National New Jersey Day was just celebrated in July, and we certainly feel a ton of pride for our home. There are so many reasons to love our great state. Whether you love Jersey for its small town charm, gorgeous beaches, top-notch pizza + bagels, or its central location to so many fantastic east coast cities, we can all agree there’s something wonderful here for everyone. To celebrate National NJ Day, we’ve rounded up some fun facts about our home state that you may or may not know. Read on for 10 fun facts about New Jersey — and happy National New Jersey Day from Team HG.
1. New Jersey Has More Diners Than Any Other State
This one probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone. We love our diners here in NJ. Some even cite New Jersey as the ‘Diner Capital of the World.’ While it’s tough to get an exact count of just how many diners are here, many estimate that it’s more than 500. We’d also dare to say that we have the best diners of any state. But that’s subjective.
2. The Modern Submarine Was Invented + Tested in New Jersey
While the concept of a submarine had already been invented, what we know to be the modern submarine had yet to be successfully created until John P Holland, a Paterson teacher. His first design was launched in the Passaic in 1878 and stayed submerged for an hour. However, it wasn’t until Holland’s 6th design attempt — at an Elizabeth shipyard — that his creation remained under water. In 1900, the Navy purchased it for $150,000.
3. Nellie Bly, the First Person to Get Around the World in 80 Days, Left from Hoboken + Arrived in Jersey City
In the late 1800s, journalist Nellie Bly took off on an incredible journey around the world in (under, actually) 80 days, the very first person to do so. Fascinatingly, she bookended her trip right here in Hudson County. She took off from Hoboken and returned to Jersey City, much to the shock of everyone who thought this venture wasn’t possible for anyone — let alone a woman.
See More: Bizarre + Surprising New Jersey Laws
4. Thomas Edison Invented the Lightbulb, Phonograph, + More in Menlo Park, New Jersey
Thomas Edison is most known for having invented the lightbulb — but his list of achievements is far greater than just that, and he accomplished many of his feats right here in New Jersey. In 1876, Edison set up a laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ. Just a year later, he invented the phonograph as a way to capture the human voice — and the first thing he recorded himself saying was ‘Mary had a little lamb.’ His invention quickly took off, and he became known as ‘The Wizard of Menlo Park.’ By Christmas of 1879, Edison had invented the lightbulb — and by the following year, he was putting up lampposts and creating an underground electrical system. He also played around with an electric-powered railway. While living in Menlo Park, he applied for roughly 400 patents. Following Menlo Park, Edison moved his laboratory to West Orange. In 1954, Menlo Park was renamed ‘Edison’ in honor of the amazing inventor.
5. Salt Water Taffy is Believed to Have Been Invented in Atlantic City
This one is a little shrouded in mystery, but considering the Jersey Shore’s strong affiliation with salt water taffy, it certainly isn’t hard to believe. It seems mostly everyone is in agreement that Atlantic City’s David Bradley is tied to the first salt water taffy, though the ‘how’ is widely debated. David’s Atlantic City candy store was allegedly pummeled by a bad storm in 1883. His boardwalk store was flooded with ocean water — and so was the taffy. When a little girl asked for a piece of candy, David joked that she could have one, if she wanted some ‘salt water taffy.’ Thus, supposedly, the treat was born.
6. New Jersey is Home to One (Inactive) Volcano
This was really surprising for us. The Beemerville Volcano, also known as Rutan Hill, is our state’s only volcanic site. It’s located in Colesville, has an elevation of 1,020 feet tall, and has been dormant for over 400 million years. This Sussex County spot has since been developed into neighborhood real estate but is nevertheless a fascinating look into our geological past.
7. The First Drive-In Theater Was in Pennsauken, New Jersey
The very first drive-in theater opened on June 6th, 1933 and was called Camden Drive-In, located in Pennsauken, NJ. Originally, it was known as a ‘park-in’ theater and was invented by Richard Hollingshead, who was supposedly inspired by how uncomfortable normal movie theaters made his mom. Hollingshead went through a series of tests in his own driveway to figure out the most optimal visual and sound techniques.
8. The Lambert Castle in Paterson is Home to the World’s Largest Spoon Collection
Paterson, NJ was home to a super avid spoon collector named Bertha Schaefer Koempel, who lived from 1882 to 1966. When she passed away, the donated her whole collection to the Passaic County Historical Society — and it became the largest spoon collection ever, topping 5,400 spoons. Now, the Bertha Schaefer Koempel Spoon Collection at Lambert Castle displays 250 spoons at once, which get switched out regularly. Though the Lambert Castle is currently under renovation, it — and the spoon collection — are expected to open again to the public in 2023.
9. The Streets in Monopoly are Based on Real Atlantic City Streets
That’s right — the Monopoly board gets its street names from actual streets in Atlantic City. It seems the origin of this is debated. Some say it was a woman named Ruth who wanted to name the streets after where her friends lived. Others say it has roots in a real estate agent who knew the lay of the land and wanted to reflect local real estate. Regardless, the street names are very real and New Jersey-based.
10. Dogs Weren’t Allowed in Fanwood Parks + Playing Bingo on Sundays Before 1PM in Hoboken is Illegal
Every state is home to some weird laws — and in case you missed it, we covered some bizarre + surprising laws in New Jersey. Two of the wildest ones were the fact that it was illegal for dogs to go to parks in Fanwood (which just changed), and it’s strictly prohibited for anyone to play Bingo on Sunday mornings in Hoboken. The more you know.