New Jersey: A Guide to Its Present and Past

By Federal Writers' Project (N.J.) | Go to book overview

A New Jersey Silhouette

NO PHRASE or nickname can supply an index to New Jersey, for in physical and sociological composition the State is fundamentally diverse. It is often called the Garden State; with equal reason it might be labeled the Factory State, or the Commuter State.

Geographically, New Jersey offers rugged hills, and a long stretch of ocean shore attracting millions of visitors each summer; fertile soil for or- chards and truck gardens, and miles of sandy waste covered by ferns and stunted pines. Industrially, the State produces an amazing variety of goods. It maintains a full quota of reasonably paid mechanics, and at the same time numerous sweatshops paying wages of $4 and $5 a week. For genera- tions Paterson and Passaic have been national battlefields for organized labor. Yet within walking distance of these cities are other communities where picketing is considered a crime.

Politically, New Jersey is noted for one of the strongest Democratic ma- chines of the Nation and a hardly less virile Republican organization. It is also a testing ground for the Labor Party movement. Culturally, the State is enriched by Princeton and Rutgers Universities, Stevens Institute, an ex- cellent school system, the fine Newark Public Library, and several noted museums. Yet within an hour's ride from the most densely populated sec- tions are mountain people who have lived for 150 years in ignorance and poverty akin to that of Southern hill folk.

Since the time when New York and Philadelphia were villages, New Jersey has been the corridor between them. Colonial post roads have evolved into the strikingly designed concrete highways and bridges that signify a motor-minded population. Fittingly, it was New Jersey that pio- neered with the cloverleaf intersection to sort unceasing streams of traffic. Roads have been laid so straight and broad that the long-distance autoist speeds across the State, seeing little except a landscape of reinforced con- crete and billboards, although many pleasant villages and quiet country lie a little way off the main highways.

New Jersey's characteristic disunity extends back to the years of early settlement, when the separate provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey

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