Saturday, December 18, 2010

Garden Variety

Magnet # 421:  Map of New Jersey

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Dad

Okay, I'm starting to think that December is the month for states to join the Union - or at least it feels that way.  Of course, it was back in December of 1787 that the first three states joined the United States.  And each year including and between 1816 and 1819 saw one state added to the country - all in the last month of the year.  In 1845 and 1846, three more were added, two of which joined in December.  But that was the last time an addition was made in December.  By now, I've discussed the days Delaware, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Texas, and Iowa gained their statehood, all in December.  And today, I'm going to discuss the one December state I have left, New Jersey, which joined on this day in 1787, making it the third state added to the Union.  Overall, that means nine statehoods have been achieved in December, almost one-fifth of all the states in the country.  I just don't think any other month can beat that.

The first European to reach what would become the Jersey shore is believed to be Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian who sailed for the French and would have reached it in 1524.  Later, Henry Hudson also passed through the area, but it was the Dutch who established the first settlements there as part of the fur trade.  The Swedes also came to settle it, but were driven out after they antagonized the Dutch.  Of course, the British later took the land from the Dutch and King Charles II to his brother, the Duke of York.  He, in turn, gave control of what would become New Jersey to a pair of friends who had helped him during the English Civil War.  They managed to draw in quite a few settlers by selling the land at low prices and allowing political and religious freedom.  Still, one of the men sold his shares of the colony to Quakers and East Jersey and West Jersey were formed.  When the colonists in both areas began to riot over paying rent for the land, argue over just who owned particular sites, and dispute just where East Jersey ended and West Jersey began, the owners got fed up and gave up both colonies.  The British rejoined them in 1702.  For a time, New Jersey was ruled over by the governor of New York, but the people were so angered by this that they were eventually given their own governor.  Just two days before the Declaration of Independence was signed, New Jersey drafted its own Constitution and the area saw a great deal of battle during the American Revolution.  But they were still quick to join the Union, with only Delaware and Pennsylvania coming in before then.  Early on, it became one of the first great industrial states and that has been a driving force of its economy ever since.

New Jersey is another state that I've only been to one time, and it was a pretty short stay.  I passed through it with my family on the way up North and we stopped by the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, where I considered enrolling, but never did.  Still, I went by their Art Store and picked up a few supplies.  The school is located in Dover, which is in the northern part of the state.  We also drove through a town where part of my family lived long before I was born.  I do remember having an aerial view of northern New Jersey when I was descending toward JFK Airport on a plane.  It was pretty developed, and not terribly attractive, so I recall being a bit put off, and wondering why anyone would have called this place the Garden State.  Apparently, some of the best parts of New Jersey are further south, and there are definitely a few places there I'd like to see there.  First off, there's Cape May, the nation's oldest seaside resort that's filled with charming Victorian homes.  It's also home to lovely gardens and plenty of museums and I'd like to have a look at it.  I'd also like to see the Pine Barrens, a 1.1 million acre national reserve that features dense forests, bogs, and marshes.  It's a somewhat mysterious place and legend has it the Jersey Devil, a creature with the head of a horse, wings, and fierce claws, stalks it.  Tours are even offered to look for the monster - sounds like fun.  It's also home to the much busier Atlantic City home to casinos, a four-mile long Boardwalk.  Lucy the Elephant, an iconic elephant-shaped building built in 1881 is in Margate City, just two miles south of Atlantic City.  I'd definitely like to check that out.  Having seen some of the more industrialized parts of the state, I think I'd like to experience other, perhaps more inviting areas of it in the future.  Hopefully then, I'll get a better understanding of what makes New Jersey the Garden State.

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