Stately Knowledge: Facts about the United States

Rhode Island

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Located in the New England region of northeastern USA, Rhode Island is bordered by Massachusetts on the east and north, by Connecticut on the west, and by Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound of the Atlantic Ocean on the south.

Despite being one of the smallest states in the US, Rhode Island is densely populated and has the distinction of being the “Ocean State,” with over 400 miles of beautiful coastline, featuring countless coves, bays and islands. It is also a densely populated and highly industrialized state for its size. 

Rhode Island State History

Native American tribes have inhabited the region since about 9500 BC. The Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano, acting on behalf of the French, was the first European to discover Rhode Island in 1524. The famous British explorer, Henry Hudson, bankrolled by the Dutch East India Company, followed him a few years later.

When the first Europeans arrived in the early 16th century, they encountered the Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Niantic tribes. Some tribes were killed by diseases, likely contracted through contact with European settlers and explorers; others were wiped out through warfare with other tribes.

The colony of Rhode Island was established by Roger Williams in 1636 to exemplify the noble principles of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Williams bought land from the Narragansett tribe after he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views. The state, however, did not derive its name from its founder. Instead, it was named by Adrian Block, a Dutch explorer who called it “Roodt Eylandt (red island) for the distinctive red clay found on its shores. The name was later anglicized under British rule. Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 colonies to attain statehood on May 29, 1790.

The colonial period witnessed the rise of Newport as a major commercial hub in the region; Newport’s textile mills were largely responsible for pushing Rhode Island to the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.  

Just the Facts

Abbreviation RI
Source: United States Postal Service – Abbreviations
Capital Providence
Population 1,059,361
Source: United States Census Bureau (July, 2019)
Governor Daniel McKee (Democratic, in office since March 2, 2021)
Entered the Union May 29, 1790
as the 13th state
Motto Hope
Nickname The Ocean State
Flower Violet (unofficial)
Bird Rhode Island Red
Song Rhode Island It’s For Me
Professional Sports Teams No NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, or NHL teams.
(sports listing policy)
Origin of Name From the Greek Island of Rhodes
Historical Sites The Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence
Points of Interest Samuel Slater’s Mill in Pawtucket and the General Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry and Block Island
Bordering States Rhode Island borders Massachusetts, the Atlantic Ocean, Connecticut, and New York (water border).
Flag Rhode Island's flag

Encyclopedias and Almanacs

Follow these links to read articles about Rhode Island from Encyclopedias and Almanacs:

State Links

Official Links

Other Links

  • 50states.com: Rhode Island
    http://www.50states.com/rdisland.htm
    The site provides a wealth of information about Rhode Island. It includes everything from the highest point to county profile to climate.
  • Roadside America: Rhode Island Attractions
    https://www.roadsideamerica.com/location/ri
    Roadside America describes itself as an online guide to offbeat attractions. This site offers reviews of “weird sites along the highway” in Rhode Island.
  • What Did You Do in the War, Grandma
    http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/WWII_Women/tocCS.html
    This site preserves an oral history of Rhode Island women during World War II, conducted and recorded in the Spring of 1989 by students of the South Kingstown (RI) High School Honors English Program.

Did You Know

  • RI is a primary center for jewelry manufacturing in the United States.
  • Despite its dense population, 60 percent of the state is forestland.
  • The largest manufacturer of silverware in the world is in Providence. The plant from the early 1800’s.
  • In 1524 the Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazano, while sailing for France, was the first European to explore Rhode Island. By comparing Block Island with the Mediterranean island Rhodes, he accidentally gave it its name.

Some Famous People from Rhode Island

  • Harry Anderson (1951- ), actor and magician. He starred in the sit-com Night Court.
  • H.P. (Howard Phillips) Lovecraft (1890-1937), author. He wrote the book Necronomicon and was interested in science fiction and supernatural stories.
  • Bobby (Robert Leo) Hackett (1915-1976), jazz trumpeter.
  • Roger Williams (1603-1683). He was a Puritan leader and the founder of Rhode Island.
  • Meredith Viera (1953- ), journalist and talk show host. She was the original moderator of The View, and one of the earliest hosts of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
  • Will Blackmon (1984- ), NFL player.
  • George M. Cohan (1878-1942), entertainer, playwright and musician.
  • James Woods (1947- ), actor and producer.
  • Wendy Carlos (1939- ), musician and composer.
  • Cormac McCarthy (1933- ), novelist and playwright.
  • Jhumpa Lahiri (1967- ), writer
  • Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881), US Army officer during the Civil War and former governor of Rhode Island.

Related Resources

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