15 Things You Might Not Know About New Jersey
1. Napoleon had an older brother who lived in New Jersey. After running into trouble during his stint as King of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte came to America and eventually settled in Bordentown, New Jersey.
2. When his Bordentown mansion ("Point Breeze") caught fire in 1820, his neighbors rushed in to help save his art collection and other valuables. Bonaparte later wrote, "This event has proved to me how much the inhabitants of Bordentown appreciate the interest I have always felt for them; and shows that men in general are good, when they have not been perverted in their youth by a bad education."
4. New Jersey is one of two states where motorists aren't allowed to pump their own gas. (Oregon is the other.) Back in 1949, the New Jersey state legislature decided it was "in the public interest that gasoline station operators have the control needed over that activity to ensure compliance with appropriate safety procedures."
5. Despite all that extra service (OK, there's really not much extra service these days), New Jersey gas was usually on the cheaper side until a 2016 gas tax hike.
6. Plenty of music industry legends hail from New Jersey, including Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Frankie Valli, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and the guy who opened 2,417 accounts using 16 post office boxes to fleece Columbia House and BMG out of 26,554 CDs.
7. Abraham Browning is often credited with New Jersey's "Garden State" nickname. At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, he supposedly said the state is "an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvania grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other."
8. But historians aren't sure Browning deserves the credit, noting that Benjamin Franklin made a similar comparison to a barrel. According to New Jersey's official website, "There is no definitive explanation for New Jersey's nickname."
9. The official color of New Jersey's flag is "buff."
10. The first college football game was played in New Jersey in 1869. Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4.
11. The two schools played again that year, with Princeton winning 8-0. A third game was cancelled. According to legend (and a Daily Record story), "officials at both schools were worried about the rising fervor over sports eclipsing academics."
12. Years before the franchise moved to Brooklyn, the New Jersey Nets considered changing their name to something more colorful. Unfortunately, the New Jersey Swamp Dragons never came to be.
13. Why does bottled water have an expiration date? Thank New Jersey. According to Matt Soniak, a 1987 law required all food products sold there to display an expiration date of two years or less from the date of manufacture. Making separate expiration-dated water for the Garden State seemed a little inefficient to bottled water producers, so most of them simply gave every bottle a two-year expiration date, no matter where it was going.
14. In a 1936 experiment, mail was successfully delivered from New Jersey's Greenwood Lake to New York—by rocket.
15. The next time someone gives you a hard time about New Jersey, remind them that the American Human Development Report, which measures well-being and opportunity in each state, puts New Jersey third. If the person giving you a hard time is from Massachusetts (second) or Connecticut (first), you'll have to fall back on the mail rocket fact.