15 Interesting Facts About Rhode Island

Did you know that Rhode Island has nearly 400 miles of shoreline and over 100 beaches?

Rhode Island, also known as “Little Rhody,” the “Plantation State,” the “Smallest State,” the “Land of Roger Williams,” and the “Southern Gateway of New England,” is officially nicknamed the “Ocean State.” It became the 13th state to join the United States of America on May 29, 1790, and has a population of 1,059,361 people (as of 2019), making it the 44th most populous state. Rhode Island is bordered by the states of New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut and is the smallest of all US states, consisting of 1,214 square miles (3,144 square kilometers) of land and water. The capital of Rhode Island is Providence, located northeast of the state on the US mainland.

Now, let’s dive into some deeper facts about the Ocean State!

People have lived in Rhode Island for at least 11,000 years!

The most commonly held theory on the first people who lived in the Americas claims that Paleo-Indians settled there between 13-15,000 years ago. These Paleo-Indians crossed from modern-day Russia into Alaska via the Bering Strait, a land bridge at the time. As per this theory, North America was slowly populated as these early explorers branched out while searching for better hunting grounds. Archaeological evidence shows that human presence in Rhode Island’s modern state goes back to around 12,000 years ago, and by around 4000 BC, the area’s population had grown considerably across the modern state.

The first European to visit Rhode Island was from Florence.

In 1524, Giovanni de Verrazzano, a famed Florentine explorer, was sailing along the east coast of North America in search of an easy water passage through to the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the continent. During his journey, he passed by modern-day Rhode Island and wrote detailed reports on the people who lived there and the landscape. He also wrote of an island in the Mediterranean Sea similar to Rhode Island. Interestingly, Verrazzano is referred to as a Florentine, not an Italian, as Florence wasn’t a part of Italy until much later!

There were at least five different tribes living in parts of Rhode Island when Europeans first arrived.

The five tribes that lived within the boundaries of modern-day Rhode Island when Europeans first came into the region include the Wampanoags, Narragansetts, Niantics, Nipmucs, and Pequots. All five tribes spoke different variants of the Algonquian language. The Narragansetts ruled over most of the present state of Rhode Island, while others, such as the Pequots, lived partly within the confines of the area and other neighboring modern states.

The first European colony in Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious liberty.

The first European settlement within modern-day Rhode Island was Providence Plantations, established by Roger Williams in 1636. Williams was a Puritan minister and author who believed in freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.

Due to his controversial beliefs, Roger Williams was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and fled to what is now Rhode Island.

There, he purchased land from the Narragansett people and established the first European settlement which eventually became the capital city of Providence.

Rhode Island was the first of the colonies to declare independence from Great Britain.

On May 4th, 1776, the Rhode Island Colony declared their independence due to unfair and opportunistic taxation, particularly the sugar taxes.

While Rhode Island had more to lose from the new taxes, they were still cautious and took a considerable amount of time before ratifying the US Constitution in 1790, making them the last of the 13 colonies to do so.

Rhode Island is not an actual island.

The state’s official name is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which was shortened to Rhode Island after the American Revolution. The island itself is officially called Rhode Island but is commonly known as Aquidneck Island.

Rhode Island was the first of the Thirteen Colonies to ban slavery.

Although Rhode Island attempted to ban slavery in 1652, enforcement was delayed until much later due to the significant commercial interest it had for traders based in the state. These traders would trade rum for enslaved people and then trade them for molasses, which they used to make more rum. It wasn’t until the 1840s that slavery within the state, including its involvement in the slave trade, was finally abolished.

H. P. Lovecraft, one of the world’s greatest horror and mystery writers, was from Rhode Island.

Born in Providence in 1890, Lovecraft did not gain recognition for his works during his lifetime. However, today he is widely known and celebrated for his fantastic otherworldly short stories, which were originally published in cheap fiction magazines.

Lovecraft passed away at the age of 46 due to cancer and was extremely poor because his works were not well-received during his lifetime. Similar to many great artists, Lovecraft was only appreciated after his death. As a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft would be overjoyed to know that his works are now praised just like Poe’s works.

Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state in the United States, which may seem surprising at first, but it makes sense when you consider the numbers. The state is only 37 miles (60 km) wide and 48 miles (77 km) long, yet it has a population of over 1 million people. This gives the state a population density of over 1,000 people per square mile (388 people per square kilometer), which is only surpassed by New Jersey.

The popular animated TV show, Family Guy, is set in Rhode Island and was created by Seth MacFarlane while he was studying at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. Many famous landmarks and icons from Rhode Island were used to give the show an authentic feel, and while it’s set in the fictional city of Quahog, it’s actually modeled after Cranston, Rhode Island.

Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War veteran from Rhode Island, is remembered for popularizing the style of sideburns. Burnside was a rather underwhelming man who suffered several major Union defeats due to his incompetence, but he was still elected as the governor of Rhode Island in 1866 and became a senator for the state three years later. Burnside’s facial hair, which involved keeping his chin clean-shaven while letting his beard hair connect to his mustache, soon became known as the “Burnside” and led to the popularization of the sideburn style.

Rhode Island is also home to the oldest topiary garden in the United States, the Green Animals Topiary Garden, which covers a 7-acre (28,000 square meters) estate in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The garden dates back to 1872 when the estate was purchased for use as a summer retreat, and the first topiaries were grown in 1912. The garden now features 80 different trees that have been sculpted into various forms, including a unicorn, a giraffe, teddy bears, and an elephant.

Despite its small size, Rhode Island boasts nearly 400 miles of shoreline.

Rhode Island may be a small state but it has an impressive amount of shoreline due to the shores of all the islands in Narragansett Bay and the coast of the bay itself. This state also boasts over 100 beaches. Rhode Island has a strong religious presence with 75% of the population identifying as Christian, with 42% being Catholic, 14% Evangelical Protestants, and 14% mainline Protestants. Interestingly, only 20% of the population identifies as non-religious. Rhode Island is known for some of its wacky laws, such as the illegality of biting off another person’s leg or throwing pickle juice onto a tram. Despite its small size, Rhode Island is densely populated and has plenty of things to do, including visiting its many beaches and exploring the sights made famous by the TV show, Family Guy.

FAQ

1. What is the history of Rhode Island?

Rhode Island was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, who was expelled from Massachusetts for his religious beliefs. It was one of the original 13 colonies and played an important role in the American Revolution. Rhode Island was the first state to declare independence from Britain on May 4, 1776.

2. Why is Rhode Island called the “Ocean State”?

Rhode Island is called the “Ocean State” because it has over 400 miles of coastline and a vast number of bays, inlets, and harbors. It is one of the smallest states in the US, but it has an abundance of water resources.

3. What is the significance of Newport, Rhode Island?

Newport is a historic coastal city in Rhode Island that was founded in 1639. It is known for its stunning mansions and Gilded Age architecture. The city was a popular summer destination for wealthy families during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it played a significant role in the American Revolution.

4. What is the state bird of Rhode Island?

The state bird of Rhode Island is the Rhode Island Red Chicken. It was first introduced to the state in the late 1800s and quickly became a popular breed of chicken for its hardiness and ability to lay eggs year-round.

5. What is the state flower of Rhode Island?

The state flower of Rhode Island is the violet. It was adopted as the state flower in 1897 because it is a native wildflower that grows abundantly throughout the state.

6. What is the state tree of Rhode Island?

The state tree of Rhode Island is the red maple. It was adopted as the state tree in 1964 because it is a common tree that grows throughout the state and has beautiful fall foliage.

7. What is the economy of Rhode Island like?

Rhode Island has a diverse economy that includes manufacturing, healthcare, education, and tourism. The state is home to several major universities and a growing biotech industry. The tourism industry is also a significant contributor to the state’s economy, with Newport and other coastal towns attracting millions of visitors each year.

8. What is the culture of Rhode Island like?

Rhode Island has a rich cultural heritage that includes Native American, colonial, and immigrant influences. The state is known for its seafood, particularly clam chowder and stuffed quahogs. It is also famous for its coffee milk, a sweetened milk drink that is unique to Rhode Island. The state has a thriving arts scene, with many galleries, museums, and theaters throughout the state.

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