The year 2014 will mark a notable milestone for New Jersey: its 350th birthday. Since its creation in 1664, New Jersey has played a pivotal role in the shaping of American life and culture.
Today our state is home to 21 Fortune 500 companies and more than 1,100 multinational companies from 40 nations. When it comes to art, culture, music, and sports, New Jersey houses hundreds of museums and is the home state to countless film, TV, and music legends; notable literary figures; and acclaimed athletes.
Through this upcoming anniversary, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to celebrate the countless contributions that the Garden State has made to the nation and the world.
1664 – The Year New Jersey Began
New Jersey began in 1664 as a royal gift. Charles II of England granted a sizeable parcel of land on the east coast of North America to his brother James, Duke of York. James in turn gave a piece of this valuable real estate to two loyal noblemen, Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley. The duke spent much of his early life in exile with his brother following the English Civil War and execution of their father. This land grant enabled him to reward loyalty that was no doubt highly prized. The document that records this transaction, now housed at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, proclaims that “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea or New Jersey.” And so New Jersey was born.
When the English arrived in 1664 they found a place that was already relatively diverse in its inhabitants. In addition to Native American populations, Swedish and Dutch settlers had already made the arduous journey to what would become the Garden State. This characteristic of diversity continues to be a hallmark of New Jersey today.
1964 - Marking 300 Years of People, Purpose, Progress
Fifty years ago, New Jersey observed the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of our state through a variety of events, celebrations and programs that included a traveling history mobile museum, commemorative stamps, souvenirs, and a series of commemorative publications. You can read the official report.
2014 – A Reason to Celebrate
In 2014, New Jerseyans have a tremendous opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come from this seventeenth-century beginning. To acknowledge our state’s contributions to the nation and the world, three themes have been designated to help frame the anniversary:
Innovation: The world has been reshaped again and again by people from and things created in New Jersey. From Edison’s light bulb, to the Atlantic City boardwalk, to the first intercollegiate football game, to Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, New Jersey’s innovations and innovators have had an impact around the globe.
Diversity: By virtue of its location and diversity, New Jersey is in many ways a microcosm of the U.S., with numerous national themes playing out within the state’s boundaries over the past 350 years.
Liberty: New Jersey played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, witnessing more significant military action than any other state in the new nation and establishing a tradition of distinguished military service that continues to this day. New Jersey’s commitment to the cause of liberty was further demonstrated when it became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789.
Throughout the anniversary, events large and small, local and statewide, will be held to highlight these themes and bring the celebration to every part of the state. Special programs will feature the unique foods, music, people, stories, and traditions that make New Jersey special, and highlight the distinct assets found in our own backyards.
Be a Part of the Celebration – Innovation, Diversity, Liberty
The New Jersey Historical Commission invites communities, schools, businesses, organizations and individuals to join in the celebration of New Jersey as the best place to live, work, visit, vacation, and do business. There are many ways in which to participate, from simply adopting the official anniversary logo throughout 2014, to developing new programs and events that highlight New Jersey and its unique heritage, related to one or more of the themes of the 2014 celebration. Information on how to submit an event to be included on the NJ350 calendar will be posted soon, along with announcements of upcoming programs, resources, and initiatives. Help make this 350th anniversary a year-long celebration that explores our rich heritage and showcases the very best that New Jersey has to offer.