top of page

Smells like Jersey Spirit

Co-founder Petia Morozov unfolds our NJ Turnpike Scratch N Sniff Map alongside our inspiration, celebrating two hundred years after the 1951 Turnpike debut.

Scratch 'N Sniff Turnpike Map next to 1961 map and other original NJ Turnpike brochures
Scratch 'N Sniff Turnpike Map, front side, next to 1961 map and other original NJ Turnpike brochures
The year is 1961.

Idyllic post-war life is waning as Americans rumble into a tumultuous decade of civil rights protests, counterculture and global economic shifts. New Jersey’s industrial legacy is taking new shape along burgeoning highways while population rates surge ahead of other states, and the NJ Turnpike Authority is happy to take all the credit.

Among the many “successes" heralded in its 10th anniversary brochure, the Turnpike witnessed a decade of rest stop spectacular like no other. The nation’s safest and most heavily traveled toll road was now in the business of serving on-the-go meals, resting hypnotized eyes, fueling empty tanks and pushing out objects of popular car culture, to the tune of millions. One of those objects must have been the Little Trees car freshener, a 1952 invention designed to mask unwanted smells – probably from inside the car, but if potent enough, from outside as well. Car interiors everywhere pined for Canada’s forests, but today, the whiffs of irony come in “Natural Gas” and “Tire Rubber” that dangle from rearview mirrors.

Masking smells certainly wasn’t on the list of Turnpike accomplishments.

In fact, there’s plenty of reason to believe that its role in strengthening New Jersey’s chemical industries corridors adds to an intense odiferous experience, car freshener or not. These strange bouquets of nostalgia had us wondering if anything about car culture has really changed, and if so, how might the Turnpike play a role in shaping its future. Just what future are we talking about, anyway? One with more cars? More density? More rest stops? More industries?

What about… more weather? The turnpike is an anchor route in New Jersey’s coastal evacuation network, but as early as 1953, it saw just how unsuited it might be to extremely wet conditions when, during Hurricane Barbara, four drivers lost their lives. “Slow down during snow, ice, fog, rain, or any other adverse driving conditions,” urges the 1961 brochure. With more flood events on the rise, this warning reeks of a disaster. But maybe not. Rainfall has a way of replacing one smell with another. Even the scents industry took note, offering calming smells like “Rainshine” and “Asphalt” to beam some sunny dryness into a torrential drive.

When the turnpike celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2151, the forecast will be wet, and hot. Water will be both falling and rapidly rising, as sea levels increase by at least six feet, if not more, drastically shrinking Jersey’s famous coastline. To get a jumpstart on this anniversary year, Dense invited multi-disciplinary designers Vaishnavi Reddy and Ryan Franchak to design the Turnpike’s commemorative map as part of Issue 1 – smells, floods and all. Your Scratch N Sniff guide down the Turnpike of the future, if you will, reimagining what makes New Jersey the Garden State, and what it could become. Goodbye Atlantic City, hello Casino Bay.

Our limited edition NJ Turnpike Scratch N Sniff Map is available in our shop.

A person holding a map with the title " New Jersey Turnpike Authorities" at the top.

Your Scratch N Sniff guide down the Turnpike of the future.


Booth, Please is our weekly newsletter that explores the dreams, discoveries, confrontations, and epiphanies that emerge when design meets New Jersey—all set within the comforts of the world's diner capital. Subscribe below and cozy up every Sunday.


Issue One

Fill up on just what you want.

Get more dense.

From our weekly newsletter to the latest news, and more.

bottom of page