Playing “telephone” on Facebook

If you are from New Jersey, or have Facebook friends from New Jersey, you’ve probably seen a post that begins “For those who live in New Jersey and those who visit ….” The very long post goes on to detail a number of “facts” about New Jersey, over half of which are suspect. It occurred to me that it’s the perfect vehicle to explore the problem with information on social media. The post has a lot of the features of misinformation on social media. It combines something true, or at least widely accepted, with “facts” that are not true—and fairly easy to research. It also makes loose claims that can’t be absolutely disproved but imply things that are untrue. It then gets passed on and the “facts” are heard by more people and they believe them. It’s the electronic version of “telephone,” the game we all played when I was a child. For anyone who doesn’t know it, a person whispers a somewhat involved story to a second person, who passes it on to a third, etc. In a classroom, the teacher may tell student 1, and then it goes through twenty more students. The last student tells the story out loud. It generally has very little to do with the original story.

Another way misinformation is disseminated is by people who’ve long believed it to be fact. A trivial example of this is a “fact” I’d carried with me since elementary school. Until I started researching these claims, I’d been under the impression that New Jersey was the third smallest state by land area. Either I heard that from someone who was mistaken or I mixed it up in my nine-year-old brain, because it was the third state to ratify the US Constitution. As many of you no doubt already know, it’s actually the fourth smallest state, behind Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut. All of us are likely to be mistaken about something. What the internet and social media have done is disseminate and galvanize those mistakes. Whether or not New Jersey is the fourth largest state will probably not affect your life; whether or not there was widespread voter fraud in New Jersey will.

This all got ratcheted up during the election and the pandemic, when misinformation suddenly became life-threatening. The careless sharing of “information” is not limited to one political side, no matter how much people on both sides pretend it is. Among my friends, the person who has shared the highest number of posts containing incorrect information is a lifelong liberal. When I tell her she’s wrong, her answers range from, “Does it matter?” to “I didn’t know if he said it, but I liked the sentiment” to “Can’t we agree to disagree?” Well, no, not if we’re talking about something as black and white as the size of a state. In this election, of course, the conservative misinformation was distinct from the liberal misinformation in that there was a Tweeter-in-chief who was disseminating it. And the claims endangered people’s health during a pandemic and fomented enough bad feeling to instigate the storming of the Capitol. But I’d argue that the misinformation on the left, which I’ve talked about in previous posts, and the one-sided crackdown by social media companies actually did a lot of the damage as well—and made Donald Trump’s supporters feel justified.

I don’t expect everyone to research every claim they see on social media. It’s taken me the better part of two days to research all the claims made in the New Jersey post. What I would like is for people to understand how much false information is perpetuated by people who saw a post, thought it was interesting, and passed it on, without ever stopping to consider its veracity. Please, before you share, do the kinds of things I required of my freshman English students when they were writing papers—find the source, even if you think you know it. Of course, you don’t have to find the source for information that’s common knowledge (e.g., New Jersey is a state), but when in doubt, err on the side of researching it—or don’t share it! Once you find that source, make sure it’s valid. In the list below, when I tried to find information about the first airmail in the US, I found a lot of individuals who quoted the same sentence without ever saying where they got the information from. Joe’s website is not a good source (even though Joe may very well be providing correct information). National Geographic is. And all those individuals who passed on the information about airmail probably thought that since they got it from someone else’s web page, it was correct. That’s how bad information gets disseminated, sometimes with serious consequences. People refuse to get vaccinated against a virus, they refuse to wear masks, or they storm the Capitol. All those people believed what they’d been told. Most of the people passing on bad information are not trying to mislead you—they believe it to be correct.

In the following very long list, I’ve responded to each of the claims in the “New Jersey” post, both to show you how I researched the information and to point out how many mistakes there are. I do know that none of these is earth-shattering. And when we get to some of the “opinion” nuggets, I’m being more tongue-in-cheek. I honestly don’t have a strong opinion on whose tomatoes are best. One of the things the New Jersey post has highlighted for me is the US-centric nature of a lot of the entries, even when they make claims about the wider world (the oldest tunnel under a river, for example). I’m going to start going back to some of this global perspective now that the election and inauguration are past us. I’d originally started blogging as an ex-pat in London. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the lessons I’ve learned and the perspective I’ve gained in five years away. And I hope you find some of the actual facts below to be as interesting as I found them.

For those who live in New Jersey and those who visit ….

New Jersey is a peninsula.

Perhaps in a very broad interpretation of what “peninsula” means, since the Delaware River separates New Jersey from Pennsylvania for most of its western border, but generally, that’s not what is meant by the term. It’s more common to talk of the Cape May Peninsula or Sandy Hook as actual peninsulas. And Florida is a state that is mostly peninsula.

Highlands, New Jersey has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida.

This makes no sense. According to Wikipedia, Highlands is 13 feet above sea level, but there is a bluff and a lighthouse on the bluff. The National Register of Historic Places tells us that the lighthouse on that bluff lies 246 feet above sea level. This is not the highest point along the Eastern Seaboard, which contains, among other high points, the Appalachian Mountains (average elevation 3,000 feet). But it’s impossible to know what the writer meant by “Eastern Seaboard” and I couldn’t find this claim in any source. A clue to the origin of this “fact” lies in the website for the Twin Lights lighthouse, which reads, “The Highlands of Navesink overlook the entrance to New York Bay and, as suggested by their name, these hills are some of the highest points along the eastern seaboard of the United States.” So we have an error of degree. It’s impossible to know whether the writer misunderstood the information or decided to exaggerate it, but what is clear is that it’s wrong. And the real information is interesting without exaggeration.

New Jersey is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas.

OK. I guess you could also say that New Jersey is unique in the fact that its two metropolitan areas are derived from neighboring states (the New York Metropolitan Area and the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, also known as the Lower Delaware Valley).

New Jersey has more race horses than Kentucky.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey had a total of 42,500 horses of any kind in 2018. This compares with 242,400 horses in Kentucky. This is total horses rather than a specific breakdown of racehorses, but it’s unlikely that a state with six times as many horses and an economy that depends on horses and horse racing has fewer races horses.

New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq. mi.) than Havana, Cuba.

Let’s ignore the bad grammar and address the intended claim. According to the US Department of State and Baruch College, the Cuban population in Union City has been decreasing, from a high of about 10,300 in 2000 to 7,510 in 2010, the latest date for which figures were readily available. But let’s say there was a high of 11,000 at some point. How does that compare to Havana?  In 2010, Havana had 2,143,000 people, or about 20 times that of Union City, New Jersey. But maybe something happened between 2010 and 2020, you say? It’s highly unlikely to have seriously affected this disparity, given that the entire population of Union City was only 66,455 in 2010. So I guess if half the population of Cuba moved to Union City between 2010 and 2020, this could be true, but that’s not likely to have happened.

New Jersey has the densest system of highways and railroads in the US.

This seems plausible, given that New Jersey is the fourth smallest and most densely populated state. The railways seemed slightly less plausible, since so much railroad track in New Jersey has been pulled up, but still, it’s a small state. There is, of course, a source that will tell me. The Association of American Railroads has produced a  listing of the miles of track in each state. Unsurprisingly, New Jersey ranks pretty far down on the list, at forty-second, but given that it’s forty-seventh in size, it still seems possible. If I were actually making this claim, however, I’d have to do a lot more researching and calculating.

New Jersey has the highest cost of living.

Not even close. I questioned this because I’d heard for quite some time that Hawaii had the highest cost of living. But even I was surprised that according to CNBC, which gets its data from the  Council for Community and Economic Research, New Jersey ties with Rhode Island for tenth place. Taking a broad range of factors, including housing, income taxes, groceries, and medical care, into account, Hawaii is, indeed, first, followed by California, New York, and Massachusetts. The average home price in Hawaii is double that of the average home in New Jersey.

New Jersey has the highest cost of auto insurance.

This is another statistic I might not question in general conversation, although I might point out that it depends on which area of each state you live in. I know New Jersey’s auto insurance rates are high. But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners provides many different comparisons, including comprehensive insurance and liability insurance, and New Jersey doesn’t top any of the lists. In 2017, New Jersey liability premiums came third, behind Florida and Louisiana, its comprehensive premiums were below the average for the country as a whole, and it had the eighth highest collision premiums, right behind Texas.

New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation.

Yes, according to Forbes Magazine, New Jersey does have the highest property taxes.

New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the “Diner Capital of the World.”

It’s sort of hard to quantify this, since there’s no real comparison here. Do you mean the most diners in a given area? At any rate, New Jersey diners, even though they’re disappearing faster than British pubs, are the gold standard of diners. There are even imitations in London.

New Jersey is home to the original Mystery Pork Parts Club (not Spam): Taylor Ham or Pork Roll.

Home to the less mysterious but the best Italian hot dogs and Italian sausage w/peppers and onions.

North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius.

I don’t really know what a 25-square-mile radius is, but I am assuming for these purposes, that the author meant a 25-square-mile area. I’m not going to perform a comprehensive survey, but I can tell you that in Los Angeles, within 10 miles of Santa Monica Place, there are the Promenade at the Howard Hughes CenterWestfield Culver CityWestfield Century City, the Beverly Center, the Grove, and Hollywood and Highland, as well as about 30 smaller shopping centers. If we take “radius” at face value, we can incorporate areas to the north and south of West Los Angeles. The San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles, has even more shopping centers per square mile (remember Moon Unit Zappa?), all of which have an obscene number of high-end stores.

The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland.

Speaking strictly grammatically, this might be true, since the way it’s written, it only refers to Holland’s submarines. But I don’t think that’s what the writer meant to say. I believe the contention is that the first submarine was launched in the Passaic River, and that’s not true. According to the History Channel, the first submarine prototype was launched by Cornelius Drebbel in London’s Thames River in around 1620. The second known submarine voyage occurred in New York Harbor in 1775. Since Holland’s name did not appear in the History Channel’s list, I looked him up. It turns out that over two centuries after the first submarine launch, Holland designed the first submarine to be commissioned by the US Navy. Called the (what else?) Holland I, the ship was launched in 1878. This sort of claim is typical of a lot of this list. Obviously, the writer of the essay knew something—James P. Holland was a real inventor of submarines and he tested them in the Passaic River. The submarine Holland invented was also a first—the first commission by the US Navy. But the author seems not to have looked anything up and also repeatedly makes claims about the world with only US reference points. Most of the submarines on the History Channel’s list were not in the United States. (The History Channel may have its own myopia, because I’m guessing an advanced coastal Asian country would have some entries in the list, although I could not find a reference to any.)

New Jersey has 50+ resort cities & towns; some of the nation’s most famous: Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Cape May.

“Resort” has to be construed fairly loosely, and I’m not sure how you get to over 50, but I’m willing to believe that you could hit 50 cities and towns of one type or another. I’m not sure I’d call most of them “resort cities and towns,” but New Jersey certainly has some nice beach areas:

New Jersey has the most stringent testing along its coastline for water quality control than any other seaboard state in the entire country.

It’s a little hard to research this because the wording is so loose, but according to the National Resources Defense Council, New Jersey ranked third in beach quality, but did sample a lot more beaches than Delaware and New Hampshire, which were number one and number two. But if you look at the whole list, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Florida all did quite a bit more testing than New Jersey. Once again, it seems New Jersey is doing a decent job, but the claim is inflated.

New Jersey is a leading technology & industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation when you include pharmaceuticals.

Because of the qualifier about pharmaceuticals, this is a bit difficult to research. According to Statista, in 2019, Texas exported almost six times the volume of chemicals as New Jersey. It’s not clear if drugs are included, but probably not, since generally, when we talk about chemicals, we’re talking about the raw product and pharmaceuticals use some of those raw products. That means we could be double counting. New Jersey is the  third highest pharmaceutical-producing state, adding $34 billion to the state’s GDP. But adding this number to New Jersey’s chemical export number only gets us to about $41.4 billion, and Texas, even without counting any pharmaceutical production, is already at $42.7 billion.

Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy.

Obviously, this is a matter of taste, but try telling that to an English tomato grower—or consumer. Probably in the US, most people have heard of New Jersey (not Jersey) tomatoes, but I doubt my neighbors in London have.

New Jersey is the world leader in blueberry and cranberry production (and here you thought Massachusetts?)

Not according to the World Atlas, which ranks New Jersey fifth for blueberry production (behind Washington, Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon), or National Geographic, which puts New Jersey fourth in cranberry production, behind Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Oregon (with less than one-tenth of Wisconsin’s production).

Here’s to New Jersey – the toast of the country! In 1642, the first brewery in America, opened in Hoboken.

According to the Alcohol Professor, who uses statistics from the US Brewers Association, the first brewery was founded by the Dutch West India Company in New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1632 on Brewers Street. But if you are like me and a little suspect of someone called the Alcohol Professor, you might be more convinced by the encyclopedia of the Economic History Association, which makes no mention of Hoboken, but tells us that by 1660, there were 26 breweries and taverns in New Amsterdam.  Since I could find no mention of Hoboken in any of the histories of breweries, I searched for Hoboken breweries. Indeed, according to multiple sources including the online journal North Jersey, a short-lived brewery did open in New Jersey in 1641 (it was destroyed by 1642), but it was the first brewery in New Jersey, not in the United States.

New Jersey rocks! The famous Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar in Mahwah, in 1940.

According to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, Les Paul spent a good part of his life in Mahwah, but the official Les Paul website says that he invented the Log, the first solid-body electric guitar, in New York City. But I guess he could have been living in Mahwah at the time, so maybe he invented it in New Jersey and used it in New York City.

New Jersey is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US, located in Elizabeth. Nearly 80 percent of what our nation imports comes through Elizabeth Seaport first.

According to MNX Logistics, Los Angeles is the busiest port in the country, with total TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit, or standard container) of 8,355,039 in 2007. Long Beach is second, at 7,316,465, making the entire volume of Los Angeles-area shipping to be over 15 million TEUs. New York and New Jersey are combined in the list, but let’s assume Elizabeth is the biggest port in the New York/New Jersey area. The combined volume for these ports is 5,299,105, or one-third of Los Angeles/Long Beach’s total. New Jersey Monthly corroborates Elizabeth’s place behind Los Angeles and Long Beach. I could not find anything saying what percentage of imports come through Elizabeth, but we’d have to assume it’s about a third of what comes through Los Angeles and Long Beach. Interestingly, I found “80 percent” in the New Jersey Monthly article, where it said that Elizabeth accounts for 80 percent of the total shipping in the New York/New Jersey ports, so this may be another reading comprehension issue.

New Jersey is home to one of the nation’s busiest airports (in Newark), Liberty International.

According to Statista, in 2019, Liberty International was the twelfth busiest, so yes, that’s one of the country’s busiest.

George Washington slept there.

Yes he did. At least, we have to assume he slept between battles.

Several important Revolutionary War battles were fought on New Jersey soil, led by General George Washington.

Yes, including the Battle of Trenton, Battle of Princeton, and Battle of Monmouth.

The light bulb, phonograph (record player), and motion picture projector, were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, NJ, laboratory

Yes, Edison is a great New Jersey figure, and yes, he invented many things, but according to the Menlo Park Museum, although he was called the Wizard of Menlo Park, he moved to West Orange in 1887 and invented the motion picture camera there. This is the sort of minor error I’d tend not to notice if everything else were correct.

Jersey also boasts the first town lit by incandescent bulbs.

Again according to the Menlo Park Museum, Christie Street in Menlo Park was the first street to be lit by incandescent bulbs in 1880. However, we know Edison was a bit of a self-promoter, and according to Newcastle University, the inventor Joseph Swan beat Edison by a few months and Mosley Street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom became the first street in the world to be lit by incandescent bulbs.

The first seaplane was built in Keyport , NJ.

Nope. The world’s first seaplane was built by Henri Fabre in Martigue, France, and its first flight was on March 28, 1910. The aviation pioneers the Boland Brothers did create innovative aircraft in Keyport and have a 1910 plane on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Their company became the Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company. If we look at the list of aircraft attributed to the company, there is a plane called the Aeromarine B in 1910, but it looks like the first Aeromarine seaplane was built in 1914. Nowhere on the Keyport Historical Society website, on the Aeromarine website, or in Joseph Boland’s obituary is there a claim that the Bolands or Aeromarine built the first seaplane. But this is like many of these “facts.” They are not a million miles away from the truth, but the claims have been aggrandized. It’s actually quite exciting that the Boland brothers were working on aircraft in New Jersey at the same time as the Wright brothers, and helped to create a very successful seaplane company. Unfortunately, the false claim diminishes the accomplishment.

The first airmail (to Chicago) was started from Keyport, NJ.

Oh dear. It would appear the French got there first again. According to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the first airmail by airplane was flown by French pilot Henri Pequet, who flew 6000 cards and letters from Allahabad to Naini, India, on February 18, 1911. But perhaps we’re talking about earlier balloon and dirigible airmail? Again according to the Smithsonian, the first official US airmail delivery took place on August 15, 1859, by balloon, in Indiana. So where does Keyport come in? It’s difficult to say. Wikipedia credits Pierre Blanchard with making the first airmail flight, when in 1793 he piloted his balloon to deliver a letter sent from George Washington in Philadelphia to an address in Deptford, New Jersey. But if you Google “first airmail Keyport,” you come up with numerous sites, all of which quote the sentence above, with a location but no date and no source. Without a date, of course, we have no way of knowing whether it was earlier than any of these other flights, and without a source, we have no way of assessing its reliability, but I’d assume the Smithsonian would mention Keyport, New Jersey if it were actually historically significant.

The first phonograph records were made in Camden, NJ

The history of phonograph records is somewhat jumbled, but Emile Berliner seems to have made the first discs in Washington, DC, in the 1880s. Production then moved to Germany, and the gramophone discs were sold only in Europe. In 1897, he moved manufacture to Philadelphia, just across the river from Camden. In 1901, Berliner transferred his patents to Eldridge Johnson, who founded the Victor Talking Machine Company, headquartered in Camden, New Jersey. So certainly some of the early phonograph records were made in Camden, New Jersey, but not the first records.

New Jersey was home to the Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City.

Yes, it is. The pageant started in 1921.

The game Monopoly, played all over the world, named the streets on its playing board after the actual streets in Atlantic City. And, Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world, not to mention salt water taffy. ( Now made in Pennsylvania).

We’re on pretty solid ground here. While Monopoly was invented by the feminist Elizabeth Magie in 1903 in Washington, DC, as the Landlord Game, the game board we all know is Charles Darrow’s 1932 version, which he peddled without credit to Magie, who held a patent. Ironically, Magie’s original idea was a commentary on greedy landlords, so I guess someone else taking credit for her game and calling it Monopoly fits. In the years between 1903, when Magie patented the game, and 1932, the game caught on. Darrow wasn’t even responsible for the Atlantic City names—Quakers living in the area had already changed the names in Magie’s game to reflect the surrounding area. Atlantic City does, indeed, have what is generally considered the oldest and longest boardwalk in the world, opened in 1870 and spanning 5.5 miles, although Ryde Pier on the Isle of Wight in the UK got its start much earlier, in 1814. Since the Ryde pier was originally just a ferry departure pier rather than a pleasure boardwalk, Atlantic City’s title seems safe. And yes, salt water taffy originated in Atlantic City.

New Jersey has the largest petroleum containment area outside of the Middle East countries.

I found this sentence on a number of sites, include that of a New Jersey realtor and Trip Advisor. I also found the likely  source, which illustrates a key feature of social-network sharing. In the original, written by Maureen Hudson, Hudson says “probably”: “New Jersey is one of the largest chemical producing states in the country, with probably (italics added) the largest petroleum containment areas outside the Middle East.” Hudson also qualifies the claim we saw earlier about chemical production. Instead of being the “largest,” New Jersey is “one of the largest,” a more casual claim.

The first Indian reservation was in New Jersey, in the Watchung Mountains

Not a first I would want to lay claim to, but yes, the first “Indian Reservation” seems to have been the Brotherton Reservation, created in New Jersey for the Lenni-Lenape sometime between an 1858 treaty and an 1880 agreement. It was, however, in Burlington County, in the southern part of the state rather than the Watchung Mountains.

New Jersey has the tallest water-tower in the world. (Union, NJ!!!)

Technically, there’s a water tower in Edmund, Oklahoma that is four feet taller, but the Union, New Jersey tower is supposedly the world’s tallest water sphere.

New Jersey had the first medical center, in Jersey City.

I’m not sure what is meant by a medical center, since the term was not in existence until relatively recently. Bellevue Hospital in New York City was founded in 1836.  Jersey City Medical Center opened as a charity hospital in 1882.  Hoboken University Medical Center in nearby Hoboken opened in 1863 as St. Mary’s Hospital, nineteen years before the Jersey City facility. I can’t find any other earlier hospitals in Jersey City, and Wikipedia’s page on medical centers (hospitals combined with research facilities) doesn’t even include New Jersey in the list.   

The Pulaski Sky Way, from Jersey City to Newark, was the first skyway highway.

Certainly, the Pulaski Skyway, opened in 1932, is one of the oldest elevated highways. But the West Side Highway across the river in New York, preceded it by two years. The Pulaski Skyway was more difficult to construct and longer, spanning the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, but The West Side Highway was older.

New Jersey built the first tunnel under a river, the Hudson (Holland Tunnel).

Nope. I’ve travelled under the Thames in the oldest underwater tunnel, the Thames Tunnel, designed by Mark Isambard Brunel and completed by his son, the prolific Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Built between 1825 and 1843, it was originally a pedestrian tunnel but is now used by the London Overground Railway. The Hudson Tunnel (now the Holland Tunnel) opened in 1927, over eighty years later than the Thames Tunnel. Oh, you may say, the writer surely meant automobile traffic. Well, just east of the Thames Tunnel lies the Rotherhithe Tunnel, opened to traffic in 1908.

The first baseball game was played in Hoboken, NJ, which is also the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.

Yes. According to ESPN, the first official game was played between the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Mutuals on June 19, 1846. You might notice that the two teams were New York teams, but due to a lack of space in New York, the teams played in New Jersey. Some things never change, although I guess now it’s just the American football teams, the New York Giants and the New York Jets, that play in New Jersey.

The first intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick in 1889 (Rutgers College played Princeton).

Yes it did, on November 6. Rutgers won, 6-4.

The first drive-in movie theater was opened in Camden, NJ, (but they’re all gone now!).

Yes, it was. It opened on June 6, 1933. I’m sure we all wish some were still around during the pandemic.

New Jersey is home to both of “NEW YORK’S” pro football teams!

Yes, it is. The Jets used to play in Shea Stadium in Queens, but the stadium wasn’t fit for purpose. There’ve been plans in the works for decades to build the West Side Stadium or some other American football stadium in New York, but ultimately, New York land is too valuable.

The first radio station and broadcast was in Paterson, NJ.

KDKA radio station in Pittsburgh, PA seems to be the first commercial radio station, dating from 1920. The BBC in London made its first broadcast in 1922. The earliest date I could find for a Paterson, New Jersey radio station was 1941. However, the first World Series broadcast came from WJZ in Newark, New Jersey in 1921, which started broadcasting sometime in 1921 and later became New York’s WABC. So KDKA still seems to be the oldest, but New Jersey’s WJZ seems to be pretty close behind.

The first FM radio broadcast was made from Alpine, NJ, by Maj. Thomas Armstrong.

Edwin Howard Armstrong is indeed credited with inventing FM radio in 1933 and broadcasting from Alpine, New Jersey in 1939. He was a major in the US Army Signal Corps, but I don’t know where “Thomas” comes from.

All New Jersey natives:

Sal Martorano, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Queen Latifah, Susan Sarandon, Connie Francis, Shaq, Judy Blume, Aaron Burr, Joan Robertson, Ken Kross, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughn, Budd Abbott, Lou Costello, Alan Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Marilynn McCoo, Flip Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, Zack Braff Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Linda McElroy, Eileen Donnelly, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Walt Whitman, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Joyce Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Caesar Romero, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, Nick Adams, Nathan Lane, Sandra Dee, Danny DeVito, Richard Conti, Joe Pesci, Joe Piscopo, Joe DePasquale, Robert Blake, John Forsythe, Meryl Streep, Loretta Swit, Norman Lloyd, Paul Simon, Jerry Herman, Gorden McCrae, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Phyllis Newman, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Eva Marie Saint, Elisabeth Shue, Zebulon Pike, James Fennimore Cooper, Admiral Wm.Halsey,Jr.,Norman Schwarzkopf, Dave Thomas (Wendy’s), William Carlos Williams, Ray Liotta, Robert Wuhl, Bob Reyers, Paul Robeson, Ernie Kovacs, Joseph Macchia, Kelly Ripa, and Francis Albert Sinatra and “Uncle Floyd” Vivino.

I didn’t look up everyone on the list, but yes, most of these people have a relationship with New Jersey, either having been born there or having lived there. Gordon MacRae, however, spelled his name like this.

The Great Falls in Paterson, on the Passaic River, is the 2nd highest waterfall on the East Coast of the US.

This is one of those claims that allow a lot of wiggle room. How far inland is “East Coast”? Paterson isn’t right on the Atlantic, so that’s not the criterion. If we take coastal states, Crabtree Falls in Massie, Virginia is about 1000 feet high, but maybe that’s too far inland. It’s impossible to tell which falls are supposed to be the tallest, or how far inland counts as the East Coast, but the Great Falls of the Passaic River are 77 feet high, so it seems like an odd comparison, when most of its competition comes in at ten times the height.  

There are a number of claims that aren’t the kind you research in the next section, so I won’t address them here, but as a person born in Jersey City and educated at Princeton, I thought I’d end on this one:

You know that no respectable New Jerseyan goes to Princeton–that’s for out-of-staters.

Ha ha. There are plenty of Princeton alumni from New Jersey, including a Supreme Court justice (Samuel Alito from Trenton). In fact, 15.7% of current undergraduates come from the Garden State. If you go to Princeton, however, you do have to constantly explain why you don’t have a “[New] Jersey accent.”

2 thoughts on “Playing “telephone” on Facebook

  1. I loved this column! Thanks for debunking all of these myths. I do, however, disagree with your New Jersey Tomato comment. I guess if you cook the tomato to mush, as they seem to like to do in the UK, it could compare. I also have a family of farmers in the United Kingdom who agree with the New Jersey Tomato’s superiority.

    Liked by 1 person

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