A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 29, 2005
Garden State (New Jersey nickname)
"Garden State" is the nickname of New Jersey. Chicago was called "City in a Garden" or "Garden City" from the 1840s, and Illinois became known as the "Garden State" in the 1850s. There was an 1856 newspaper called Garden State (Loda, IL) and a Garden State Bank (Hutsonville, IL) in 1859. Illinois stopped being called the "Garden State" by the late 1860s and 1870s, when New Jersey began asserting its claim to the nickname.

New Jersey land promoters used the "Garden State" nickname from at least 1861 and 1862. This ad for Hammonton, NJ, was printed in the Bennington (VT) Banner on August 8, 1861:

"25 Miles from Philadelphia,
By Railroad, In the State of New Jersey.

THE GARDEN STATE OF THE EAST."

Many ads over many years were printed for Vineland in Cumberland County, NJ, such as this one in the Camden (NJ) Democrat on March 29, 1862:

"A RARE OPPORTUNITY IN THE BEST MARKET and Most Delightful and Healthful Climate in the Union. Only Thirty Miles South of Philadelphia, on a Railroad; being a Rich, Heavy Soil, and Highly Productive Wheat Land; amongst the Best in the Garden State of New Jersey."

The book A Complete Course in Geography: Physical, Industrial, and Political With a Special Geography for Each State (1875) by William Swinton called New Jersey "The Garden State."

Philadelphia (PA) held the 1876 Centennial International Exposition, and New Jersey Day was held on August 24, 1876. Abraham Browning, of Camden, gave a speech that day that is frequently credited for coining the nickname "Garden State," but the nickname had long been in use by that time -- and it's not even certain that Browning used "Garden State" in this speech. Jersey Waggon Jaunts: New Stories from New Jersey (1926), by Alfred M. Heston, was the first book to suggest that Abraham Browning had coined "Garden State" in 1876.

In 2017, New Jersey officially made "Garden State" its state slogan. The law states -- falsely -- that Abraham Browning popularized the term in 1876.


The State Of New Jersey
Origins of the Nickname
Abraham Browning of Camden is given credit for giving New Jersey the nickname the Garden State. According to Alfred Heston's 1926 two-volume book Jersey Waggon Jaunts, Browning called New Jersey the Garden State while speaking at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition on New Jersey Day (August 24, 1876).

Browning said that our Garden State is an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other. The name stuck ever since.

However, Benjamin Franklin is credited with a similar comparison of New Jersey to a barrel tapped at both ends. Some have used that to discredit Browning with naming the Garden State.

In 1954, the state legislature passed a bill to have "The Garden State" added to license plates. Before signing the bill into law, Governor Robert Meyner investigated the origins of the nickname and found "no official recognition of the slogan Garden State as an identification of the state of New Jersey." He added, "I do not believe that the average citizen of New Jersey regards his state as more peculiarly identifiable with gardening for farming than any of its other industries or occupations." Governor Meyner vetoed the bill, but the legislature overrode the veto. The slogan was added to license plates soon after.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Garden State U.S., a name given to various American states, esp. New Jersey
1865 Daily Morning Chron. (Washington, D.C.) 29 Sept. 2/3 Verily, Illinois is justly called 'The *Garden State'.
1871 SCHELE DE VERE Americanisms 659 Kansas is often called the Garden State, from the beautiful appearance of rolling prairies and vast cultivated fields.
1948 Sat. Even. Post 20 Nov. 57/2 When the first nip of frost chills the New Jersey air, cooks in the Garden State revive this recipe.

12 November 1845, Rockford (IL) Forum, "The Rail Road Again," pg. 2, col. 2:
Will the people of the State of Illinois, the garden State of the Union, continue any longer inactive view of the prospects which are now opening before them, but which may be seized upon by rivals and turned to their advantage?

7 August 1851, Wisconsin Express (Madison, WI), "Editorial Communication," pg. 2, col. 6:
CANTON, Ohio, July 28, 1851.
FRIEND BUCK:
I rejoice to find myself again in the beautiful west, as to hail from Ohio. I feel that I am again approaching the "Garden State" of the West, which is dear to me on account of its being my home, and rendered doubly so, when compared with the barren country through which I have been visiting.

1 August 1856, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, "Political papers in Illinois," pg. 2, col. 3:
Garden State, Loda, ...

3 June 1858, The Independent (New York, NY), pg. 7, col. 5 ad:
LANDS AND HOMES AT THE WEST.
(...)
In fact, Illinois was long ago designated by popular instinct as the Garden State of the West, and now that it has been brought so extensively under cultivation, it more than ever deserves the name.

26 February 1859, Rockford (IL) Daily News, pg. 1, col. 1:
ILLINOIS
(...)
Garden State Bank

2 March 1859, Chicago (IL) Daily Press and Tribune, "Letters on the Lands of the Illinois Central Railway Company" by James Caird, pg. 2, col. 3:
The fertile character of her soil is so proverbial, that it obtained for Illinois the distinctive appellation of "Garden State of the Union."

New York State Historic Newspapers
29 September 1859, Yates County Chronicle (Pen Yan, NY), "Stray Sketches No 4," pg. 2, col. 6:
Again I have crossed the great garden state (Illinois,) and as I caught a glimpse of its present condition, while we whistled away over its broad prairies, I thought of the harmony between our progress and the march of improvement.

Chronicling America
28 December 1860, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 5, col. 6 ad:
HOMES FOR THE INDUSTRIOUS
IN THE
GARDEN STATE OF THE WEST.
THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY
HAVE FOR SALE
1,200,000 ACRES OF RICH FARMING LANDS.

19 January 1861, The Scientific American, pg. 47, col. 1:
GARDEN STATE OF THE WEST.
(Illinois - ed.)

8 August 1861, Bennington (VT) Banner, pg. 3, col. 4 ad:
FARM LANDS FOR SALE,
25 Miles from Philadelphia,
By Railroad, In the State of New Jersey.

THE GARDEN STATE OF THE EAST.
(Hammonton, Atlantic County, New Jersey. -- ed.)

29 March 1862, Camden (NJ) Democrat, pg. 3, col. 6 ad:
VINELAND.
To All Wanting Farms.
NEW SETTLEMENT OF VINELAND
A remedy for Hard Times
A RARE OPPORTUNITY IN THE BEST MARKET and Most Delightful and Healthful Climate in the Union. Only Thirty Miles South of Philadelphia, on a Railroad; being a Rich, Heavy Soil, and Highly Productive Wheat Land; amongst the Best in the Garden State of New Jersey.

5 April 1862, The Living Age, pg. 22:
ILLINOIS. - (...) The "Garden State" has in forty-one years multiplied her people thirty-one times - a more rapid growth than any other American State can show.

August 1862, Continental Monthly (New York, Boston), pg. 252b:
ILLINOIS, the Garden State of America

New York State Historical Newspapers
14 May 1863, The Union News (Union, NY), pg. 4, col. 3 ad:
VINELAND.
To All Wanting Farms.
New Settlement of Vineland
A Remedy for Hard Times.

A Rare Opportunity in the Best Market, and Most Delightful and Healthful Climate in the Union. Only Thirty Miles South of Philadelphia, on a Railroad; being a Rich, Heavy Soil, and Highly Productive Wheat Land; amongst the Best in the Garden State of New Jersey.

22 February 1866, Detroit (MI) Free Press, "From New Orleans," pg. 4, col. 2:
Special Correspondence of The Free Press.
NEW ORLEANS, La. Feb. 12, 1866.
New Orleans has late recovered from the sad effects of the late desolating war, and now assumes the appearance of its ante bellum days. Louisiana has a bright destiny before her; and no State has greater internal facilities to develop her resources than this, the "Garden State" of the South.

8 May 1867, Davenport (Iowa) Daily Gazette, pg. 2, col. 3:
Peculiar, as I said to the Garden State.
(Illinois - ed.)

Chronicling America
27 November 1868, The Conservative (M'Connelsville, OH), pg. 4, col. 2 ad:
VINELAND
TO ALL WANTING FARMS.
New Settlement of Vineland
A Rare Opportunity in the Best Market and most delightful and healthy Climate in the Union. Only thirty miles South of Philadelphia on a Railroad; being a Rich Soil and highly productive Wheat Land; among the best in the Garden State of New Jersey.

4 June 1869, Ohio Democrat (New Philadelphia, Ohio), pg. 4, col. 2:
VINELAND.
To All Wanting Farms.
New Settlement of Vineland.
A Rare Opportunity in the best Market
and most delightful and healthy Cli-
mate in the Union. Only Thirty
Miles South of Philadelphia, on a
Railroad; being a Rich Soil and
highly productive Wheat Land;
among the best in the Garden State
of New Jersey.

Chicago: past, present, future.
by John S. Wright
Second Edition, for the Chicago Board of Trade
Chicago
1870
Pg. 353:
The Illinois Central Railroad. - This road had its origin in the year 1850, when Stephen A. Douglas and General Shields obtained from Congress a grant of alternate sections of land on both sides of the proposed route, through the richest portions of the Garden State, giving it an immense and increasing revenue from their sale, without which encouragement the road would not have been undertaken.

Google Books
January 1871, The Historical Magazine, pg. 37:
Illinois, Garden State, Prairie State, Sucker State.

Google Books
A Complete Course in Geography: Physical, Industrial, and Political
With a Special Geography for Each State

By William Swinton
New York, NY: Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, and Company
1875
Pg. 43:
NEW JERSEY.
(Illustration caption. -- ed.) The Garden State.
(...)The Jerseymen vowed that there were not prettier flowers
Agriculture. -- New Jersey is known as the "Garden State," because it makes a marked specialty of growing fruits and vegetables.

The Footprints of Time:
And a Complete Analysis of Our American System of Government.
by Charles Bancroft
Burlington, Iowa: R. T. Root, Publisher
1875
Pg. 469:
NEW JERSEY.
(...)
Its vicinity to the great commercial centres of the Atlantic coast; the mildness of its climate, and the adaptation of its oil to the growth of fruit and vegetables have made it the Garden State of the Union.

25 August 1876, The Times (Philadelphia, PA), "A Big Show Day; The President at the Exposition," pg. 1, col. 2:
The Jerseymen vowed that there were not prettier flowers even in their own garden State than they saw and inhaled the fragrances of in the Horticultural Hall; ...
(...)
NEW JERSEY'S DAY.
Thousands of Foreigners from Over the River Enjoying the Show.
(...)
When the hall was packed with auditors the Hon. Abraham Browning stepped upon the platform and welcomed the Jerseymen to the Centennial City. He told them that they came from a State that was ever loyal and true; one whose wealth and population, during the century of her life, made her one of the foremost principalities of the Republic, and whose record in the war which sealed severance from the English Crown was bright as that of any of her sister States.

20 December 1882, Hopewell (NJ) Herald, pg. 4, col. 1:
Though small in area, yet New Jersey is the garden State of the Union.

Google Books
U. S.
An Index to the United States of America

Compiled by Malcolm Townsend
Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company
1890
Pg. 71:
NICKNAMES OF THE STATES.
(...)
New Jersey...Garden....being greatly occupied by truck-gardeners, especially near New York City, where it finds a ready market.

27 February 1893, Middletown (NY) Daily Press, pg. 1, col. 4:
TRENTON, Feb. 27. - The passing of the three race track bills by the Senate on Saturday by a vote of 11 to 9, thus completing the act which makes them laws without the consent of the Governor, has stirred up the good people of the "Garden State."

15 March 1895, New York Times, pg. 6:
"New-Jersey, or rather that section of it that is traversed by the bicycle riders in the relay race, is rich with natural scenery, and many of the roads have been improved since the last event, which we helped to manage. The Atalantas will be represented, of course, and there is no club in the Garden State which will strive harder to keep the relay championship in New-Jersey."

11 July 1895, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 9:
NEW JERSEY NEXT.
(...)
Yesterday morning it was received at exposition headquarters, and its emphatic tone shows that the chief executive of the Garden State is thoroughly in earnest and aroused as to the magnitude of the enterprise.

5 December 1895, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 2:
GARDEN STATE MEN
New Jersey Comes to the Exposition To
Have a Day Tomorrow.

Google Books
Universal Dictionary of the English Language
Edited by Robert Hunter and Charles Morris
New York, NY: Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher
1898
Pg. 5343:
New Jersey. The Garden State (from its great production of vegetables and fruit for the markets of New York and Philadelphia).

29 August 1901, Dighton (KS) Herald, pg. 7, col. 3:
"The Garden State."
New Jersey has been called the "Garden State," from the fact that a large proportion of the farming land in its boundaries is given up to growing vegetables for the markets of New York and Philadelphia.

(OCLC WorldCat)
Title: Long Branch, New Jersey :
embracing Elberson, West End, Hollywood, Norwood Park, Branchport, East Long Branch, North Long Branch, and Pleasure Bay : illustrated /
Corp Author(s): Long Branch Board of Trade (Long Branch, N.J.)
Publication: [New York : R. Whamond],
Year: 1909
Description: [55] p. : ill. ; 31 cm.
Language: English
SUBJECT(S)
Descriptor: Resorts -- New Jersey -- Long Branch.
Resorts -- New Jersey -- Long Branch Area.
Geographic: Long Branch (N.J.) -- Pictorial works.
Note(s): Cover title: Long Branch, New Jersey : the garden spot of the Garden State./ "Business interests: representative mercantile resources and facilities"--P. [19-55].
Other Titles: Long Branch, N.J. : the garden spot of the Garden State.
Responsibility: published under the auspices of the Board of Trade of the City of Long Branch, N.J.
Document Type: Book

(OCLC WorldCat)
Title: Who's who in New Jersey :
notable men and women in the professional business and political life of the Garden State--biographical sketches of today's leaders and those looming on the horizon /
Author(s): Souder, Harry James,; 1888-
Publication: New York : National Biographic News Service,
Edition: Cumberland County ed.
Year: 1923
Description: 260 p. : ill., plates, ports. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
SUBJECT(S)
Geographic: Cumberland County (N.J.) -- Biography.
Class Descriptors: Dewey: 920.074
Responsibility: H.J. Souder, editor-in-chief ; Editorial staff for Cumberland County: Robert E. Fithian, Olive Rockhill Souder, Virgil S. Johnson.
Document Type: Book

16 September 1931, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, "Letters to the Editor," pg. 6, col. 6:
GARDEN STATE
To the Editor of the Times:
(...)
According to Alfred M. Heston, in his memorable work, "Jersey Waggon Jaunts," the first use of the term" Garden State" was made on August 24, 1876, at a "Jersey Day" celebration in Haddonfield. The principal speaker was Hon. Abraham Browning, of Camden, who, in the words of Mr. Heston, "compared New Jersey to an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvania grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other. He called New Jersey the Garden State, and the name has clung to it ever since."
GEORGE BOYLE,
Atlantic City, N. J.

NJ Monthly
Reaping what they Sow
What's it worth... to keep the farm?

By Christina Kozma | February 7, 2008
Why exactly is New Jersey called the Garden State?

According to a recent New Jersey Farm Bureau survey, nearly half of us aren’t sure. Some background: In 1876 Abraham Browning, an attorney, politician, and the owner of Cherry Hill Farm, which gave its name to the town that now stands in its place, coined the term, comparing New Jersey, two-thirds of which was rolling farmland, to a big barrel, open on both ends, from which Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers gobbled up the state’s agricultural bounty. The nickname was cemented in 1954, albeit over the objections of then governor Robert Meyner, who vetoed a bill to add the slogan to the state’s license plates, saying, “I do not believe that the average citizen of New Jersey regards his state as more peculiarly identifiable with gardening or farming than any of its other industries or occupations…. Indeed many of our people regard the state as preeminently a residential community.”

New Jersey 101.5
We’re not the Garden State already? NJ to make slogan official
By Adam Hochron May 10, 2017 3:02 PM
TRENTON — The nickname “Garden State” has already appeared on every new license plate in the state since 1954, but a proposed law would also make the words the official state slogan.

“Garden State” was first made popular by Camden attorney Abraham Browning during the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition in August of 1876 according to state Sen. Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, who sponsored the bill.

12 August 2017, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, "'Garden State' not his words: Transcript of 1876 speech by state official doesn't contain the phrase" by Tommy Rowan, pg. B1:
According to James D. McCabe's Illustrated History of the Centennial Exhibition, an encyclopedic book on the event, Browning's speech was well-presented.

"Mr. Browning . . . delivered an eloquent and instructive address, in which he reviewed the history and progress of the State of New Jersey, and explained its agricultural, industrial, and commercial resources," McCabe wrote."He was listened to with marked attention, and was frequently applauded."

But there was no mention of any nickname-coining, even in accounts of the speech from the time.

New Jersey Legislature
CHAPTER 214
An Act designating “Garden State” as State Slogan of New Jersey and supplementing chapter 9A of Title 52 of Revised Statutes.

Whereas, New Jersey is home to more than 9,701 farms covering 715,057 acres of farmland; and

Whereas, Food and agriculture account for New Jersey’s third largest industry, generating approximately $1.14 billion in total sales in 2012; and

Whereas, In 2012, New Jersey was also a national top-ten producer of cranberries, bell peppers, spinach, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, apples, sweet corn, and snap beans; and

Whereas, The phrase “Garden State” was first made popular by Abraham Browning of Camden, an attorney and the owner of Cherry Hill Farm, when he referred to New Jersey as the “Garden State” while speaking at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition on New Jersey Day, August 24, 1876; and

Whereas, Abraham Browning’s reference of “Garden State” was meant to describe New Jersey’s geographical and agricultural relationship with New York and Pennsylvania; and

Whereas, New Jersey’s farmlands are the foundation for a strong agricultural industry and a way of life for generations of farm families; and

Whereas, Preserved farmland limits urban sprawl, protects our water and soils, provides us with an abundance of locally grown farm products, and maintains our connection to the land and the longstanding agricultural traditions that earned our reputation as the “Garden State”; and

Whereas, As of June 30, 2014, approximately 2,200 farms have been preserved under the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program, accounting for more than 209,000 acres of preserved farmland; and

Whereas, On December 6, 1954, a law was enacted requiring the phrase “Garden State” to be imprinted on all New Jersey license plates; and

Whereas, The slogan has also been used in naming areas and programs within New Jersey including the Garden State Parkway, Garden State Arts Center, Garden State Growth Zone, and Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund; now, therefore,

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

C.52:9A-12 “Garden State” designated State slogan.

1. “Garden State” is designated as the New Jersey State Slogan.
2. This act shall take effect immediately.

Approved August 7, 2017.
Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesGarden State (New Jersey nickname) • Tuesday, March 29, 2005 • Permalink