The Lenni Lenape Indians, part of the Algonquin nation, first inhabited New Jersey and the surrounding states. A family-oriented clan, their numbers dwindled when Europeans settled in the area. Although Giovanni da Verrazano first explored New Jersey in 1524 on behalf of France, the Dutch ultimately settled the shores of the state in the early 1600s.
Crossroads of the American Revolution
In 2006, the federal government designated a swath of New Jersey as the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, and it is easy to see why. New Jersey played center stage during the Revolutionary War, even hosting George Washington’s headquarters in Morristown. In December 1776, Washington crossed the icy waters of the Delaware River and forged an attack on British troops in Trenton. Dubbed America’s greatest military victory, the surprise weakened the British army and proved the beginning of the end of England’s war effort. More than a year later, Washington and his troops met the British on the rolling farmlands of Monmouth County for the largest land artillery battle during the war. Reenactments of the Trenton battle occur every December, and more than 2,000 actors repeat the Battle of Monmouth every June.
Home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, Princeton's community is virtually synonymous with the famous school. Established in 1746, it was originally known as the College of New Jersey. Some 150 years later, it was renamed Princeton in honor of the surrounding town. Recognized globally for academic excellence, Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning. Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center is a Tony Award-winner for "best regional theatre," and the town’s stately home Drumthwacket is the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey. In nearby New Brunswick, you can celebrate a different kind of American culture—football. Rutgers University and Princeton played the first intercollegiate football game in the fall of 1869. Shake a pom pom in New Brunswick because Rutgers took the game by two points.
At the corner of Main Street and Lakeside Avenue in West Orange, New Jersey sits a piece of American history—the laboratory of Thomas A. Edison. After he invented the electric light bulb, Edison opened this complex in 1887 complete with a library, machine shops, a power plant, and labs. Here, he began invented many things including some of the first motion pictures and the first alkaline battery. He spent the remainder of his life in West Orange with his wife Mina Miller at their nearby estate, Glenmont. Stroll the grounds of his home and laboratory, now a National Historic Site.