Rhode Island, officially the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is a state in the New England region of the United States. Rhode Island is the smallest in area, the eighth least populous, but the second most densely populatedof the 50 US states (behind New Jersey). Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut to the west and Massachusetts to the north and east, and it shares a water boundary with New York's Long Island to the southwest. It also has the longest official name of all the states.
Rhode Island was the first of the original Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from British rule, declaring itself independent on May 4, 1776, two months before any other colony. The state was also the last of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the United States Constitution.
Rhode Island's official nickname is "The Ocean State", a reference to the state's geography, since Rhode Island has several large bays and inlets that amount to about 14% of its total area. Its land area is 1,045 square miles (2,710 km2), but its total area is significantly larger.
Despite its name, most of Rhode Island is located on the mainland of the United States. The official name of the state, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, derives from the merger of two settlements. Rhode Island colony was founded near present-day Newport, on what is now commonly called Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay. Providence Plantations was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the city of Providence.
It is unclear how Aquidneck Island came to be known as Rhode Island, although there are two popular theories.
Giovanni da Verrazzano named a place on Rhode Island Puntum Iovianum in honor of his friend Paolo Giovio (Jovium in Latin) (1483 - 1542) humanist and historian. Giovio owned the Codex Cellere of Giovanni da Verrazzano containing the text of his first trip.
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 found used in a legal document as late as 1646. Dutch maps as late as 1659 call the island "Red Island" (Roodt Eylant).
Williams was a theologian forced out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Seeking religious and political tolerance, he and others founded "Providence Plantations" as a free proprietary colony. "Providence" referred to the divine providence and "plantations" referred to an English term for a colony.
"State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" is the longest official name of any state in the Union. On June 25, 2009, the General Assemblyvoted to allow the people to decide whether to keep the name or drop "and Providence Plantations" due to the misperception that the name related to slavery. The referendum election was held on this subject during the November 2, 2010 elections, and the people overwhelmingly (78% to 22%) voted to keep the original name.
Rhode Island covers an area of 1,214 square miles (3,140 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 narrow maritime border with New York State between Block Island and Long Island. The mean elevation of the state is 200 feet (61 m). Although it is only 37 miles (60 km) wide and 48 miles (77 km) long, the state has a tidal shoreline on Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean of 384 miles (618 km).
Nicknamed the Ocean State, Rhode Island 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.
Located within the New England 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. Rhode Island's forests are part of the Northeastern coastal forests ecoregion.
Narragansett Bay is a major feature of the state's topography. Within the Bay, there are over 30 islands. 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.
A Pew survey of Rhode Island residents' religious self-identification showed the following distribution of affiliations: Protestant 27%, Mormonism 0.5%, Jewish 1%, Roman Catholic 43%, Orthodox 1%, Non-religious 23%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1%, Hinduism 0.5%, Buddhism 1% and Islam 0.5%. The largest denominations are the Roman Catholic Church with 456,598 adherents, the Episcopal Church (United States) with 19,377, and the American Baptist Churches USA with 15,220 adherents.
Rhode Island has one of the highest percentage of Roman Catholics in the nation mainly due to large Irish, Italian, and French Canadian immigration in the past; recently, significant Portuguese and various Hispanic communities have also been established in the state. Though it has one of the highest overall Catholic percentages of any state, none of Rhode Island's individual counties ranks among the 10 most Catholic in the United States, as Catholics are very evenly spread throughout the state.
The Jewish community of Rhode Island is centered in the Providence area, and emerged during a wave of Jewish immigration, (predominately from theShtetl between 1880 and 1920. The presence of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, the oldest existing synagogue in the United States, emphasizes that these second-wave immigrants did not create Rhode Island's first Jewish community; a comparatively smaller wave of Portuguese Jews immigrated to Newport during the colonial era.
Rhode Island is divided into five counties, but along with Connecticut and to a partial extent the rest of New England, it has no county governments. 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—with the advent of the water-powered mill development took place predominantly along the Blackstone, Seekonk, and Providence Rivers. Providence is the base of a large metropolitan area.
Further information: Rhode Island schools
Rhode Island has several colleges and universities:
The Farrelly brothers and Seth MacFarlane depict Rhode Island in popular culture, often making comedic parodies of the state. MacFarlane's television series Family Guy is based in a fictional Rhode Island city named Quahog, and notable local events and celebrities are regularly lampooned. Peter is seen working at the Pawtucket brewery, and other state locations are mentioned.
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. These cartoons have been reprinted in the Quahog series of paperbacks (I Brake for Quahogs, Beware of the Quahog and The Quahog Walks Among Us.) Bousquet has also collaborated with humorist and Providence Journal columnist Mark Patinkin on two books: The Rhode Island Dictionary andThe Rhode Island Handbook.
Jersey Shore star Pauly D filmed part of his spin-off, The Pauly D Project in his hometown of Johnston.
Rhode Island has been the first in a number of initiatives. As a colony, the state 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). She was the editor of "The Newport Mercury" in Newport, Rhode Island. Touro Synagogue, the first synagogue in America, was founded in Newport in 1763.
The first armed act of rebellion in America against the British Crown was the boarding and burning of the Revenue Schooner Gaspee in Narragansett Bay on June 10, 1772. The idea of aContinental Congress was first proposed at a town meeting in Providence on May 17, 1774. Rhode Island elected the first delegates (Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward) to the Continental Congress on June 15, 1774. The Rhode Island General Assembly created the first standing army in the colonies (1,500 men) on April 22, 1775. On June 15, 1775, the firstnaval engagement of the American Revolution occurred between a Colonial Sloop commanded by Capt. Abraham Whipple and an armed tender of the British Frigate Rose. The tender was chased aground and captured. Later in June, the General Assembly created the first American Navy when it commissioned the Sloops Katy and Washington, armed with 24 guns and commanded by Abraham Whipple, who was promoted to Commodore. Rhode Island was the first Colony to declare independence from Britain on May 4, 1776.
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. Watch Hill has the nation's oldest carousel that has been in continuous operation since 1850. The motion picture machine (a machine showing animated pictures) waspatented 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 Rhode Island State House was the first building with an all-marbledome to be built in the United States (1895–1901) 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. In 1980, Rhode Island became the first state to decriminalize prostitution indoors, but indoor prostitution was outlawed again in 2009; see Prostitution in Rhode Island.
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 in America 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", a large stone arch, is located in Narragansett. 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 nations tallest bridges.