New Jersey Pride – NJ’s claims to fame
New Jersey Pride (Part 5 of 5): In an exclusive weeklong series, we examine the best and worst of the Garden State. Stereotypes and other factors influence how the outside world views New Jersey and its residents, but pride runs deep among those Jersey-born and raised.
The final installment of this series looks at the state's accomplishments and firsts that should make residents truly proud to call New Jersey home.
Now when someone asks how you could ever live in New Jersey, you'll have a few solid responses, with the help of a sports enthusiast in Hoboken and an expert on all-things-Jersey out of Rutgers University.
Birthplace of containerization
Nearly 60 years ago, a trip out of Port Newark marked the start of containerized shipping. The trial run would forever change the global economy.
In April 1956, an oil tanker named Ideal X was packed with 58 trailers of goods, set to arrive at the Port of Houston less than a week later.
"I would argue that Malcolm McLean's invention of containerization is right up there in importance with the invention of the printing press or the invention of the light bulb or the invention of the refrigerator," said Angus Kress Gillespie, professor of American studies at Rutgers. "Because 90 percent of everything we use comes in by container."
Gillespie noted the travel time for materials, back then, was the same by land or sea, but costs were cut by an estimated 30 percent.
Diner capital of America
More than 600 diners line the roads of New Jersey.
While the credit of starting the industry goes to a businessman in Rhode Island, New Jersey wasted no time getting in on the action.
During the 20th century, more than 20 diner manufacturers and renovators operated in New Jersey.
The state's diner history, which was started in 1912 by a Jersey City entrepreneur, is on display in an exhibit at the Cornelius Low House in Piscataway. The free exhibit runs through June 26, 2016.
A precursor of the United States Coast Guard, the United States Life-Saving Service was launched with the help of New Jersey congressman William Newell in the mid-1850s.
"It started in New Jersey," Gillespie said. "There were eight lifesaving stations. For the most part…they'd have one full-time, paid keeper, but it was like a volunteer fire department."
New Jersey is also the home state of the lyle gun, used by Service rescuers to shoot lines out to a distressed ship.
Eventually, New Jersey was home to dozens of these lifesaving stations from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
The Service merged in 1915 with another water-based group to form the Coast Guard.
First to play ball
It's said the first-ever organized, recorded baseball game was played on Hoboken's Elysian Fields in 1846.
According to hobokenbaseball.com, the New York Base Ball Club defeated the Knickerbockers 23-1.
A group known as the Hoboken Nine Base Ball Club keeps the local memory alive by participating in games that are still run by 19th century rules.
"You can catch a ball off one bounce for an out," said Frank Stingone, head of the Hoboken Nine. "Back then, the first person to 21 wins."
Stingone said his crew goes "all out" on each anniversary of the first game, June 19, including a celebratory match at a field in Hoboken.
Only state with an official monster
"The creature had the head of a horse, the torso of a man, the feet of a goat, leathery bat-like wings and a long serpentine tail," said Gillespie, describing the legend known as the Jersey Devil.
To this day, sightings of the beast are reported online.
"Nearly every state has a state animal, a state bird, a state insect, a state flower, but New Jersey's unique among the 50 states in that we have a state monster," Gillespie added.
According to the story that dates back 250 years, the Jersey Devil was the 13th child of Jane Leeds, who lived at the edge of a swamp along the Mullica River. She wished for a devil, the story says, and she got one.
"You can believe it or not believe it, but it's hard to just sit on the fence," Gillespie said. "There's no proof that it exists, but as I tell my students at Rutgers…does that prove that it does not exist?"
Hear the Jersey Devil legend, as told by Rutgers' Angus Gillespie:
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