Often overshadowed by neighboring New York, New Jersey doesn't get the attention it deserves from travelers. Residents of New Jersey and nearby states have spent summers at the shore and weekends in Atlantic City; they know the hidden gems which their home state offers. On the other hand, many have missed the pleasures and rich history which define the Garden State. Here are 10 things you never knew about New Jersey.
New Jersey Had the First Organized Baseball Game
Many of baseball's greats have ties to New Jersey; one of the most notable, Alexander Cartwright, organized the first baseball game, which was played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 19, 1846. Cartwright developed the basic rules for baseball in 1845 and founded the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York. The players traveled to Hoboken to practice for their first official game in October between the two teams from the club: the Knickerbockers and the New York Nine. When the teams played in June of 1846, New York Nine crushed the Knickerbockers 23–1 in four innings.
The First Professional Basketball Game Occurred in New Jersey
New Jersey's rich, athletic history continues with basketball. On November 7, 1896, the first known professional basketball game took place in Trenton, New Jersey. A team from the Brooklyn YMCA played a team from the Trenton YMCA at the Trenton Masonic Temple. The Trenton team beat Brooklyn with a final score of 15–1. The league paid each player $15, except for the star player, Fred Cooper, who received $16. Six teams formed the National Basketball League (NBL) two years later, ultimately growing into today's National Basketball Association (NBA).
The First College Football Game Occurred in New Jersey
With its prominent universities and colleges, New Jersey also has a long history of college athletics. New Jersey College (later known as Princeton University) and Rutgers played the first American football game on November 6, 1869, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The audience included about 100 spectators who cheered on their teams. Ultimately, Rutgers won with a final score of 6–4. The rules were far different than what we know as today's American football, but this game and others that followed served as the genesis for NCAA and NFL games we watch today.
New Jersey Has Almost 800,000 Acres of Farmland
You've most likely heard New Jersey referred to as the "Garden State," but do you know why? New Jersey has the most productive agricultural land in the United States based on having the highest dollar value per acre. The state's farmers have diverse crops, but the state often ranks as a top 10 producer in items such as cranberries, blueberries, peaches, peppers, spinach, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. With this range of crops, valuable yields, and acres of preserved farmland, New Jersey has definitely earned its nickname.
New Jersey Is Known as the 'Crossroads of the American Revolution'
Major Revolutionary War battles occurred in New Jersey, and George Washington spent more time in the state than any other location. Additionally, 10 crucial days, beginning with Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night of 1776, played a part in colonists escaping British Rule. Today, those who visit New Jersey can experience Washington's River Crossing at Washington's Crossing State Park, walk through the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, and visit the nearby Trenton Battle Monument.
New Jersey Has More Horses per Square Mile Than Any Other State
During the mid 1970s, profits for dairy farms and single-crop farms started to decline. The State of New Jersey decided to offer tax breaks and subsidies for farmers who bred horses, and offered prize money for horse races. New Jersey has been welcoming horse owners and breeders ever since those policies were implemented, resulting in more horses per square mile than any other state in the U.S.
Napoleon Bonaparte's Brother Lived in New Jersey
Joseph Bonaparte, once the King of Spain and the King of Naples, escaped from France to the United States in 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, his brother. Joseph purchased Point Breeze, near Bordentown, New Jersey, refurbished the existing house and acquired close to 1,800 acres in the area. His first mansion burned while he was away in 1820; he rebuilt a second mansion, which rivaled the White House by some accounts. Bonaparte lived in New Jersey until 1839, when he returned to Europe where he died five years later.
The Official Color of New Jersey's Flag Is Called 'Buff'
You might not even know there is an actual color called "buff." It's a yellowish-tan color formed from a mixture of gold, brown, and yellow. When New Jersey adopted its flag in 1896, the official colors were buff and dark blue. The state chose these colors because they were the colors George Washington chose for his regiments during the Revolutionary War.
Pumping Your Own Gasoline Is Illegal in New Jersey
There once was a time when you could pull into a gas station and say "Fill'er up!" This was standard practice and full service didn't cost extra. Long gone are the days of full-service gas stations — unless you are in New Jersey, the only state where it is illegal to pump your own gas. (Oregon, the other holdout, recently started allowing some drivers to pump their own gas.) Over the years, the state's politicians have tried to introduce legislation allowing self-service, but strong public backlash has prevented bills from passing.
New Jersey Was the First State to Sign the 'Bill of Rights'
The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, originally consisted of 12 articles, 11 of which New Jersey approved. Articles 3 through 12 were meant to guarantee the rights and freedoms of all American citizens — which meant white, male property owners at the time — and New Jersey became the first to ratify them on November 20, 1789.
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