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Rhode Island

"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, while also the state with the longest official name. Rhode (pronounced "Road") Island is part of the New England region, and was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. It originally consisted of the mainland Providence Plantations, which was originally all part of the town of Providence, and Rhode Island (also known as Aquidneck Island), on which the city of Newport, and the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth are located. Despite the fact that most of the state is part of the mainland, the shortened name for the state of Rhode Island leads some out-of-staters to erroneously believe that the entire state is an island, while it is just a source of confusion for others. Rhode Island is known as "The Ocean State", due to its naval history and the fact that 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.

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 which lived on the land.

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.

Charles II of England granted John Clarke a Royal Charter on July 8, 1663 to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which effectively united the two colonies into one. Rhode Island was the only one of the thirteen colonies that had complete religious freedom. 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 royal 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.'

King Philip's War occurred during 1675-1676. King Philip (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.

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.


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 off the southern coast of the mainland. Within the Bay, there are over 30 islands. The largest in the state is Rhode Island, also known by its former name: Aquidneck Island. Among the other islands in the Bay are Hope, Prudence, and Despair.


Rhode Island's 1999 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.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, Rhode Island's population was estimated at 1,076,164 people.

The racial makeup of the state is:

The 5 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 claims to have more Italian-Americans than any other state in the nation. It is unknown whether or not this is true. The state that is considered to be the most Italian-American state in America is New Jersey followed closely by New York, but Rhode Island has a higher percentage of Italian-Americans than either New Jersey or New York (both of which are extremely diverse states with a lot of minorities unlike Rhode Island.


The religious affiliations of the citizens of Rhode Island are:

  • Roman Catholic – 62%
  • Protestant – 25%
  • Other Christian – 1%
  • Other Religions – 2%
  • Non-Religious – 7%

The three largest Protestant denominations in Rhode Island are: Baptist (6% of the total state population), Episcopalian (5%), Methodist (2%).

Rhode Island has a higher percentage of Catholics than any other state in the nation. Probably due to heavy Italian and Irish communities throughout the state.

Important cities and towns

25 Richest places in Rhode Island

Ranked by per capita income

  1. Jamestown, Rhode Island $38,664
  2. East Greenwich, Rhode Island $38,593
  3. Barrington, Rhode Island $35,881
  4. Little Compton, Rhode Island $32,513
  5. New Shoreham, Rhode Island $29,188
  6. Cumberland Hill, Rhode Island $28,879
  7. Narragansett, Rhode Island $28,194
  8. Portsmouth, Rhode Island $28,161
  9. North Kingstown, Rhode Island $28,139
  10. Scituate, Rhode Island $28,092
  11. Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island $26,811
  12. Lincoln, Rhode Island $26,779
  13. Middletown, Rhode Island $25,857
  14. West Greenwich, Rhode Island $25,750
  15. Charlestown, Rhode Island $25,642
  16. Cumberland, Rhode Island $25,592
  17. Exeter, Rhode Island $25,530
  18. Newport, Rhode Island $25,441
  19. Newport East, Rhode Island $25,193
  20. North Smithfield, Rhode Island $25,031
  21. Greenville, Rhode Island $24,770
  22. Wakefield-Peacedale, Rhode Island $24,191
  23. Westerly, Rhode Island $24,092
  24. Hopkinton, Rhode Island $23,835
  25. South Kingstown, Rhode Island $23,827

See complete list of Rhode Island locations ranked by per capita income


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


  • WaterFire Providence
  • Convergence art festival
  • First Night Providence
  • Trinity Theater

Professional sports teams

Miscellaneous information

Area: 1,545 mile² (4,002 km²)
Population: 1,048,319 (2000)
Capital: Providence
Counties: 5 (see: List of Rhode Island counties)
State bird: Rhode Island Red (A hen)
State flower: Violet
State tree: Red Maple
State nicknames: The Ocean State, Little Rhody, The Littlest State
State rock: Cumberlandite
State mineral: Bowenite
State shellfish: Quahog
State drink: Coffee Milk

Famous Rhode Islanders

External links

Last updated: 08-17-2005 19:14:18