Rhode Island is a state of the northeast United States on the Atlantic Ocean. It was admitted as one of the original Thirteen Colonies in 1790. Rhode Island was settled by religious exiles from Massachusetts, including Roger Williams, who founded Providence in 1636. It was granted a royal charter in 1663 and after the American Revolution began the industrialization that is still a major part of the state's economy. Providence is the capital and the largest city. Population: 1,070,000.
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Early Exploration and Colonization
The region of Rhode Island was probably visited (1524) by Verrazano, and in 1614 the area was explored by the Dutchman Adriaen Block. Roger Williams, banished (1635) from the Massachusetts Bay colony, established in 1636 the first settlement in the area at Providence on land purchased from Native Americans of the Narragansett tribe. In 1638, Puritan exiles bought the island of Aquidneck (now Rhode Island) from the Narragansetts. There they established the settlement of Portsmouth (1638). Because of factional differences, Newport was founded (1639) on the southwest side of the island, but the two towns later combined governments (1640–47). Another settlement, Warwick, was made on the western shore of Narragansett Bay in 1642. In order to thwart claims made to the area by the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies, Williams, through influential friends, secured (1644) a parliamentary patent under which the four towns drew up a code of civil law and organized (1647) a government. The liberal charter granted (1663) by Charles II of England ensured the colony's survival, although boundary difficulties with Massachusetts and Connecticut continued well into the 18th cent. The early settlers were mostly of English stock. Many were drawn to the colony by the guarantee of religious freedom, a cardinal principle with Williams, confirmed in the patent of 1644 and reaffirmed by the royal charter of 1663. Jews settled in Newport in the first year of Williams' presidency (1654), and Quakers followed in large numbers. All the early settlers owned land that, following Williams' practice, was bought from the Native Americans. Fishing and trade supplemented the living won from the soil. Moreover, livestock from the Narragansett county (South County), especially the famous Narragansett pacers, figured largely in the early commerce, which developed rapidly in the late 17th cent. Because of the colony's religious freedom, it was viewed with mixed loathing and fear by the more powerful neighboring colonies and was never admitted to the New England Confederation. However, it bore its share of the devastation caused by King Philip's War in 1675–76. Between 1750 and 1770 there was bitter strife between Providence and Newport over control of the colony.
The Coming of Revolution
Until the American Revolution, Newport was the commercial center of the colony, thriving especially on the triangular trade in rum, slaves, and molasses. Rhode Island, like other colonies, objected to British mercantilist policies and consistently violated the Molasses Act of 1733 and the Navigation Acts. Narragansett Bay became a notorious haven for smugglers, and the British revenue cutter Gaspee was burned (1772) by patriots in protest against the enforcement of revenue laws. After the start of the American Revolution, Rhode Island militia under Nathanael Greene joined (1775) the Continental Army at Cambridge, and on May 4, 1776, the province renounced its allegiance to George III. British forces occupied parts of Rhode Island from 1776 to 1779, when they withdrew before the arrival of the French fleet. The Revolution won, Rhode Island, jealous of its independence, refused to sanction a national import duty; it therefore deprived the Continental Congress of a major source of revenue and became one of the states responsible for the failure of the Articles of Confederation. Rhode Island did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia and resisted ratifying the Constitution until the federal government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state; even then, ratification passed (1790) by only two votes.
The post-Revolutionary era brought bankruptcy and currency difficulties. Shipping, which continued to be a major factor in the state's economy until the first quarter of the 19th cent., was hard hit by Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 and by the competition from larger ports such as New York and Boston. However, this post-Revolutionary period also marked the beginning of Rhode Island's industrial greatness. Samuel Slater built the first successful American cotton-textile mill at Pawtucket in 1790. An abundance of water power led to the rapid development of manufacturing, in which merchants and shipping magnates invested their capital. With the growth of industry the towns increased in population, and Providence surpassed Newport as the commercial center of the state. Since suffrage had long been restricted to freeholders, Rhode Island's increased urbanization resulted in the disenfranchisement of most townspeople. Frustrated in repeated attempts to amend the constitution, many Rhode Islanders joined Thomas Wilson Dorr in forcibly establishing an illegal state government in Providence in 1842. Dorr's Rebellion, though abortive, resulted in the adoption of a new constitution (1842) extending suffrage; however, the property qualification was not abolished until 1888. Antislavery sentiment was strong in Rhode Island, and the state firmly supported the Union in the Civil War.
Mill Towns, Discontent, and a Changing Economy
Until well into the 20th cent. Rhode Island's political and economic life was dominated by mill owners. (Nelson W. Aldrich was a power in the nation as well as the state.) The small mill towns, with their company houses and company stores and their large numbers of foreign-born residents, were important elements in the social fabric. English, Irish, and Scottish settlers had begun arriving in large numbers in the first half of the 19th cent.; French Canadian immigration commenced around the time of the Civil War; at the end of the 19th cent. and the beginning of the 20th there was a large influx of Poles, Italians, and Portuguese. Politically, Rhode Island was generally controlled by Republicans until the 1930s, when the Democrats' insistence on reapportionment of representation (which tended to favor small towns over urban areas) helped bring their party into power. Sporadic labor troubles in the 19th cent. had little effect on the state's economy. However, after World War I there was a long textile strike, centered in the Blackstone valley; this, together with the gradual removal of the mills to the South—the source of the cotton supply where labor was cheaper—led to a continuing decline in the cotton-textile industry. Nevertheless, the manufacture of textile products is still carried on in the state today and new industries such as high-technology electronics have been introduced. Since the 1970s the overall shift in the state's economy has been away from manufacturing altogether and toward the service sector. This shift has coincided with major suburban growth.
- Rhode Island is the smallest state in size in the United States. It covers an area of 1,214 square miles. Its distances North to South are 48 miles and East to West 37 miles.
- Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen colonies to become a state.
- Rhode Island shares a state water border with New York.
- The Cogswell Tower in Central Falls was the site of an Indian observation point in use during King Phillips War in 1676. The tower was built in 1904 as part of the last will and testament of Caroline Cogswell.
- Rhode Island never ratified the 18th Amendment prohibition.
- Judge Darius Baker imposed the first jail sentence for speeding in an automobile on August 28, 1904 in Newport.
- Polo was played for the first time in the United States in 1876 near Newport.
- Rhode Island was home to the first National Lawn Tennis Championship in 1899.
- St. Mary's, Rhode Island's oldest Roman Catholic parish was founded in 1828. The church is best known as the site of the wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier to John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1953.
- The state was home to the first open golf tournament. The event occurred in 1895.
- Rhode Island has no county government. It is divided into 39 municipalities each having its own form of local government.
- The Flying Horse Carousel is the nation’s oldest carousel. It is located in the resort town of Watch Hill.
- The first circus in the United States was in Newport in 1774.
- Ann and Hope was the first discount department store in the United States the property was opened in Rhode Island.
- Rhode Island is home to the Tennis Hall of Fame.
- Rhode Island's official state name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
- George M. Cohan was born in Providence in 1878. He wrote, "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and a wide variety of other musical entertainment.
- Rhode Island is known for making silverware and fine jewelry.
- The world's largest bug is on the roof of New England Pest Control in Providence. It's a big blue termite, 58 feet long and 928 times actual termite size.
- At the Point Judith corrosion test site material samples sit exposed for years and are analyzed to determine the toll taken by ocean air and the sun.
- Rhode Islanders were the first to take military action against England by sinking one of her ships in the Narragansett Bay located between Newport and Providence. The English ship was called "The Gaspee".
- Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, established the first practical working model of Democracy after he was banished from Plymouth, Massachusetts because of his "extreme views" concerning freedom of speech and religion.
- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams publicly acknowledged Roger Williams, as the originator of the concepts and principles reflected in The First Amendment. Among those principles were freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of public assembly.
- The era know as The Industrial Revolution started in Rhode Island with the development and construction in 1790 of Samuel Slater's water-powered cotton mill in Pawtucket.
- The first British troops sent from England to squash the revolution landed in Newport.
- Though second in command to George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, a Rhode Islander, is acknowledged by many historians as having been the most capable and significant General of the Revolutionary effort. Cornwallis feared Greene and his forces most. Greene ultimately defeated Cornwallis.
- Standing 11 feet tall and 278 feet above ground the Independent Man is a gold-covered, bronze statue placed atop the State House on December 18, 1899.
- A reproduction of the original Liberty Bell is in the entrance hall on the south entrance to the State House. It was donated to the people of the state by the United States Treasury Department in 1950, when Harry S. Truman was president. It is about 3-1/2 feet tall and the diameter of the bell at its widest part is approximately 3-1/2 feet. It is such a realistic copy that is even has a crack similar to the original Liberty Bell.
- At Little Compton is home to the gravesite of the first girl born to colonists in New England. The baby was the daughter of pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden.
- Warwick enjoys a reputation of being Rhode Island’s Retail Capital.
- Built in 1880 Channing Memorial Church was named for William Ellery Channing, a leader in the Unitarian Church and the abolitionist movement. Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", attended this church.
- The White Horse Tavern was built in 1673 and is the oldest operating tavern in the United States.
- Rhode Island Red Monument in Adamsville pays homage to the world-famous poultry breed.
- Rhode Island founder Roger Williams established the First Baptist Church in America in 1638. The existing structure was built in 1775
- Settled in 1642 Pawtuxet Village in Warwick lays claim to being New England’s oldest village.
- The Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport is the United States' oldest library building.
- The Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence is the official state symbol of folk art.
- New England's oldest Masonic Temple in Warren was built in the 18th century with timbers from British frigates sunk in Newport Harbor during the Revolutionary War.
- Nine Men's Misery monument in Cumberland is the oldest known monument to veterans in the United States. It was erected in memory of the colonists killed in Pierce's Fight during King Phillips War in 1676.
- Portsmouth is home to the oldest schoolhouse in the United States. The school was built in 1716.
- Since 1785 Bristol has the longest running, unbroken series of 4th of July Independence Day observances in the country.
- The Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in North America. Built in 1763 the synagogue houses the oldest torah in North America.
- Swamp Meadow Covered Bridge in Foster is the only remaining covered bridge in Rhode Island.
- The first Afro-American regiment to fight for America made a gallant stand against the British in the Battle of Rhode Island.
- The first torpedo boat "Stiletto" was built in Bristol in 1887.
- Pelham Street in Newport was the first street in the country to use gas-illuminated streetlights.
- Cumberlandite is the official state rock. It is dark brown or black with white markings and found on both sides of Narragansett Bay but not north of Cumberland.
- The Quonset hut was invented at Quonset Point a key naval reserve base.
- Jerimoth Hill is the state's highest point at 812 feet above sea level.
- www.ri.gov - Official website.
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Rhode Island United States RI US