New Jersey Celebrates its 350th Birthday

Residents gathered to celebrate New Jersey's 350th birthday, which is June 24.

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Sweet sixteens are one thing, but how do you celebrate a 350th? New Jerseyans gathered to celebrate the birth of their home on Sunday at the Capitol Complex in Trenton with plays, dances, music, historical tours and, of course, cake.

“New Jersey was part of a territory that was conquered/taken over/surrendered by the Dutch to the English,” explained Director of the New Jersey State Archives Joseph Klett. “The brother of King Charles II, James, who was the Duke of York, granted all the land to two noblemen who were loyal to the royal family during a period of civil war.”

On June 24, 350 years ago, the Duke of York signed a grant giving the land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to John, Lord Berkley and Sir George Carteret.

“That’s the first time New Jersey was defined geographically and named New Jersey,” said Sara Cureton, director of both the New Jersey Historical Commission and Cultural Trust.

“Sir George Carteret was from the Isle of Jersey, so New Jersey was named in honor of his homeland,” Klett said.

From its beginnings as East and West Jersey, to becoming a unified colony in 1702, and finally, achieving statehood in 1776, New Jersey has seen a lot. So organizers chose three themes to highlight: Innovation, Liberty and Diversity.

“Innovation because we really are the innovation state. Thomas Edison’s on that banner, but it could have been many people,” explained Assistant Secretary of State Carol Cronheim. “Liberty is obvious because we’re the crossroads of the American Revolution, but also Alice Paul, and Paul Robeson. And diversity because we have always been a diverse state.”

Attending the celebration were VIPs like Liberty and Prosperity from the state flag, New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston, and Congressman Rush Holt, along with Simon Crowcroft, Constable of St. Helier, the Isle of Jersey’s capital city. And, of course, the state’s primary party guests: its residents.

“It’s important to get people out to learn about the history that we have here in New Jersey,” said West Amwell resident and historian Mark Sirak. “We’re often forgotten and left between Pennsylvania and New York.”

“It’s very much something we all share. It doesn’t matter whether you came to New Jersey last week or whether it was a hundred years ago when your grandparents came here,” said Cureton.

There’s hope to further deepen that understanding by developing a cultural exchange between New Jersey and its namesake, the Isle of Jersey.