Rhode Island

The Ocean State

Where is it?

State Flag




New England
Geographic coordinates:
41°18'N to 42°1'N
71°8'W to 71°53'W
total: 1,545 sq mi
land: 1,045 sq mi
water: 500 sq mi
coastline: 40 mi
shoreline: 384 mi
Bordering States:
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York (water border)
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 0 ft
highest point: Jerimoth Hill 812 ft
Rhode Island covers an area of approximately 1,214 square miles (3,144 km²) 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 water border with New York. The mean elevation of the state is 200 feet (60 m). Located within the New England province of the Appalachian Region, 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. Narragansett Bay is a major feature of the state's topography. Block Island lies approximately 12 miles (19 km) off the southern coast of the mainland. Within the Bay, there are over 30 islands. The largest is Aquidneck Island, shared by the municipalities of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. Among the other islands in the Bay are Hope and Prudence.

Nicknamed the Ocean State, Rhode Island has the most oceanfront per capita as well as per land area of any United States state, and is home to a number of oceanfront beaches. Rhode Island is mostly flat with no real mountains. Rhode Island's highest natural point is Jerimoth Hill, only 812 feet (247 m) above sea level.




1,055,173 (2014)
Largest City:
Providence: 178,042 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 5.7%
<18 years old: 22.6%
65 years and over: 13.9%
Male: 48.2% Female: 51.8%
Population growth rate:
2.7% (2000-2005)
Population density:
1,003.2 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 80.5%
Hispanic: 10.3%
Black: 6.1%
Asian: 2.7%
Native American: 0.6%
Multi-Race: 1.5%
Christian: 81%
Jewish: 2%
Other: 1%
Non-Religious: 16%




In 1614, the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island that is now called Block Island. Native American inhabitants included the Narragansett tribe, occupying most of the area, and the closely related Niantic tribe. Most of the Native Americans were decimated by introduced diseases, intertribal warfare, and the disastrous King Philip's War, but remnants of the Niantic merged into the Narragansett tribe, where they remain on a federally recognized reservation. In 1636, Roger Williams, after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay. He called the site Providence and declared it a place of religious freedom. This is the article of agreement Roger Williams and others made, and every person who decided to live in Providence had to sign it: “We, whose names are hereunder written, being desirous to inhabit the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves, in active or passive obedience, to all such orders or agreements as shall be made for public good by the body in an orderly way by the major consent of the inhabitance, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others as they shall admit into the same only in civil things.” Rhode Island was a charter colony, Roger Williams received a charter to build the colony.

In 1637, Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts for criticizing the clergy there. She and some others, including William Coddington and John Clarke, founded the town of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island. In 1639, Coddington left Portsmouth and founded Newport on Aquidneck Island. In that same year a formal government was established for the island. William Coddington was the first governor and Philip Sherman was the first Secretary. In 1643, Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, which is now called Warwick. In 1644, the name of Aquidneck Island was changed to Rhode Island. John Clarke was granted a Charter in 1663 for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which effectively united the two colonies into one. Under the terms of the charter, only landowners could vote. Before the Industrial Revolution, when most people were employed as farmers, this was considered democratic. The original charter was used as the state constitution until 1842. In 1664, the seal of the colony was adopted. It pictured an anchor and the word HOPE.

Rhode Island's tradition of independence and dissent gave it a prominent role in the American Revolution. In 1772, the first bloodshed of the American Revolution took place in Rhode Island when a band of Providence residents attacked a grounded British ship for enforcing unpopular British trade regulations in the incident which would be come to known as the Gaspee Affair. Keeping with its culture of defiance, Rhode Island was the first of the original thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England (May 4, 1776) and the last to ratify the Constitution (which replaced the Articles of Confederation)(May 29, 1790)—doing the latter only after being threatened with having its exports taxed as a foreign nation. As the Industrial Revolution moved large numbers of workers into the cities, a permanently landless, and therefore voteless, class developed. By 1829, 60% of the state's free white males were ineligible to vote.

During the Civil War, Rhode Island was one of the Union states. Rhode Island furnished 25,236 fighting men, of which 1,685 died. On the home front, Rhode Island, along with the other northern states, used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials it needed to win the war. Rhode Island's continued growth and modernization led to the creation of an urban mass transit system, and improved health and sanitation programs. After the war, in 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation throughout the state. Post-war immigration increased the population. From the 1860s to the 1880s, most of the immigrants were from England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Quebec. Towards the end of the century however, most immigrants were from South and Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. At the turn of the century, Rhode Island had a booming economy, which fed the demand for immigration. In the years that lead up to World War I, Rhode Island's constitution remained reactionary, in contrast to the more progressive reforms that were occurring in the rest of the country.




May 29, 1790 (13th State)
State Tree:
Red Maple
State Bird:
Rhode Island Red
State Flower:
The capital of Rhode Island is Providence and its current governor is Donald Carcieri (R). Its United States Senators are Jack Reed (D) and Lincoln Chafee (R). In the 2006 election for U.S. Senate on November 7, 2006, Senator Chafee was defeated by Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse. Senator-elect Whitehouse will replace Senator Chafee as United States Senator from Rhode Island after the swearing in of the one hundred and tenth United States Congress on January 3, 2007. Rhode Island's two United States Congressmen are Patrick J. Kennedy (D-1) and Jim Langevin (D-2).

The state legislature is the Rhode Island General Assembly, consisting of the 75-member state House of Representatives and the 38-member Senate. Both houses of the bicameral body are currently dominated by the Democratic Party. Federally, Rhode Island is one of the most reliably Democratic states during presidential elections, regularly giving the Democratic nominees one of their best showings. In 1980, Rhode Island was one of only 6 states to vote against Ronald Reagan. In the 1984 Reagan landslide, Rhode Island provided Walter Mondale with his 3rd best performance. Rhode Island was the Democrats' best state in 1988 and 2000 and 2nd best in 1996 and 2004. The state was devoted to Republicans until 1908, but has only strayed from the Democrats 7 times in the 24 elections that followed. In 2004, Rhode Island gave John Kerry a greater than 20 percentage point margin of victory (the third highest of any state) with 59.4% of its vote. All but two of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns voted for the Democratic candidate. The only exceptions were East and West Greenwich.




Rhode Island is known as the "birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution". It was in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that Samuel Slater set up his first mill in 1790, using the waterpower of the Blackstone River to power his mill. For a while, Rhode Island was one of the leaders in textiles. However, with the Great Depression, most textile factories relocated to the American South. Textiles still constitute a part of the Rhode Island economy, but does not have the same power that it once had. An interesting by-product of the textile industry is the amount of abandoned factories - many of them now are used for low-income or elderly housing or have been converted into offices. In Pawtucket, these abandoned mills are used as housing for artists.

The Fortune 500 companies CVS and Textron are based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and Providence, Rhode Island respectively. FM Global, Hasbro, American Power Conversion, Nortek, and Amica Mutual Insurance are all Fortune 1000 companies based in Rhode Island. The GTECH Corporation is headquartered in Providence. Rhode Island's 2000 total gross state product was $33 billion, placing it 45th in the nation. Its 2000 per capita Personal Income was $29,685, 16th in the nation.

Health services are Rhode Islands largest industry. Second is tourism, supporting 39,000 jobs, with tourism related sales at $3.26 billion in the year 2000. The third largest industry is manufacturing. Its industrial outputs are fashion jewelry, fabricated metal products, electric equipment, machinery, shipbuilding and boatbuilding. Rhode Island's agricultural outputs are nursery stock, vegetables, dairy products, and eggs.