Cranford is a township in Union County, New Jersey, located 14 miles (23 km) southwest of Manhattan. In both 2018 and 2019, The Star-Ledger named Cranford the best downtown in New Jersey after an online vote, calling it "adorable [and] snowglobe-like." New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Cranford as its 34th best place to live in its 2010 rankings of the "Best Places To Live." It is part of the New York City metropolitan area.
As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 22,625, reflecting an increase of 47 (+0.2%) from the 22,578 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 55 (−0.2%) from the 22,633 counted in the 1990 Census.
Cranford was incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 14, 1871, from portions of the Townships of Clark, Linden, Springfield, Union and Westfield. Portions of the township were taken to form Garwood (in 1903) and Kenilworth (in 1907). The township's name is said to derive from the Crane family, including John Crane, who built a mill in 1720 along the Rahway River.
Historic sites in the township are overseen by the Cranford Historic Preservation Advisory Board.
The Cranford Historical Society, a private entity founded in 1927 and located in Hanson Park on Springfield Avenue, maintains the Crane-Phillips House (c. 1845), located at 124 North Union Avenue, as a museum.
James E. Warner (1866–1933) is a former sheriff of Union County who was the namesake of the James E. Warner Plaza at the Cranford Train Station. Appalled by the growing pollution of the Rahway given the pristine waters of his youth, Sheriff Warner advocated for the preservation of the Rahway River and Rahway River Parkway parkland. One of Sheriff Warner's successful targets in fighting Rahway River pollution was his battle against the discharge of paper makers; one such site is now the regional theater known as the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. The Cranford Canoe Club, built in 1908, continues to offer canoes and kayaks for rent on the river in town.
Charles Hansel (1859–1936) was co-founder of the Union County Parks Commission that preserved parkland all along the Rahway River and its tributaries in the 1920s, a greenway now known as the Rahway River Parkway.