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Rhode Island,island, 15 mi (24 km) long and 5 mi (8 km) wide, S R.I., at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. It is the largest island in the state, with steep cliffs and excellent beaches. Known to the Native Americans and early colonials as Aquidneck (əkwĭd`nĕk), it was renamed Rhode Island (probably after the isle of Rhodes) in 1644. Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth are on the island.
Rhode Island,smallest state in the United States, located in New England; bounded by Massachusetts (N and E), the Atlantic Ocean (S), and Connecticut (W).
Facts and Figures
Area, 1,214 sq mi (3,144 sq km). Pop. (2010) 1,052,567, a .4% increase since the 2000 census. Capital and largest city, Providence. Statehood, May 29, 1790 (13th of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution). Highest pt., Jerimoth Hill, 812 ft (248 m); lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, Little Rhody. Motto, Hope. State bird, Rhode Island red. State flower, violet. State tree, red maple. Abbr., R.I.; RI
Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states and except for New Jersey the most densely populated. The dominant physiographic feature of the state is the Narragansett basin, a shallow lowland area of Carboniferous sediments, extending into SE Massachusetts and, in Rhode Island, partly submerged as Narragansett BayNarragansett Bay,
arm of the Atlantic Ocean, 30 mi (48 km) long and from 3 to 12 mi (4.8–19 km) wide, deeply indenting the state of Rhode Island. Its many inlets provided harbors that were advantageous to colonial trade and later to resort development.
..... Click the link for more information. . The bay cuts inland c.30 mi (50 km) to Providence, where it receives the Blackstone River; it contains several islands, including Rhode Island (or Aquidneck), the largest (and the site of historic Newport); Conanicut Island, with the resort of JamestownJamestown.
1 City (1990 pop. 34,681), Chautauqua co., W N.Y., on Chautauqua Lake; founded c.1806, inc. as a city 1886. It is the business and financial center of a dairy, livestock, and vineyard area.
..... Click the link for more information. ; and Prudence Island. The coastline between Point Judith and Watch Hill is marked by sand spits and barrier beaches, sheltering lagoons and salt marshes. Glaciation left many small lakes, and the rolling hilly surface of the state is cut by short, swift streams with numerous falls. Although more than half of Rhode Island is covered with forests, it is highly urbanized. ProvidenceProvidence,
city (1990 pop. 160,728), state capital and seat of Providence co., NE R.I., a port at the head of Providence Bay; founded by Roger Williams 1636, inc. as a city 1832.
..... Click the link for more information. is the capital and the largest city; other important cities are WarwickWarwick
, city (1990 pop. 85,427), Kent co., central R.I., at the head of Narragansett Bay; settled by Samuel Gortone 1642, inc. as a city 1931. Its long important textile industry, now closed, dated from 1794.
..... Click the link for more information. , CranstonCranston,
industrial city (1990 pop. 76,060), Providence co., central R.I., a residential suburb of Providence; inc. as a town 1754, as a city 1910. Its manufactures include machinery, plastics, rubber products, and chemicals.
..... Click the link for more information. , PawtucketPawtucket
, city (1990 pop. 72,644), Providence co., NE R.I., on the Blackstone River at Pawtucket Falls; settled 1671, inc. 1885 after the eastern section (which was part of Massachusetts until 1862) was merged with the western section into a Rhode Island town.
..... Click the link for more information. , and NewportNewport.
1 City (1990 pop. 18,871), seat of Campbell co., N Ky., on the Ohio River opposite Cincinnati and on the east bank of the Licking River opposite Covington; laid out 1791, inc. as a city 1835.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Rhode Island's coast is lined with resorts noted for their swimming and boating facilities, and windswept Block Island is a favorite vacation spot. Narragansett Bay is famous for its sailboats and yachts. The America's Cup yacht race has been held in Newport several times, beginning in 1930 and most recently in 1983. The state also has many historic attractions.
Rhode Island's traditional manufacturing economy has diversified and is now also based on services, trade (retail and wholesale), and finance. In spite of this, many of the products for which Rhode Island is famous are still being manufactured. These include jewelry, silverware, textiles, primary and fabricated metals, machinery, electrical equipment, and rubber and plastic items. Tourism and gambling are also important. Agriculture is relatively unimportant to the economy. Most of the farmland is used for dairying and poultry raising, and the state is known for its Rhode Island Red chickens. Principal crops are nursery and greenhouse items. Commercial fishing is an important but declining industry. Narragansett Bay abounds in shellfish; flounder and porgy are also caught. Naval facilities at Newport contribute to the state's income.
Government, Politics, and Higher Education
Rhode Island's present constitution was adopted in 1842 and has been often amended. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term and eligible for reelection. The bicameral legislature has a senate with 50 members and a house with 75, all elected for two-year terms. Local government is carried out on the city level; Rhode Island's counties have no political functions. The state sends two senators and two representatives to the U.S. Congress; it has four electoral votes. Rhode Island is solidly Democratic, but Lincoln Almond, a Republican, was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998, and he was succeeded by another Republican, Donald Carcieri, elected in 2002 and again in 2006. In 2010 Lincoln Chafee, an independent, was elected to the office. Democrat Gina Raimondo was elected governor in 2014 and reelected in 2018; she was the first woman to win the office.
The state's leading educational institutions are Brown Univ. and the Rhode Island School of Design, at Providence, and the Univ. of Rhode Island, at Kingston.
Early Exploration and Colonization
The region of Rhode Island was probably visited (1524) by Verrazzano, 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 NarragansettNarragansett
, Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). Part of the Eastern Woodlands culture (see under Natives, North American), in the early 17th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. 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 ConfederationNew England Confederation,
union for "mutual safety and welfare" formed in 1643 by representatives of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven.
..... Click the link for more information. . However, it bore its share of the devastation caused by King Philip's WarKing Philip's War,
1675–76, the most devastating war between the colonists and the Native Americans in New England. The war is named for King Philip, the son of Massasoit and chief of the Wampanoag. His Wampanoag name was Pumetacom, Metacom, or Metacomet.
..... Click the link for more information. 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 ActsNavigation Acts,
in English history, name given to certain parliamentary legislation, more properly called the British Acts of Trade. The acts were an outgrowth of mercantilism, and followed principles laid down by Tudor and early Stuart trade regulations.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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 ConfederationConfederation, Articles of,
in U.S. history, ratified in 1781 and superseded by the Constitution of the United States in 1789. The imperative need for unity among the new states created by the American Revolution and the necessity of defining the relative powers of the
..... Click the link for more information. . 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 1807Embargo Act of 1807,
passed Dec. 22, 1807, by the U.S. Congress in answer to the British orders in council restricting neutral shipping and to Napoleon's restrictive Continental System. The U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. 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. AldrichAldrich, Nelson Wilmarth,
1841–1915, U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, b. Foster, R.I. He rose in local politics as state assemblyman (1875–76) and U.S. Representative (1879–81) before he served as Senator (1881–1911). Aldrich, after the death of Henry B.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
See P. J. Coleman, Transformation of Rhode Island, 1790–1860 (1963); F. G. Bates, Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union (1967); W. G. McLoughlin, Rhode Island: A History (1978); M. Wright and R. Sullivan, The Rhode Island Atlas (1982); P. T. Conley, An Album of Rhode Island History, 1636–1986 (1986).
Rhode Island State Information
Area (sq mi):: 1545.05 (land 1044.93; water 500.12) Population per square mile: 1029.90
Population 2005: 1,076,189 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 2.70%; 1990-2000 4.50% Population 2000: 1,048,319 (White 81.90%; Black or African American 4.50%; Hispanic or Latino 8.70%; Asian 2.30%; Other 8.30%). Foreign born: 11.40%. Median age: 36.70
Income 2000: per capita $21,688; median household $42,090; Population below poverty level: 11.90% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $29,214-$32,038
Unemployment (2004): 5.20% Unemployment change (from 2000): 1.00% Median travel time to work: 22.50 minutes Working outside county of residence: 35.30%
List of Rhode Island counties:
Rhode Island Parks
- US National Parks
- State Parks
- National Wildlife Refuges
- National Heritage Areas
a state on the Atlantic seaboard of the USA, in New England. Area, 3,200 sq km. Population, 947,000 (1970). The capital, largest city, and principal port is Providence.
Rhode Island, although the smallest state, is one of the most densely populated (approximately 300 inhabitants per sq km), urbanized (87 percent of the population), and industrially developed states. Manufacturing employs 120,000 people, 34 percent of the economically active population, while agriculture employs 3,200, or less than 1 percent. The main industries are textile manufacture, machine building, metalworking, the manufacture of jewelry, rubber products, and clothing accessories, and printing. These industries are centered in Providence and its suburbs. Agriculture is of a suburban type (dairy products, eggs, berries), with livestock raising predominating; most of the concentrated feed is brought in from outside the state. Rhode Island also has a fishing industry and enjoys considerable economic benefits from tourism.
Thirteenth state; adopted the U.S. Constitution on May 29, 1790
State capital: Providence Nicknames: The Ocean State; Little Rhody; Plantation State State motto: Hope State bird: Rhode Island red hen State drink: Coffee milk State flower: Violet (Viola palmata) State folk art: Charles I.D. Looff Carousel (Crescent Park
Carousel) State fruit: Rhode Island greening apple State mineral: Bowenite State rock: Cumberlandite State shell: Quahaug (Mercenaria mercenaria) State song: “Rhode Island, It’s for Me” State tall ship and flagship: USS Providence (replica) State tartan: Rhode Island State tree: Red maple (Acer rubrum) State yacht: Courageous
More about state symbols at:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 401 AnnivHol-2000, p. 89
State web site: www.ri.gov
Office of the Governor State House Providence, RI 02903 401-222-2080
Secretary of State
217 State House
Providence, RI 02903
Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services
1 Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908
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