(Gloucestercitynews.net)(May 15, 2020)---New Jersey, the Garden State, is known for many things. Some of these things are more widely known than others, for example, the level of population density is the highest in America, and not just for people - horses too. Such rock luminaries as Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen (not to forget the E Street Band) were born and bred in New Jersey, and make frequent references to landmarks, society, industry, and local characters in their songs. Saltwater taffy, that wonderfully chewy treat is associated with the Garden State. But there are many more interesting things about New Jersey that aren’t so well known. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
New Jersey is sometimes called the Diner Capital of the US. There are more of these roadside icons in the state than anywhere else in America. These were originally diner carriages from repurposed trains as the highway system took over, they have an old school appeal, and the silver sided vintage models are an evocative part of Americana. Diners also have a comfort value - you can get a huge variety of dishes at any time of the day or night, from cheeseburgers to milkshakes to french onion soup.
Believe it or not, the drive-in movie theatre was invented in New Jersey. Usually viewed from a modern perspective as a bit of retro fun, in their day drive-ins were cutting edge. Invented in the 1930s in Riverton by Richard M. Hollingshead Jr, and launched in 1933 after a period of experimentation at home, drive-ins found brief success as a novelty until the 1950s when suburban populations expanded. Immortalized in such movies as Grease, drive-ins are an enduring part of the American landscape.
We’d be left in the dark if Thomas Edison hadn’t invented the light bulb. But did you know he invented it at his laboratory in New Jersey? In the same Menlo Park lab, the great inventor also fashioned the world’s first movie projector and the first phonograph! Not only that, but the world’s first submarine ride was in the Passaic River in Paterson, conducted by John P. Holland in 1878.
New Jersey’s gambling laws are among the least restrictive (up there with Nevada) in the United States. There are countless places to legally place bets in casinos or at racetracks and other sporting events. Atlantic City and its famous boardwalk play host to several classic grand casinos, but you can find places to play throughout the state. Check https://www.wsn.com/sports-betting-usa/new-jersey/ for a comprehensive list of legal betting options.
In 1938, now-acclaimed Hollywood film director Orson Welles made a radio broadcast of his adaptation of HG Wells’ classic novel War of the Worlds. Welles set his Martian landing in New Jersey, and whilst most science fiction aficionados could figure out what they were listening to, thousands tuned in late, and took the broadcast literally. Cue mass panic, as thousands of distressed New Jersey citizens, believed that malevolent Martians were rampaging through the state, poisoning all and sundry with deadly gas. It took days to bring the hysteria to and end, and Welles concluded that he had been teaching the public a lesson not to believe everything they heard.
While it had existed in earlier incarnations in 18th century England, and games had been played in Ontario, Canada before, 1846 marked the year that an official game of professional baseball was played in the USA. And it happened nowhere other than Hoboken, New Jersey. Look away now if you don’t want to see the score - the New York Nines beat the New York Knickerbockers 23-1.
As if baseball wasn’t enough, American Football has its roots in New Jersey too. Students from Princeton and Rutgers had been fostering a fierce baseball rivalry (that went back to a stolen cannon during the 1812 war) when they decided to mesh elements from soccer and rugby and forge a new sport entirely. Rutgers won the first-ever match in New Brunswick during 1869, but it wasn’t until almost three decades later that the sport was made professional.
Before Hollywood became Tinseltown, New Jersey staked its claim to be the bedrock of American cinema. Fort Lee was ideal for filmmakers, rural, rustic, full of old hotels and bars, and most importantly, a stone's throw from glamorous New York City. It made an ideal backdrop to countless Western movies.
New Jersey is a place that wears its heart on its sleeve, but it isn’t without its secrets. You’ll find many iconic parts of American culture associated in one way or another with the Garden State.