Affectionately known as the “Garden State,” New Jersey is rich in culture and entertainment. It’s home to numerous museums and cultural centers as well as professional sports teams including the New Jersey Devils (NHL), New York Red Bulls (MLS), and New York Giants (NFL). Moreover, the state is the birthplace of well-known musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, and Bruce Springsteen.
The Garden State also stands out for a variety of other reasons. It is known as the “Diner Capital of the World” due to its abundance of diners and has more shopping malls in a 25-mile radius than any other area in the world.
Below are five other interesting and lesser-known facts about New Jersey.
1. It was a major battle site during the Revolution.
The American Revolution occurred between 1775 and 1783 and was preceded by more than a decade of tension between Great Britain and many of its North American colonies. New Jersey was a central location during the armed conflict as hundreds of battles were fought in the state.
These include the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, which ultimately put the British forces on the defensive. The Battle of Monmouth generated momentum for the Continental Army.
The Continental Army’s resolve was also tested through three winters spent at Morristown. Moreover, the Middlebrook Encampments in New Jersey served as a central and protected position that helped lead to victory for the American forces. Because of its role in the conflict, New Jersey was regarded as the “Pathway of the Revolution.”
2. Horses are the state animal.
New Jersey is not only the most densely populated state, it also stands out as having more horses per square mile than any other state. In fact, the horse is the official state animal of New Jersey and the US Equestrian Team is headquartered in Gladstone.
While states like Texas have significantly more total horses than New Jersey, the Garden State has in excess of 83,000 horses across an area of 7,417 square miles. That’s more than 11 horses per square mile.
One of the reasons for the abundance of horses in New Jersey is that it is also the wealthiest state per capita. It has more than 4,000 horse farms and its horse population has an economic impact of $1.1 billion.
3. The first baseball game was played there.
Cooperstown, New York is known as the “Birthplace of Baseball,” but this isn’t exactly true. Although the municipality trademarked the phrase, the first-ever organized baseball game is recorded as having been played at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.
The New York Base Ball Club defeated the Knickerbockers 23–1 in that game with Alexander Joy Cartwright, who developed the rules, serving as umpire. Abner Doubleday claimed to have created the sport and contended the first game was played seven years prior in Cooperstown, but even the National Baseball Hall of Fame can’t confirm this contention.
“Whatever may or may not be proved in the future concerning Baseball’s true origin is in many respects irrelevant at this time,” noted a page of the Hall of Fame’s website in 2000. “If baseball was not actually first played here in Cooperstown by Doubleday in 1839, it undoubtedly originated about that time in a similar rural atmosphere. The Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown to stay; and at the very least, the village is certainly an acceptable symbolic site for the game’s origin.”
4. The first ever college football game is played there, too.
New Jersey was also the site of the first-ever college football game. Nearly 25 years after the first recorded baseball game occured in Hoboken, Rutgers and Princeton (then known as New Jersey) played in front of roughly 100 spectators in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on November 6, 1869.
Rutgers won the game by a score of 6–4. The two teams met a week later in the only other game of the college football season. New Jersey emerged victorious with an 8–0 victory. A third game was cancelled, allegedly due to concerns from both schools that college sports could surpass academics in popularity.
The sport, however, had an entirely different set of rules back then. Whereas throwing and carrying the ball are integral elements of modern football, both were prohibited in the game’s original rules. Players were instead required to kick the ball into the opponent’s goal to score points.
5. It is the only state where motorists cannot pump their own gas.
Motorists passing through New Jersey might be surprised to realize it is the only state in the US in which it is illegal to pump their own gas. Oregon had a statewide ban on pumping gas up until 2016. While this might be frustrating for some, it can be beneficial on cold winter days in which motorists prefer to stay in their vehicles.
The Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act and Regulations was signed into law in 1949 as a precaution so that gas station operators could ensure compliance with various safety procedures and mitigate fire hazards associated with dispensing fuel. However, many believe the law is strictly about money.
Several years before the law was passed, a New Jersey gas station owner began charging motorists less money in the event they pumped their own gas. Competitors then urged lawmakers to deem this illegal over concerns they would lose business.