After Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut, New Jersey is the fourth smallest state of the United States of America, yet at the same time the one with the highest population density. It was named after Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands. It is among the most important centers of industry in the US. The Eastern part of the state, that has the Hudson river and lies within the metropolitan area of New York, which is the biggest city in the US, is very densely populated. The four biggest cities, Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth are all within that area. The capital is Trenton, which is important as a center for trade and industry. Most important to its industry is food, printing and publishing, ceramics, rubber, plastic and metal goods. Among many other historical buildings, the town house with the golden dome (built in 1792) and William Trent’s old house, built in 1719, are particularly worth seeing. (The town of Trenton was named after William Trent.) Trenton became the capital of New Jersey in 1790. By the middle of the 19th century, the town had become one of the most progressive centers of industry throughout the US. The iron and steel industry that had come to Trenton in the middle of the 18th century, experienced a further significant boom in 1849 with the production of steel cable. Today, the capital has a population of approximately 92,000 people.
The first settlers came to the area that is today New Jersey in 1609. In the beginning, New Jersey, together with what today is the state of New York, formed the Dutch colony of New Netherland, which was conquered by the British in 1664. About 100 battles were fought in New Jersey during the War of Independence, among them Trenton in 1776, Princeton in 1777 and Monmouth in 1778. For a short time, the first government of the US organized by the Continental Congress was located in New Jersey, in 1783 it was in Princeton and in 1784 in Trenton. One of the original 13 colonies, New Jersey was the third state to ratify the United States Constitution.
Industry in New Jersey makes up more than 18% of the annual GNP. The state is among the leading producers of chemicals. This includes petrochemical products, pharmaceuticals and basic substances like sulfuric acid. Further products include printing and publishing products, industrial machinery, precision instruments, electronic devices, food stuffs, clothing and fabrics, stone ware products and china, glass and paper products. Until the 1820s, New Jersey was a mostly agricultural state. Industry started becoming important in 1840, when Paterson, which already was a center of the textile industry, started producing armaments and locomotives. The American Civil War gave the next impetus for industrialization. By 1900 the population had increased to more than 900,000. Paterson became a symbol for bitter labor disputes at the beginning of the 20th century, as factory workers fought for better working conditions and wages.
After World War II New Jersey’s economy grew and population increased. Around 1960, it was one of the eight most populous states. During the 1970s and 1980s, the construction of a new containerization center in the port of Newark, the expansion of Newark International Airport, the construction of the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford and the establishment of casinos in Atlantic City created new jobs for New Jersey. In the 1990s, New Jersey also became known for its seaside resorts, its efficient farming and its emerging service sector. Real GDP per capita was at $ 44,885 in 2006, which puts New Jersey in place five in the national ranking (national real GDP average of the 50 states: $ 37,714). Former US president Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey, former president Woodrow Wilson spent most of his childhood there. The service sector is gradually becoming the most vital part of New Jersey’s economy. The biggest challenges the state is facing today are environmental protection, redevelopment of the cities and reform of the school system.