South Jersey comprises the southern portions of the U.S. state of New Jersey between the lower Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean. The designation of southern New Jersey with a distinct toponym is a colloquial one rather than an administrative one, reflecting not only geographical but also perceived cultural differences from the northern part of the state, with no official definition.
New Jersey is sandwiched between the two large cities of New York in the northeast and Philadelphia in the southwest; Benjamin Franklin called the state "a barrel tapped at both ends". South Jersey may be defined geographically as the area below Interstate 195, in particular the "lower eight counties of New Jersey", whereas North Jersey is the area above "Central Jersey". Culturally, South Jersey is defined as the area in New Jersey within the influence of the Philadelphia metropolitan area (also known as the Delaware Valley), in contrast to the rest of New Jersey, located within the New York metropolitan area.
Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties have several older streetcar towns, and many residents commute to Philadelphia. The Courier-Post daily newspaper, which refers to itself as "South Jersey's Newspaper" is based in Camden County. It covers all of South Jersey, but focuses primarily on these three counties. The Gloucester County Times based in the city of Woodbury, however, is the principal newspaper for that county. Salem County and to lesser extents lower Gloucester County and upper Cumberland County serve as residential communities for the industries (mainly petro-chemical) in New Castle County, Delaware. The Atlantic shore areas, in particular Atlantic City in Atlantic County, New Jersey and Cape May have a distinct economy centered on tourism. Cape May has the distinction of being geographically as far south as Washington, D.C., thus giving another sense to the name South Jersey.
South Jersey is a peninsula, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, the Delaware Bay to the southwest, and the Delaware River to the northwest. All of South Jersey is part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, a landform of broad plains and gently sloping hills that extends southward from the New York Bight to Florida. Much of the Atlantic Coastal Plain is covered by pine and oak-pine forests and salt marshes and is underlain by poorly consolidated sedimentary formations from the Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary age that dip seaward. The Atlantic Coastal Plain can be divided into three physiographic subprovinces: the Inner Lowlands, Outer Lowlands, and Central Uplands. The Inner Lowlands encompasses the low valley along the Delaware River, with an elevation ranging from 50 feet (15 m) to 100 feet (30 m), and the Outer Lowlands encompasses the area near the Atlantic Ocean, with an elevation that rarely exceeds 50 feet (15 m). The Inner Lowlands are fertile due to the deposition of sediment in the region, which makes it an ideal region for agriculture. The Outer Lowlands is dominated by coastal estuaries, swamplands, and barrier islands near the Atlantic Ocean and is generally infertile. The Central Uplands varies slightly from the Lowlands in altitude and is covered by the Pine Barrens. The Uplands has rolling hills at an elevation over 50 feet, rarely exceeding 200 feet in elevation, along with sandy, acidic soil that makes it unsuitable for agriculture. Commercial farming in the Pine Barrens is limited to plants that thrive in its nutrient-poor soil—generally acidic fruits. In the Pine Barrens, cranberries and blueberries are cultivated in lowland bogs that have accumulated depths of organic matter.
South Jersey has a humid subtropical climate. Compared to northern parts of New Jersey, South Jersey has slightly higher temperatures and receives less annual precipitation. Along the Jersey Shore, temperatures are moderated by sea breezes and land breezes.
The following seven counties are completely included in South Jersey:
- Atlantic County
- Burlington County
- Camden County
- Cape May County
- Cumberland County
- Gloucester County
- Salem County
In 2015, a NJ.com poll with 90,000 respondents asked readers to identify the communities in North, Central, and South Jersey. The Ocean County communities of Barnegat Township, Eagleswood Township, Lacey Township, Little Egg Harbor, the communities of Long Beach Island, Ocean Township, Stafford Township, and Tuckerton were all voted as part of South Jersey. The Ocean County communities north of Lacey Township were considered to be part of Central Jersey.
Camden, located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, has historically been considered the economic hub of South Jersey. Much of Camden's growth resulted from its location near Philadelphia, particularly its role as a regional transportation hub. For decades after World War II, Camden suffered a prolonged economic decline and high crime rate due to the loss of its manufacturing base and the outflow of middle-class residents to the suburbs. Camden is home to the Campbell's Soup headquarters and the new corporate headquarters of Susquehanna Bank. Rutgers–Camden, Rutgers School of Law–Camden, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Cooper University Hospital, and the Camden campus of Camden County College operate in the city, and the Camden waterfront is one of the city's main attractions. Nearby Cherry Hill, the second largest municipality in South Jersey and the 15th largest in New Jersey by population, is an edge city that also serves as an economic center for the region. Pureland Industrial Complex, the nation's largest industrial park, is located 12 miles from the port of Camden in Logan Township.
Atlantic City is a major tourist destination that is famous for its beaches, boardwalk, and casino gambling. Atlantic City is located in the Jersey Shore region on Absecon Island, along with Ventnor City, Margate City, and Longport. Atlantic City became a resort town in 1854, when train service to the city allowed beachgoers from Philadelphia to vacation in the city. The first boardwalk in the world opened in the city in 1870, and large hotels were built in the early 20th century to accommodate visitors. In the mid-20th century, Atlantic City declined as a tourist destination due to competition from other resorts made accessible by automobile and aircraft. After New Jersey voters approved casino gambling in Atlantic City in a 1976 referendum, it became the first legalized casino gambling destination in the Eastern United States. Recent growth in the city has been fueled by the casino industry, and Atlantic City is the second-largest casino gaming market in the United States behind Las Vegas.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties are part of the Camden metropolitan division, with an estimated population of 1,250,569 in 2008. Salem County is part of the Wilmington metropolitan division. The Camden and Wilmington metropolitan divisions are part of the larger Philadelphia–Camden–Wilmington Metropolitan statistical area, the fifth largest MSA in the United States. Cumberland County is part of the Vineland–Millville–Bridgeton Metropolitan Statistical Area. Atlantic City and its surrounding region in Atlantic County are part of the Atlantic City metropolitan area, which had an estimated 2008 population of 270,681. Cape May County is part of the Ocean City metropolitan area, with an estimated 2008 population of 95,838. Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland counties are all part of the Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland Combined Statistical Area.
Ocean County, with a 2008 population of 565,493, is considered to be part of the New York–North Jersey–Long Island Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Northern New Jersey and Central Jersey with the exception of Warren County. However, much of Ocean County lies in both New York City and Philadelphia media markets.
The following cities and towns in South Jersey have a 2010 Census population of over 20,000 inhabitants:
- Camden (pop. 77,344)
- Cherry Hill (pop. 71,045)
- Gloucester Township (pop. 64,634)
- Vineland (pop. 60,724)
- Washington Township (pop. 48,559)
- Evesham (pop. 45,538)
- Egg Harbor Township (pop. 43,323)
- Mount Laurel (pop. 41,864)
- Atlantic City (pop. 39,558)
- Winslow (pop. 39,499)
- Galloway (pop. 37,349)
- Monroe (pop. 36,129)
- Pennsauken (pop. 35,885)
- Willingboro (pop. 31,629)
- Deptford (pop. 30,561)
- Voorhees (pop. 29,131)
- Millville (pop. 28,400)
- Pemberton Township (pop. 27,912)
- Lacey Township (pop. 27,644)
- Stafford Township (pop. 26,959)
- Hamilton (pop. 26,503)
- Bridgeton (pop. 25,349)
- Medford (pop. 23,033)
- Lower Township (pop. 22,866)
- Burlington Township (pop. 22,594)
- Barnegat Township (pop. 22,108)
- West Deptford (pop. 21,677)
- Moorestown (pop. 20,726)
- Pleasantville (pop. 20,249)
- Little Egg Harbor (pop. 20,065)
Present-day South Jersey was first inhabited by the Lenape. The tribe spoke dialects of the Unami language, part of the Algonquian language family. Because the Lenape were concentrated around the Delaware River and its tributaries, the Europeans later named them the "Delaware". After the arrival of the Europeans, the Lenape population dwindled quickly due to disease and conflict. Those who were left migrated north or west, or became integrated into their local communities.
Although the present-day territory of South Jersey was claimed by the Dutch in 1609, Dutch settlement remained nonexistent except for trading purposes. In 1638, New Sweden was established along the Delaware River. The Swedes established two permanent settlements in present-day South Jersey: Swedesboro and Bridgeport (formerly named New Stockholm). New Sweden was captured by the Dutch in 1655, and remained part of New Netherland until its cession to the British in 1667.
During the British colonial period, nearly all of South Jersey was part of the Province of West Jersey, existing between 1674 and 1702 as a Quaker commonwealth. Burlington, the capital of West Jersey, was established in 1677, and Camden was established in 1681. Since the Delaware River was not easily navigable north of Trenton, the population was concentrated along the southern Delaware River. The borders between West Jersey and East Jersey, first surveyed using the Keith line, ran diagonally across the middle part of the state. The borders remained important in determining ownership and political boundaries until 1745. Remnants of that division are seen today, notably as the Burlington-Monmouth and Burlington-Ocean county lines and the municipal boundaries within Ocean County. In contemporary culture, the border signifies a functional boundary between the New York City and Philadelphia spheres of influence.
By 1700, nearly 70% of the population of West Jersey were Quakers of English or Irish origin. The Quakers, who believed in peace, equality, and integrity, influenced early New Jersey. In contrast, East Jersey had high proportions of Scottish and Dutch settlers. In 1702, East Jersey and West Jersey were reunited under the reign of Queen Anne.
Resistance to the British was widespread during the American Revolution among South Jersey Presbyterians, who aided the colonists during the Revolution. Several of their preachers, including John Brainerd, accepted military positions and urged Presbyterians to enlist in the army. The Delaware River was strategic for its commercial importance, and its role in defending Philadelphia. General Howe captured Philadelphia in September 1777, occupying the city for 10 months. The Quakers as a whole were opposed to the Revolution because of their principles of nonviolence. Members of the Religious Society of Friends were forbidden to support the local militias, or faced disownment by the Quakers.
For many years, South Jersey has been mistakenly perceived solely as an agricultural society. In the 18th century, South Jersey (specifically Alloway in Salem County) was home to Wistarburg, the first successful glass factory in the colonies, operating for close to fifty years prior to the Revolutionary War. When that factory closed, the workers spread throughout the region to towns such as Millville, Vineland, Bridgeton, Hammonton and Glassboro, where they established new companies. Recent research has uncovered evidence that proves in addition to the glassmaking industry, South Jersey was also a major contributor to the iron industry, coal making, ship building and, later, the textile industry. Other businesses that later operated in the region included shoe manufacturers, button makers, barrel makers, and rug companies. While most industries eventually declined, farming still makes up a large portion of the region's economy. South Jersey's interior, consisting of the Pine Barrens and marshland, remained unpopulated because its acidic, nutrient-poor soil was unsuited for farming. Most of the cities were concentrated along the Delaware River, except for a few settlements and seaside resorts along the Jersey Shore.
Slavery was less extensive in South Jersey than it was in other parts of the state because of the Quakers' religious opposition to slavery, and a lower demand for labor. By 1810, the population of slaves dwindled to 328 total, compared to 10,532 total slaves in the rest of New Jersey. Although discriminatory policies still targeted blacks, South Jersey became a haven for ex-slaves. William Still, a notable African-American abolitionist, was born in Burlington County, and is nicknamed the "father of the Underground Railroad" for his role in helping slaves escape to freedom.
Railroads were in operation in South Jersey by the mid-19th century. The advent of the railroad was one of the reasons Charles K. Landis was inspired to found Vineland in 1861. The rail system expanded dramatically during that period, helping a number of towns to grow and thrive. Many of the railroads were later consolidated into the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad (WJ&S). By 1925, it operated 379 miles of road on 717 miles of track. In 1933 it became part of Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, a Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary. in 1933. Much of the system is part of the South Jersey/Philadelphia Shared Assets Area. The Glassboro–Camden Line, a light rail system, is projected to open in 2019.
Beginning in the 20th century, the towns bordering the Delaware River saw increased manufacturing due to improved transportation and technology. By 1899, John Dorrance, a chemist for the Campbell Soup Company, perfected his method of canning condensed soup. This allowed Campbell to ship and sell its product at one-third the cost. Campbell had national distribution by 1911 when its products were first marketed in California. The New York Shipbuilding Corporation opened its first shipyard in 1900, located in Camden. The company produced a variety of ships, ranging from aircraft carriers and battleships to luxury liners and barges. By 1917, NYSB was the largest shipyard in the world. The Victor Talking Machine Company, founded in 1901, became the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records.
Like many other American cities after World War II, the manufacturing cities of South Jersey declined as factories closed and residents moved away. Suburbanization of the region was fueled by the construction of new highways and bridges, and increased automobile ownership. The New Jersey Turnpike opened in 1951, permitting fast travel by car between New York and Delaware. In 1955, William Levitt built present-day Willingboro based on his Levittown model, which came to be used for other suburban developments. The population of Delaware Township in Camden County rose explosively after World War II, growing from about 10,000 residents in 1950 to almost 65,000 by 1970. In 1961, the township was renamed Cherry Hill. In contrast, nearby Camden declined from 125,000 residents in 1950 to 85,000 in 1980. While the South Jersey suburbs remain general middle-class, the inner cities continue to face issues with crime, poverty, and unemployment.
Albert Freeman, a Mount Holly newspaper publisher and editor, wrote an editorial calling for secession. Freeman had originally meant the proposal as a joke, but the idea gained momentum. On April 23, 1980, the town council of Egg Harbor voted to support the creation of a new state of South Jersey. The statehood movement was an attempt to gain the attention of state lawmakers, centering on issues such as the construction of the Meadowlands Sports Complex in the north while the State refused to support the Garden State Park Racetrack in the south. A non-binding referendum was presented to six counties on Election Day in 1980 (with the exclusion of Camden and Gloucester counties). 51 percent of voters declared that they wanted to secede and establish a new state; Ocean was the only southern county (of 6 that had the question on ballots) to defeat the referendum.
In 2005, Money magazine named Moorestown the "best place to live" in the United States, although they stated that a number of nearby municipalities could have just as easily been given the distinction.
Conversely, Morgan Quitno has rated nearby Camden the "most dangerous city" in the United States three times within the same decade and Camden had a median household income of $18,007 in 2006, making it the poorest U.S. city with more than 65,000 residents. The two even share a central highway (CR 537).
Notable South Jerseyans
Some nationally known South Jerseyans include Bruce Willis, Mike Trout, Roscoe Lee Browne, John Forsythe, Michelle Malkin, Kellyanne Conway, Ali Larter, Kelly Ripa, Tara Lipinski, Michael Landon, Linda Fiorentino, Joe Flacco, Carl Lewis, Grace Helbig, Martin Truex, Jr. and Carli Lloyd. See also:
- People from Atlantic County
- People from Burlington County
- People from Camden County
- People from Cape May County
- People from Cumberland County
- People from Gloucester County
- People from Ocean County (some consider this Central Jersey)
- People from Salem County
Culture and business
A list of unique and notable South Jersey cultural and business institutions includes, but is not limited, to:
- Absecon Light
- Adventure Aquarium
- Barnegat Light
- Batsto Village
- Blueberry farms in Hammonton
- Cape May Light
- Casinos in Atlantic City
- Clementon Amusement Park
- Commerce Bank
- Cooper River
- Cranberry bogs
- Double Trouble State Park
- Garden State Park Racetrack
- Hereford Inlet Light
- Historic Smithville
- Indian King Tavern
- Island Beach State Park
- Jersey Devil
- Lucy the Elephant
- New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
- RCA Nipper Building
- Ocean City Boardwalk
- "On the Way to Cape May"
- Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station
- PATCO High Speed Line
- Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown and Collingswood
- Pine Barrens
- Popcorn Park Zoo
- Shore Culture
- Six Flags Great Adventure
- Traffic circles
- Surflight Theatre
- Tuckerton Seaport
- Walt Whitman House
- Washington Street Mall
- Wildwood Boardwalk
- USS New Jersey
South Jersey English
South Jersey is within the Philadelphia dialect region. One recognizable feature of this is the pronunciation of /oʊ/ (the vowel in go) as [ɜʊ], and this can also be found elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.
Visitors to South Jersey will notice the following usages standard in the Delaware Valley:
- Hoagie: This usual term for what might elsewhere be called a submarine sandwich.
- Wutter: the first vowel in the word water is rhymed with that of the verb put.
- Jimmies: used to refer to the chocolate or rainbow variety of sprinkles used on cakes and ice cream. The term is also used in the Boston area but is uncommon in North Jersey.
- Down the shore: To head "down the shore" is to spend time in the Jersey coastal resort areas. Once you are down the shore, for the day or at a residence in the area, you can go to the beach, or the boardwalk, and so forth. The phrase was even used as the name of a short-lived sitcom, Down the Shore, although this was set in central New Jersey.
- Shoobie: slang used by year-long residents of the coast for vacationing visitors to the shore, often from Philadelphia or New York City.
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