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The state of South Jersey? It’s one of the many almost-states Michael J. Trinklein writes about in his new book, Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania and Other States that Never Made It.
Trinklein tells the stories of states that tried to be, like Acadia (northern Maine), Lincoln (the top of Idaho), and a third Dakota.
South Jersey, he says, is one of those that came closest to reality.
“In November of 1980, five of six counties in the south voted in favor of secession in a referendum. That's rather remarkable,” he says. If the referendum had passed, the state would have been divided along a borderline extending from Trenton to just above of Atlantic City.
Even though the South Jersey state movement failed, Trinklein says the region used its clout garner more say in the state. “Proponents actually achieved 95 percent of their goals, not the least of which was defeating gubernatorial candidate James J. Florio—who was seen as an enemy of southern New Jersey. Without the South Jersey statehood movement, Thomas Kean probably would not have been elected.”
In doing his research for the book, Trinklein was surprised by what he learned of New Jersey. He thought the entire state was one big urban area, and we all talked like characters in The Sopranos.
“Admittedly, northern New Jersey is urban and asphalt covered,” he writes in Lost States. “But the south and western parts of the state are surprisingly rural and unspoiled. It’s this dichotomy that has led to 300 years of attempts to divide the state in two.”
Need more on the North/South Jersey border? Steve Chernoski of New Jersey: The Movie looks at how the state divides per NHL team preferences, just in time for the Flyers/Devils match up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nick DiUlio is New Jersey Monthly’s South Jersey Bureau Chief. In addition to regularly contributing to the magazine, he has written for Slate.com, Miller McCune, Paste magazine, and numerous regional and lifestyle publications. He is also an adjunct teacher of magazine writing at Rowan University. Email Nick at email@example.com