1 Feeling a little claustrophobic? The 2005 U.S. Census estimate ranks New Jersey as the nation’s most densely populated state, with 1,175 people per square mile, compared to the national average of 83.8.
2 New Jersey’s per capita income averaged $43,771 in 2005, the third highest figure among the states (behind Connecticut and Massachusetts).
3 In 2005 New Jersey produced more than a million gallons of wine. The state ranks fifth—after California, Washington, New York, and Oregon—among wine-producing states, according to the Garden State Wine Growers Association. And we’re not just talking grapes: Cream Ridge Winery is famous for its cherry, blackberry, and blueberry wines. See newjerseywines.com for more information.
4 The Garden State ranks second in the nation in blueberry production, third for bell peppers, spinach, cranberries, and peaches, and eighth for those beloved Jersey tomatoes, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. All together, our produce market generates more than $250 million yearly.
5 In 1641, Aert Teunissen Van Putten, a Dutchman, fulfilled a noble calling when he landed in Hoboken, cleared land, fenced fields, and constructed the state’s first brew house.
6 The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in October, sells all available tickets at discounted prices 24 hours before a show. You can buy ducats for performances at any of the group’s 38 theaters through its Web site, njartstix.org.
7 Silent Bob, movie director Kevin Smith’s onscreen alter ego, isn’t actually silent: He always has at least one line, usually near the end of each of Smith’s Jerseycentric movies, such as Clerks, Chasing Amy, or Mallrats.
8 The FOX Network show House is set at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The show’s star, Hugh Laurie, who plays the boorish but brilliant Dr. Gregory House, actually hails from Oxford but developed such an idiomatic American accent that his U.K. roots are undetectable.
9 Long before The Sopranos made Jersey cool, the 1980s sitcom Charles in Charge brought New Brunswick to the small screen. As the title heartthrob, Scott Baio played a student at Copeland College—a fictional version of Rutgers—who paid his tuition bills by working as a nanny. His TV mom? Englewood native Ellen Travolta, John’s real-life sister.
10 Mount Mitchill, near Atlantic Highlands, is the highest point on the East Coast south of Cadillac Mountain in Maine. On a clear night, you can see past the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the Empire State Building, about 22 miles away.
11 The oldest continuously operated firehouse in the United States, built in 1752, is the Britannia Fire Company (now named Relief Fire Company) building in Mount Holly.
12 Catching a blueclaw crab is easy: On a rising bay tide, tie fish scraps to twine, check the bait every few minutes and carefully sweep a long dip-net under the crab. Patience and a well-stocked cooler help too.
13 Englewood’s Balthazar Bakery (affiliated with the chi-chi SoHo bistro of the same name) fills the breadbaskets of New York’s top restaurants. Artisanal, Jean-Georges, and Gramercy Tavern are clients—as are Hoboken’s Elysian Café and Long Branch’s just-opened Avenue Restaurant. Balthazar heats up some 10,000 pounds of dough per day, some of which becomes the bakery’s wildly popular cranberry pecan bread or its signature crusty pain de siegle.
14 From one breadwinner to others of the greenback variety, the list of the wealthiest Garden Staters includes a nougat heiress, a publishing tycoon, and a trio of investment geniuses. Forbes magazine’s most recent ranking of the wealthiest Americans names 66-year-old Jacqueline Mars of Bedminster, proprietor of the Hackettstown-based candy maker that bears her name, as America’s 19th richest person, with an estimated worth of $10 billion.
Other top Jerseyans, in order of lucre:
Donald E. Newhouse Owner of the nation’s largest privately owned newspaper business, which includes the Star-Ledger; $7.5 billion.
Peter R. Kellogg Short Hills financial wizard made a killing selling his investment firm to Goldman Sachs in 2000; $2.2 billion.
Michael F. Price Money manager from Far Hills; $1.3 billion.
David Tepper A junk bond and hedge fund maven from Chatham. Just 47, he’s the youngest among our richest; $1.2 billion.
15 Want to know if your local legislator is telling the truth when he or she claims to be one of us, just a common person trying to do the best for the Garden State ?
Visit www.njleg.state.nj.us/ethics/FinanceDiscloseForms.asp and you’ll get a view of their financial status—and find out whether they’re having as much trouble as the rest of us balancing their checkbooks.
16 It is prohibited to walk or ride a bicycle or a horse on the Turnpike or the Parkway, a law that has been in effect since the Turnpike was completed in 1951.
17 The Passaic River in Paterson was the site of the first successful submarine ride on June 6, 1878, by former teacher John P. Holland. Construction of the 14-foot sub began in New York and was finished in Paterson.
18 This month the Newark Public Library begins a two-month celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of John Cotton Dana. The library’s director at the start of the twentieth century, Dana was instrumental in making its corridors accessible to the masses (at Dana’s insistence, the library remained open on Sundays during the Depression). In that populist spirit, the library last month presented an exhibit of works, including signed and dated original prints and lithographs, by Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein.
19 The Battle of Trenton, on December 25 and 26, 1776, and the Battle of Princeton, a week later, were turning points in the American Revolution. The victories boosted troop morale when things were going poorly for George Washington and his army.
20 Flight mechanic or “Fly Me To The Moon”? Frank Sinatra once attended (briefly) the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics, on Broad Street in Newark. Tuition for a two-year degree in aeronautical engineering was $950. Come fall, Berkeley College will open its Newark campus on the site.
21 Sergeant Elvis Presley received his final pay from the United States Army at Fort Dix, where his discharge from the military was processed on March 5, 1960.
22 Bob Dylan first met Woody Guthrie at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, just north of Morristown, where the composer of “This Land Is Your Land”—who had been found “wandering aimlessly” in the streets—was treated from 1956 to 1961 for Huntington’s disease, about which little was known at the time.
23 The Mason-Dixon line does not technically run through New Jersey, but if the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland were extended due east, it would run south of Penns Grove, north of Hammonton and just below Barnegat.
24 In 1765 Reuben Tucker bought land off the southern tip of Long Beach Island. By the end of the eighteenth century, Tucker had established a boarding home and tavern for the “health and entertainment of pleasure seekers.” By 1870, Tucker’s Island was home to the 4-story St. Albans Hotel, the 25-room Columbia Hotel, some 70 cottages, a lighthouse, and a life-saving station. Although developers coveted Tucker’s Island, Mother Nature had other ideas. In October 1927, following a series of violent storms, the island’s lighthouse fell into the sea (a series of stunning photographs showing its demise can be seen inside the Barnegat Lighthouse, at LBI’s northern tip). By 1939, Tucker’s Island was completely gone. Today, Tuckerton Seaport (tuckertonseaport.org) brings to life these and other stories of New Jersey’s maritime history.
25 Atlantic City’s casinos took in a record $5 billion—yes, billion!—in gross revenues in 2005.
26 How to play roulette: Scope out a table with a low minimum bet, approach the dealer as if you know what you’re doing, exchange your cash for chips, and scan the house rules, generally available at the table. Place chips on a number or color indicating where on the 38-slot roulette wheel you bet the ball will fall. A good starting wager for novices is $5 on red or black, says Eric Fiocco, senior vice president of casino operations and marketing for Resorts Atlantic City. Given that the wheel also contains two green slots, your odds of winning will be almost 50–50: “You won’t win a whole bunch,” Fiocco says. “Then again, you won’t lose a bunch either.”
27 Everyone serving as a grand or petit juror in New Jersey’s courts is paid $5 a day for his or her services.
28 Burlington is the only county in the state that stretches from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean.
29 The Pine Barrens covers more than a million acres of sandy soil. Stretching over seven southern counties, it encompasses 22 percent of the state’s total land mass.
30 The Appalachian Trail, which hikers traverse from Maine to Georgia, weaves across New Jersey’s northern boundary for 72 miles.
31 Thomas Edison filed 1,093 successful patent applications between 1868 and 1931. Another 500 to 600 of Edison’s ideas for patents were either abandoned or rejected. No wonder he looks exhausted.
32 Edison never invented anything to help his golf game. He was a member of Essex County Country Club in West Orange, the state’s oldest private club, which opened in 1887.
33 A backroads route to the Shore: In South Jersey, pick up Route 563 off congested Route 72. In Egg Harbor City, Route 563 becomes Route 50, which dead-ends at Route 9. Turn left for Ocean City, right for Sea Isle. From Central Jersey, we like Route 539, which heads south, passing through Allentown before dipping into the sylvan embrace of the Pine Barrens. At off-peak hours, you’re likely to have this two-lane throwback, with easy access to Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island, all to yourself.
34 New Jersey has not had a poet laureate since July 2003, when the state Legislature abolished the $10,000-a-year position as a way to effectively fire Amiri Baraka of Newark, who was accused of using anti-Semitic language in a 9/11 poem.
35 Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, his muckraking book about the Chicago meatpacking industry, at his home in Princeton Township. It was published in 1906, the same year Sinclair ran unsuccessfully for a New Jersey Congressional seat.
36 It’s back to the drawing board for a state slogan. “Come See for Yourself,” submitted in a contest by Jeffrey Antman of Passaic, got the kibosh when it was found to have been used previously in West Virginia and other states.
37 New Jersey has two nuclear power locations. Lower Alloways Creek is home to the Hope Creek and Salem. The Oyster Creek plant is in Lacey Township.
38 New Jersey’s public schools spent $12,981 per student in 2004, more than any other state in the nation.
39 Frank S. “Hap” Farley, boss of the corrupt machine that ran Atlantic City, ruled for decades as the state’s most powerful senator. Today he’s best remembered for lending his name to a rest stop on the Atlantic City Expressway, a toll road that Farley helped get built, as well as an A.C. marina.
40 As of February 2003, Princeton University has graduated two future U.S. presidents, 14 Nobel laureates, 30 cabinet members, 200 members of the Congress, 100 ambassadors and more than 40 governors.
41 Buyer beware: You can find out the latest pump prices around the state by visiting newjerseygasprices.com.
42 Violators of the state’s new smoking ban in public places (except, of course, casinos) can be fined up to $1,000.
43 According to believers at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, a spirit named Reggie (who died in Bowne Gymnasium, on the site of the present-day Kirby Theatre) either passed on while swimming or running on the indoor track. “Reggie tends to make appearances in the middle of the night by ringing the bell in the theater’s elevator,” says artistic director Bonnie Monte. To keep the peace, Monte says, remnants of the tile from the gym’s pool were used in the theater’s foundation.
44 The Garden State is named for the island of Jersey in the English Channel. Sir George Carteret, who was born there and served as its lieutenant governor, later became owner of Colonial-era East Jersey.
45 Kids aged ten to sixteen can be a sailor for a day aboard New Jersey’s official tall ship, the A.J. Meerwald. The program is available this month, on the 19th and 26th, when the ship docks in Liberty State Park in Jersey City. For information call 856-785-2060, extension 100.
46 Next time you need to fire off an angry email to your local legislator, it’ll help to have the right information handy. Bookmark www.njleg.state.nj.us, which also supplies legislative job histories and a handy list of bills sponsored.
47 In 1913, Hoboken engineer Gideon Sunback created “Hookless No. 2” for the Automatic Hook and Eye Company in Meadville, Pennsylvania. When an executive at B.F. Goodrich saw it for the first time, he called it “a zipper” of an invention.
48 The Battleship New Jersey was built from 1938 to 1942 by a racially and ethnically mixed group of men and women (more integrated than any of the U.S. Armed Services at the time). You’ll drink to that, you say? Then head over to The Flight Deck Café, on the fantail of the ship docked at the Camden waterfront, which has its own liquor license. Open weekends through Labor Day, it’s the perfect spot to take in the Friday night fireworks that light up the sky over nearby Campbell’s Field.
49 Sylvia Robinson, half of Mickey & Sylvia, had a number-one hit in 1956 with “Love Is Strange”; her other hits included the sultry “Pillow Talk.” But it was her recording studio in Englewood that was the creative source of the world’s first hit rap song. Robinson produced the Sugarhill Gang, whose “Rapper’s Delight” became a multi-platinum single in 1979, paving the way for the Garden State to become a linchpin in the hip-hop movement.
50 If you’re a Gunsmoke freak shocked by the language on HBO’s Deadwood, recapture a live-action version of the family-friendly Western experience at Wild West City in Byram (wildwestcity.com), which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Main Street shows will make you want to strap on a six-shooter and get deputized for a day of white-hats-versus-black-hats fun.
51 Singer Gloria Gaynor’s biggest hit, “I Will Survive,” has become an anthem for breast cancer survivors. Gaynor, a Newark native, now lives in Green Brook.
52 Mary Treat was married to the philandering Joseph Treat, who in 1868 left their Vineland home for New York City. A year later, Mary got interested in bugs (draw your own parallels) and carnivorous plants; over the next decade she wrote eleven articles for American Entomologist and American Naturalist magazines. She corresponded with Charles Darwin, who included her observations in his 1875 book, Insectivorous Plants. The self-taught Treat roamed the Pine Barrens and eventually discovered several of New Jersey’s carnivorous plants. She was widely heralded after her death, at 93, in 1923. Her husband died penniless in New York. Darwin would have been proud of that evolution.