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Rhode Island

Rhode Island

State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Named for Rhode Island in Narragansett Bay, which was likened to the isle of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea.

NICKNAME: The Ocean State; Little Rhody.

CAPITAL: Providence.

ENTERED UNION: 29 May 1790 (13th).

SONG: "Rhode Island."

MOTTO: Hope.

COAT OF ARMS: A golden anchor on a blue field.

FLAG: In the center of a white field is a golden anchor with a blue ribbon containing the state motto in gold letters beneath it, all surrounded by a circle of 13 gold stars.

OFFICIAL SEAL: The anchor of the arms is surrounded by four scrolls, the topmost bearing the state motto: the words "Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1636" encircle the whole.

BIRD: Rhode Island Red.

FLOWER: Violet.

TREE: Red maple.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Victory Day, 2nd Monday in August; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October; Veterans' Day and Armistice Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 7 AM EST = noon GMT.


One of the six New England states in the northeastern United States, Rhode Island is the smallest of all the 50 states. Rhode Island occupies only 0.03% of the total US area, and could fit inside Alaska, the largest state, nearly 486 times.

The total area of Rhode Island is 1,212 sq mi (3,139 sq km), of which land comprises 1,055 sq mi (2,732 sq km), and inland water 157 sq mi (407 sq km). The state extends 37 mi (60 km) e-w and 48 mi (77 km) n-s.

Rhode Island is bordered on the n and e by Massachusetts; on the s by the Atlantic Ocean (enclosing the ocean inlet, Narragansett Bay); and on the w by Connecticut (with part of the line formed by the Pawcatuck River). Three large islandsPrudence, Aquidneck (officially known as Rhode Island), and Conanicutare situated within Narragansett Bay. Block Island, with an area of about 11 sq mi (28 sq km), lies some 9 mi (14 km) sw of Pt. Judith, on the mainland. There are 38 islands in all.

The total boundary length of Rhode Island is 160 mi (257 km). The state's geographic center is in Kent County, 1 mi (1.6 km) ssw of Cranston.


Rhode Island comprises two main regions. The New England Upland Region, which is rough and hilly and marked by forests and lakes, occupies the western two-thirds of the state, while the Seaboard Lowland, with its sandy beaches and salt marshes, occupies the eastern third. The highest point in the state is Jerimoth Hill, at 812 ft (248 m), in the northwest. The lowest elevation is sea level at the Atlantic Ocean. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 200 ft (61 m).

Rhode Island's principal river, the Blackstone, flows from Woonsocket past Pawtucket and thence into the Providence River, which, like the Sakonnet, is an estuary of Narragansett Bay; the Pawcatuck River flows into Block Island Sound. There are about 65,000 acres (26,304 hectares) of wetlands in the state. The state has 38 islands, the largest being Aquidneck (Rhode Island), with an area of about 45 sq mi (117 sq km).


Rhode Island has a humid climate, with cold winters and short summers. The average annual temperature is 50°f (10°c). At Providence the temperature ranges from an average of 29°f (1°c) in January to 73°f (22°c) in July. The record high temperature, 104°f (40°c), was registered in Providence on 2 August 1975; the record low, 23°f (31°c), at Kingston on 11 January 1942. In Providence, the average annual precipitation is about 45.1 in (114 cm); snowfall averages 35.6 in (90 cm) a year. Rhode Island's weather is highly changeable, with storms and hurricanes an occasional threat. On 21 September 1938, a hurricane and tidal wave took a toll of 262 lives; Hurricane Carol, on 31 August 1954, left 19 dead, and property damage was estimated at $90 million. A blizzard on 6-7 February 1978 dropped a record 28.6 in (73 cm) of snow on the state, as measured at Warwick, and caused 21 storm-attributed deaths.


Though small, Rhode Island has three distinct life zones: sand-plain lowlands, rising hills, and highlands. Common trees are the tuliptree, pin and post oaks, and red cedar. Cattails are abundant in marsh areas, and 40 types of fern and 30 species of orchid are indigenous to the state. In April 2006, the small whorled pogonia was listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened and the sandplain gerardia endangered.

Urbanization and industrialization have taken their toll of native mammals. Swordfish, bluefish, lobsters, and clams populate coastal waters; brook trout and pickerel are among the common freshwater fish. Fourteen Rhode Island animal species (vertebrates and invertebrates) were listed as threatened or endangered in April 2006, including the American burying beetle, bald eagle, finback and humpback whale, and four species of sea turtle.


The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) coordinates all of the state's environmental protection and management programs. The Air, Solid Waste, and Hazardous Materials Section enforces controls on solid waste disposal, hazardous waste management facilities, industrial air pollution, and site remediation; the Water Quality Management Section regulates waste-treatment facilities, the discharge of industrial and oil wastes into state waters and public sewer facilities, groundwater protection, freshwater wetlands, dam maintenance, and home sewage disposal systems; the Natural Resources Management Section oversees fish, wildlife and estuarine resources, forest management, parks and recreation, and the enforcement of conservation laws; Planning and Administrative Services assists industry in pollution prevention, administers recycling programs, administers land preservation programs, and coordinates land acquisitions. The department also oversees water supply management. In 2003, the DEM, working the Department of Health, operated a Mosquito Abatement Coordination Office to help citizens minimize the risk of contracting West Nile virus from the mosquito population.

In 2003, 0.9 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released in the state, the second lowest amount of all the states in the nation. Also in 2003, Rhode Island had 187 hazardous waste sites listed in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, 12 of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including the Newport Naval Education & Training Center. In 1996, 10% of the state's area was wetland. In 2005, the EPA spent over $2.4 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. The same year, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $8.3 million for the drinking water state revolving fund and $7.2 million for the clean water revolving fund.


Rhode Island ranked 43rd in population in the United States with an estimated total of 1,076,189 in 2005, an increase of 2.7% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Rhode Island's population grew from 1,003,464 to 1,048,319, an increase of 4.5%. The population is projected to reach 1.13 million by 2015 and over 1.15 million by 2025. The population density in 2004 was 1,041.3 persons per sq mi (402 persons per sq km), making Rhode Island the nation's second most densely populated state, after New Jersey. In 2004 the median age was 38.1. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 22.6% of the population while 13.9% was age 65 or older.

Providence, the capital, is the leading city, with an estimated population in 2004 of 178,126 (compared to the 1940 peak of 253,504). Other cities with large populations include Pawtucket and Woonsocket.


Rhode Island's black population numbered 46,908 in 2000, up from 39,000 in 1990 (and 4.5% of the state total). In 2004, 6.1% of the state's population was black. In 2000 there were 90,820 Hispanics and Latinos (8.7% of the total population), nearly twice the 1990 census count of 46,000. In 2004, 10.3% of the state's population was of Hispanic or Latino origin. In 2000, there were 5,121 American Indians, up from 4,000 in 1990. In 2004, 0.6% of the population was American Indian or Alaskan Native. The Asian population was 23,665; the 2000 census reported 4,974 Chinese, 4,522 Cambodians, 2,942 Asian Indians, and 2,062 Filipinos. Pacific Islanders numbered 567. In 2004, 2.7% of the population was Asian and 0.1% Pacific Islander. The foreign born made up 11.4% of the population in 2000, or 119,277 persons, up from 9.5% of the population in 1990. In 2004, 1.5% of the population reported origin of two or more races.


Many place-names in Rhode Island attest to the early presence of Mahican Indians: for instance, Sakonnet Point, Pawtucket, Matunuck, Narragansett.

English in Rhode Island is of the Northern dialect, with the distinctive features of eastern New England: absence of final /r/, and a vowel in part and bath intermediate between that in father and that in bat.

Rhode Island's immigrant tradition is reflected in the fact that in 2000, 20% of the state's residents reported speaking a language other than English in the home, up from 18% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.

Population 5 years and over 985,184 100.0
  Speak only English 788,560 80.0
  Speak a language other than English 196,624 20.0
Speak a language other than English 196,624 20.0
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 79,443 8.1
  Portuguese or Portuguese Creole 37,437 3.8
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 19,385 2.0
  Italian 13,759 1.4
  Mon-Khmer, Cambodian 5,586 0.6
  French Creole 4,337 0.4
  Chinese 3,882 0.4
  Laotian 3,195 0.3
  Polish 2,966 0.3
  German 2,841 0.3
  African languages 2,581 0.3
  Arabic 2,086 0.2


The first European settlement in Rhode Island was founded by an English clergyman, Roger Williams, who left Massachusetts to find freedom of worship. The Rhode Island Charter of 1663 proclaimed that a "flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty in religious concernments." Rhode Island has maintained this viewpoint throughout its history, and has long been a model of religious pluralism. The first Baptist congregation in the United States was established in 1638 in Providence. In Newport stands the oldest synagogue (1763) and the oldest Quaker meetinghouse (1699) in the United States.

A majority of the population of Rhode Island is Catholic, reflecting heavy immigration from Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and French Canada. In 2004, there were 679,275 Roman Catholics, accounting for about 64% of the total state population. According to 2000 data, the largest Protestant denominations were Episco-palians, with 26,756 adherents, and American Baptists USA, with 20,997. There were about 7,686 members of the United Church of Christ in 2005. An estimated 16,10 Jews resided in the state the same year, as did about 1,827 Muslims. Friends-USA (Quakers) had only 599 members. About 36.5% of the population did not specify a religious affiliation.


As of 2003, Rhode Island had only one operating railroad within its borders, the regional Providence & Worcester, which utilized the state's 102 rail mi (164 km) of track. In the same year, chemicals were the top commodity hauled from the state. As of 2006, Amtrak operated daily trains through Rhode Island, via its Acela Express train and its Regional northeast corridor trains.

In 2004, there were 6,419 mi (10,334 km) of public highways and roads. In that same year, some 824,000 motor vehicles were registered with the state, while there were 741,841 licensed drivers. The major route through New England, I-95, crosses Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority provides commuter bus service connecting urbanized areas.

Some of the best deepwater ocean ports on the east coast are in Narragansett Bay. The port at Providence handled 9.558 million tons of cargo in 2004. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled 9.417 million tons. In 2004, Rhode Island had only 39 mi (62 km) of navigable inland waterways.

In 2005, Rhode Island had a total of 28 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 10 airports, 17 heliports and one seaplane base. Theodore Francis Green Airport is the state's major air terminal, with 2,732,524 passengers enplaned in 2004.


Before the arrival of the first white settlers, the Narragansett Indians inhabited the area from what is now Providence south along Narragansett Bay. Their principal rivals, the Wampanoag, dominated the eastern shore region.

In 1524, Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazano, sailing in the employ of France, became the first European to explore Rhode Island. The earliest permanent settlement was established at Providence in 1636 by English clergyman Roger Williams and a small band of followers who left the repressive atmosphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to seek freedom of worship. Other nonconformists followed, settling Portsmouth (1638), Newport (1639), and Warwick (1642). In 1644, Williams journeyed to England, where he secured a parliamentary patent uniting the four original towns into a single colony, the Providence Plantations. This legislative grant remained in effect until the Stuart Restoration made it prudent to seek a royal charter. The charter, secured for Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations from Charles II in 1663, guaranteed religious liberty, permitting significant local autonomy, and strengthened the colony's territorial claims. Encroachments by white settlers on Indian lands led to the Indian uprising known as King Philip's War (167576), during which the Indians were soundly defeated.

The early 18th century was marked by significant growth in agriculture and commerce, including the rise of the slave trade. Having the greatest degree of self-rule, Rhode Island had the most to lose from British efforts after 1763 to increase the mother country's supervision and control over the colonies. On 4 May 1776, Rhode Island became the first colony formally to renounce all allegiance to King George III. Favoring the weak central government established by the Articles of Confederation, the state quickly ratified them in 1778, but subsequently resisted the centralizing tendencies of the federal constitution. Rhode Island withheld ratification until 29 May 1790, making it the last of the original 13 states to join the Union.

The principal trends in 19th-century Rhode Island were industrialization, immigration, and urbanization. The state's royal charter (then still in effect) contained no procedure for its amendment, gave disproportionate influence to the declining rural towns, and conferred almost unlimited power on the legislature. In addition, suffrage was restricted by the General Assembly to owners of real estate and their eldest sons. Because earlier, moderate efforts at change had been virtually ignored by the assembly, political reformers decided to bypass the legislature and convene a People's Convention. Thomas Wilson Dorr, who led this movement, became the principal draftsman of a progressive "People's Constitution," ratified in a popular referendum in December 1841. A coalition of Whigs and rural Democrats used force to suppress the movement now known as Dorr's Rebellion, but they bowed to popular pressure and made limited changes via a new constitution, effective May 1843.

The latter half of the 19th century was marked by continued industrialization and urbanization. Immigration increased and became more diverse. Politically the state was dominated by the Republican Party until the 1930s. The Democrats, having seized the opportunity during the New Deal, consolidated their power during the 1940s, and from that time onward have captured most state and congressional elections. Present-day Rhode Island, though predominantly Catholic and Democratic, retains an ethnic and cultural diversity surprising in view of its size but consistent with its pluralist traditions. Rhode Island's residents have been moving from the cities to the suburbs, and in 1980 the state lost its ranking as the most urban state in the country to New Jersey. In the mid-1990s Rhode Island was still the nation's second most densely populated state, with more than three-quarters of its residents living within 15 mi (25 km) of the capital city of Providence.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, 30% of the workforce was in manufacturing jobs; in the 1990s many of these were still low-paid jobs in the jewelry and textile industries. Rhode Island experienced a real estate boom in the 1980s thanks to federal savings and loan deregulation and the state's proximity to the thriving Boston metropolitan area. However, real estate values declined at the end of the decade, and Rhode Island entered the 1990s with a banking crisis that forced its government to spend taxpayer dollars propping up uninsured financial institutions. The state was also hard hit by the recession of the early 1990s. By 1994 a slow recovery was under way, with unemployment fluctuating between 6% and 8%. Though the state's economy grew less quickly than that of its New England neighbors, it experienced a full recovery by the end of the 1990s and successfully made the transition from a manufacturing-based system to one reliant on the service sector. Further, it had done so without widening the gap between rich and poor, an achievement that had eluded other states. As of 1999, Rhode Island's unemployment rate was 4.1%, in line with the national average. Between January 1999 and January 2000 alone, the state added 10,300 jobs. By 2001, however, the nation was in the grip of recession, and Rhode Island's unemployment rate by July 2003 was 5.6%, albeit below the national average of 6.2%. The state faced a $200 million budget deficit that year. In 2005, the state had a budget deficit of $164 million. The unemployment rate in 2004 was 5.2%, below the national average of 5.5%.

Rhode Island was the setting for a landmark lawsuit settlement in 1999. Three years earlier, the worst oil spill in the state's history contaminated waters and destroyed lobsters in Block Island Sound. Under the federal Oil Spill Act of 1990, those responsible for the spill settled separately with local lobstermen and the state, which was to direct $18 million in ongoing cleanup and recovery efforts. The cases were expected to set the standard for future negotiations in the wake of oil spills.

Republican Governor Donald Carcieri, elected in 2002, allowed a minimum wage increase of 60 cents to become law without his signature in 2003. Rhode Island's minimum wage law effective 1 January 2004 was $6.75 per hour. Carcieri pledged to revamp state government, create jobs, and balance the budget without raising taxes. In 2004, he proposed new state bonds to provide the funding necessary to preserve Narragansett Bay and to safeguard drinking water resources. Those measures were approved by voters in November 2004. He also formed the Narragansett Bay and Watershed Commission, which drafted a long-term plan for saving coastal resources.


Rhode Island has had two constitutions: the first based on the colonial charter (1842) and a revision (1986). In 1986, 8 amendments and a revision of the constitution were approved; subsequently, the constitution has been known as the 1986 Constitution. From 1986 through January 2005 there have been 8 amendments; total amendments since 1842 number 60.

Legislative authority is vested in the General Assembly, a bicameral body composed of 38 senators and 75 representatives. All legislators are elected for two-year terms from districts that are apportioned equally according to population after every federal decennial census. Annual sessions begin in January and are unlimited. The legislature may call for a special session by a joint call of the presiding officers of both houses. Legislators must be US citizens, qualified voters, at least 18 years of age, and residents of both state and district for at least 30 days. Among the more important checks enjoyed by the assembly is the power to override the governor's veto by a three-fifths vote of its members present and the power to establish all courts below the supreme court. The legislative salary in 2004 was $12,285.53.

State elected officials are the governor and lieutenant governor (elected separately), attorney general, secretary of state, and general treasurer. All are elected, in the odd-numbered year following presidential elections, for four-year terms. The governor is limited to serving two consecutive terms. The governor and lieutenant governor must be US citizens, qualified voters, at least 18 years of age, and 30 days a citizen and resident of Rhode Island. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $105,194.

A bill passed by the legislature becomes law if signed by the governor, if left unsigned by the governor for six days while the legislature is in session (10 days if the legislature adjourns), or if passed over the governor's veto by three-fifths of the members present in each house. Legislation becomes effective upon enactment. Constitutional amendments are made by majority vote of the whole membership of each house of the legislature, and by a simple majority at the next general election.

Voters must be US citizens, 18 years old or over, and must have been residents of the state at least 30 days prior to an election. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those declared mentally incompetent by the court.


For nearly five decades, Rhode Island has been one of the nation's most solidly Democratic states. It has voted for the Republican presidential candidate only four times since 1928, elected only one Republican (former Governor John H. Chafee) to the US Senate since 1934, and sent no Republicans to the US House from 1940 until 1980, when one Republican and one Democrat were elected. (They were reelected in 1982 and 1984.) Also in 1980, Rhode Island was one of only six states to favor Jimmy Carter. However, in 1984, Republican Edward DiPrete was elected governor, and Ronald Reagan narrowly carried the state in the presidential election. In the 2000 presidential election, Democrat Al Gore won 61% of the vote to Republican George W. Bush's 32%; independent candidate Ralph Nader took 6% of the popular vote. In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won 59.5% of the vote to incumbent President Bush's 38.9%.

In 1994, Republican John H. Chafee won a fourth term in the US Senate. Republican Lincoln D. Chafee was named senator in November 1999 upon the death of his father; he was elected to his first full term in 2000. In 1996, Democrat Jack Reed won the Senate seat vacated by Claiborne Pell after 36 years in office; Reed was reelected in 2002. Both US Representatives were Democrats in 2005. In mid-2005 there were 33 Democrats and 5 Republicans in the state Senate, and 59 Democrats and 16 Republicans in the

Rhode Island Presidential Vote, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
**IND. candidate Ross Perot received 105,045 votes in 1992 and 43,723 votes in 1996.
1948 4 *Truman (D) 188,736 135,787
1952 4 *Eisenhower (R) 203,293 210,935
1956 4 *Eisenhower (R) 161,790 225,819
1960 4 *Kennedy (D) 258,032 147,502
1964 4 *Johnson (D) 315,463 74,615
1968 4 Humphrey (D) 246,518 122,359
1972 4 *Nixon (R) 194,645 220,383
1976 4 *Carter (D) 227,636 181,249
1980 4 Carter (D) 198,342 154,793
1984 4 *Reagan (R) 197,106 212,080
1988 4 Dukakis (D) 225,123 177,761
1992** 4 *Clinton (D) 213,299 131,601
1996** 4 *Clinton (D) 233,050 104,683
2000 4 Gore (D) 249,508 130,555
2004 4 Kerry (D) 259,760 169,046

state House; the governor's office was held by Republican Donald L. Carcieri, who was elected in 2002.


As of 2005, Rhode Island was subdivided into 5 counties, 8 municipal governments, 36 school districts, and 75 special districts. In 2002, there were 31 townships.

Many smaller communities retain the New England town meeting form of government, under which the town's eligible voters assemble to enact the local budget, set the tax levy, and approve other local measures. Larger cities and towns are governed by a mayor and/or city manager and a council.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 30,118 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Rhode Island operates under the authority of the governor; the public safety director/secretary is designated as the state homeland security advisor.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Governors for Higher Education oversee all state educational services. Railroads, motor vehicle administration, and highway and bridge management come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. Health and welfare services are provided through the Department of Corrections; Department of the Attorney General; Department of Children, Youth, and Families; Department of Elderly Affairs; Department of Health; Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals; and the Department of Human Services.


The five-member Supreme Court is the state's highest appellate tribunal. It may also issue, upon request, advisory opinions on the constitutionality of a questioned act to the governor or either house of the legislature. Supreme court justices are chosen by the legislature and, like other state judges, hold office for life ("during good behavior"), but in actuality they can be removed by a mere resolution of the General Assembly. In 1935, all five justices were ousted in this manner when a Democratic legislature replaced a court previously appointed by Republicans. In 1994, Chief Justice Thomas Fay resigned under impeachment pressure.

The General Trial Court is the superior court, with 1,012 justices in 1999. The state's trial court hears all jury trials in criminal cases and in civil matters involving more than $5,000, but can also hear non-jury cases. Superior and district court judges are appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate.

District courts do not hold jury trials. Civil matters that involve $5,000 or less, small claims procedures, and non-jury criminal cases, including felony arraignments and misdemeanors, are handled at the district level. All cities and towns appoint judges to operate probate courts for wills and estates. Providence and a few other communities each have a municipal or police court.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 3,430 prisoners were held in Rhode Island's state and federal prisons, a decrease from 3,527 of 2.8% from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 208 inmates were female, down from 222 or 6.3% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), New Mexico had an incarceration rate of 175 per 100,000 population in 2004.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rhode Island in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 247.4 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 2,673 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 31,166 reported incidents or 2,884.1 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Rhode Island has no death penalty.


In 2004, there were 2,336 active duty military personnel and 4,370 civilian personnel stationed in Rhode Island, most of whom were at the US Naval Education and Training Center and Naval War College in Newport. Rhode Island firms received more than $417 million in defense contracts during 2004. Defense Department payroll outlays totaled $621 million.

In 2003, there were 91,161 US veterans living in the state, of whom 16,658 saw military service during World War II; 11,442 in the Korean conflict; 26,598 during the Vietnam era; and 10,008 in the Gulf War. In 2004, the Veterans Administration expended more than $254 million in pensions, medical assistance, and other major veterans' benefits.

As of 31 October 2004, the Rhode Island State Police employed 190 full-time sworn officers.


During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the major immigrant groups who came to work in the state's growing industries were Irish, Italian, and French-Canadian. Significant numbers of British, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, and German immigrants also moved to Rhode Island. Between 1940 and 1970, however, 2,000 more people left the state than moved to it, and between 1970 and 1983 there was a net loss of about 42,000. From 1985 to 1990, there was a net gain from migration of nearly 34,000. Between 1990 and 1998, Rhode Island had a net loss of 64,000 in domestic migration and a net gain of 16,000 in international migration. In 1998, 1,976 foreign immigrants arrived in the state. Rhode Island's overall population decreased 1.5% between 1990 and 1998.

During the 1980s, the urban proportion of the population remained virtually unchanged, dropping from 87% to 86%. By 1996, the metropolitan population had reached 93.8%. In the period 200005, net international migration was 18,965 and net internal migration was 4,964, for a net gain of 14,001 people.


Rhode Island participates in many interstate regional bodies, including the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Interstate Compact for Juveniles, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, and Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission. New England regional agreements include those on tuberculosis control, radiological health protection, higher education, police, and dairy products. Federal grants to Rhode Island state and local governments totaled $1.697 billion in fiscal year 2005, an estimated $1.752 billion in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated $1.790 billion in fiscal year 2007.


Rhode Island's economy was historically based overwhelmingly on industry, with agriculture, mining, forestry, and fishing making only small contributions. The state's leading manufactured products were jewelry, silverware, machinery, primary metals, textiles, and rubber products. In the late 1990s, manufacturing declined steadily as a contributor to state economic output, falling from 14.7% in 1997 to 11.1% in 2001. The recession of 2001 only accelerated the contraction in Rhode Island's manufacturing output to 3.3% from its previous rates of about 2% a year. The strongest growth sectors in terms of output coming into the 21st century were: financial services (up 44.3%); trade (up 28.5%); general services (up 25.6%); and government (up 20.6%). Unemployment rates in Rhode Island exceeded those of the United States throughout the 1970s, and the state's economic growth lagged behind that of the nation as a whole. Unemployment fell dramatically in 1983 and 1984, rose again to 8.7% in 1992, but had fallen to around 5% by 1996. Manufacturing employment declined 23% between 1983 and 1992 while service jobs increased 36%. In all, only about 1,000 jobs were lost between 1988 and 1998, mostly in the manufacturing sector, while service-related jobs rose, accounting for about half of all personal income in 1998. The impact of the 2001 national recession and slowdown on Rhode Island's employment and income was the mildest among the New England states. By mid-2002, job growth had surpassed the peak reached in 2000.

In 2004, Rhode Island's gross state product (GSP) was $41.679 billion, of which the real estate sector accounted for $5.421 billion or 13% of GSP, with health and social assistance at $3.798 billion (9.1% of GSP) and construction at $2.459 billion (5.8% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 95,390 small businesses in Rhode Island. Of the 33,253 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 32,098 or 96.5% were small companies. An estimated 3,932 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 13.5% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 4,250, up 3.6% from 2003. There were 74 business bankruptcies in 2004, up 54.2% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 422 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Rhode Island 35th in the nation.


In 2005 Rhode Island had a gross state product (GSP) of $44 billion which accounted for 0.4% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 45 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Rhode Island had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $34,207. This ranked 16th in the United States and was 104% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.5%. Rhode Island had a total personal income (TPI) of $36,940,300,000, which ranked 43rd in the United States and reflected an increase of 5.8% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 5.1%. Earnings of persons employed in Rhode Island increased from $24,586,561,000 in 2003 to $25,887,459,000 in 2004, an increase of 5.3%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 200204 in 2004 dollars was $46,199 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 11.3% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Rhode Island 578,400, with approximately 31,100 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 5.4%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 495,000. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Rhode Island was 9.7% in November 1982. The historical low was 2.9% in July 1988. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 4.6% of the labor force was employed in construction; 10.7% in manufacturing; 16.3% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 7.2% in financial activities; 11.4% in professional and business services; 19.4% in education and health services; 10.1% in leisure and hospitality services; and 13.1% in government.

The BLS reported that in 2005, a total of 79,000 of Rhode Island's 494,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 15.9% of those so employed, down from 16.3% in 2004, but still above the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 83,000 workers (16.8%) in Rhode Island were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Rhode Island is one of 28 states with a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, Rhode Island had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $7.10 per hour. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 49% of the employed civilian labor force.


The state's total receipts from farm marketings were $63 million in 2005, 50th in the United States. Rhode Island had only about 850 farms in 2004 with an average size of just 71 acres (29 hectares), with the smallest area devoted to crops (21,000 acres, or 8,500 hectares) of any state. Nursery and greenhouse products were the main agricultural commodity. Total crop marketings amounted to $53 million in 2005.


In 2005, Rhode Island had around 5,500 cattle and calves, valued at $5.5 million. During 2004, there were some 2,000 hogs and pigs, valued at $220,000. In 2003, the state produced 22 million lb (10 million kg) of milk, from 1,300 milk cows.


The commercial catch in 2004 was 97.4 million lb (44.3 million kg), valued at $71.1 million. Point Judith is the main fishing port, ranking 24th in the United States, with catch value at $31.5 million. The state ranked second in the nation for squid catch with 38.1 million lb (17.3 million kg). Other valuable fish and shellfish include whiting, fluke and yellowtail flounders, cod, scup lobster, and clams. In 2001, the commercial fishing fleet consisted of 2,920 boats and 344 vessels. In 2003, there were 16 processing plants employing about 453 people.

In 2004, Rhode Island issued 26,629 sport-fishing licenses. Three hatcheries distribute nearly 326,000 lb (148,000 kg) of trout throughout the state each year.


In 2004, forests covered 393,000 acres (159,000 hectares), about 60% of the state's land area. Some 340,000 acres (138,000 hectares) were usable as commercial timberland.


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by Rhode Island in 2003 was $25.8 million, an increase from 2002 of about 1%.

According to the preliminary data for 2003, construction sand and gravel, and crushed stone were the state's top nonfuel minerals, accounting for around 52% and almost 48% of output by value, respectively. Industrial sand and gravel, and gemstones (by hobbyists) were also produced in Rhode Island, that same year.

Preliminary data for 2003 showed that a total of 1.9 million metric tons of construction sand and gravel was produced, with a value of $13.5 million, while crushed stone output that year totaled 1.9 million metric tons, valued at $12.3 million.


Rhode Island is part of the New England regional power grid and imports most of its electric power. As of 2003, Rhode Island had eight electrical power service providers, of which one was publicly owned, three were investor owned, three were generation-only suppliers and two were delivery-only providers. As of that same year there were 476,316 retail customers. Of that total, 466,805 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Publicly owned providers had 4,525 customers, while generation-only suppliers had 4,986 customers. There was no data on the number of delivery-only customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 1.733 million kW, with total production that same year at 5.621 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, only 0.2% came from electric utilities, with the remaining 99.8% coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 5.454 billion kWh (97%), came from natural gas fired plants, with other renewable sources in second place at 101.768 billion kWh (1.8%) and petroleum fueled plants in third at 58.359 billion kWh (1%). Hydroelectric sources at 0.1% accounted for the remainder.

Rhode island has no refineries, nor any proven reserves or production of crude oil or natural gas.


The Industrial Revolution began early in Rhode Island. The first spinning jenny in the United States was built at Providence in 1787. Three years later, in Pawtucket, Samuel Slater opened a cotton mill, one of the first modern factories in America. By the end of the 18th century, textile, jewelry, and metal products were being manufactured in the state.

Over 1,000 manufacturers in the state produce finished jewelry and jewelry parts. Electronic and related products manufactured in the state include online lottery machines, circuit boards, and meteorological, navigational, and medical equipment. Chemicals and allied products made in the state include pigments and dyes, drugs and biomedical products, and liquid and aerosol consumer products.

According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Rhode Island's manufacturing sector covered some 14 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $11.173 billion. Of that total, miscellaneous manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $1.949 billion. It was followed by electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing at $1.824 billion; fabricated metal product manufacturing at $1.561 billion; computer and electronic product manufacturing at $813.739 million; and plastics and rubber products manufacturing at $736.243 million.

In 2004, a total of 55,367 people in Rhode Island were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 35,544 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the miscellaneous manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 11,614, with 7,618 actual production workers. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at 9,001 employees (6,706 actual production workers); computer and electronic product manufacturing at 4,825 employees (799 actual production workers); plastics and rubber products manufacturing with 4,083 employees (3,096 actual production workers); and electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing at 3,469 employees (2,052 actual production employees).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Rhode Island's manufacturing sector paid $2.235 billion in wages. Of that amount, the miscellaneous manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $384.278 million. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at $356.366 million; computer and electronic product manufacturing at $282.567 million; electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing at $169.127 million; and machinery manufacturing at $154.401 million.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Rhode Island's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $8.5 billion from 1,479 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 936 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 442 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 101 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $3.74 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $3.71 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $1.1 billion.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Rhode Island was listed as having 4,134 retail establishments with sales of $10.3 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: food and beverage stores (695); clothing and clothing accessories stores (565); miscellaneous store retailers (504); and motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (429). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $2.6 billion, followed by food and beverage stores at $1.9 billion; health and personal care stores at $1.07 billion; general merchandise stores at $973.3 million; and gasoline stations at $655.7 million. A total of 50,665 people were employed by the retail sector in Rhode Island that year.

Rhode Island's foreign exports of manufactured goods totaled $1.2 billion in 2005.


The Consumer Protection Unit of the Department of the Attorney General bears the primary responsibility for investigating and mediating consumer complaints of unlawful and unfair business practices and misleading advertising that arise from violations of the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The unit also enforces the state's Telephone Sales Solicitation Act, the registration of health clubs under the state's Health Club Law, and provides information and referral services to the general public. In addition to the Consumer Protection Unit, the state's Attorney General's Office has other office units dedicated to other specific consumer protection related issues such as: charitable trusts (Charitable Trust Unit); antitrust violations (Antitrust Unit); environmental issues (Environmental Unit); insurance advocacy (Insurance Advocacy Unit (covers insurance rate hearings, healthcare and insurance fraud); public utilities (Public Utilities Regulation Unit); open government (complaints over access to public records and violations of the Open Meetings Act); and healthcare advocacy (Office of Health Care Advocate; helps patients with healthcare issues and can act on behalf of those consumers who are not able to act on their own).

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's Attorney General's office can initiate civil and criminal proceedings; administer consumer protection and education programs; handle formal consumer complaints; and exercise limited subpoena powers. However, the Attorney General's Office cannot represent the state before regulatory agencies. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's office cannot act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own, but can initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts and initiate criminal proceedings. The Attorney General's office, cannot represent counties, cities and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law.

The offices of the Consumer Protection Unit and the Department of the Attorney General are located in Providence.


As of June 2005, Rhode Island had 14 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, plus 11 state-chartered and 19 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Providence-New Bedford-Fall River market area accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 40 institutions and $29.179 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 14.6% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $3.518 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 85.4% or $20.500 billion in assets held.

As of 2002, about 50% of the state's banks had long-term asset concentrations of greater than 40%. Savings banks represented 50% of insured banks in Rhode Island and residential real estate loans made up 56% of the average loan portfolio in that year.

The median percentage of past-due/nonaccrual loans to total loans in the fourth quarter of 2005 stood at 0.56%, down from 0.56% in 2004 and 0.62% in 2003. regulation of state-chartered banks and other state-chartered financial institutions in Rhode Island is the responsibility of the state's Department of Business Regulation's Division of Banking.


In 2004, 509,000 individual life insurance policies worth $51.6.0 billion were in force in Rhode Island; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was about $83.9 billion. The average coverage amount is $101,000 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled $233.6 million.

As of 2003, there were 23 property and casualty and 4 life and health insurance companies domiciled in the state. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled over $1.9 billion. That year, there were 11,774 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $2 million. About $802 million of coverage was held through FAIR plans, which are designed to offer coverage for some natural circumstances, such as wind and hail, in high risk areas.

In 2004, 56% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 4% held individual policies, and 28% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 11% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 22% for single coverage and 27% for family coverage. The state offers an 18-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were 672,295 auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $25,000. Uninsured motorist coverage is also required. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $992.22, which ranked as the seventh-highest average in the nation.


Rhode Island has no securities exchanges. In 2005, there were 500 personal financial advisers employed in the state. In 2004, there were over 21 publicly traded companies within the state, with over seven NASDAQ companies, five NYSE listings, and two AMEX listings. In 2006, the state had two Fortune 500 companies; CVS, based in Woonsocket and listed on the NYSE, ranked 1st in the state and 53rd in the nation, with revenues of over $37 billion, followed by Textron, based in Providence and also on the NYSE, ranked 190th in the nation with revenues of $11.9 billion. FM Global, Hasbro, American Power Conversion, Nortek, and Amica Mutual Insurance were listed in the Fortune 1,000.


The annual budget is prepared by the State Budget Office in conjunction with the governor, and submitted to the legislature for approval. The fiscal year (FY) runs from 1 July through 30 June.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $3.13 billion for resources and $3.14 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Rhode Island were $2.3 billion.

On 5 January 2006 the federal government released $100 million in emergency contingency funds targeted to the areas with the greatest need, including $844,000 for Rhode Island.


In 2005, Rhode Island collected $2,629 million in tax revenues or $2,443 per capita, which placed it 12th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.1% of the total; sales taxes, 32.1%; selective sales taxes, 20.3%; individual income taxes, 38.0%; corporate income taxes, 4.3%; and other taxes, 5.2%.

Rhode Island, as of 1 January 2006, taxed corporations at a flat rate of 9.0%.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $1.8 billion or $1,629 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state fifth nationally. Local governments collected $1,757,602,000 of the total and the state government $1,532,000.

Rhode Island taxes retail sales at a rate of 7%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is tax exempt. The tax on cigarettes is 246 cents per pack, which ranks first among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Rhode Island taxes gasoline at 31 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Rhode Island citizens received $1.02 in federal spending.


The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) exists to preserve and expand Rhode Island businesses, and to attract new businesses to the state. Some of the services available to businesses through RIEDC are: job training assistance; financial assistance; government contracting assistance; site selection; and exporting assistance. The RIEDC includes a Job Creation Grant Fund, an Excellence Through Training Grant Program, an Employee Investment Grant Program, and an Export Management Training Grant Program.

The Innovation [T] Scale strategy is Rhode Island's effort to make its small size a competitive advantage. Innovators can take advantage of the state's manageable size, close knit networks, and densely concentrated resources to quickly and cost effectively test new ways of doing business.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 5.9 per 1,000 live births. The birth rate in 2003 was 12.3 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 24.1 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 90.9% of pregnant woman received prenatal care be-

Rhode IslandState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols:zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 7,266,196 6,727.96
  General revenue 5,619,076 5,202.85
   Intergovernmental revenue 2,095,870 1,940.62
   Taxes 2,408,861 2,230.43
     General sales 804,647 745.04
     Selective sales 500,727 463.64
     License taxes 94,481 87.48
     Individual income tax 899,939 833.28
     Corporate income tax 69,479 64.33
     Other taxes 39,588 36.66
   Current charges 447,628 414.47
   Miscellaneous general revenue 666,717 617.33
  Utility revenue 21,952 20.33
  Liquor store revenue - -
  Insurance trust revenue 1,625,168 1,504.79
Total expenditure 6,386,602 5,913.52
  Intergovernmental expenditure 868,929 804.56
  Direct expenditure 5,517,673 5,108.96
    Current operation 3,817,330 3,534,56
    Capital outlay 332,836 308.18
    Insurance benefits and repayments 921,469 853.21
    Assistance and subsidies 211,841 196.15
    Interest on debt 234,197 216.85
Exhibit Salaries and wages 1,274,120 1,179.74
Total expenditure 6,386,602 5,913.52
  General expenditure 5,371,080 4,973.22
   Intergovernmental expenditure 868,929 804.56
   Direct expenditure 4,502,151 4,168.66
  General expenditures, by function:
   Education 1,468,437 1,359.66
   Public welfare 1,961,808 1,816.49
   Hospitals 108,043 100.04
   Health 205,720 190.48
   Highways 256,348 237.36
   Police protection 49,715 46.03
   Correction 162,234 150.22
   Natural resources 37,389 34.62
   Parks and recreation 8,931 8.27
   Government administration 297,829 275.77
   Interest on general debt 234,197 216.85
   Other and unallocable 580,429 537.43
  Utility expenditure 94,053 87.09
  Liquor store expenditure - -
  Insurance trust expenditure 921,469 853.21
Debt at end of fiscal year 6,490,701 6,009.91
Cash and security holdings 12,755,483 11,810.63

ginning in the first trimester, this was the second-highest rate in the nation for prenatal care (after New Hampshire). In 2004, approximately 87% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 9.3 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 290.6; cancer, 224.7; cerebrovascular diseases, 56.6; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 48.7; and diabetes, 24.6. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 2.2 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 12.2 per 100,000 population. In 2002, about 52.9% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 21.3% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, Rhode Island had 11 community hospitals with about 2,400 beds. There were about 122,000 patient admissions that year and 2 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 1.8 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $1,591. Also in 2003, there were about 94 certified nursing facilities in the state with 9,376 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 91%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 78.5% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. Rhode Island had 361 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 987 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there were a total of 557 dentists in the state.

About 20% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003; 16% were enrolled in Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 11% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $1.8 million.


In 2004, about 41,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $324. For 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 76,085 persons (34,751 households); the average monthly benefit was about $86 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $78.5 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. Rhode Island's TANF program is called the Family Independence Program (FIP). In 2004, the state program had 32,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $91 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 191,710 Rhode Island residents. This number included 127,350 retired workers, 15,260 widows and widowers, 27,730 disabled workers, 6,480 spouses, and 14,890 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 17.8% of the total state population and 92.7% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $955; widows and widowers, $931; disabled workers, $877; and spouses, $471. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $461 per month; children of deceased workers, $664; and children of disabled workers, $256. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 29,703 Rhode Island residents, averaging $430 a month.


In 2004, there were an estimated 446,305 housing units, 409,767 of which were occupied; 61.8% were owner-occupied. About 55.8% of all units were single-family, detached homes; 33.3% of all units were built in 1939 or earlier. Utility gas and fuel oil were the most common energy sources for heating. It was estimated that 13,132 units lacked telephone service, 1,435 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 2,161 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.53 members.

In 2004, 2,500 new privately owned housing units were authorized for construction. Much of the new residential construction has taken place in the suburbs south and west of Providence. The median home value was $240,150. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $1,469. Renters paid a median of $740. In 2006, the state received over $5.2 million in community development block grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The city of Providence received $5.7 million in similar grant awards.


In 2004, 81.1% of Rhode Islanders age 25 and older were high school graduates. Approximately 27.2% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Rhode Island's public schools stood at 159,000. Of these, 113,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 47,000 attended high school. Approximately 71.2% of the students were white, 8.5% were black, 16.4% were Hispanic, 3.2% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.6% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 160,000 in fall 2003 and expected to be 154,000 by fall 2014, a decline of 3.6% during the period 2002 to 2014. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $1.7 billion, or $9,903 per student, the 10th-highest among the 50 states. In fall 2003 there were 28,119 students enrolled in 139 private schools. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005, eighth graders in Rhode Island scored 272 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 77,417 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 16.4% of total postsecondary enrollment. In 2005 Rhode Island had 13 degree-granting institutions. Leading institutions include Brown University (1764) in Providence; the University of Rhode Island (1892) in Kingston; and Providence College (1917). The Rhode Island School of Design (1877) is located in Providence.


The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) was established in 1967. In 2005, RISCA and other Rhode Island arts organizations received 13 grants totaling $806,300 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, founded in 1973, had awarded over $2.5 million to community and academic organizations as of 2005. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $1,235,058 for eight state programs. The state, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and various private sources also provide funding for arts activities.

Newport and Providence have notable art galleries and museums, including the museum at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence. As of 2005, the RISD Museum housed over 80,000 pieces of art. Theatrical groups include the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence founded in 1964. As of 2005, hosting both an annual production of A Christmas Carol and Trinity Summer Shakespeare, the theater drew an annual audience of more than 185,000. The Rhode Island Philharmonic, with approximately 72 professional musicians, performs throughout the state. New-port is the site of the internationally famous Newport Jazz Festival, founded in 1954, and the Newport Music Festival. In 2006, the Newport Music Festival's 38th season hosted 67 concerts with 46 artists representing 17 countries. The Festival Ballet Providence and the State Ballet of Rhode Island are prominent dance groups. The Providence Performing Arts Center, restored to its original 1920s splendor in the late 1990s (and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places), hosts touring Broadway shows as well as concerts by a variety of performers.

The WaterFire public art installation on the riverfront in downtown Providence has played a key role in the revitalization of the city. The lighting of bonfires in 97 braziers placed in three rivers that flow through Providence has drawn thousands to the downtown area to enjoy music and other entertainment. As of 2006 there were 17 lightings scheduled from May until October.


For the fiscal year ending in June 2001, Rhode Island had 48 public library systems, with a total of 72 libraries, of which 24 were branches. In that same year, the state's public libraries had a book and serial publication stock of 3,997,000 volumes, and a total combined circulation of 6,627,000. The system also had 109,000 audio and 117,000 video items, 6,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and two bookmobiles. The Providence Public Library maintains several special historical collections. The Brown University Libraries, containing more than 2.6 million books and periodicals, include the Annmary Brown Memorial Library, with its collection of rare manuscripts, and the John Carter Brown Library, with an excellent collection of early Americana. In fiscal year 2001, operating income for the state's public library system totaled $36,378,000 and included $172,000 from federal sources and $6,031,000 in state funding.

Among the state's more than 53 museums and historic sites are the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology in Bristol, the Museum of Art of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, the Roger Williams Park Museum, also in Providence, the Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry, and the Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket. Providence has the Roger Williams Park Zoo.


The first automated post office in the US postal system was opened in Providence in 1960. As of 2004, 95.3% of the state's occupied housing units had telephones. In addition, by June of that same year there were 615,398 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 62.3% of Rhode Island households had a computer and 55.7% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 186,743 high-speed lines in Rhode Island, 177,393 residential and 9,350 for business. In 2005, the state had 7 major AM and 9 major FM radio stations. Rhode Island had five television stations, including one public broadcasting affiliate operated by the state's Public Telecommunications Authority. The Providence-New Bedford area had 565,230 television-viewing homes, 79% with cable in 1999. A total of 23,508 Internet domain names were registered in Rhode Island as of 2000.


The Rhode Island Gazette, the state's first newspaper, appeared in 1732. In 1850, Paulina Wright Davis established Una, one of the first women's rights newspapers in the country.

In 2005, Rhode Island had six daily newspapers with three Sunday editions.

The following table shows the approximate circulation for the state's leading dailies in 2005:

Newport Daily News (e) 12,352 12,352 (Sat.)
Pawtucket Times (m) 11,407 11,407 (Sat.)
Providence Journal (m,S) 168,021 236,476
Woonsocket The Call (m,S) 11,984 17,638

Regional interest periodicals include Providence Monthly and Rhode Island Monthly.


In 2006, there were over 2,095 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 1,578 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations. Among the professional and educational organizations with headquarters in Rhode Island are the Foundation for Gifted and Creative Children, Foster Parents Plan USA, The American Boat Builders and Repairers Association, the American Mathematical Society, the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America.

The US Sailing Association is based in Portsmouth and the International Tennis Hall of Fame is in Newport.

State art organizations include the Alliance of Artists' Communities, the Art League of Rhode Island, and the Summer Arts and Festival Organization.


Tourism is the second-largest and fastest-growing industry in Rhode Island. In 2005, the state hosted over 15 million visitors, generating total revenues of $4.69 billion (a figure that represents an increase of 16.4% from 1999). The industry supports over 57,837 jobs.

Historic sitesespecially the mansions of Newport and Providenceand water sports (particularly the America's Cup yacht races) are the main tourist attractions of Narragansett Bay. Rhode Island has over 400 miles of coastline. Block Island is a popular resort reachable by a ferry from Point Judith. Visitors can relax or participate in kayaking, sailing, sport fishing, or horseback riding. The Providence Place Mall, a 13-acre mega shopping complex with 150 specialty shops, restaurants, and cinemas opened in 1999. An architectural marvel, the shopping complex spans a highway, a river, and a train track bed. Rhode Island's state parks and recreational areas total 8,063 acres (3,263 hectares).


Rhode Island has no major league professional sports teams. Pawtucket has a Triple-A minor league baseball team and Providence has a minor league team in the American Hockey League. Providence College has competed successfully in collegiate basketball, winning National Invitational Tournament titles in 1961 and 1963, and advancing to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four in 1973 and 1987.

Historically, Rhode Island has played an important part in the development of both yachting and tennis. The Newport Yacht Club hosted the America's Cup, international sailing's most prestigious event, from 1930 until 1983, when an Australian yacht won the race. It was the first time since 1851 that the cup had been won by a non-American. The cup was returned to America in 1987, but by a yacht from San Diego. Lawn tennis was first played in America at the Newport Casino, which was also the site of the United States Tennis championship from 1881 until 1915. Today it is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Museum of Yachting is located in Newport as well. Dog racing at Lincoln and jai alai at Newport are popular spectator sports with pari-mutuel betting.

Other annual sporting events include the Tennis Hall of Fame Championships in Newport in July, the Annual Tuna Tournament near Galilee and Narragansett in September, the Rhode Island Marathon in Newport in November, and summer college baseball league on Martha's Vineyard.


Important federal officeholders from Rhode Island have included US Senators Nelson W. Aldrich (18411915), Henry Bowen Anthony (181584), Theodore Francis Green (18671966), and John O. Pastore (19072000), and US Representative John E. Fogarty (191367). J. Howard McGrath (190366) held the posts of US senator, solicitor general, and attorney general.

Foremost among Rhode Island's historical figures is Roger Williams (b.England, 1603?83), apostle of religious liberty and founder of Providence. Other significant pioneers, also born in England, include Anne Hutchinson (15911643), religious leader and cofounder of Portsmouth, and William Coddington (160178), founder of Newport. Other 17th-century Rhode Islanders of note were Dr. John Clarke (b.England, 160976), who secured the colony's royal charter, and Indian leader King Philip, known also as Metacomet (1639?76). Important participants in the War for Independence were Commodore Esek Hopkins (17181802) and General Nathanael Greene (174286). The 19th century brought to prominence Thomas Wilson Dorr (180554), courageous leader of Dorr's Rebellion; social reformer Elizabeth Buffum Chace (180699); and naval officers Oliver Hazard Perry (17851819), who secured important US victories in the War of 1812, and his brother, Matthew C. Perry (17941858), who led the expedition that opened Japan to foreign trade in 1854. Among the state's many prominent industrialists and inventors are Samuel Slater (b.England, 17681835), pioneer in textile manufacturing, and silversmith Jabez Gorham (17921869). Other significant public figures include Unitarian theologian William Ellery Channing (17801842); political boss Charles R. Brayton (18401910); Roman Catholic bishop and social reformer Matthew Harkins (b.Massachusetts, 18451921); and Dr. Charles V. Chapin (18561941), pioneer in public health.

Rhode Island's best-known creative writers are Gothic novelists H. P. Lovecraft (18901937) and Oliver La Farge (190163), and its most famous artist is portrait painter Gilbert Stuart (17551828). Popular performing artists include George M. Cohan (18781942), Nelson Eddy (190167), Bobby Hackett (191576), Van Johnson (b.1916), and Spalding Gray (19412004).

Important sports personalities include Baseball Hall of Famers Hugh Duffy (18661954), Napoleon Lajoie (18751959), and Charles "Gabby" Hartnett (19001972).


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Gaustad, Edwin S. Roger Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Leazes, Francis J. Providence, the Renaissance City. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Méras, Phyllis, and Tom Gannon. Rhode Island, An Explorer's Guide. Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman Press; New York: Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2000.

Sherman, Steve. Country Roads of Connecticut and Rhode Island: Day Trips and Weekend Excursions. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Country Roads Press, 1999.

Sletcher, Michael (ed.). New England. Vol. 4 in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Sterne, Evelyn Savidge. Ballots & Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004.

US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. Rhode Island, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.

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Rhode Island


RHODE ISLAND, located in the northeast part of the United States, is the smallest state by size. The full name is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.


Although it is only 1,045 square miles, Rhode Island's geography is complex because of its large islands and a

mainland carved by an ice-age glacier. While the state is not an island, it includes an island named Rhode Island that is also known as Aquidneck Island. It is the biggest island in Narragansett Bay, one of the world's greatest natural bays. The island stretches from north to south in the eastern bay; on its northeast coast is Portsmouth (also known as Pocasset) and on its southwest coast is Newport. To the west of Aquidneck Island are Prudence Island and Conanicut Island, roughly aligned northeast (Prudence) to southwest (Conanicut).

These islands and most of the mainland of Rhode Island are part of the Coastal Lowlands, a broad geological structure that extends along much of America's northeastern coast. The lowlands have many excellent areas for farming and during America's early history, Rhode Island's lowlands helped feed the nation. Northern Rhode Island is in the New England Uplands that extend south into Pennsylvania and north into Maine. When the state's most recent glacier pushed into Rhode Island, it carved into both the Coastal Lowlands and the New England Uplands; when it retreated roughly ten thousand years ago, it left behind not only Narragansett Bay but lakes and ponds, and valleys and hills. Newly formed rivers and streams ran through the valleys. The northeastern Blackstone River fed into Narragansett Bay near where the city of Providence was established. The rivers and streams, including the southwestern Pawtucket River, provided power for mills during the first several decades of Rhode Island's industrialization; the lakes and ponds served to store water, especially when dammed.

Early Settlers

The first European settler in what is now Rhode Island was an Anglican minister, William Blackstone, who settled near what is now called Blackstone River, close to modern Lonsdale, in 1635. In June 1636, the father of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, brought some of his followers from Massachusetts to escape religious oppression. The people of Massachusetts were Congregationalists—Puritans who had fled England due to persecution by the Church of England. The freedom they sought was not freedom for all; it was freedom to practice their religion, consequently forcing non-Congregationalists to practice it too. They imprisoned, tortured, and even executed people who did not follow their church laws. Roger Williams wanted to establish a colony where people could worship freely. He believed that that one should not infringe on another's right to worship, and should have the ability to practice any religion of choice.

When he settled in Rhode Island, Williams named his settlement Providence. He took the time to learn the languages of the Native Americans, publishing the guide, A Key into the Language of America in 1643. Narragansetts populated most of the area, with a large tribe, the Wamponoags, to the south, and the Pequots in what is now Connecticut. There were also the small groups of Nipmucks, Niantics, Cowesetts, and Shawomets inhabiting the area. The tribes were part of the large cultural and language group, the Algonquins, who spread over much of eastern North American, from the future North Carolina into the future Canada. Williams and his followers negotiated treaties and bought land from the Native Americans; on 24 March 1638, they acquired a deed for their Providence "plantation" from the preeminent sachems (meaning chiefs) of the Narragansetts, Canonicus, and young Miantonomi. Williams always dealt with the Native Americans honestly, which the local tribes valued highly.

Williams's idea of a land of free religious practices attracted others. In 1638, Antinomians established Portsmouth on Aquidneck, which had been purchased that year. Nonconformist William Coddington established Newport on Aquidneck Island in 1639. The first American Baptist church was founded in Providence in 1839. In 1642, Samuel Gorton established Warwick. Small settlements of religious dissidents were established in the general area of Providence, becoming "plantations." They featured independent men and women, who insisted on practicing their faiths as they saw fit—much as Williams hoped they would. Prompted by continued Puritan harassment and claims to territory in Rhode Island, Williams went to England in 1643 to get a patent for the new townships and plantations. In 1644, the English Parliament granted Newport, Portsmouth, and Providence incorporation as "Providence Plantations in the Narragansett Bay in New England," often called "Warwick's Charter" after the Earl of Warwick. Plymouth and Massachusetts refused to recognize the validity of the charter.

From 19 to 21 May 1647, the First General Assembly met in Portsmouth, which established an anchor as a symbol of the colony's freedom and passed a modest number of laws. During the 1650s, Rhode Island attracted a wide variety of religious groups. Notable were the Jews who, in 1658, began establishing congregations (although the first synagogue in the state would not be built until 1763) and the Quakers, who were being executed and tortured in Massachusetts and Plymouth. In 1657, Plymouth demanded Rhode Island surrender its Quakers, and on 13 October 1657, Rhode Island refused, helping establish its reputation as a safe refuge from oppression.

By the 1670s, Williams's carefully wrought relationships with Native Americans began to fall apart. The Wampanoags, angered by the colonists who had cheated them out of much of their land, began to attack settlements. On 19 December 1675, a Narragansett traitor led Massachusetts soldiers into a Narragansett camp, and the soldiers slaughtered the almost 700 inhabitants, 400 of which were women and children burned to death in their wigwams. There followed King Philip's War named for a Wampanoag chief whose Native American name was Metacom. The alliance of Wampanoags and Narragansetts won a few battles and burned Providence (although taking special care not to harm Williams) and some villages. On 12 August 1676, a Wampanoag traitor murdered Metacom. War casualties diminished the populations of the tribes so much that they were never again threats to the settlers.


From 1686–1689, Rhode Island and other New England colonies were forced into the Dominion of New England by King James II. His governor for the Dominion, Edmund Andros, took control of Rhode Island on 22 December 1686, but on 18 April 1689 he was imprisoned in Boston, and the effort to gather the northern colonies into one unit failed. This may have marked the beginning of Rhode Island seeing its neighbors as allies against English oppression, rather than oppressors themselves.

On 1 March 1689, England and France went to war. The conflict was a world war, but in America, it was referred to as the French and Indian War. It had four separate outbreaks of hostilities that lasted from 1689–1763, when France finally lost its Canadian colonies. During this period, Newport became Rhode Island's major city, enriched by its shipping industry. It was the era of the notorious trade in rum, sugar, and slaves. Rhode Island's General Assembly had tried to outlaw slavery in 1674, but the law was ignored. Williams's vision of a prejudice-free society seemed lost during this era. For example, in February 1728, Jews, Muslims, pagans, and Roman Catholics were specifically given freedom of conscience but were denied the right to vote. In 1730, a census indicated 17,935 people lived in Rhode Island, but the count may have been low because some rural areas were not included. In 1764, the General Assembly authorized the establishment in Warren of "Rhode Island College," which was renamed Brown University in 1804.

Also in 1764, the English Parliament passed the Sugar Act, which required the American colonies to buy their sugar only from other British colonies. This hurt Rhode Island's economy since Britain's colonies did not produce nearly enough sugar to support the molasses and rum industries in Rhode Island. In response, the General Assembly passed a law in September 1765 declaring that only it could tax people in Rhode Island. Rhode Islanders burned the British ship, Liberty, in Newport's harbor on 19 July 1769. On 10 June 1772, the British ship Gaspee, which had been searching all ships was lured into running aground, seized, and burned. On 4 May 1776, aroused by the attacks of British soldiers on colonial militias and civilians, Rhode Island renounced its allegiance to England. The General Assembly approved the Declaration of Independence on 18 July 1776 and on 8 December 1776, the British army occupied Newport. Their looting and other depredations so ruined Newport that it lost its status as Rhode Island's most prosperous city, and thousands of citizens fled. The British looted and burned villages and towns, including, on 25 May 1778, Bristol and Warren. On 9 February 1778, the General Assembly declared that any slaves, black or Native American, who joined the first Rhode Island Regiment would be free; many slaves joined and the state government compensated their former owners. They became famous during the war as the "Black Regiment."

On 29 August 1778, the Continental Army and its new allies, the French, fought the British army in the Battle of Rhode Island. The battle was inconclusive, although the Black Regiment inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy's Hessians. On 25 October 1779, the British left Newport and moved to the southern colonies where the British army was suffering almost unendurable casualties in battles with the Army of the South, led by General Nathanael Greene, a Rhode Islander who had run an iron foundry in Warwick. Meanwhile, in 1778, Rhode Island ratified the Articles of Confederation.

When the Revolutionary War ended, Rhode Islanders wished to keep their independence from outside authority. Their history had included much suffering caused by those who had tried to rule them, and they were distrustful of any central national government. Thus, they resisted the imposition of a new American constitution and did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. In 1784, Rhode Island enacted the Emancipation Act, which declared every child born to a slave to be free at age twenty-one. It was an imperfect abolition of slavery, with the last Rhode Island slave death in 1859. However, Rhode Islanders were angry that the Constitution of the United States of America allowed slavery. Long after other states had ratified the new federal constitution, Rhode Island, which had not acknowledged the validity of the Constitution Convention, refused to accept it. Several times it had been put to a vote in Rhode Island, and each time it had been voted down. Eventually, the federal government threatened to treat Rhode Island as an independent nation and to charge tariffs on its goods. In 1790, the General Assembly met twice to vote on the Constitution; the first time there were not enough votes, but on 29 May 1790, it ratified the Constitution by a vote of 34 to 32. By then, a federal election had already been held, and George Washington had been president since 1789.


In the 1790s, Rhode Island's economy began to move away from shipping to industrialization. Samuel Slater was a young engineer who had worked in an English cotton mill and had memorized every machine in it. It was illegal for engineers to leave England, but Slater managed to sneak out and come to America. In Moses Brown, a merchant from Providence, he found someone who was enthusiastic about building a cotton mill, and in 1790, they built Rhode Island's first. By 1804, manufacturing cloth was a major industry, and during the 1820s, the capital invested in the manufacturing of textiles surpassed that invested in shipping. By 1860, 80 percent of Rhode Island's capital was invested in manufacturing of jewelry and weapons and a host of other goods.

The growth of manufacturing in the state created significant social problems, exacerbated by an 1822 law that took the vote away from African Americans. Immigrants from all over Europe came to Rhode Island to work in factories, but even if they became naturalized American citizens they were denied the right to vote. By 1840, 60 percent of Rhode Island's adult males were disfranchised. This fostered the Dorr War of 1840–1842. A lawyer, Thomas Wilson Dorr argued that when a government fails to serve its people, the people have the right to over-throw it. He cited the Revolutionary War as an example. In 1841, his followers arranged for a plebiscite, without the permission of Rhode Island's government, to elect representatives to a People's Convention. They drafted the People's Constitution, which won a popular vote in December 1841. Thereafter, a government was elected with Dorr as governor. This created two governments in Rhode Island: the People's government and the Law and Order government led by Governor Samuel Ward King. On 17 May 1842, Dorr and a following of Irish immigrants tried to seize the state arsenal in Providence. They failed, partly because African Americans in the city came to the aid of the militia in defending the arsenal. Dorr's actions frightened many Rhode Islanders, and they supported Governor King. In 1842, the General Assembly offered voters a state constitution to replace a body of laws from 1663, which they passed. It liberalized voting rules and returned the vote to African American males. It also included a $134 "freehold suffrage qualification" for naturalized citizens as a way of punishing poor Irish immigrants for supporting Dorr.

During the 1850s, the Republican Party was formed. In Rhode Island, it attracted Whigs, disaffected Democrats, and some of the Know-Nothings—an anti-immigrant group. They were united in their abhorrence of slavery and in their belief that the Union must be preserved in order to maintain liberty throughout America. In 1860, voters rejected the antislavery Republican candidate for governor, Seth Padelford, electing instead the Conservative Party candidate, William Sprague, who was conciliatory toward slavery. On the other hand, he was a staunch Unionist. When the Civil War broke out, Rhode Island quickly began supplying the Union with goods it needed for the war effort. The state provided 25,236 servicemen, 1,685 of whom perished. During the war, the United States Naval Academy was moved from Annapolis, Maryland, to Newport, Rhode Island. In 1866, Rhode Island outlawed the segregation of races, but segregation would occur well into in the twenty-first century. For the rest of the nineteenth century, industry continued to grow, and immigration grew with it. In 1886, the legislature passed a state constitutional amendment giving the vote to adult women, but the amendment had to be approved by a plebiscite, and it lost 21,957 to 6,889. It was not until 1917 that Rhode Island passed a women's suffrage law. In an effort to end intimidation of workers by factory owners when voting, Rhode Island established the secret ballot in 1889. In the 1890s, French-Canadians moved to Rhode Island, and by 1895, there were over forty thousand of them residing in the state.

The Modern Era

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, tens of thousands each of Italians, Portuguese, and Poles emigrated to Rhode Island, adding colorful traditions to a society that was among the most culturally diverse in America. In 1900, Providence was made the state's permanent capital. By 1905, at 50.81 percent of the population, Roman Catholics were the largest religious group in Rhode Island. In 1909, the governor was given the right to veto legislation; this was an effort to even out the powers of the legislative and executive branches of the government.

Although Republicans had long controlled the state government, in 1935, Democrats staged the Bloodless Revolution. Led by Governor Theodore Francis Green, Lieutenant Governor Robert Emmet Quinn, and Pawtucket's Democrat party boss Thomas P. McCoy, the Bloodless Revolution replaced the members of the state's supreme court and restructured the government into departments rather than commissions. Further developments, such as calling a new state constitutional convention, fell to the way side due to factional quarreling among Democrats. Disenchanted, voters elected Republicans, who in 1939 passed a civil service act protecting state employees from being arbitrarily fired.

In 1938, Rhode Island was hit by a hurricane with winds reaching 200 mph, killing 311 people and costing $100 million in damage. During World War II, Rhode Island's shipyards saw activity reminiscent of the Revolutionary War era. On Field's Point, the Walsh-Kaiser Shipyard employed about twenty-one thousand workers and built Libertyships, cargo ships that hauled supplies to the United Kingdom. When the war ended and demand for new ships declined, many people were out of work. A sales tax was introduced in 1947 to help the government compensate for lost revenue. During the 1950s, many people moved out of cities and to the suburbs, causing steep declines in urban populations. For example, Providence's population from 1950 to 1960 dropped from 248,674 to 179,116.

The 1950s were marked by two devastating hurricanes. On 31 August 1954, Hurricane Carol killed nineteen people and caused $90 million in damage. On 19 August 1955, Hurricane Diane broke two dams and caused $170 million in damages. In 1966, a hurricane barrier was built on the Providence River.

Rhode Island held a state constitutional convention in 1964 to modernize its constitution, but its new constitution was rejected in a 1968 plebiscite. A state income tax took effect in February 1971 as a "temporary" measure; it was made permanent in July 1971. By the 1980s, corruption of public officials was causing a decline in the citizens' faith in Rhode Island's government. In 1985, mismanagement caused the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation to collapse; money intended to help low-income residents buy homes apparently went into the pockets of administrators. In 1986 and 1993 two state supreme court justices resigned because of their unethical conduct and the imminent prospect of impeachment. In 1991, a superior court judge was sent to prison for taking bribes. Also in 1991, the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation collapsed, taking credit unions it was supposed to protect down with it.

In 1984, the state held a constitutional convention. By May 1986, the new constitutional provisions approved by voters included a Constitutional Ethics Commission and a requirement that the General Assembly regulate campaign spending. A proposal of four-year terms for elected officials, including legislators, failed in 1986, but a 1992 amendment lengthening just the governor's and a few other executive branch officials' terms to four years passed in a popular vote. In 1994, voters approved an amendment that gave legislators $10,000 a year for their services and eliminated pensions for legislators. Further, the assembly was reorganized to have only seventy-five members in 2003, down from one hundred, and the senate was to have only thirty-eight senators, down from fifty.


Bridenbaugh, Carl. Fat Mutton and Liberty of Conscience: Society in Rhode Island, 1636–1690. Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press, 1974.

Conley, Patrick T. Democracy in Decline: Rhode Island's Constitutional Development, 1776–1841. Providence: Rhode Island Historical Society, 1977.

Fradin, Dennis B. The Rhode Island Colony. Chicago: Children's Press, 1989.

James, Sydney V. Colonial Rhode Island: A History. New York: Scribners, 1975.

McLoughlin, William G. Rhode Island: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1978.

McNair, Sylvia. Rhode Island. New York: Children's Press, 2000.

Morgan, Edmund S. Roger Williams, the Church and the State. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1967.

Nichols, Joan Kane. A Matter of Conscience: The Trial of Anne Hutchinson. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.

Polishook, Irwin H. Rhode Island and the Union, 1774–1795. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1969.

Rhode Island's official website. Available from

Kirk H.Beetz

See alsoBrown University ; Providence Plantations, Rhode Island and .

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Rhode Island (state, United States)

Rhode Island, smallest state in the United States, located in New England; bounded by Massachusetts (N and E), the Atlantic Ocean (S), and Connecticut (W). Its official name is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Facts and Figures

Area, 1,214 sq mi (3,144 sq km). Pop. (2010) 1,052,567, a .4% increase since the 2000 census. Capital and largest city, Providence. Statehood, May 29, 1790 (13th of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution). Highest pt., Jerimoth Hill, 812 ft (248 m); lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, Little Rhody. Motto, Hope. State bird, Rhode Island red. State flower, violet. State tree, red maple. Abbr., R.I.; RI


Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states and except for New Jersey the most densely populated. The dominant physiographic feature of the state is the Narragansett basin, a shallow lowland area of Carboniferous sediments, extending into SE Massachusetts and, in Rhode Island, partly submerged as Narragansett Bay. The bay cuts inland c.30 mi (50 km) to Providence, where it receives the Blackstone River; it contains several islands, including Rhode Island (or Aquidneck), the largest (and the site of historic Newport); Conanicut Island, with the resort of Jamestown; and Prudence Island. The coastline between Point Judith and Watch Hill is marked by sand spits and barrier beaches, sheltering lagoons and salt marshes. Glaciation left many small lakes, and the rolling hilly surface of the state is cut by short, swift streams with numerous falls. Although more than half of Rhode Island is covered with forests, it is highly urbanized. Providence is the capital and the largest city; other important cities are Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket, and Newport.

Rhode Island's coast is lined with resorts noted for their swimming and boating facilities, and windswept Block Island is a favorite vacation spot. Narragansett Bay is famous for its sailboats and yachts. The America's Cup yacht race has been held in Newport several times, beginning in 1930 and most recently in 1983. The state also has many historic attractions.


Rhode Island's traditional manufacturing economy has diversified and is now also based on services, trade (retail and wholesale), and finance. In spite of this, many of the products for which Rhode Island is famous are still being manufactured. These include jewelry, silverware, textiles, primary and fabricated metals, machinery, electrical equipment, and rubber and plastic items. Tourism and gambling are also important. Agriculture is relatively unimportant to the economy. Most of the farmland is used for dairying and poultry raising, and the state is known for its Rhode Island Red chickens. Principal crops are nursery and greenhouse items. Commercial fishing is an important but declining industry. Narragansett Bay abounds in shellfish; flounder and porgy are also caught. Naval facilities at Newport contribute to the state's income.

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

Rhode Island's present constitution was adopted in 1842 and has been often amended. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term and eligible for reelection. The bicameral legislature has a senate with 50 members and a house with 75, all elected for two-year terms. Local government is carried out on the city level; Rhode Island's counties have no political functions. The state sends two senators and two representatives to the U.S. Congress; it has four electoral votes. Rhode Island is solidly Democratic, but Lincoln Almond, a Republican, was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998, and he was succeeded by another Republican, Donald Carcieri, elected in 2002 and again in 2006. In 2010 Lincoln Chafee, an independent, was elected to the office. Democrat Gina Raimondo was elected governor in 2014; she became the first women to win the office.

The state's leading educational institutions are Brown Univ. and the Rhode Island School of Design, at Providence, and the Univ. of Rhode Island, at Kingston.


Early Exploration and Colonization

The region of Rhode Island was probably visited (1524) by Verrazano, and in 1614 the area was explored by the Dutchman Adriaen Block. Roger Williams, banished (1635) from the Massachusetts Bay colony, established in 1636 the first settlement in the area at Providence on land purchased from Native Americans of the Narragansett tribe. In 1638, Puritan exiles bought the island of Aquidneck (now Rhode Island) from the Narragansetts. There they established the settlement of Portsmouth (1638). Because of factional differences, Newport was founded (1639) on the southwest side of the island, but the two towns later combined governments (1640–47). Another settlement, Warwick, was made on the western shore of Narragansett Bay in 1642.

In order to thwart claims made to the area by the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies, Williams, through influential friends, secured (1644) a parliamentary patent under which the four towns drew up a code of civil law and organized (1647) a government. The liberal charter granted (1663) by Charles II of England ensured the colony's survival, although boundary difficulties with Massachusetts and Connecticut continued well into the 18th cent.

The early settlers were mostly of English stock. Many were drawn to the colony by the guarantee of religious freedom, a cardinal principle with Williams, confirmed in the patent of 1644 and reaffirmed by the royal charter of 1663. Jews settled in Newport in the first year of Williams' presidency (1654), and Quakers followed in large numbers. All the early settlers owned land that, following Williams' practice, was bought from the Native Americans. Fishing and trade supplemented the living won from the soil. Moreover, livestock from the Narragansett county (South County), especially the famous Narragansett pacers, figured largely in the early commerce, which developed rapidly in the late 17th cent.

Because of the colony's religious freedom, it was viewed with mixed loathing and fear by the more powerful neighboring colonies and was never admitted to the New England Confederation. However, it bore its share of the devastation caused by King Philip's War in 1675–76. Between 1750 and 1770 there was bitter strife between Providence and Newport over control of the colony.

The Coming of Revolution

Until the American Revolution, Newport was the commercial center of the colony, thriving especially on the triangular trade in rum, slaves, and molasses. Rhode Island, like other colonies, objected to British mercantilist policies and consistently violated the Molasses Act of 1733 and the Navigation Acts. Narragansett Bay became a notorious haven for smugglers, and the British revenue cutter Gaspee was burned (1772) by patriots in protest against the enforcement of revenue laws.

After the start of the American Revolution, Rhode Island militia under Nathanael Greene joined (1775) the Continental Army at Cambridge, and on May 4, 1776, the province renounced its allegiance to George III. British forces occupied parts of Rhode Island from 1776 to 1779, when they withdrew before the arrival of the French fleet. The Revolution won, Rhode Island, jealous of its independence, refused to sanction a national import duty; it therefore deprived the Continental Congress of a major source of revenue and became one of the states responsible for the failure of the Articles of Confederation. Rhode Island did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia and resisted ratifying the Constitution until the federal government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state; even then, ratification passed (1790) by only two votes.


The post-Revolutionary era brought bankruptcy and currency difficulties. Shipping, which continued to be a major factor in the state's economy until the first quarter of the 19th cent., was hard hit by Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 and by the competition from larger ports such as New York and Boston. However, this post-Revolutionary period also marked the beginning of Rhode Island's industrial greatness. Samuel Slater built the first successful American cotton-textile mill at Pawtucket in 1790. An abundance of water power led to the rapid development of manufacturing, in which merchants and shipping magnates invested their capital.

With the growth of industry the towns increased in population, and Providence surpassed Newport as the commercial center of the state. Since suffrage had long been restricted to freeholders, Rhode Island's increased urbanization resulted in the disenfranchisement of most townspeople. Frustrated in repeated attempts to amend the constitution, many Rhode Islanders joined Thomas Wilson Dorr in forcibly establishing an illegal state government in Providence in 1842. Dorr's Rebellion, though abortive, resulted in the adoption of a new constitution (1842) extending suffrage; however, the property qualification was not abolished until 1888. Antislavery sentiment was strong in Rhode Island, and the state firmly supported the Union in the Civil War.

Mill Towns, Discontent, and a Changing Economy

Until well into the 20th cent. Rhode Island's political and economic life was dominated by mill owners. (Nelson W. Aldrich was a power in the nation as well as the state.) The small mill towns, with their company houses and company stores and their large numbers of foreign-born residents, were important elements in the social fabric. English, Irish, and Scottish settlers had begun arriving in large numbers in the first half of the 19th cent.; French Canadian immigration commenced around the time of the Civil War; at the end of the 19th cent. and the beginning of the 20th there was a large influx of Poles, Italians, and Portuguese. Politically, Rhode Island was generally controlled by Republicans until the 1930s, when the Democrats' insistence on reapportionment of representation (which tended to favor small towns over urban areas) helped bring their party into power.

Sporadic labor troubles in the 19th cent. had little effect on the state's economy. However, after World War I there was a long textile strike, centered in the Blackstone valley; this, together with the gradual removal of the mills to the South—the source of the cotton supply where labor was cheaper—led to a continuing decline in the cotton-textile industry. Nevertheless, the manufacture of textile products is still carried on in the state today and new industries such as high-technology electronics have been introduced. Since the 1970s the overall shift in the state's economy has been away from manufacturing altogether and toward the service sector. This shift has coincided with major suburban growth.


See P. J. Coleman, Transformation of Rhode Island, 1790–1860 (1963); F. G. Bates, Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union (1967); W. G. McLoughlin, Rhode Island: A History (1978); M. Wright and R. Sullivan, The Rhode Island Atlas (1982); P. T. Conley, An Album of Rhode Island History, 1636–1986 (1986).

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Rhode Island


Newport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483

Providence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 497

Warwick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 507

The State in Brief

Nickname: The Ocean State Motto: Hope

Flower: Violet

Bird: Rhode Island red hen

Area: 1,545 square miles (2000; U.S. rank 50th)

Elevation: Ranges from sea level to 812 feet

Climate: Warm summers, abundant rainfall; long winters with occasional heavy snowfall; moderated by ocean

Admitted to Union: May 29, 1790

Capital: Providence

Head Official: Governor Don Carcieri (R) (until 2007)


1980: 947,154

1990: 1,003,464

2000: 1,048,319

2004 estimate: 1,080,632

Percent change, 19902000: 4.5%

U.S. rank in 2004: 43rd

Percent of residents born in state: 61.4% (2000)

Density: 1003.2 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 38,393

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 891,191

Black or African American: 46,908

American Indian and Alaska Native: 5,121

Asian: 23,665

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 567

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 90,820

Other: 52,616

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 63,896

Population 5 to 19 years old: 218,720

Percent of population 65 years and over: 14.5%

Median age: 36.7 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 13,081

Total number of deaths (2003): 10,064 (infant deaths, 76)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 1,103


Major industries: Trade, services, manufacturing, research, agriculture

Unemployment rate: 4.7% (April 2005)

Per capita income: $31,937 (2003; U.S. rank: 17th)

Median household income: $45,205 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 10.7% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: 25% of federal income tax liability

Sales tax rate: 7%

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Rhode Island

Rhode Island State in ne USA, on the Atlantic coast in New England; the smallest state in the USA; the capital is Providence. Other major cities include Warwick, Pawtucket, and Cranston. The region was first settled in 1636 by people from Massachusetts seeking religious freedom. It received a royal charter in 1663. British troops occupied the area during the American Revolution. Much of the land is forested, but there is some dairy farming. Potatoes, hay, apples, oats, and maize are the chief crops, and fishing is significant. Other industries: textiles, fabricated metals, silverware, machinery, electrical equipment and tourism. Area: 3144sq km (1214sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,048,319.

Statehood :

May 29, 1790

Nickname :

Ocean State

State bird :

Rhode Island Red

State flower :


State tree :

Red maple

State motto :


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Rhode Island


Rhode Island, the smallest state of the United States, has struggled to maintain its economic health. Born as a colony of dissenters and a haven for individual liberty, the state has not always matched its idealistic beginnings with its political and economic realities. It has experienced divisions between its old-line citizenry and the descendants of the immigrants who have staffed its factories. It reached an economic peak around the turn of the century but it has since fought competition from southern industries and has gone through periods of depression and recession. In the latter half of the twentieth century, however, Rhode Island achieved a significant economic recovery.

In 1524 the first European explorer of Rhode Island to arrive in the region was Italian Giovanni da Verrazano. In 1636 English clergyman Roger Williams established a colony at Providence seeking religious freedom for a group of nonconformists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As other towns developed in the area, Williams secured a charter from King Charles II for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (which encompassed several towns), that guaranteed religious freedom and substantial local autonomy.

Rhode Island grew rapidly in agriculture and commerce, which included the slave trade. Its exports included naval stores, molasses, preserved meats, cider, and dairy products. Rhode Island was also a whaling center. As the colony with the highest degree of self-rule, Rhode Island was the first to declare its independence from England in 1776. Fearing too much federal power, however, it was the last state to ratify the U.S. Constitution (1790).

Rhode Island merchant ships in the early nineteenth century traded with China, India, the Baltics, and the East Indies, and later with the U.S. Pacific coast. The mid-nineteenth century in the state was marked by divisions between ordinary citizens and wealthy rural landowners who held nearly all the power in the legislature and who were the only ones allowed to vote. By 1843 a new constitution was formed which corrected some of the inequalities.

Meanwhile, the economy of the state had shifted from commerce to industry, with textile manufacturing as the most prominent. Samuel Slater established the first cotton mill in Pawtucket in 1790. Under the socalled "Rhode Island System," company-built housing was established for the workers and their families. Oftentimes mill owners employed entire families that worked from sunup to sundown. Between 1830 and 1840 the number of mills in the state almost doubled. After 1830 steam power replaced water power in the mills and also provided the power for steamboats and newly emerging railroads.

Other products were being manufactured such as jewelry (represented best by Gorham Silver) and steam engines. By 1860 less than an estimated three percent of the state's workforce was in the maritime industry; 10 percent were employed in agriculture, and 50 percent in manufacturing. Between 1776 and 1860 Rhode Island's population had increased two and one-half times, mostly through foreign immigration.

The port of Providence soon became the center for commerce in the region. With three rivers at the head of Narragansett Bay and a growing number of railroad termini, Providence boasted a large number of textile mills. It was also home to the metals industry, the banking and insurance sector, and the import-export business. Providence began to lose some of its prominence after 1845 when steamships found a more suitable port at Fall River, Massachusetts, and rail connections began to gravitate toward New York City.

As several southern states began seceding from the Union just before the American Civil War (18611865), Rhode Island still had some sympathies with the South because of its economic relationship with southern cotton planters. A slave-free state since 1807, Rhode Island even temporarily repealed its "personal liberty law" to make it easier for runaway slaves to be returned to their owners. Still, when the Union called for volunteers against the Confederacy, Rhode Island responded, exceeding its quota for troops. The state made great profits in the textile and other industries during the war. After the war, the town of Newport became a haven for newly rich Americans who built large mansions on its rocky shores Many of which still survive as tourist attractions.

According to historian William G. McLoughlin the decades following the war were Rhode Island's finest: "Its manufacturers hobnobbed with the rich and powerful who controlled the nation. . . . (It) had reached the pinnacle of success. . . ." Foremost among the rich and powerful people was Nelson W. Aldrich (whose daughter later married into the Rockefeller family) who, as a senator, controlled tariff schedules in the U.S. Congress. As chairman of the Finance Committee he was in a position to help protect businessmen against foreign competition and to encourage sound money policies. He also was instrumental in devising the Federal Reserve System.

The economic system in Rhode Island changed rapidly after World War I. French-Canadians, Irish, and Portuguese, encouraged to immigrate to provide cheap labor, began to outnumber people of the old Yankee stock. The state's industries continued to prosper and they were especially productive during World War I (19141918). After the war, however, decreased production caused labor unrest and a widespread strike of textile workers in 1922 crippled an industry that was already plagued by competition from textile mills in southern states. Bitter divisions in the state at this time, coupled with the onset of the Great Depression (19291939), helped to precipitate the 1934 Democratic overthrow of longtime Republican rule in the state.

Improvements in Rhode Island's economy have been slow in coming. Since the Depression years the state often had one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation, reaching more than 15 percent by 1975. In the late 1990s about 30 percent of workers were still employed in manufacturing and many were working in low-paid jobs in the jewelry and textile industries. After a real estate boom in the 1980s the real estate market declined at the end of the decade. The state experienced a banking crisis in the early 1990s, which necessitated a government bailout of uninsured financial institutions. Rhode Island had slowly begun to recover from its economic doldrums, largely because of new jobs in the financial and electronic industries. Unemployment fell to around five percent by 1997.

See also: Rhode Island System of Labor


Conley, Patrick T. Rhode Island Profile. Providence: Rhode Island Publications Society, 1983.

James, Sydney V. Colonial Rhode Island: A History. White Plains, NY: Kraus International, 1975.

McLoughlin, William G. Rhode Island: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1978.

Rhode Island, Economic Research Division. Rhode Island: Basic Economic Statistics 19821983. Providence: Rhode Island, Department of Economic Development, Economic Research Division, 1983.

Steinberg, Sheila, and Cathleen McGuigan. Rhode Island: An Historical Guide. Providence: Rhode Island Bicentennial Commission, 1976.

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Rhode Island (island, United States)

Rhode Island, island, 15 mi (24 km) long and 5 mi (8 km) wide, S R.I., at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. It is the largest island in the state, with steep cliffs and excellent beaches. Known to the Native Americans and early colonials as Aquidneck (əkwĬd´nĕk), it was renamed Rhode Island (probably after the isle of Rhodes) in 1644. Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth are on the island.

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