This fertile land was first sighted by the Italian explorer Giovanni de Varazano in 1524. When he anchored his ship in what is now New York Harbor, his intrusion into this new world would forever change the ancestral homeland of the indigenous Delaware Indians.
In the year 1609, Henry Hudson sailed up his now namesake river, claiming New Jersey (and New York) for the Dutch. Originally called New Netherlands, over the next 40 years a series of small, and short-lived Dutch and Swedish settlements were established along the coastline. The first permanent town (Bergen) was built in 1660.
In 1664, an uninvited British fleet sailed into New York Harbor. After meeting very little organized resistance, the entire region was transformed into a territory of England's fast-spreading empire.
This new English colony was named New Jersey after the (Isle of Jersey) and eventually divided into two provinces. As different as day and night, East Jersey (controlled by the Puritans) and West Jersey (governed by the Quakers) were united as one in 1702.
In the mid-1700's, colonists began protesting high taxation and trade restrictions by England. Eventually those very restrictive rules were deemed unacceptable, and in 1776, New Jersey claimed its independence.
While the thirteen colonies struggled for their freedom, British and American armies crossed New Jersey many times and several crucial battles took place here. Subsequently, New Jersey is historically referred to as "The Crossroads of the Revolution."
In fact, General George Washington (America's first President) and his Continental Army spent most of their time here, engaged in constant battles with the British during the Revolutionary War. Their famous crossing of the Delaware and defeat of the British forces at Trenton was crucial to moral, and overall victory for the colonies.
At war's end, New Jersey was the third state to ratify the new U.S. Constitution, and the first state to sign the Bill of Rights. In 1790, Trenton was named the capital.
In the early 1800's New Jersey sprang into economic prominence as an industrial center. Manufacturing plants produced iron, steel and textiles, and good-paying new jobs attracted European immigrants by the thousands.
The plight of black slaves in the southern states was a controversial issue, and that moral dilemma between north and south finally peaked. In 1861 America's Civil War began; slave-free New Jersey joined the Union cause and historical records indicate that nearly 26,000 of its men fought with the Union Army.
After that war ended, New Jersey (once again) asserted itself as an economic powerhouse. Large companies moved into the state and the flood of immigrants continued. In fact, in the early 1900's, fifty percent of its growing population was foreign-born.
Through World Wars I and II, (Great Depression aside) New Jersey was the epicenter of military production; battleships, destroyers and hundreds of other products were built here to support those war efforts.
Today, the modern urban areas of the northeast are home to the vast percentage of its residents. There - directly across from New York City - industrial complexes, oil refineries, high-tech companies and manufacturing industries drive the economy of this progressive state.
Over its productive history New Jersey was the site of many noteworthy inventions, including Thomas Edison's lightbulb; Samuel Morse and his telegraph, and John Holland's submarine, to name a few.
The state is also known for its lighthouses and almost endless string of white-sand beaches and resort communities, and for the exciting boardwalk and gambling casinos of Atlantic City.
Spread across the Garden State today, historic homes, Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields and monuments reinforce New Jersey's indispensable and integral role in America's struggle for freedom and independence. In summary, the state's motto, "Liberty and Prosperity" says it all.