|How to Navigate What Exit?
How This Exhibition Came To Be
About The New Jersey Historical Society
Credits and Acknowledgements
Thank you for visiting What Exit? New Jersey and Its Turnpike
Welcome to The New Jersey Historical Society’s online exhibition about the New Jersey Turnpike—how it was built, what it meant in its time, and how people have given it life. The New Jersey Turnpike is a New Jersey story, but it’s also an American story—one that reflects the rise of the automobile and growth of highways in the 20th century.
The exhibition takes its name from an old joke that irritates most New Jerseyans but still delights those who haven’t heard it before—“So, you’re from New Jersey? What exit?”—as if all of New Jersey was one big superhighway punctuated by the occasional exit.
We choose to look at the joke as a measure of the impact of the road—for the New Jersey Turnpike, now over fifty years old, is much more than a punch line. One of a small number of “modern” turnpikes built in the mid-20th century, this world-renowned superhighway is today the most heavily traveled toll road in the nation. It carries over 218 million drivers a year and serves as a major conduit between New York and Philadelphia. Not only that, but when it opened in 1951, it was considered to be one of the most impressive roadways in the nation. Called “the most spectacular piece of highway ever built” by the Saturday Evening Post, the Garden State roadway drew widespread acclaim and captured America's imagination.
In What Exit? New Jersey and Its Turnpike, you can choose to consider the New Jersey Turnpike from a number of perspectives: its construction, design, path, and how it was promoted; the role of cars, roads and traffic in its creation; the stories that employees tell—and more. Striking photographs, 1950s film footage, voices, poems, sports coverage, stuffed animals, and much more will lead you on your journey down this mammoth highway. We hope you will never look at it in quite the same way.
You can navigate this exhibition in different ways:
• You may choose to go to any one of the three major sections—"Building
It," "Driving It," "Telling It"—and read
the general overview. If you want more information, click on any of the
links; each will take you to a photograph, story, object, film, audio
interview, or document about the road.
Also, if you are interested in finding out more about the Turnpike and road and automobile history, you can visit the “Links” section for connections to relevant websites or go to the “Bibliography” for books and articles. Both sections include materials for teachers and children.
This online exhibition is best viewed in Internet Explorer 5.0 or above or Netscape 6.0 or above and with a monitor resolution set at 1024 by 768 pixels (resolution setting can be changed under Display or Monitor in your computer's control panels). Movies and audio interviews are available in either Media Player 6 or above or Quicktime 4 or above. You can download that software from the movie and audio pages, if necessary.
On some Mac computers the print button may not work. In order to print the page use the drop-down File menu or or the "Apple" key and P.
The site design and programming follow the Bobby guidelines for accessibility.
Created by The New Jersey Historical Society in conjunction with the American Social History Project, this online exhibition is based on What Exit? New Jersey and Its Turnpike, an interactive exhibition for children and adults that opened at the Historical Society’s headquarters on September 21, 2001. On view through August 3, 2002, it subsequently traveled to the Stedman Gallery, Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey, where it was on view through November 2, 2002. The show opened at the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, New Jersey in November 2002 and will be on view through May 2003. For opening and closing dates, hours, and information, you can call the State Museum at (609) 292-6464 or visit their website at www.newjerseystatemuseum.org.
Published to accompany the exhibition, Turnpike Treasures: The Souvenirs and Stuff that Celebrate an American Phenomenon (2001) is available for sale through The New Jersey Historical Society for $10 plus shipping costs. Written by exhibition curator Ellen M. Snyder-Grenier with a foreword by Historical Society President and CEO Sally Yerkovich, it includes brilliant color photographs of the many images and objects spawned by the road’s creation, from color postcards to Turnpike charm bracelets. (This book was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2002 American Association of Museums [AAM] Museum Publications Design Competition.) Also available for sale ($20 plus shipping costs) is a curriculum packet titled Changing Geography, Changing Communities. Created by The New Jersey Historical Society, it is suitable for grades K-12. The 30+-page packet includes transparencies, maps, and lesson plans. Contact the Historical Society at (973) 596-8500, extension “0” to find out how to obtain a copy of either of these items.
Through the history of New Jersey—a quintessentially American place—the Historical Society promotes exploration of our cultures, past and present. As we challenge and inspire people to grow as learners and thinkers, we strive to make a difference in their lives.
Our headquarters, which houses museum exhibitions, a library, archives, and educational programming space, is located in Newark, the state’s largest city. Statewide, private, and non-profit, we are dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the rich and intricate political, social, cultural, and economic history of New Jersey to the broadest possible audiences. We were founded in 1845 and are the oldest cultural institution in the state. Through exhibitions, publications, and programming, we examine who and what we are, what it means to live and work in New Jersey, what contributes to New Jersey’s distinct identity, and what are the unique contributions New Jerseyans make to the region and the country.
Our telephone: (973) 596-8500
This online exhibition was created by The New Jersey Historical Society in conjunction with the American Social History Project. Staff involved in the project include:
For The New Jersey Historical Society
For the American Social History Project
The objects and information in this online exhibition are drawn from
a research project of The New Jersey Historical Society and the exhibition
in which it culminated. The following is a list of the project staff:
The New Jersey Historical Society would especially like to thank the New Jersey Turnpike Authority for its tremendous generosity in the objects it lent and donated, and for its help with research, with open access to its history, and with locating oral history interviewees. We would also like to thank all those whose objects, images, films and/or stories are represented in this online exhibition:
The Asphalt Institute; Samuel Bardach; John C.; Joseph Chase; Citgo Petroleum Corporation; Henry F. Comeau; John Cook; Thelma Coslow; Mitchell Dakelman; William J. Dempsey; Jack Francis; William and Shirley Galik; General Motors; Richard Green; Asa E. Hall; John Hechler; Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village; HNTB; John J. Holsten; Howard Johnson International; Cynthia Jones; Doris Kinsella; Marie Koch; Samuel Kostic, Jr.; Ralph Mercurio; New Jersey Turnpike Authority; The New York Times; R. Bruce Noel; Ben Ortiz; Alfred Rastall; Arthur Shapiro; Ronald “Rocky” Sorrentino; The Star-Ledger; Victor P. Torchia, Jr.; R. Gregory Turner; James and Joyce Wickel; James D. Wolfe.
Thank you also to the teachers who helped us test the site:
This online exhibition has been funded by The Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Education, PR Award Number R215K010019. The content does not necessarily reflect the view of the Department or any other agency of the U.S. Government.
The exhibition What Exit? New Jersey and Its Turnpike, on which this online show is based, was funded in part by The Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Education, PR Award Number R215K010019; The National Endowment for the Humanities; Public Service Electric & Gas Company; A Special Projects Grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State; The New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of The National Endowment for the Arts; and The Fred C. Rummel Foundation.