Rhode Island facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
|State of Rhode Island|
The Ocean State
|Anthem: "Rhode Island's It for Me"|
Map of the United States with Rhode Island highlighted
|Before statehood||Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations|
|Admitted to the Union||May 29, 1790 (13th)|
(and largest city)
|Largest metro||Greater Providence|
|Legislature||Rhode Island General Assembly|
|• Upper house||Senate|
|• Lower house||House of Representatives|
|• Total||1,214 sq mi (3,144 km2)|
|• Land||1,045 sq mi (2,707 km2)|
|• Water||169 sq mi (438 km2) 13.9%|
|• Length||48 mi (77 km)|
|• Width||37 mi (60 km)|
|Elevation||200 ft (60 m)|
|Highest elevation||812 ft (247 m)|
|0 ft (0 m)|
(2019 Census Bureau, Q2 2019)
|• Density||1,006/sq mi (388/km2)|
|• Density rank||2nd|
|• Median household income||$63,870|
|• Income rank||16th|
|• Official language||De jure: None
De facto: English
|Time zone||UTC-05:00 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-04:00 (EDT)|
|ISO 3166 code||US-RI|
|Latitude||41° 09′ N to 42° 01′ N|
|Longitude||71° 07′ W to 71° 53′ W|
Rhode Island is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Its official name is also the longest of any state in the Union. Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut to the west, Massachusetts to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south via Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound. The state also shares a short maritime border with New York.
On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first of the Thirteen Colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown, and was the fourth among the newly sovereign states to ratify the Articles of Confederation on February 9, 1778. It boycotted the 1787 convention that drew up the United States Constitution and initially refused to ratify it. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the 13th and last state to ratify the Constitution.
Rhode Island's official nickname is "The Ocean State", a reference to the fact that the state has several large bays and inlets that amount to about 14% of its total area. Rhode Island covers 1,214 square miles (3,144 km2), of which 1,045 square miles (2,707 km2) are land.
- Origin of the name
- Images for kids
Origin of the name
Despite its name, most of Rhode Island is located on the mainland of the United States. The official name of the state is State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which is derived from the merger of four settlements. Rhode Island is now commonly called Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay, which included the settlements of Newport and Portsmouth. Providence Plantation was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the city of Providence. This was adjoined by the settlement of Warwick; hence the plural Providence Plantations.
The earliest documented use of the name "Rhode Island" for Aquidneck was in 1637 by Roger Williams. The name was officially applied to the island in 1644 with these words: "Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island." The name "Isle of Rodes" is used in a legal document as late as 1646. Dutch maps as early as 1659 call the island "Red Island" (Roodt Eylant).
"State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" is the longest official name of any state in the Union.
Rhode Island covers an area of 1,214 square miles (3,144 km2) located within the New England Region, and 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 narrow maritime border with New York State between Block Island and Long Island. The mean elevation of the state is 200 feet (61 m). It is only 37 miles (60 km) wide and 48 miles (77 km) long, yet the state has a tidal shoreline on Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean of 384 miles (618 km).
Rhode Island is nicknamed the Ocean State and has a number of oceanfront beaches. It is mostly flat with no real mountains, and the state's highest natural point is Jerimoth Hill, 812 feet (247 m) above sea level.
Rhode Island has two distinct natural regions. Eastern Rhode Island contains the lowlands of the Narragansett Bay, while Western Rhode Island forms part of the New England Upland. Rhode Island's forests are part of the Northeastern coastal forests ecoregion.
Narragansett Bay is a major feature of the state's topography. There are more than 30 islands within the bay. The largest is Aquidneck Island, shared by the municipalities of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. The second-largest island is Conanicut; the third-largest is Prudence. Block Island lies about 12 miles (19 km) off the southern coast of the mainland and separates Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean proper.
- Geography of Rhode Island
A rare type of rock called Cumberlandite is found only in Rhode Island (specifically in the town of Cumberland) and is the state rock. There were initially two known deposits of the mineral, but it is an ore of iron and one of the deposits was extensively mined for its ferrous content. The state is underlain by the Avalon terrane and was once part of the micro-continent Avalonia before the Iapetus ocean closed, according to some theories.
Most of Rhode Island has a humid continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. The far southern and coastal portions of the state are the broad transition zone into temperate climate or subtropical climates, with hot summers, and cool winters with a mix of rain and snow. The highest temperature recorded in Rhode Island was 104 °F (40 °C), recorded on August 2, 1975, in Providence. The lowest recorded temperature in Rhode Island was −23 °F (−31 °C) on February 5, 1996, in Greene. Monthly average temperatures range from a high of 83 °F (28 °C) to a low of 20 °F (−7 °C).
Due to its location in New England, Rhode Island is vulnerable to tropical storms or hurricanes. The 1938 New England hurricane, Hurricane Carol, Hurricane Donna and Hurricane Bob are some examples of hurricanes that have affected the state.
Colonial era: 1636–1770
In 1636, Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, and he settled at the top of Narragansett Bay on land sold or given to him by Narragansett sachem Canonicus. He named the site Providence.
In 1638 (after conferring with Williams), Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, John Clarke, Philip Sherman, and other religious dissenters settled on Aquidneck Island (then known as Rhode Island), which was purchased from the local tribes who called it Pocasset. This settlement was called Portsmouth and was governed by the Portsmouth Compact. The southern part of the island became the separate settlement of Newport after disagreements among the founders.
Samuel Gorton purchased lands at Shawomet in 1642 from the Narragansetts, precipitating a dispute with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1644, Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport united for their common independence as the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, governed by an elected council and "president". Gorton received a separate charter for his settlement in 1648, which he named Warwick after his patron.
During King Philip's War (1675–1676), a force of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth militia under General Josiah Winslow invaded and destroyed the fortified Narragansett Indian village in the Great Swamp in what is now South Kingstown, Rhode Island on December 19, 1675, in response to previous Indian attacks. The Indians referred to this as a massacre. The Wampanoag tribe under war-leader Metacomet, whom the colonists called "King Philip", invaded and burned down several of the towns in the area—including Providence, which was attacked twice. In one of the final actions of the war, Benjamin Church killed King Philip in what is now Bristol, Rhode Island.
The colony was amalgamated into the Dominion of New England in 1686, as King James II attempted to enforce royal authority over the autonomous colonies in British North America. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the colony regained its independence under the Royal Charter. Slaves were introduced at this time, although there is no record of any law legalizing slave-holding. The colony later prospered under the slave trade, distilling rum to sell in Africa as part of a profitable triangular trade in slaves and sugar with the Caribbean.
Revolutionary to Civil War period: 1770–1860
Rhode Island's tradition of independence and dissent gave it a prominent role in the American Revolution.
Rhode Island was the first of the thirteen colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown on May 4, 1776. It was also the last of the thirteen colonies to ratify the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790. A combined Franco-American force fought to drive them off Aquidneck Island. Portsmouth was the site of the first African-American military unit, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, to fight for the U.S. in the unsuccessful Battle of Rhode Island of August 29, 1778.
A month earlier, the appearance of a French fleet off Newport caused the British to scuttle some of their own ships in an attempt to block the harbor. The British abandoned Newport in October 1779, concentrating their forces in New York City. An expedition of 5,500 French troops under Count Rochambeau arrived in Newport by sea on 10 July 1780. The celebrated march to Yorktown, Virginia in 1781 ended with the defeat of the British at the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of the Chesapeake.
Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-revolution era. In 1774, the slave population of Rhode Island was 6.3%, nearly twice as high as any other New England colony.
Rhode Island was also heavily involved in the Industrial Revolution, which began in America in 1787 when Thomas Somers reproduced textile machine plans which he imported from England. He helped to produce the Beverly Cotton Manufactory, in which Moses Brown of Providence took an interest. Moses Brown teamed up with Samuel Slater and helped to create the second cotton mill in America, a water-powered textile mill. The Industrial Revolution moved large numbers of workers into the cities, creating a permanently landless class who were therefore also voteless. By 1829, 60% of the state's free white males were ineligible to vote. Several attempts were unsuccessfully made to address this problem, and a new state constitution was passed in 1843 allowing landless men to vote if they could pay a $1 poll tax.
For the first several decades of statehood, Rhode Island was governed in accordance with the 1663 colonial charter. Voting rights were restricted to landowners holding at least $134 in property, disenfranchising well over half of the state's male citizens.
In 1841, activists led by Thomas W. Dorr organized an extralegal convention to draft a state constitution, arguing that the charter government violated the Guarantee Clause in Article Four, Section Four of the United States Constitution. In 1842, the charter government and Dorr's supporters held separate elections, and two rival governments claimed sovereignty over the state. Dorr's supporters led an armed rebellion against the charter government, and Dorr was arrested and imprisoned for treason against the state. Later that year, the legislature drafted a state constitution, removing property requirements for American-born citizens but keeping them in place for immigrants, and retaining urban under-representation in the legislature.
Civil War to Progressive Era: 1860–1929
During the American Civil War, Rhode Island was the first Union state to send troops in response to President Lincoln's request for help from the states. Rhode Island furnished 25,236 fighting men, of whom 1,685 died. On the home front, Rhode Island and the other northern states used their industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials that it needed to win the war. The United States Naval Academy moved to Rhode Island temporarily during the war.
In 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation in the public schools throughout the state.
During World War I, Rhode Island furnished 28,817 soldiers, of whom 612 died. After the war, the state was hit hard by the Spanish Influenza.
Growth in the modern era: 1929–present
The 350th Anniversary of the founding of Rhode Island was celebrated with a free concert held on the tarmac of the Quonset State Airport on August 31, 1986. Performers included Chuck Berry, Tommy James, and headliner Bob Hope.
In March 2010, areas of the state received record flooding due to rising rivers from heavy rain. Following the flood, Rhode Island was in a state of emergency for two days. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was called in to help flood victims.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Rhode Island was 1,059,361 on July 1, 2019, a 0.65% increase since the 2010 United States Census. The center of population of Rhode Island is located in Providence County, in the city of Cranston. A corridor of population can be seen from the Providence area, stretching northwest following the Blackstone River to Woonsocket, where 19th-century mills drove industry and development.
According to the 2010 Census, 81.4% of the population was White (76.4% non-Hispanic white), 5.7% was Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 2.9% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 3.3% from two or more races. 12.4% of the total population was of Hispanic or Latino origin (they may be of any race).
The ten largest ancestry groups in Rhode Island, according to the United States Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey, are:
Hispanics in the state make up 12.8% of the population, predominantly Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Guatemalan populations.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 84% of the population aged 5 and older spoke only American English, while 8.07% spoke Spanish at home, 3.80% Portuguese, 1.96% French, 1.39% Italian and 0.78% speak other languages at home accordingly.
Rhode Island has a higher percentage of Americans of Portuguese ancestry, including Portuguese Americans and Cape Verdean Americans than any other state in the nation. Additionally, the state also has the highest percentage of Liberian immigrants, with more than 15,000 residing in the state.
Although Rhode Island has the smallest land area of all 50 states, it has the second highest population density of any state in the Union, second to that of New Jersey.
Cities and towns
Rhode Island is divided into five counties but it has no county governments, along with Connecticut and the rest of New England, to a partial extent. The entire state is divided into municipalities, which handle all local government affairs.
There are 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island. Major population centers today result from historical factors; development took place predominantly along the Blackstone, Seekonk, and Providence Rivers with the advent of the water-powered mill. Providence is the base of a large metropolitan area.
Some of Rhode Island's cities and towns are further partitioned into villages, in common with many other New England states. Notable villages include Kingston in the town of South Kingstown, which houses the University of Rhode Island; Wickford in the town of North Kingstown, the site of an annual international art festival; and Wakefield where the Town Hall is located for the Town of South Kingstown.
The state's 15 largest municipalities ranked by population are:
1. Providence Population (178,042)
2. Warwick Population (82,672)
3. Cranston Population (80,387)
4. Pawtucket Population (71,148)
5. East Providence Population (47,034)
6. Woonsocket Population (40,186)
7. Coventry Population (36,014)
8. Cumberland Population (32,506)
9. North Providence Population (32,078)
10. South Kingstown Population (30,639)
11. West Warwick Population (29,191)
12. Johnston Population (28,768)
13. North Kingstown Population (26,486)
14. Newport Population (24,672)
15. Bristol Population (22,954)
The Rhode Island economy had a colonial base in fishing.
The Blackstone River Valley was a major contributor to the American Industrial Revolution. It was in Pawtucket that Samuel Slater set up Slater Mill in 1793, using the waterpower of the Blackstone River to power his cotton mill. For a while, Rhode Island was one of the leaders in textiles. However, with the Great Depression, most textile factories relocated to southern U.S. states. The textile industry still constitutes a part of the Rhode Island economy but does not have the same power that it once had.
Other important industries in Rhode Island's past included toolmaking, costume jewelry, and silverware. An interesting by-product of Rhode Island's industrial history is the number of abandoned factories, many of them now being used for condominiums, museums, offices, and low-income and elderly housing.
Today, much of the economy of Rhode Island is based in services, particularly healthcare and education, and still manufacturing to some extent.
The state's nautical history continues in the 21st century in the form of nuclear submarine construction.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus routes serve 38 of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns. RIPTA currently operates 58 routes, including daytime trolley service (using trolley-style replica buses) in Providence and Newport.
From 2000 through 2008, RIPTA offered seasonal ferry service linking Providence and Newport (already connected by highway) funded by grant money from the United States Department of Transportation. Though the service was popular with residents and tourists, RIPTA was unable to continue on after the federal funding ended. Service was discontinued as of 2010[update]. The service was resumed in 2016 and has been successful.
The privately run Block Island Ferry links Block Island with Newport and Narragansett with traditional and fast-ferry service, while the Prudence Island Ferry connects Bristol with Prudence Island. Private ferry services also link several Rhode Island communities with ports in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The Vineyard Fast Ferry offers seasonal service to Martha's Vineyard from Quonset Point with bus and train connections to Providence, Boston, and New York. Viking Fleet offers seasonal service from Block Island to New London, Connecticut, and Montauk, New York.
The MBTA Commuter Rail's Providence/Stoughton Line links Providence and T.F. Green Airport with Boston. The line was later extended southward to Wickford Junction, with service beginning April 23, 2012. The state hopes to extend the MBTA line to Kingston and Westerly. as well as explore the possibility of extending Connecticut's Shore Line East to T.F. Green Airport. Amtrak's Acela Express stops at Providence Station (the only Acela stop in Rhode Island), linking Providence to other cities in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's Northeast Regional service makes stops at Providence Station, Kingston, and Westerly.
Rhode Island's primary airport for passenger and cargo transport is T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, though most Rhode Islanders who wish to travel internationally on direct flights and those who seek a greater availability of flights and destinations often fly through Logan International Airport in Boston.
Some Rhode Islanders speak with the distinctive, non-rhotic, traditional Rhode Island accent that many compare to a cross between the New York City and Boston accents (e.g., "water" sounds like "watuh").
Rhode Islanders refer to a drinking fountain as a "bubbler" (sometimes pronounced "bubahluh") and sometimes call milkshakes "cabinets". A foot-long, overstuffed sandwich (of whatever kind) is called a "grinder."
Food and beverages
Several foods and dishes are unique to Rhode Island and some are hard to find outside of the state. Hot wieners are sometimes called gaggers, weinies, or New York System wieners, and they are smaller than a standard hot dog, served covered in a meat sauce, chopped onions, mustard, and celery salt. Famous to Rhode Island is Snail Salad, which is served at numerous restaurants throughout the state. The dish is normally prepared "family style" with over five pounds of snails mixed in with other ingredients commonly found in seafood dishes. Grinders are submarine sandwiches, with a popular version being the Italian grinder, which is made with cold cuts (usually ham, prosciutto, capicola, salami, and Provolone cheese). Linguiça or chouriço (a spicy Portuguese sausage) and peppers is also popular among the state's large Portuguese community, eaten with hearty bread (though this is also popular in other areas of New England).
Pizza strips are prepared in Italian bakeries and sold in most supermarkets and convenience stores. They are rectangular strips of pizza without cheese. Their rich flavor comes solely from a dense, zesty tomato paste baked on a half-inch (1.3 cm) thick pan pizza crust, and may be enjoyed warm or cold. Party pizza is a box of these pizza strips. Spinach pies are similar to a calzone but filled with seasoned spinach instead of meat, sauce, and cheese. Variations can include black olives or pepperoni with the spinach.
As in colonial times, johnnycakes are made with corn meal and water, then pan-fried much like pancakes. During fairs and carnivals, Rhode Islanders enjoy dough boys, plate-sized disks of fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar (or pizza sauce). Zeppoles are Italian doughnut-like pastries traditionally eaten on Saint Joseph's Day, often made with exposed centers of vanilla pudding, cream filling, or ricotta cream, and sometimes topped with a cherry.
As in many coastal states, seafood is readily available. Shellfish is extremely popular, with clams being used in multiple ways. The quahog is a large local clam usually used in a chowder. (The word quahog comes from the Narragansett Indian word "poquauhock"; see A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams 1643.) It is also ground and mixed with stuffing (and sometimes spicy minced sausage) and then baked in its shell to form a stuffie. Steamed clams are also a very popular dish. Calamari (squid) is sliced into rings and fried and is served as an appetizer in most Italian restaurants, typically Sicilian-style (i.e., tossed with sliced banana peppers and with marinara sauce on the side).
Rhode Island, like the rest of New England, has a tradition of clam chowder. Both the white New England variety and the red Manhattan variety are popular, but there is also a unique clear-broth chowder known as Rhode Island Clam Chowder available in many restaurants. According to Good Eats, the addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine, and milk was costlier than tomatoes. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version "Manhattan-style" clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was an insult.
A culinary tradition in Rhode Island is the clam cake (also known as a clam fritter outside of Rhode Island), a deep fried ball of buttery dough with chopped bits of clam inside. They are sold by the half-dozen or dozen in most seafood restaurants around the state. The quintessential summer meal in Rhode Island is chowder and clam cakes.
Clams Casino originated in Rhode Island after being invented by Julius Keller, the maitre d' in the original Casino next to the seaside Towers in Narragansett. Clams Casino resemble the beloved stuffed quahog but are generally made with the smaller littleneck or cherrystone clam and are unique in their use of bacon as a topping.
According to a Providence Journal article, the state features both the highest number and highest density of coffee/doughnut shops per capita in the country, with 342 coffee/doughnut shops in the state. At one point, Dunkin' Donuts alone had over 225 locations; as of December 2013, there are still more than 175 Dunkin' Donuts shops within the state.
The official state drink of Rhode Island is coffee milk, a beverage created by mixing milk with coffee syrup. This unique syrup was invented in the state and is sold in almost all Rhode Island supermarkets, as well as border states. Coffee milk contains some caffeine, yet it is sold in school cafeterias throughout the state. Strawberry milk is also as popular as chocolate milk.
The film adaptation of The Great Gatsby from 1974 was also filmed in Newport.
Cartoonist Don Bousquet, a state icon, has made a career out of Rhode Island culture, drawing Rhode Island-themed gags in The Providence Journal and Yankee magazine.
Body of Proof's first season was filmed entirely in Rhode Island. The show premiered on March 29, 2011.
Jersey Shore star Pauly D filmed part of his spin-off The Pauly D Project in his hometown of Johnston.
Famous firsts in Rhode Island
Rhode Island has been the first in a number of initiatives. The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations enacted the first law prohibiting slavery in North America on May 18, 1652.
Slater Mill in Pawtucket was the first commercially successful cotton-spinning mill with a fully mechanized power system in America and was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the US.
The oldest Fourth of July Parade in the country is still held annually in Bristol, Rhode Island.
The first Baptist Church in America was founded in Providence in 1638.
Ann Smith Franklin of the Newport Mercury was the first female newspaper editor in America (August 22, 1762).
Touro Synagogue was the first synagogue in America, founded in Newport in 1763.
The first act of armed rebellion in America against the British Crown was the boarding and burning of the Revenue Schooner Gaspee in Narragansett Bay on June 10, 1772.
Pelham Street in Newport was the first in America to be illuminated by gaslight in 1806.
The first strike in the United States in which women participated occurred in Pawtucket in 1824.
The motion picture machine (a machine showing animated pictures) was patented in Providence on April 23, 1867.
The first lunch wagon in America was introduced in Providence in 1872.
The first nine-hole golf course in America was completed in Newport in 1890.
The first state health laboratory was established in Providence on September 1, 1894.
The first automobile race on a track was held in Cranston on September 7, 1896.
The first automobile parade was held in Newport on September 7, 1899 on the grounds of Belcourt Castle.
The first NFL night game was held on November 6, 1929 at Providence's Kinsley Park. The Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals defeated the Providence Steam Roller 16–0.
The state capitol building is made of white Georgian marble. On top is the world's fourth largest self-supported marble dome. It houses the Rhode Island Charter granted by King Charles II in 1663, the Brown University charter, and other state treasures.
The First Baptist Church of Providence is the oldest Baptist church in the Americas, founded by Roger Williams in 1638.
The first fully automated post office in the country is located in Providence. There are many historic mansions in the seaside city of Newport, including The Breakers, Marble House, and Belcourt Castle. Also located there is the Touro Synagogue, dedicated on December 2, 1763, considered by locals to be the first synagogue within the United States (see below for information on New York City's claim), and still serving. The synagogue showcases the religious freedoms that were established by Roger Williams, as well as impressive architecture in a mix of the classic colonial and Sephardic style. The Newport Casino is a National Historic Landmark building complex that presently houses the International Tennis Hall of Fame and features an active grass-court tennis club.
Scenic Route 1A (known locally as Ocean Road) is in Narragansett. "The Towers" is also located in Narragansett featuring a large stone arch. It was once the entrance to a famous Narragansett casino that burned down in 1900. The Towers now serve as an event venue and host the local Chamber of Commerce, which operates a tourist information center. Rhode Island also has three of the nation's tallest bridges.
Images for kids
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