The Biggest Earthquake In The History Of New Jersey That Shut Down The State

On November 29, 1783, New Jersey experienced its first and strongest recorded earthquake, with an estimated magnitude of 5.3 on the Richter Scale. The quake was felt from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, and caused damage to buildings, chimneys, and dishes. It also failed to wake up George Washington, who was sleeping at Fraunces Tavern in New York City at the time.

The Origin and Impact of the Quake

The earthquake is thought to have originated from within the New Jersey Highlands of the Reading Prong, possibly on the 300 km long, 12 km wide Ramapo Fault zone, a structure formed during the Late Triassic during the break-up of Pangaea. The mainshock was part of a sequence that occurred over a span of a several hours, with a brief foreshock at 9:00 PM and an aftershock at 1:00 AM.

The earthquake caused intensity VII damage on the Mercalli intensity scale, which means it was very strong and could overturn heavy furniture, damage poorly built structures, and crack walls. The overall destruction of the quake was not very serious, but it did cause some panic and confusion among the residents of the affected areas. Some people thought it was a sign of divine wrath, while others attributed it to natural causes.

The Historical and Scientific Significance of the Quake

The 1783 earthquake remains the largest and strongest earthquake to ever shake New Jersey, and one of the most significant in the history of the eastern U.S. It was also one of the earliest documented earthquakes in the country, and provided valuable information for the study of seismology and geology. The quake showed that the eastern U.S. is not immune to seismic activity, and that the Ramapo Fault zone could be a potential source of future earthquakes.

The quake also had some political and cultural implications, as it occurred during a turbulent period in the history of the newly independent United States. The quake coincided with the evacuation of British troops from New York City, the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, and the relocation of the Continental Congress from Princeton to Annapolis. The quake was seen by some as a symbol of the end of the Revolutionary War and the beginning of a new era for the nation.


The 1783 New Jersey earthquake was a remarkable event that shook the state and the region with its unprecedented strength and extent. The quake caused some damage and alarm, but also sparked curiosity and interest in the natural phenomena that govern the earth. The quake was a milestone in the history of New Jersey, the United States, and the science of earthquakes.

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