Geography and Landforms:

New Jersey is the 5th smallest state. It is surrounded by water, except for its 50-mile northeast boundary with New York. The state has a 130-mile coastline with the Atlantic Ocean. Many popular beaches and resorts are located here. Just west of the coastal area are the Pine Barrens, a region of dense forests and small rivers.

The Atlantic Coastal Plain is the largest geographic area of New Jersey and covers more than half of the state. It is an area of gently rolling lowlands that rise less than 100 feet above sea level. The fertile soil in this region supports many farms. The eastern portion of the Coastal Plain consists of salt marshes, lagoons, and meadows.

The Piedmont is a 20-mile wide strip just north of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Many large rivers are found in this area. It is a highly populated region that supports many of the state's industries. The cities of Elizabeth, Jersey City, and Paterson are located here.

The Highlands lie to the north of the Piedmont. Many lakes are nestled in sheltered valleys among the flat-topped ridges of this area.

The northwest corner of the state is known as the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region. It is an area that includes the Kittatinny Mountains and New Jersey's highest elevations. The Delaware Water Gap, a scenic spot where the Delaware River cuts through the Kittatinny Mountains, is located here.


The first white man to explore the region that became New Jersey was the Italian navigator Giovanni Verrazano. He reached the coast of New Jersey in 1624. But the Dutch were the first to claim ownership primarily because of the voyages of Henry Hudson, an English sea captain who was employed by the Netherlands. Hudson sailed into Newark Bay in 1609. Soon the Dutch had established small trading colonies on the sites of present day Hoboken, Jersey City, and Gloucester City. Dutch trading ships visited these settlements throughout the 1600s.

In 1638, settlers and traders from Sweden began arriving in the southern part of the New Jersey region. They settled along the Delaware River and began to compete with the Dutch in fur trading. By 1655, the Dutch had driven the Swedes out of the area.

In 1664, the English took over the region. King Charles II granted the land to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. They named the area New Jersey after the Isle of Jersey, which was located in the English Channel. Berkeley and Carteret offered land to colonists at low prices and promised them religious freedom. This attracted many settlers to the region.

Berkeley sold his share of New Jersey to a group of Quakers in 1674. Soon the colony was divided into two sections. West Jersey became the first Quaker colony in America. Its capital was Burlington. Carteret owned East Jersey until his death in 1680 when a group of purchased it from Carteret's widow. Perth Amboy was the capital of East Jersey.

After years of disputes over property rights in both East and West Jersey, the owners surrendered their governmental powers to the British in 1702. The two Jerseys were united and became one colony under the British crown. Great Britain appointed Lewis Morris the colony's first governor.

The colonists became increasingly unhappy with the heavy taxation and trade restrictions imposed by the Great Britain. In 1774, a group of men dressed as Indians and burned a load of British tea that was stored in a ship at Greenwich, New Jersey.

The American Revolution began in 1775 and New Jersey became a major battleground. Nearly 100 battles were found in the colony. In 1776, New Jersey adopted its first constitution and declared its independence from Great Britain. On December 25, 1776, General George Washington surprised the British Army by crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey. The next day, Washington defeated the British in the Battle of Trenton.

Other significant battles in New Jersey include the Battle of Princeton in 1777 and the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Morristown, New Jersey was the site of two winter encampments of General Washington and the Continental Army. During this Revolutionary period, both Princeton and Trenton served as temporary national capitals for the United States.

New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution in December of 1787. It was the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789. In 1790, Trenton became the capital of the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey supported the Union during the Civil War, even though many people within the state sympathized with the South. Despite the fact that more than 80,000 New Jersey men served in the Union Army, the state was only one of three that voted against the reelection of President Lincoln in 1864.


New Jersey has been a leader in industry since Thomas Edison established his research laboratory in Menlo Park in 1876. The color television and videotape recorder were both invented in New Jersey research facilities. The state continues to be a leader in technology.

New Jersey produces chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electronic equipment, and processed foods. Pipelines carrying oil from Texas and Oklahoma come to an end in Bayonne, New Jersey. Oil refineries in nearby Carteret and Linden process this natural resource.

Agriculture plays a major role in the state's economy. Dairy products, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and greenhouse and nursery items are produced.

New Jersey is a leading transportation and shipping center with busy ports located on the Newark and New York Bays. The state is also a thriving vacation destination due to its ocean resorts, lakes, mountains, and forested areas.

First Inhabitants:

The first inhabitants of New Jersey were part of the Delaware tribe of Algonkian Indians. They called themselves the Leni Lenape, which means "original people."

Ten thousand years before the first European settlers set foot in New Jersey, the Leni Lenape were hunting and raising crops such as corn, beans, and squash.

Books Related To New Jersey

Back in Time with Thomas Edison - Dan Gutman
(978-0689841255) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 670, ESL level: 3 - 4
Qwerty time travels to see Thomas Edison and his electric bulb, but he cannot get home again without his sister's assistance.

The Book of One Hundred Truths - Julie Schumacher
(978-0440420859) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-6, Lexile: 610, ESL level: 2 - 3
Theodora babysits for younger cousins while visiting her grandparents at the New Jersey shore; the things she learns from her experience make up her list.

Callie's Rules - Naomi Zucker
(978-1606841334) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, ESL level: 3
Pre-teen Callie tries to conform to the school rules, but she joins her family in a protest when the town changes the annual Halloween festivities.

Center Field - Robert Lipsyte
(978-0060557041) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 610, ESL level: 3 - 4
Mike's baseball dream gets off track when he suffers and injury and also senses things are not right at home or at school.

G is for Garden State: A New Jersey Alphabet - Eileen Cameron
(978-1585361526) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of New Jersey.

Penny from Heaven - Jennifer Holm
(978-0375836893) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, Lexile: 730, ESL level: 3 - 4
Penny learns more about her father's death during an important summer when she is in her pre-teens.

A Ride into Morning: The Story of Tempe Wick - Ann Rinaldi
(978-0152046835) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-9, Lexile: 690, ESL level: 3 - 4
A young woman's brave intervention during the Revolutionary War keeps a mutiny from happening.

War and Watermelon - Rich Wallace
(978-0670011520) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 630, ESL level: 3 - 4
Two brothers are at odds when one plays football and the other protests the Vietnam war despite his father's views of the war.

Famous Citizens:

Aaron Burr
Born in 1756 in Newark, New Jersey, Aaron Burr became Vice-President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson (1801-1805). Unfortunately, he is better known for having killed Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel in 1804.

James Fenimore Cooper
Born in Burlington, New Jersey, James Fenimore Cooper was the first major American novelist. His best-known tales of frontier adventure include The Last of the Mohicans (1826), an adventure story set in the Lake Champlain area.

Donald Fletcher Holmes
Donald Fletcher Holmes was born in Woodbury, New Jersey. He invented the process for making polyurethane. Various forms of polyurethane are used in to manufacture upholstery material, heat-insulating material in homes, offices, and refrigerators, life-saving artificial hearts, safety padding in modern automobiles, and carpeting.

Zebulon M. Pike
The famous explorer Zebulon M. Pike was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He was an army officer who led many expeditions to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi and negotiate peace treaties with Native American tribes. He is best remembered for discovering the mountain in Colorado that bears his name: Pike's Peak.

William Henry Vanderbilt
Financier William Henry Vanderbilt was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He controlled one of America's greatest family fortunes and headed one of the nation's largest corporations - the New York Central Railroad. Vanderbilt managed to double his family's fortune to the present-day equivalent of $3 billion, making him the richest man in the world at the time of his death in 1885.

Capital: Trenton
Entered Union: December 18, 1787
Population: 8,938,175
Area 8,721
Bird Eastern Goldfinch
Flower Violet
Nickname: Garden State
Governor Chris Christie

Places to Visit in New Jersey: (Click the links to learn more.)

The New Jersey State Aquarium - Camden
Just minutes from Philadelphia, this aquarium offers more than 80 exhibits that include 4,000 fish and more than 500 species. Visit the on-line Kids' Cove for games and activities for kids of all ages.

Ellis Island - Access from Liberty State Park in New Jersey
More than 12 million immigrants passed through this facility between 1892 and 1954. Retrace their steps and view exhibits that commemorate their courage.

Edison National Historic Site - West Orange
This laboratory created by Thomas Alva Edison produced the motion picture camera, vastly improved phonographs, sound recordings, silent and sound movies and the nickel-iron alkaline electric storage battery. Interpret and experience important aspects of America's industrial, scientific, social and economic past.

Walt Whitman House - Camden
Walt Whitman (1819-1892), one of America's most distinguished writers, purchased the home in 1884 and resided there until his death in 1892. It was here that Whitman revised his renowned "Leaves of Grass." The six-room house is a National Historic Landmark.

Tuckerton Seaport - Tuckerton
See the Jersey Shore as it was long ago. Find out about pirates, mooncussers, New Jersey lighthouses, the life of a lighthouse keeper, shipwrecks, and whaling off of the New Jersey coast. Learn to speak Leni Lenape and see aquatic species up close.