Abraham Browning of Camden is given credit for giving New Jersey the nickname the Garden State. According to Alfred Heston's 1926 two-volume book Jersey Waggon Jaunts, Browning called New Jersey the Garden State while speaking at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition on New Jersey Day (August 24, 1876).
Browning said that our Garden State is an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other. The name stuck ever since.
However, Benjamin Franklin is credited with a similar comparison of New Jersey to a barrel tapped at both ends. Some have used that to discredit Browning with naming the Garden State.
In 1954, the state legislature passed a bill to have "The Garden State" added to license plates. Before signing the bill into law, Governor Robert Meyner investigated the origins of the nickname and found "no official recognition of the slogan Garden State as an identification of the state of New Jersey." He added, "I do not believe that the average citizen of New Jersey regards his state as more peculiarly identifiable with gardening for farming than any of its other industries or occupations." Governor Meyner vetoed the bill, but the legislature overrode the veto. The slogan was added to license plates soon after.