Jersey was then ruled by the governors of New York, but this infuriated the settlers of New Jersey, who accused those governors of favoritism to New York. Judge Lewis Morris led the case for a separate governor, and was appointed governor by King George II in 1738.
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 Great 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 reconciliation with Great Britain.
New Jersey representatives Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, and Abraham Clark were among those 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 American Revolution." The winter quarters of the Continental Army were established there twice by General George Washington in Morristown, which has been called "The Military Capital of the American Revolution".
On the night of December 25–26, 1776, the Continental Army under George Washington crossed the Delaware River. After the crossing, he surprised and defeated the Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton. Slightly more than a week after victory at Trenton, American forces gained an important victory by stopping General 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 on January 3, 1777. Emanuel Leutze's painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware became an icon of the Revolution.
American forces under Washington met the forces under General Henry Clinton at the Battle of Monmouth in an indecisive engagement in June 1778. 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.
On December 18, 1787, New Jersey became 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 tariffs on goods imported from Europe. On 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 women and blacks, but not married women, because they could not own property separately from their husbands. Both sides, in several elections, claimed that the other side had had unqualified women vote and mocked them for use of "petticoat electors", whether 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; the constitution was itself an act of the legislature and not enshrined as the modern constitution.
On February 15, 1804, New Jersey became the last northern state to abolish new slavery and enacted legislation that slowly phased out existing slavery. This led to a gradual decrease of the slave population. By the close of the Civil War, about a dozen African Americans in New Jersey were still held in bondage. New Jersey voters initially refused to ratify the constitutional amendments banning slavery and granting rights to the United States' black population.
Industrialization accelerated in the northern part of the state following completion of the Morris Canal in 1831. The canal allowed for coal to be brought from eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley to northern New Jersey's growing industries in Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City.
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.
New Jersey was one of the few Union states (the others being Delaware and Kentucky) to select a candidate other than Abraham Lincoln twice in national elections, and sided with Stephen Douglas (1860) and George B. McClellan (1864) during their campaigns. McClellan, a native Philadelphian, had New Jersey ties and formally resided in New Jersey at the time; he later became Governor of New Jersey (1878–81). (In New Jersey, the factions of the Democratic party managed an effective coalition in 1860.) During the American Civil War, the state was led first by Republican Governor Charles Smith Olden, then by Democrat Joel Parker. During the course of the war, over 80,000 from the state enlisted in the Northern army; unlike many states, including some Northern ones, no battle was fought there.
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. Edison's facilities, first at Menlo Park and then in West Orange, are considered perhaps the first research centers in the U.S. Christie Street in Menlo Park was the first thoroughfare in the world to have electric lighting. Transportation was greatly improved as locomotion and steamboats were introduced to New Jersey.
Iron mining was also a leading industry during the middle to late 19th century. Bog iron pits in the southern New Jersey Pinelands were among the first sources of iron for the new nation. Mines such as Mt. Hope, Mine Hill and the Rockaway Valley Mines created a thriving industry. Mining generated the impetus for new towns and was one of the driving forces behind the need for the Morris Canal. Zinc mines were also a major industry, especially the Sterling Hill Mine.
New Jersey prospered through the Roaring Twenties. The first Miss America Pageant was held in 1921 in Atlantic City, the Holland Tunnel connecting Jersey City to Manhattan opened in 1927, and the first drive-in movie was shown in 1933 in Camden. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the state offered begging licenses to unemployed residents, the zeppelin airship Hindenburg crashed in flames over Lakehurst, and the SS Morro Castle beached itself near Asbury Park after going up in flames while at sea.
Through both World Wars, New Jersey was a center for war production, especially in naval construction, notably at Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were made in the state. New Jersey manufactured 6.8 percent of total United States military armaments produced during World War II, ranking fifth among the 48 states. In addition, Fort Dix (1917) (originally called "Camp Dix"), Camp Merritt (1917) and Camp Kilmer (1941) were all constructed to house and train 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, a motor torpedo boat commanded by Lt. (j.g.) John F. Kennedy in World War II, was built at the Elco Boatworks in Bayonne. 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 Kearney to be scrapped. In 1962, the world's first nuclear-powered cargo ship, the NS Savannah, was launched at Camden.
In 1951, the New Jersey Turnpike opened, permitting fast travel by car and truck between North Jersey (and metropolitan New York) and South Jersey (and metropolitan Philadelphia).
In the 1960s, race riots erupted in many of the industrial cities of North Jersey. The first race riots in New Jersey occurred in Jersey City on August 2, 1964. Several others ensued in 1967, in Newark and Plainfield. Other riots followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, just as in the rest of the country. A riot occurred in Camden in 1971.
As a result of an order from the New Jersey Supreme Court to fund schools equitably, the New Jersey legislature passed an income tax bill in 1976. Prior to this bill, the state had no income tax.
In the early part of the 2000s, two light rail systems were opened: the Hudson–Bergen Light Rail in Hudson County and the River Line between Camden and Trenton. The intent of these projects were to encourage transit-oriented development in North Jersey and South Jersey, respectively. The HBLR in particular was credited with a revitalization of Hudson County and Jersey City in particular. Urban revitalization has continued in North Jersey in the 21st century. As of 2014, Jersey City's Census-estimated population was 262,146, with the largest population increase of any municipality in New Jersey since 2010, representing an increase of 5.9% from the 2010 United States Census, when the city's population was enumerated at 247,597. In 2010, Newark experienced its first population increase since the 1950s.
New Jersey is bordered on the north and northeast by New York (parts of which are across the Hudson River, Upper New York Bay, the Kill Van Kull, Newark Bay, and the Arthur Kill); on the east by the Atlantic Ocean; on the 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 upon natural geography and population concentration. Northeastern New Jersey, the Gateway Region, lies closest to Manhattan in New York City, and up to a million residents commute daily into the city to work via automobile or mass transit. Northwestern New Jersey, or the "Skylands", is, compared to the northeast, more wooded, rural, and mountainous. The "Shore", along the Atlantic Coast in the central-east and southeast, has its own natural, residential, and lifestyle characteristics owing to its location by the ocean. The Delaware Valley includes the southwestern counties of the state, which reside within the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. The fifth region is the Pine Barrens in the interior of the southern part. Covered rather extensively by mixed pine and oak forest, it has a much lower population density than much of the rest of the state.
New Jersey also can be broadly divided into three geographic regions: North Jersey, Central Jersey, and South Jersey. Some New Jersey residents do not consider Central Jersey a region in its own right, but others 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 is part of the Pennsylvania-based Lehigh Valley metro area. It is also at the center of the Northeast 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:
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, in Bergen County and Hudson County.
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.
Long Beach Island ("LBI"), a barrier island along the eastern coast, has popular recreational beaches. The primary access point to the island is by a single bridge connection to the mainland. Barnegat Lighthouse is on the northern tip.
Areas managed by the National Park Service include:
Prominent geographic features include:
There are two climatic conditions in the state. The south, central, and northeast parts of the state have a humid subtropical climate, while the northwest has a humid continental climate (microthermal), with much cooler temperatures due to higher elevation. New Jersey receives between 2,400 and 2,800 hours of sunshine annually.
Summers are typically hot and humid, with statewide average high temperatures of 82–87 °F (28–31 °C) and lows of 60–69 °F (16–21 °C); however, temperatures exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on average 25 days each summer, exceeding 100 °F (38 °C) in some years. Winters are usually cold, with average high temperatures of 34–43 °F (1–6 °C) and lows of 16 to 28 °F (−9 to −2 °C) for most of the state, but temperatures could, for brief periods, fall below 10 °F (−12 °C) and occasionally rise above 50 °F (10 °C). Northwestern parts of the state have significantly colder winters with sub-0 °F (−18 °C) being an almost annual occurrence. Spring and autumn may feature wide temperature variations, with lower humidity than summer. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone classification ranges from 6 in the northwest of the state, to 7B near Cape May. All-time temperature extremes recorded in New Jersey include 110 °F (43 °C) on July 10, 1936 in Runyon, Middlesex County and −34 °F (−37 °C) on January 5, 1904 in River Vale, Bergen County.
Average annual precipitation ranges from 43 to 51 inches (1,100 to 1,300 mm), uniformly spread through the year. Average snowfall per winter season ranges from 10–15 inches (25–38 cm) in the south and near the seacoast, 15–30 inches (38–76 cm) in the northeast and central part of the state, to about 40–50 inches (1.0–1.3 m) in the northwestern highlands, but this often varies considerably from year to year. Precipitation falls on an average of 120 days a year, with 25 to 30 thunderstorms, most of which occur during the summer.
During winter and early spring, New Jersey can experience "nor'easters", which are capable of causing blizzards or flooding throughout the northeastern United States. Hurricanes and tropical storms (such as Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999), tornadoes, and earthquakes are rare, although New Jersey was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012 with the storm making landfall in the state at 90 mph.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of New Jersey was 8,958,013 on July 1, 2015, a 1.89% increase since the 2010 United States Census. Residents of New Jersey are most commonly referred to as "New Jerseyans" or, less commonly, as "New Jerseyites". As of the 2010 census, there were 8,791,894 people residing in the state. The racial makeup of the state was:
17.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
Non-Hispanic Whites were 58.9% of the population in 2011, down from 85% in 1970.
In 2010, undocumented immigrants constituted an estimated 6.4% of the population. This was the fourth highest percentage of any state in the country. There were an estimated 550,000 illegal immigrants in the state in 2010.
The United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2015, estimated New Jersey's population at 8,958,013, which represents an increase of 166,119, or 1.89%, since the last census in 2010. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 343,965 people (that is, 933,185 births minus 589,220 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 53,930 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 384,687 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 438,617 people. As of 2005, there were 1.6 million foreign-born living in the state (accounting for 19.2% of the population).
As of 2010, New Jersey is the eleventh-most populous state in the United States, and the most densely populated, at 1,185 residents per square mile (458 per km2), with most of the population residing in the counties surrounding New York City, Philadelphia, and along the eastern Jersey Shore, while the extreme southern and northwestern counties are relatively less dense overall. It is also the second wealthiest state according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The center of population for New Jersey is located in Middlesex County, in the town of Milltown, just east of the New Jersey Turnpike.
New Jersey is home to more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
On October 21, 2013, same-sex marriages commenced in New Jersey.
New Jersey is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse states in the country. As of 2011, 56.4% of New Jersey's children under the age of one belonged to racial or ethnic minority groups, meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white. It has the second largest Jewish population by percentage (after New York); the second largest Muslim population by percentage (after Michigan); the largest population of Peruvian Americans in the United States; the largest population of Cubans outside of Florida; the third highest Asian population by percentage; and the third highest Italian population by percentage, according to the 2000 Census. African Americans, Hispanics (Puerto Ricans and Dominicans), West Indians, Arabs, and Brazilian and Portuguese Americans are also high in number. New Jersey has the third highest Asian Indian population of any state by absolute numbers and the highest by percentage, with Bergen County home to America's largest Malayali community. Overall, New Jersey has the third largest Korean population, with Bergen County home to the highest Korean concentration per capita of any U.S. county (6.9% in 2011). New Jersey also has the fourth largest Filipino population, and fourth largest Chinese population, per the 2010 U.S. Census. The five largest ethnic groups in 2000 were: Italian (17.9%), Irish (15.9%), African (13.6%), German (12.6%), Polish (6.9%).
Newark was the fourth poorest of U.S. cities with over 250,000 residents in 2008, but New Jersey as a whole had the second-highest median household income as of 2014. This is largely because so much of New Jersey consists of suburbs, most of them affluent, of New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey is also the most densely populated state, and the only state that has had every one of its counties deemed "urban" as defined by the Census Bureau's Combined Statistical Area.
In 2010, 6.2% of its population was reported as under age 5, 23.5% under 18, and 13.5% were 65 or older; and females made up approximately 51.3% of the population.
A study by the Pew Research Center found that in 2013, New Jersey was the only U.S. state in which immigrants born in India constituted the largest foreign-born nationality, representing roughly 10% of all foreign-born residents in the state.
For further information on various ethnic groups and neighborhoods prominently featured within New Jersey, see the following articles:
As of 2011, 56.4% of New Jersey's population younger than age 1 were minorities (meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white).
Note: Births in table don't add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.
As of 2010, 71.31% (5,830,812) of New Jersey residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 14.59% (1,193,261) spoke Spanish, 1.23% (100,217) Chinese (which includes Cantonese and Mandarin), 1.06% (86,849) Italian, 1.06% (86,486) Portuguese, 0.96% (78,627) Tagalog, and Korean was spoken as a main language by 0.89% (73,057) of the population over the age of five. In total, 28.69% (2,345,644) of New Jersey's population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.
A diverse collection of languages has since evolved amongst the state's population, given that New Jersey has become cosmopolitan and is home to ethnic enclaves of non-English-speaking communities:
By number of adherents, the largest denominations in New Jersey, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives in 2010, were the Roman Catholic Church with 3,235,290; Islam with 160,666; and the United Methodist Church with 138,052. The world's largest Hindu temple was inaugurated in Robbinsville, Mercer County, in central New Jersey during 2014, a BAPS temple.
For its overall population and nation-leading population density, New Jersey has a relative paucity of classic large cities. This paradox is most pronounced in Bergen County, New Jersey's most populous county, whose more than 930,000 residents in 2014 inhabited 70 municipalities, the most populous being Hackensack, with 44,519 residents estimated in 2014. Many urban areas extend far beyond the limits of a single large city, as New Jersey cities (and indeed municipalities in general) tend to be geographically small; three of the four largest cities in New Jersey by population have under 20 square miles of land area, and eight of the top ten, including all of the top five have land area under 30 square miles. As of the United States 2010 Census, only four municipalities had populations in excess of 100,000, although Edison and Woodbridge came very close.