Elizabeth was founded in 1664 by English settlers and was named for the wife of Sir George Carteret, not Queen Elizabeth I as many people assume. Originally called "Elizabethtown," and part of the Elizabethtown Tract, it was the first English speaking community formed in the new colony and the first capital of New Jersey. During the American Revolutionary War, Elizabeth was constantly attacked by British forces based in Manhattan and Staten Island. On March 13, 1855, the City of Elizabeth was created by an act of the New Jersey Legislature.
After the new country began to settle into its newly formed democracy and industrial importance in the world, Elizabeth grew rapidly as a major industrial and shipping center. The first major industry in the city was the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Elizabeth grew in parallel to its sister city of Newark for many years, but has been more successful in retaining a middle class presence and was spared riots in the 1960s. Since World War II, Elizabeth's Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal has grown to be one of the busiest ports in the world because of its proximity to New York City. Elizabeth’s two NJ Transit train stations provide quick access to New York City and points westward and south through New Jersey.
Today, with a population of 126,179 (2006), Elizabeth is New Jersey’s fourth largest city. As the Union County seat, Elizabeth contains most major governmental offices and courts servicing the county along with a wide range of businesses supporting government and transportation infrastructures.
Residents and visitors enjoy shopping and dinning from numerous major retailers, as well as privately owned and operated businesses. In the eastern end of the city is the local IKEA outlet that celebrates its Swedish origins with a cafeteria filled with their home country cuisine. In the same complex lies the state's largest mall, the Jersey Gardens Mall. From Revolutionary War sites to the city's art deco architecture, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Elizabeth.