In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution and the first state to sign the Bill of Rights. You might know that at a size of only 8,729 square miles, it’s the fourth smallest state in the country in terms of area. And you might know that over than 9 million people live in the Garden State. And you undoubtedly know that New Jersey is home to the fourth oldest institution of higher learning in the country—Princeton University, which was founded in 1746 and boasts alumni like John F. Kennedy, actor Jimmy Stewart, poet F. Scott Fitzgerald and many more. It’s also home to the largest seaport in the nation in the city of Elizabeth. But we bet you didn’t know these 7 things about New Jersey.
Paterson, New Jersey is the final resting place for more than 5,000 spoons.
Lambert Castle is located in Paterson, New Jersey. It was built in 1892 and was the home of Catholina Lambert, an Englishman and silk industry tycoon. It’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, but it’s the curious items inside one room of the castle that really stand out.
Paterson native Bertha Koempel had loved spoons her whole life. Over her lifetime, she collected spoons as souvenirs from trips and mementos of special occasions and events. Friends and family would mail spoons to her from all over the globe. Upon her passing—and at her request—the collection of spoons was donated to the Passaic County Historical Society, which in turn created exhibits of the spoons in a room inside Lambert Castle. The spoons on exhibition have been divided into categories and are displayed 250 at a time. The exhibits rotate to include all of the more than 5,400 spoons Ms. Koempel owned. They’re something to see—these spoons aren’t your run-of-the-mill Farberware breed. One spoon from Holland has a windmill blade that actually turns, and another spoon from the Middle East has a compartment that opens to reveal a tiny mummy.
The nation’s oldest vacation resort is located on the shores of New Jersey.
New Jersey lays claim to 130 miles of shoreline—from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Cape May is located on the southern tip of the Cape May Peninsula where the Atlantic Ocean meets with Delaware Bay. The entire city is a designated Historic District Landmark because of the 600+ Victorian buildings that stand there. Only about 3,500 people live in Cape May, but that’s a lot of people when you consider that the city only encompasses 2.74 square miles!
Visitors to Cape May enjoy trolley tours of the Historic District, Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast accommodations, biking, jogging, beachcombing and searching for Cape May diamonds (polished quartz that washes up on the shore). Other attractions and activities include winery tours and wine tastings, Cape May’s Food and Wine Festival, the admission-free Cape May County Park and Zoo and the historic 1858 Cape May Lighthouse.
New Jersey holds records related to water in the sky, diners on the ground and lots of stolen cars.
New Jersey has many accolades to its credit (and at least one accolade they’d rather forget). Standing 212 feet high, the tallest water tower on earth is the Union Watersphere located in the city of Union. It was built in 1964 and holds 250,000 gallons of well water. Jersey also has the most diners of any place on earth. Some of the most popular are Tops Diner in East Newark, Doo Wop Diner in Wildwood, Americana Diner in East Windsor, Tick Tock Diner in Clifton and Mustache Bill’s Diner in Barnegat Light. New Jersey is also the car theft capital of the country. There are more cars stolen in Newark, New Jersey, than in New York City and Los Angeles combined!
Ol’ Blue Eyes, Stormin’ Norman and Queen Latifah started out in Jersey.
Many celebrities took their first breath in New Jersey. Rapper Queen Latifah, crooner Frank Sinatra, pianist Count Basie, rockers Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen and singer Whitney Houston all hailed from the Garden State. Hollywood royalty born in New Jersey includes Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, John Travolta, Sandra Dee, Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson, and Kelly Ripa. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, President Grover Cleveland, and General Norman Schwarzkopf were also born in Jersey, as were celebrity chef Martha Stewart and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal.
It has its very own version of Las Vegas.
Atlantic City is a resort in Atlantic County, New Jersey, that’s known for its casinos, boardwalks, and beaches. It has been referred to as the East Coast version of Las Vegas. Visitors to Atlantic City can stay at the legendary Hard Rock Hotel and Casino or the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, among others.
Attractions and sights at Atlantic City—aside from gambling in the casinos, which is a $3 billion industry for the city—include the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the Greek Temple Monument, World War I Memorial, the New Jersey Korean War Memorial, the Absecon Lighthouse and Museum and the Wild West Bank Heist Escape Room.
The streets of Atlantic City turned an unemployed salesman into a millionaire.
After the stock market crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression, heating equipment salesman Charles Darrow found himself unemployed. So in his newly-found spare time, Darrow began to make handmade versions of a game called “The Landlord’s Game” to share with friends. In 1933, he launched the game that he renamed “Monopoly,” and it was such a huge success that he applied for a patent.
The names of the real estate in the original Monopoly game were based on street names in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Darrow was fond of the city because of memories of childhood vacations spent there. The values of the properties on the Monopoly board tell a lot about the condition of the streets and areas in Atlantic City at the time—Boardwalk and Park Place were the nicest areas, and Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues were the less valuable areas in town.
There’s only one name on the board that didn’t come from Atlantic City. The name “Marvin Gardens” was actually a misspelling on the part of Hasbro. It was to be spelled “Marven Gardens,” as it was a hybrid name that represented MARgate City and VENtnor City. Hasbro even issued an apology to the people of Ventnor City for the misspelling.
Royalties from the board game made Darrow a multi-millionaire, and he retired at the age of 46. He apparently wasn’t the sole creator of the initial game idea, but he was the first to get the patent and is thus often credited with the idea. Thank you, capitalism.
Lots of bright ideas morphed into reality at a lab in Menlo Park.
In late 1875, Thomas Edison bought 34 acres in New Jersey, on which his father built a laboratory, a glass house, a carpenter’s shop, a carbon shed and a blacksmith’s shop. It was there—inside a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey—that Edison and a team of inventors would invent the phonograph, the microphone, the incandescent light bulb, the first underground electrical system and an induction coil that markedly improved the telephone. The laboratory was the first independent research laboratory ever created. It closed in 1882 when Edison—the “Wizard of Menlo Park”—moved into a larger laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.