Rhode Island

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The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
State flag of Rhode Island State seal of Rhode Island
(Flag of Rhode Island) (Seal of Rhode Island)
State nickname: The Ocean State, Little Rhody
Map of the U.S. with Rhode Island highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Providence
Largest city Providence
Governor Donald Carcieri (R)
Senators Jack Reed (D)

Lincoln Chafee (R)

Official language(s) None
Area 4,005 km² (50th)
 - Land 2,709 km²
 - Water 1,296 km² (32.4%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 1,048,319 (43rd)
 - Density 387.35 /km² (2nd)
Admission into Union
 - Date May 29, 1790
 - Order 13th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Latitude 41°18'N to 42°1'N
Longitude 71°8'W to 71°53'W
Width 50 km
Length 65 km
 - Highest point 247 m
 - Mean 60 m
 - Lowest point 0 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-RI
Web site www.ri.gov
"RI" redirects here. For alternate uses: see RI (disambiguation)

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known as Rhode Island) is geographically the smallest state in the United States, and the state with the longest official name. Rhode (pronounced "Road") Island is part of the New England region, and was one of the thirteen original American colonies that declared independence against British rule to begin the American Revolution.

The state's common name, Rhode Island, actually refers to the largest island in Narragansett Bay, also known as Aquidneck Island, on which the city of Newport is located. The origin of the name is unclear. Some historians think that Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, upon discovering Block Island, just southwest in the Atlantic Ocean, named it Rhode Island because of its similarity in shape to the Greek island of Rhodes. Later settlers, mistaking which island Verrazzano was referring to, gave the name to Aquidneck Island instead. Other historians believe that the name is derived from Roodt Eylandt, Dutch for "red island," given to the island by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block due to the red clay on the island's shore.

Despite the fact that most of the state is part of the mainland, the name Rhode Island leads some out-of-staters to erroneously believe that the entire state is an island. Nicknamed "The Ocean State," every point in the state is within 30 miles of sea water.



In 1614 the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island that is now called Block Island. Native American inhabitants included the Naragansett tribe, occupying most of the state, and the closley-related Niantic tribe. Some Wampanoags lived near the Massachusetts border, and other tribes, usually associated with Connecticut, such as the Mohegan were found in the west. Near the border with both Connecticut and Massachusetts, some bands of Nipmuc Indians were found. Most of the Native Americans were decimated by introduced diseases, intertribal warfare, and the disastrous King Philip's War, but remnants of the Niantic merged into the Naragansett tribe, where they remain on a federally recognized reservation.

In 1636 Roger Williams, after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay near the Moshassuck River. He called the site Providence and declared it a place of religious freedom for Baptist settlers. Historically, the land is unique because it was purchased twice, once from the King of England, and once from the Native American tribes who lived on the land. This is the article of agreement Roger Williams and others made, and every person who decided to live in Providence must sign it: “We, whose names are hereunder written, being desirous to inhabit the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves, in active or passive obedience, to all such orders or agreements as shall be made for public good by the body in an orderly way by the major consent of the inhabitance, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others as they shall admit into the same only in civil things.” Rhode Island was a charter colony, Roger Williams received a charter to build the colony.

In 1637 Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts for expressing her beliefs that people could talk to God by themselves, not necessarily through a minister. She and some others, including William Coddington and John Clarke, founded the town of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island. In 1639 Coddington left Portsmouth and founded Newport on Aquidneck Island.

In that same year a formal government was established for the island. William Coddington was the first governor and Philip Sherman was the first Secretary. In 1643 Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, which is now called Warwick.

In 1644 the name of Aquidneck Island was changed to Rhode Island.

On May 18, 1652 Rhode Island passed the first law in North America making slavery illegal. At one point, however, child labor was used greatly.

John Clarke was granted a Charter on July 8, 1663 for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which effectively united the two colonies into one. As Britain was under the control of the short-lived republic at that time, no Royal Charter was granted to Rhode Island, instead the House of Commons was the only governing body available to issue a charter. This is unique to Rhode Island and the only colony to be issued a charter without the consent of the crown. Under the terms of the charter, only landowners could vote. Before the Industrial Revolution, when most people were employed as farmers, this was considered democratic. The original charter was used as the state constitution until 1842.

In 1664 the seal of the colony was adopted. It pictured an anchor and the word HOPE.

The relationship between the New Englanders and the Native Americans was at first strained, but did not result in much bloodshed. The largest tribes that lived near Rhode island were the Wampanoag, Pequots, Narragansett, and Nimpuc. One native named Squanto, from the Wampanoag tribe, stayed with the pilgrims and taught them many valuable skills needed to survive in the area. He also helped greatly with the eventual peace between the colonists and the natives.

Roger Williams had won the respect of his colonial neighbors for his skill in keeping the powerful Narragansett on friendly terms with local white settlers. In 1637, the Narragansett were even persuaded to form an alliance with the English in carrying out an attack that nearly extinguished the warlike Pequots. However, this peace did not last long. By 1670 even the friendly tribes who had greeted Williams and the Pilgrims became estranged from the colonists, and smell of war began to cover the New England countryside.

The most important and traumatic event in 17th century Rhode Island was King Philip's War,which occurred during 1675–1676. King Philip (his British nickname, his real name was Metacomet) was the chief of the Wampanoag Indians. The settlers of Portsmouth had purchased their land from his father, Massasoit. King Philip rebelled against the English. The first attacks were around Narrangansett Bay but spread throughout New England.

Rhode Island was the first of the British colonies in America to declare its independence on May 4, 1776. Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the United States Constitution (May 29, 1790) - doing so after being threatened of having its exports taxed as a foreign nation.

As the Industrial Revolution moved large numbers of workers into the cities, a permanently landless, and therefore voteless class developed. By 1829, 60% of the state's free white males were ineligible to vote.

Several attempts had been made to address this problem, but none passed. In 1842 Thomas Dorr drafted a liberal constitution which was passed by popular referendum. However the conservative sitting governor, Samuel Ward King, opposed the people's wishes, leading to the Dorr Rebellion. Although this collapsed, a modified version of the constitution was passed in November, which allowed any white male to vote that owned land or could pay a $1 poll tax.

Since the Great Depression, the Rhode Island Democratic Party has dominated local politics. For years, the Speaker of the House, always a Democrat, was one of the most powerful figures in government. The Democratic Party represented a wide coalition of working class immigrants, intellectuals, and the rising ethnic middle class. The Republican Party has been restricted to more rural parts of the state, and occasional so-called "good government" reform candidates, who criticize the excesses of Democratic domination. Steven Laffey of Cranston, Donald Carcieri of East Greenwich, and Vincent A. Cianci of Providence ran as Republican reform candidates. Cianci ended up being indicted on racketeering charges. Despite a perceived culture of corruption, Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support and re-elect Democrats to positions of authority, where issues involving education, health care, immigrant rights, and liberal causes are promoted.

Law and government

The capital of Rhode Island is Providence and its current governor is Donald Carcieri (Republican). Its two U.S. Senators are John "Jack" Reed (Democrat) and Lincoln Chafee (Republican). Its two U.S. Congressmen are Patrick J. Kennedy (Democrat, district one) and Jim Langevin (Democrat, district two). (See list of Rhode Island Governors.)

Rhode Island tends to vote Democratic in presidential elections and has done so consistently from 1988 through 2004. The state supported Republicans until 1908, in 1916–1924, 1952 and 1956, in 1972, and in 1984. In 2004, Rhode Island gave John Kerry a greater than 20 percentage point margin of victory (the third highest of any state) with 59.4% of its vote. All five counties in the state supported the Democratic candidate.


Geography of Rhode Island

See: List of Rhode Island counties

Rhode Island is bordered on the north and east by Massachusetts, on the west by Connecticut, and on the south by Rhode Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. It shares a water border with New York. Narragansett Bay is a major feature of the state's topography. Block Island, known for its beaches, lies approximately 12 miles (19 km) off the southern coast of the mainland. Within the Bay, there are over 30 islands. The largest is Aquidneck Island, shared by the municipalities of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. Among the other islands in the Bay are Hope, Prudence, and Despair.

Rhode Island is mostly flat with no real mountains. Rhode Island's highest point is Jerimoth Hill, only 812 feet (247 m) above sea level.

Rhode Island was one of the Northern colonies (aka "New England" colonies).


Rhode Island's 2000 total gross state product was $33 billion, placing it 45th in the nation. Its 2000 per capita Personal Income was $29,685, 16th in the nation.

Rhode Island's agricultural outputs are nursery stock, vegetables, dairy products, and eggs. Its industrial outputs are fashion jewelry, fabricated metal products, electric equipment, machinery, shipbuilding and boatbuilding, and tourism.


Historical populations

1790 68,825
1800 69,122
1810 76,931
1820 83,059
1830 97,199
1840 108,830
1850 147,545
1860 174,620
1870 217,353
1880 276,531
1890 345,506
1900 428,556
1910 542,610
1920 604,397
1930 687,497
1940 713,346
1950 791,896
1960 859,488
1970 946,725
1980 947,154
1990 1,003,464
2000 1,048,319

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2004, Rhode Island's population was estimated at 1,080,632 people.

The racial makeup of the state is:

The five largest ancestry groups in Rhode Island are: Italian (19%), Irish (18.4%), English (12%), French (10.9%), Portuguese (8.7%).

6.1% of Rhode Island's population were reported as under 5, 23.6% under 18, and 14.5% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 52% of the population.

Rhode Island has a higher percentage of Italian-Americans (concentrated in the city of Providence) and a higher percentage of Americans of Portuguese ancestry (who dominate Bristol county) than any other state in the nation. French Canadians form a large part of Northern Providence county whereas Irish-Americans have strong presence Newport and Kent county. Yankees of English ancestry still have a presence in the state as well, especially in Washington county.


The religious affiliations of the people of Rhode Island are:

Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Catholics in the nation due to large Irish, Italian, French Canadian, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Cape Verdean communities in the state.

Important cities and towns

Rhode Island, showing major cities and roads.
Rhode Island, showing major cities and roads.
See also:


Providence is home to a number of schools including Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Providence College.

Rhode Island has several state colleges and universities, the University of Rhode Island, located in Kingston in the southern part of the state and Rhode Island College in Providence.

Colleges and universities

Primary and secondary schools

See Rhode Island schools l


Professional sports teams

Miscellaneous information

A sample version of the current Rhode Island license plate.
A sample version of the current Rhode Island license plate.
Area: 1,545 mile² (4,002 km²)
Population: 1,048,319 (2000)
Capital: Providence
Counties: 5 (see: List of Rhode Island counties)
Highest Point: Jerimoth Hill (812 ft)
State motto: Hope
State bird: Rhode Island Red (A hen)
State flower: Violet
State tree: Red Maple
State fish: Striped Bass
State fruit: Rhode Island greening (Apple)
State nicknames: The Ocean State, Little Rhody, The Littlest State
State rock: Cumberlandite
State mineral: Bowenite (a variety of serpentine)
State shell: Quahog
State drink: Coffee Milk

Famous Rhode Islanders

See also

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Flag of Rhode Island The State of Rhode Island



Blackstone Valley | Block Island | East Bay | Newport County | Providence | South County | Warwick/West Bay


Central Falls | Cranston | East Providence | Newport | Pawtucket | Providence | Warwick | Woonsocket


See List of towns in Rhode Island


Bristol | Kent | Newport | Providence | Washington

Indian Tribe Reservations

Narragansett Indian Tribe

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