Just the Facts…bird – Rhode Island red flower – violet tree – long leaf pine capital – Providence union – 13th on May 29, 1790 population – about 1 million
Rhode Island is the smallest state in America – it is 37 miles wide and 48 miles long – that is smaller than many metropolitan areas! Interestingly enough, most of Rhode Island isn’t really an “island” at all. It is part of America’s mainland and has many bays and inlets along its coast. Narrangassett Bay (which is Rhode Island’s largest bay) has more than 30 islands in its waters!
Rhode Island’s name is officially the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” This arises from the fact that there were originally two colonies that joined together to form a state - “Rhode Island” colony was near present day Newport and “Providence Plantations” colony was in present day Providence.
Its Claim to Fame
People from Massachusetts who were looking for more religious and political freedom formed the first settlement in Rhode Island. When the colony finally received its official charter from King Charles, that charter guaranteed more religious freedom and self-governing ability than was given to any other colony.
This spirit of independence and tolerance has defined Rhode Island ever since! For example, Rhode Island was one of the first colonial governments to officially declare itself independent from England (on May 4, two months before the colonies’ collective Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776).
In addition, it was the last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution – the people in Rhode Island insisted that individual rights and liberties be guaranteed under the Constitution. They finally approved the Constitution once the Bill of Rights was written and included as the first 10 amendments.
What Makes it Tick
At one time, Rhode Island’s many ports were a stop on the “slave trade triangle.” Ships brought molasses from the West Indies, which was made into rum in Rhode Island. The rum was then shipped to Africa to trade for slaves. The ships then brought the slaves to the West Indies and the trade triangle stated all over again. Even though Rhode Island was part of the slave trade, it did not actually allow slavery within its colony. In 1652, Rhode Island became the first colony to prohibit slavery.
Pawtucket, Rhode Island was home to the first water-powered textile mill. Samuel Slater secretly came to America from England and brought his knowledge of the textile industry with him. He built his first mill in 1793, nearly 100 years before the Industrial Revolution transformed America. Slatersville was one of the first company-owned mill villages, where families that worked at the mill lived in company housing, shopped at the company store, and attended the company churches and schools.
The American jewelry industry was born in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1794, Nehemiah Dodge developed a system to “plate,” or cover, a base metal with pure gold. Prior to this, jewelry was made entirely out of a precious metal (like gold), making it very expensive. Because of this invention, jewelry could be made more cheaply and sold at lower prices. Providence’s jewelry district developed and has been the center for jewelry manufacturing in America ever since. Today, there are more than 1,000 manufacturers of fine jewelry and costume jewelry in Rhode Island. Alongside the jewelry industry grew the silverware industry – the silverware you use at every meal may have been made in Rhode Island!
If You Visited
With over 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is bound to have a beach that you like! After making sandcastles, you might want to take a whale watching boat ride. There are quite a few different kinds whales off the Rhode Island coast, including humpback whales – there are also sea turtles and lots and lots of fish!
If you visited Rhode Island, you might also tour The Breakers, a famous mansion located in Newport. Many wealthy families on the East Coast built humongous “summer cottages” in Newport during the “Gilded Age.” The Breakers has its own children’s playhouse, which is huge – it might be as big as your house!
The Gilded Age was a time of major growth and change in American history – it started after the Civil War and continued until around 1900. It was a time of huge economic growth, great inventions, large factories, new transportation and communication systems, and the creation of our modern cities. The leaders of the Gilded Age became known for their extreme wealth and extravagance, but are also credited with the the rise of philanthropy in America. And, Newport was their summer playground.
About 10 mansions in Newport are national historic sites and open to the general public. After touring some of the houses, you might want to take a look a the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Or visit the Green Animals Topiary Garden (plants that have been sculpted into the shape of animals, including a giraffe!).
Want to Know More?
Do you live in Rhode Island? Or, maybe you have visited Rhode Island? We want to hear from you!! Post a comment at the end of this page.
- What is your very favorite thing about Rhode Island?
- What is your favorite thing to eat?
- What is your favorite thing to do?
- What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?
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Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Rhode Island. Visit these websites to learn more: