New Jersey: Crossroads of Commerce
Chapter 1: From Colony to Revolution, 1524–1776
New Jersey has represented economic opportunity ever since Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano sighted its coastline as part of his discovery of a new continent in 1524. Eighty-five years later, in 1609, Dutch navigator Henry Hudson charted the land for one of the 17th century’s more prominent import-export firms, the Dutch East India Company. The region seemed ideal: geographically diverse and teeming with plant and wildlife, it had two long rivers, two protected bays, and an extensive oceanfront that offered a promising base for trade. Too, there was the possibility of bargaining for animal pelts and grain with the indigenous Indians, an established civilization of seminomadic Lenapes.
Chapter 2: Transforming the World, 1790–1890
With relative political peace in the decades following the Revolutionary War, New Jersey attracted inventors and entrepreneurs eager to test their theories and respond to the growing nation’s industrial and leisure needs. Military leaders who had distinguished themselves during the Revolution used their considerable tactical skills to start a new revolution of industry. Two men in particular, Lieutenant Alexander Hamilton and Colonel John Stevens, made significant contributions that accelerated the state’s reputation as an ideal location for commerce.
Chapter 3: Emergence of a Modern Society, 1890–1929
As the 19th century became the 20th, the Atlantic seaboard experienced a blossoming of culture and the economy even as expansion to the Pacific Ocean opened new doors of westward settlement. The Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago, heralded the City Beautiful movement, and commercial and residential architecture found a new vocabulary in the classical models of Greece and Rome. As slogans around the state highlighted New Jersey’s economic strength, a distinct consumer society emerged.
Chapter 4: Pragmatism and Determination, 1930– 1949
The gush of prosperity during the Roaring Twenties evaporated in the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. New Jersey’s various sectors, from agriculture to banking, from the construction trades to the canal and railroad networks, struggled to remain solvent. Federal legislation helped. The Emergency Banking Act of 1933 gave assistance to private banks. The National Recovery Act of the same year enabled large businesses to use self-governance to protect their profits. The Agriculture Adjustment Administration paid large landholders to take acres out of production, while the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation not only helped those of modest means hold onto their houses but also kept mortgage institutions afloat.
Chapter 5: The Boom Years 1950–2000
The second half of the 20th century saw exciting opportunities, far beyond what Dutch explorer Henry Hudson could have imagined in 1609, when he first sighted New Jersey. The state surged forward with groundbreaking research and fortified its leadership in foreign trade with the implementation of a sophisticated intermodal transportation network. On the corporate front, North Jersey’s proximity to the financial resources of Wall Street resulted in attractive zip codes for companies whose executives wanted to relocate their headquarters. South Jersey’s open land, suitable for spacious offices, was a convenient and appealing alternative for Philadelphia-based firms needing to modernize and expand beyond the city’s historic confines. Moreover, New Jersey’s spreading suburbs, filled with new ranch, split-level, and two-story homes, lured young families out of the aging cities, creating a growing retail market for new products and services. The setting where corporate expansion, residential construction, and retail development intersected most dramatically was in South Jersey’s rambling Delaware Township.
Chapter 6: The 21st Century Gets under Way
Economic opportunity in New Jersey has revolved around one enduring quality: resilience. Throughout 300 years in which business cycles boomed and waned, visionary leaders made pragmatic decisions that enabled companies to adapt and stay the course. Even before the terrorism attacks that destroyed the Port Authority’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, industry executives and state policy makers were working to improve the business climate in the Garden State. The goal was straightforward: Prepare the state, which had been the nation’s 19th-century manufacturing trailblazer, to meet 21st-century challenges. The initiatives they developed acknowledge New Jersey’s historic strengths, emphasizing renewable resources, urban revitalization, scientific research, and luxurious new ways to relax.
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