Why Is New Jersey Called The Garden State?

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A New Jersey number plate surrounded by red flowers and greenery.
BetMGM Aug 30, 2023, 2:56 PM

New Jersey was a leader in the bid to legalize online casino games in the U.S. and it’s now one of the heavyweights in the online casino industry. While the state is renowned for its progressive gambling laws, there are several other things that New Jersey is famous for.

It is a thriving industrial state, so why did they call New Jersey the Garden State? You’re not alone if you’re wondering how New Jersey got this moniker and whether this unique nickname is still appropriate today.

What is the garden state and how did New Jersey become one? Take a look at the origins here.

New Jersey’s Agricultural Past

It’s necessary to understand the state’s history before the Industrial Revolution to understand why they called New Jersey the Garden State.

New Jersey was once a thriving agricultural state that mainly consisted of farmland. The state was famous for its crops in the late 18th and much of the 19th century. Developments in agricultural technology and the addition of a railway meant New Jersey could supply a considerable amount of fruit and vegetables to Philadelphia and New York City. 

However, much of the farmland became depleted of nutrients because farmers didn’t understand the true impact of unsustainable farming practices on the soil. Crop yields became poor and forced large sectors of New Jersey into the Industrial Revolution. This led many parts of northeastern New Jersey — like Newark, Elizabeth and Jersey City — to pivot away from agriculture toward manufacturing. 

While this negatively impacted much of the state’s agricultural production, the sector evolved rather than ceased to be. Farmers started to adopt some of the technology that came with industrialization and were able to better preserve produce through canning processes and other techniques. This allowed them to store and better transport many of their time-sensitive crops.

Probable Origins of the Nickname

Abraham Browning is officially credited with nicknaming New Jersey ‘The Garden State.’ According to a book published in 1926 by Alfred Heston, Abraham Browning referred to New Jersey as ‘a garden state’ in a speech he delivered at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition on New Jersey Day in 1876. He likened it to a twice-tapped barrel from which New York and Pennsylvania took their food, which was his way of rallying against the fact that all the state’s produce went to its neighboring states. 

However, some historians dispute this story and believe it was actually Benjamin Franklin who made the twice-tapped barrel comparison. While some evidence supports this version of the story, the Browning version of events is more generally accepted. However, the nickname was only made official decades later.

New Jersey Officially Becomes The Garden State

It wasn’t until 1954 that the New Jersey residents petitioned to have the nickname included as a license plate slogan for the state. But Governor Robert Meyner wasn’t keen on it and vetoed the bill. He argued that it should not become an official nickname given that many people would not identify with it, as the state had primarily become an industrial state at that point. 

The state legislature didn’t pay much attention to his objection and overrode the veto. From that point onward, New Jersey has become known as ‘The Garden State.’ To this day, the nickname gives many folks a good chuckle as they sit in traffic on their commute into and out of the state, surrounded by oil refineries.

Does New Jersey Still Deserve Its Nickname?

New Jersey has perhaps gotten an unfair reputation for being highly industrialized, but there are still many home gardens and farmlands in the state. In fact, this nickname is more apt than people believe. 

New Jersey is 7,354 square miles of land, of which roughly 1,125 is farmland. In other words, around 15% of New Jersey is agricultural land. While this has undoubtedly dropped from two-thirds of the state, it’s still significant. 

The state is a leading producer of tomatoes, cranberries, peaches and eggplants in the U.S. and also has a burgeoning wine industry with an increasing number of vineyards contributing to its economy. In 2021, the agriculture sector in the state was valued at around $1.4 billion. 

Play Casino Games While You’re In The Garden State

If you’re looking for things to do in New Jersey, then you’re in luck. The Garden State is filled to the brim with exciting offers as well as being one of the most progressive states when it comes to online casinos. Play online slots, table games, live dealer games and more when you register with BetMGM, New Jersey.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.