New Jersey is an innovative state and we’re home to a multitude of firsts. You may already know that the first professional basketball game was held here, and you’re probably familiar with the fact that New Jersey is the state where saltwater taffy got its start, but you may not be aware of these other interesting Garden State firsts.
1. The first traffic circle in the United States was built in Pennsauken.
Opened in 1925, it was, at one point, among the busiest traffic circles in the country. Four years later, the first cloverleaf intersection was established in Woodbridge. This traffic control innovation became so popular, the cloverleaf was nominated as a contender for the national flower. Pictured is a traffic circle in Paris, one of the most convoluted traffic circles in the world - there are no lane markings.
2. The country’s first steam train was built and tested here.
It was designed 1826 by Colonel John Stevens of Hoboken. Tested on a track built around his Hoboken estate, it was much smaller than Big Boy, of the Union Pacific Railroad (pictured).
3. E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one,” is a phrase found on most American coins.
It first appeared on “horse head coppers” which were produced in New Jersey during the 1780s. The mints were located in Morristown, Elizabethtown and Rahway.
4. The home of Johnson & Johnson, New Jersey has hosted many medical firsts.
Johnson & Johnson along with other companies including the Squib Institute, Merck and Hoffman-LaRoche led to the development of sulfapyrimidines (essential to the advancement of chemotherapy), the mass production of penicillin, the discovery of cortisone (used in treating allergies), Vitamin B-1 and Streptomycin (which successfully treated tuberculosis, dysentery and whooping cough).
5. Our rich sports history has ties to basketball, baseball, football… and golf.
A Maplewood dentist, William Lowell, invented the golf tee in the 1920s. The U.S. Golf Association Museum can also be found in Far Hills.
6. You may have heard that New Jersey is home to more racehorses than Kentucky, but did you know we also held the first ever derby?
The Jersey Derby was held on June 7, 1864 in Paterson, 11 years before the Kentucky Derby.
7. We’re home to the first and only National Marbles Tournament.
Held annually in Wildwood since 1923, except for two years during WWII and a brief interlude where the tournament was held at Great Adventure, competitors roll their way to cash prizes. Wildwood is also home to the National Marbles Hall of Fame.
8. Dr. Roy Plunkett accidentally discovered Teflon in 1938.
He was working at Jackson Laboratory in Salem County. Teflon isn’t only used on pots and pans, it is an essential component of the heat shields which protect rockets during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
9. The first area code was assigned to New Jersey in 1947.
This area code was 201; it originally covered the entire state but now mostly serves Bergen County.
10. Where would we be without the bar code?
This convenient innovation was patented by Atlantic City native N. Joseph Woodland in 1952.
11. I mentioned the creation of Campbell’s soup in a previous post, but I’ve recently come upon some new information.
The company has been mostly successful in its 125-year history, but there have been a few misses – Liver Baby Soup, Black Cherry Soup, and Prune Soup with Oranges and Apricots all failed miserably. Pictured is Campbell's Camden headquarters, prior to a recent renovation.
12. Seabrook Farms in Upper Deerfield township helped to put the Garden in Garden State.
Their innovations include a movable irrigation system and the development of quick freeze technology for fruits and vegetables. In the 1950s, Seabrook Farms alone produced 15% of the nation’s frozen vegetables.
13. A crafter’s delight, the Mason Jar was invented in New Jersey in 1858.
The creator was John Landis Mason of Vineland.
14. A woman’s right to vote.
The 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, but New Jersey’s 1776 constitution never excluded women. Many women did vote, until 1807 when John Condict successfully introduced a law that took this right away.
15. The birthplace of rock n’ roll.
Salem Country resident Bill Haley and his Comets had the first ever rock n’ roll hit with Rock Around the Clock. Bill has called the Twin Bar in Gloucester City the birthplace of rock n’ roll, and I’d take his word for it - Rock Around the Clock was the top selling 45 rpm record of all time.