Per square mile, Rhode Island has more shipwrecks than any other state, and other fascinating tidbits!

  • Contrary to popular belief, Rhode Island is not located in New York. Or is it? Turns out there is actually a place in New York called Rhode Island. There's also one in Texas.

  • Rhode Island, officially known as the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, has the longest name of any of the states. Efforts have occasionally been put forth to remove the "Plantations" part because of perceived associations with slavery, but so far without success. A 2009 public referendum failed 78% to 22%.

  • Rhode Island is one of only two states that begin with a double consonant. The other is Florida. (While it's true that the letter Y can be used as either a vowel or a consonant, in Wyoming it's a vowel).

  • Rhode Island's State Motto, "Hope," is the shortest of all of the states.

  • As most of us know, Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union. 547.09 Rhode Islands could fit inside the biggest state, Alaska.

  • If the United States were divided into states the size of Rhode Island, we'd have 3,131.5 states.

  • While Rhode Island is only thirty-seven miles wide and forty-eight miles tall, its many bays, coves, and offshore islands give it a tidal shoreline that measures 384 miles in length. Forty miles of that is coastal, placing Rhode Island in twentieth place among the states.

  • Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state with an average of 1,021 persons per square mile (based on 2010 census figures). New Jersey ranks first with 1,210 persons per square mile.

  • About seventy-seven percent of Rhode Island's inhabitants live within a fifteen-mile radius of Providence, the capital city.

  • At only 4.56 acres, Roger Williams National Memorial is one of the country's smallest National Parks. Many people believe it's the smallest park, but it's not. That honor belongs to Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at only 2/100ths of an acre, or eighty square meters.

  • Providence's Benefit Street, known as the "Mile of History," is believed to contain the largest single collection of historic buildings at their original location in the nation.

  • Rhode Island contains forty-five (1.77%) of the 2,540 properties designated as National Historic Landmarks, placing it second only to the District of Columbia in landmarks per square mile (based on October 2016 figures).

  • Per square mile, Rhode Island has more shipwrecks than any other state. The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association's shipwreck database includes 3,018 known maritime "incidents" as of 2016.

  • The Rhode Island Individual Income Tax Return form (RI-1040) was one of the first (if not the first), state tax return to include emoji. Since at least 1989, frowny and smiley faces have appeared on the "Total Amount Due" and "Amount Overpaid" lines, respectively.

  • Rhode Island is one of five states—also including Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Vermont—that does not have an official residence for its governor.

  • America's first Baptist Church was established in Providence by Roger Williams in 1638.

  • The Rhode Island Greening Apple, our official state fruit, was developed around 1650 by a Mr. Green near Green's End in Newport. An alternate origin from local folklore has it descended from the Tree of Knowledge, gifted by a Persian king to the Rhode Islander who saved his son.

  • The White Horse Tavern (1687) in Newport is one of the oldest tavern buildings in America.

  • The first truly American breed of horse, the Narragansett Pacer, was developed in Rhode Island in the late 1600s. It's said that Paul Revere rode a Narragansett Pacer during his midnight ride.

  • Elisabeth Alden (1623-1717), the first white child born in New England, is buried in Little Compton.

  • The Redwood Library and Athenaeum, established in Newport in 1747, is the oldest lending library in the United States. It was also the first work by Peter Harrison, America's first architect, and the first neo-classical building in America.

  • Newport's Touro Synagogue, dedicated in 1762, is the oldest synagogue in the United States. The synagogue houses a copy of the Torah that is 500 years old—the oldest in North America.

  • The first man killed by British troops prior to the Revolution was a Rhode Islander, Henry Sparker. He was shot during the Newport Massacre on May 3, 1768.

  • Before the Boston Tea Party (1773) and prior to "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" at Lexington (1775), Rhode Island patriots expressed their displeasure with British rule by burning the grounded British revenue schooner Gaspee at Namquit (now Gaspee) Point in 1772.

  • In 1774 Rhode Island became the first colony to ban the importation of slaves, but Rhode Island merchants continued to sponsor slaving voyages into the beginning of the 19th century anyway.

  • On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island renounced allegience to King George III of England, the first colony to make such a bold statement of independence.

  • The First Rhode Island Regiment—the first American black army unit—was formed in Rhode Island in the Spring of 1778. They made a gallant stand against British forces in the Battle of Rhode Island on August 29, 1778.

  • Since 1785 Bristol has been home to the country's longest running, unbroken series of Fourth of July celebrations.

  • On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the last of the 13 original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island's reluctance was due in part to the debate over the addition of a bill of rights to guarantee individual liberties; but once such a bill was proposed by Congress, Rhode Island finally ratified the Constitution by a narrow margin (34 to 32). The fact that the new "more perfect union" would have treated Rhode Island as a foreign government if it had failed to ratify may also have had something to do with their change of heart.

  • In Providence, in May 1792, Elijah Ormsbee piloted one of the first steam-powered boats, financed by David Wilkinson and dubbed the "Experiment," on a three-mile-an-hour trip between Pawtucket and Providence. Instead of paddle wheels it had hinged duck-like paddles that folded up on the forward stroke. Elements of the engine's design may later have been "appropriated" by Robert Fulton in the building of his own steamboat.

  • In 1793, Samuel Slater's mill in Pawtucket became the country's first successful water-powered cotton mill, kicking off the Industrial Revolution in America.

  • The costume jewelry industry was begun in Providence in 1794 when two brothers, Nehemiah and Seril Dodge, developed a method of plating base metal with gold. Rhode Island is now the Costume Jewelry Capital of the world with over 35,000 employed in jewelry manufacturing, distribution, and related services.

  • In 1806, Pelham Street in Newport became the first gas-illuminated street in the country. (Boston had the first oil-illuminated street lamps, in 1719.)

  • West Warwick's Lippitt Mill, established in 1810, is the oldest profitably operating wooden textile mill in the country.

  • By the 1840s, Central Falls boasted the highest population density of any U.S. city. This was due in large part to a steady influx of workers, who were needed to run the many mills in the city. At its most populous, Central Falls packed almost 24,000 people into its diminutive 1.2 square-mile area.

  • In 1854, Rhode Islander Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry led a historic voyage that opened Japan to world trade.

  • Prior to 1854, Rhode Island had five capitals, one in each county, and the government rotated between them. In 1854 the number was cut down to two (Providence and Newport) and then Providence became the sole seat of government in 1901.

  • In 1856, the B.B. & R. Knight Corporation, operating out of Pontiac Mills in Warwick, began producing bolts of cloth under the "Fruit of the Loom" label.

  • A fellow by the name of Walter Scott is credited with originating the concept of the diner in 1872 with his Providence lunch cart, from which he sold sandwiches, pies, and coffee outside the Providence Journal offices.

  • The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol built the nation's first primitive torpedo boat, Lightning, in 1876. The crew actually had to hold the charge on the end of a long pole and poke it at the target. It wasn't until 1887 that Herreshoff modified a boat to launch a self-propelled torpedo. Her name was Stiletto.

  • James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, introduced polo to the United States at Newport in 1876. Ten years later he challenged some English friends from the Hurlingham Polo Club to compete in the first international polo matches. The Americans were beaten in all three matches.

  • Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, established around 1880, is the oldest and most northern topiary garden in the United States.

  • The first U.S. National Men's Tennis Championship took place at Newport Casino in 1881.

  • Between 1893 and 1934, the America's Cup sailing competition was dominated by eight yachts built at Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol.

  • The nine-hole course at Newport's Golf and Country Club was the venue for the first U.S. Open Championship, conducted on October 4, 1895, by the United States Golf Association.

  • In 1900 Providence boasted the largest tool factory (Brown & Sharpe), file factory (Nicholson File), engine factory (Corliss Steam Engine Company), screw factory (American Screw), and silverware factory (Gorham) in the world.

  • In Newport on August 28, 1904, Judge Darius Baker imposed the first jail sentence for speeding in an automobile. The offender was caught traveling at the breakneck speed of 15 miles per hour.

  • Rhode Island was the only state that rejected and did not ratify the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages. Rhode Island rumrunners subsequently made a tidy profit ferrying liquor ashore from beyond the three-mile limit.

  • Providence's population reached an all-time peak of 267,918 in 1925. Between 1950 and 1970, Providence had the largest proportionate urban to suburban migration of any major city in the nation. Population dwindled from 248,674 to 179,116 for a total loss of 28%. According to 2000 census figures, the city's population still stands at only 173,618.

  • An ethnic survey performed in the 1930s found that Woonsocket contained the third-largest French-speaking population among cities in North America. The top two cities were Quebec and Montreal.

  • Rhode Island State Airport (later Theodore Francis Green Airport) in Warwick, dedicated on September 26, 1931, was the country's first state-owned airport.

  • At 1147 feet, the Crawford Street Bridge over the Providence River in Providence was qualified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the widest bridge in the world. Having grown from several normal-sized bridges between 1843 and 1940, the decking was dismantled in the early 1990s as part of a downtown revitalization plan.

  • Chopmist Hill in Scituate was on the short list of sites for the United Nations in 1945.

  • Ann & Hope, founded in Cumberland in 1953, was the first self-service, discount department store in the country. Among its innovative features were a central checkout area, shopping carts, and free parking.

  • On September 12, 1953, John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier in Saint Mary's Church in Newport.

  • The first jazz festival in the United States was held in Newport in 1954.

  • Between 1954 and 1984, Providence, as the headquarters of Raymond L.S. Patriarca, was the Mafia capital of New England.

  • In 1964, Moses Brown Schoolís field house was the site of the first real-world test of Chemgrass, later known as AstroTurf.

  • The longest baseball game ever played took place on April 19 and 20 and June 23, 1981, at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. The International League game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings began at 8:00pm and dragged on until 4:09 in the morning, when the game was suspended after 32 innings with a 2-2 score. When the game was resumed on June 23, it took Pawtucket only one inning to score, ending the game after 33 innings and eight-and-a-half hours of play.

  • Pumpkins grown in Rhode Island set world records for size two years in a row, in 2006 (1,502 pounds) and 2007 (1,689 pounds).

This article last edited April 4, 2017

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