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Why is New Jersey Called the Garden State?

Dan Cavallari
Updated May 17, 2024
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Despite its reputation as a drab industrial state on the east coast of the United States, New Jersey has long been known as the Garden State. The moniker is actually more accurate than the state's less flattering reputation, as much of the state is still wooded and residents are very interested in conservancy of natural lands. Further, since being dubbed the Garden State in the late nineteenth century, New Jersey has become a mecca for gardening, gardening education, and gardening clubs. The Garden State nickname came from a history of the state written in the early 20th century.

The man behind the nickname was Abraham Browning, a lawyer and New Jersey resident during the 19th century. Alfred M. Heston chronicled a speech Browning gave in which Browning refers to New Jersey as the Garden State; he said that New Jersey was an immense barrel open at both ends, bursting with good things to eat, and Pennsylvania was picking from one end and New York from the other. His reference to New Jersey as the Garden State stuck, and it is known by the moniker today. Some historians argue that Browning was not the first to use this term, however, as the imagery of New Jersey as a barrel tapped at both ends can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a similar comparison long before Browning.

Since the name was given to the state, the people of New Jersey have embraced the notoriety. New Jersey is among the leaders in the country in agricultural production, and the state is rife with bird sanctuaries, nature conservancies, state and historic parks, and other areas in which the natural beauty of the state is evident. Further, many local community groups continue to push for greenways, or sections of wooded natural areas within or near urban centers. Approximately half the state is still wooded, and parks and wilderness abound.

Not all residents of New Jersey have historically been supportive of the nickname. In the 1950s, then-governor Robert Meyner struck down a bill that would have put the slogan on state license plates, saying that New Jersey's notoriety as an industrial center was more identifiable and important to the state's residents. The governor's assessment was not entirely off base, as those industries supported the state throughout the decades, but the Garden State nickname has proven to be a lasting and important part of New Jersey history and identity.

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Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Nov 26, 2011

Last time I visited Atlantic City I saw the cast of Jersey Shore and it somewhat disgusted me to see that these are the type of people that represent the state and form outsiders assumptions of the people who live in the state.

There are areas of New Jersey that are absolute dumps and are not places you would want to visit or live near. Also, there are places that depict the state as being a commercialized center of industry as well as entertainment. However, like most other states there is both a rural and an urban area and two entirely different cultures in the state.

I would recommend to someone looking for a quiet relaxed vacation to go on a quiet retreat in the country when visiting New Jersey and if someone is looking for a club hopping like vacation, that is a step down from Las Vegas to visit the urban areas like Atlantic City.

By Izzy78 — On Nov 26, 2011

@kentuckycat - I totally agree with you. New Jersey has beautiful landscape in the countryside and a lot of historical place to visit. If you get tired of seeing the countryside and simply sight seeing you could visit the more urban areas and visit a place like Atlantic City that has both casinos and a beach.

I was amazed how diverse New Jersey was in this aspect and feel like the urban aspect of the state overshadows the phenomenal countryside. I still remember driving through a very rich area in rural New Jersey and seeing an incredible sight which I never thought I would see after hearing a bunch of negative things about New Jersey.

By kentuckycat — On Nov 25, 2011

@matthewc23 - I completely agree with you. I have visited both places in New Jersey and have to say that there are two completely different sides to the state.

Like a two sided coin the state of New Jersey has two different sides with one being very negatively depicted and one being completely beautiful that very few people outside of the state seem to know about.

In my visits to New Jersey I have always felt that it is a very underrated state, that is rich in history, and has both a rural and urban area. In visiting New Jersey you get to see a lot of everything and since it is not a very big state I highly recommend taking a vacation and visiting this state.

By matthewc23 — On Nov 25, 2011

I took a vacation to the East Coast a couple of years ago and on the way to Atlantic City I took the scenic route through New Jersey.

In order to avoid a toll on the Interstate I took the state highways and drove through various small towns in New Jersey. I was amazed to see that this state has a beautiful countryside and that it gets a very bad rap from everyone that says anything bad about it as a dump.

I cannot emphasize enough how different the state looked than in the stereotypes I had heard about the state. I thought it was a beautiful state and was much better an enjoyable than most other states I have driven through.

I would highly recommend to anyone driving through New Jersey to please take the scenic route and you will be amazed at what you will see.

By mutsy — On Nov 25, 2011

@Latte31 - I think that New Jersey has a bad reputation because of the way the media portrays people from the state. People that are unfamiliar with the state believe these portrayals that you see depicted on television which are really incorrect.

I think that this image takes away from the revenue that the state could generate from tourism. There are great beaches in New Jersey, but who wants to book a trip to say Seaside Heights after knowing that this is where a lot of the show “Jersey Shore” takes place.

I personally think that this program does a lot of disservice to the people of New Jersey because it plays into an image of what some people of New Jersey are like and it is not accurate.

Ocean City is probably better for that nostalgic boardwalk feel for a family vacation. Too bad there are not more travel related shows that feature places like this. I think that New Jersey is probably more famous for its beaches than for its gardens.

By latte31 — On Nov 24, 2011

@Bhutan - I grew up in Weehawken New Jersey, and when I was little I remember places like nearby Hoboken and even Jersey City were dumps and now they sell multimillion dollar condos there.

It is amazing how they redeveloped that area. It makes sense because all of these little towns border New York City, but many apartments in Manhattan are really expensive and living in Weehawken or Hoboken is now a great alternative if you can find something affordable.

Weehawken is really only a mile from Manhattan and it is directly across the Hudson River and the first town that you hit when you cross the Lincoln Tunnel on the New Jersey side.

I really think that Weehawken is a pretty town with some historic parks. In fact, Hamilton National Park is the site where Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had a duel. The state also has great shopping with malls like Garden State Plaza in Paramus as one of the best.

By Bhutan — On Nov 24, 2011

I think that New Jersey is a beautiful state, but it does get a bad rap especially among comedians. The problem is that a lot of factories are located in north central New Jersey and that is an area that is highly traveled so it sticks in people’s minds because the area really tends to smell badly.

The reality is that New Jersey really is home to a lot of companies especially in the medical and pharmaceutical industry and because it is so close to New York City is it really a great place to live. It is also considered the most densely populated state. So although its size is small, the state does carry a lot of weight.

I lived in New Jersey most of my life and I can tell you that there are a lot of farms where you can pick your own apples in the fall. It is really a terrific state.

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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