Rhode Island 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Rhode Island and Were Going to Ask Anyway

Rhode Island 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Rhode Island and Were Going to Ask Anyway

by Tim Lehnert


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Rhode Island 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Rhode Island and Were Going to Ask Anyway by Tim Lehnert

From Narragansett Bay, Roger Williams, the American Industrial Revolution and the Independent Man to the New England mob, the Newport Mansions, Family Guy and profiles of Buddy Cianci, H.P. Lovecraft and the Farrelly brothers, no book provides a more insightful lowdown on the Ocean State than Rhode Island 101. No book is more fun! Well known Rhode Islanders weigh in on the nation’s smallest state. Investigative reporter Jim Taricani recounts his top stories, Mark Patinkin provides signs that you've been in Rhode Island too long, meteorologist John Ghiorse revisits the most memorable weather events of the last 40 years, Lincoln Chafee offers a Rhode Island treasure hunt and Rory Raven illuminates haunted Rhode Island. From fabulous beaches, historic cities, and dynamite cuisine to corrupt politicians, elite universities and a unique accent and slang, it’s all here.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781772760149
Publisher: MacIntyrePurcell Publishing, Inc
Publication date: 09/01/2016
Series: 101 Series
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 1,215,550
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Tim Lehnert is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Montreal's The Gazette, The Providence Journal, The Providence Phoenix, and Rhode Island Monthly. He lives in Cranston, Rhode Island.

Read an Excerpt

Rhode Island 101

Everything You Wanted to Know About Rhode Island and Were Going to Ask Anyway

By Tim Lehnert

MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.

Copyright © 2011 MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-926916-84-2


Rhode Island's It For Me

Lyrics by Charlie Hall

Music by Maria Day

Arranged by Kathryn Chester

I've been to every state we have and I think that I'm inclined to say that Rhody stole my heart: You can keep the forty nine

Herring gulls that dot the sky, blue waves that paint the rocks, waters rich with Neptune's life, the boats that line the docks, I see the lighthouse flickering to help the sailors see. There's a place for everyone: Rhode Island's it for me.

Rhode Island, oh, Rhode Island surrounded by the sea. Some people roam the earth for home; Rhode Island's it for me.

I love the fresh October days, the buzz on College Hill, art that moves an eye to tear, a jeweler's special skill. Icicles refract the sun, snow falling gracefully. Some search for a place that's warm: Rhode Island's it for me.

Rhode Island, oh, Rhode Island surrounded by the sea. Some people roam the earth for home; Rhode Island's it for me.

The skyline piercing Providence, the State House dome so rare, residents who speak their minds; No longer unaware! Roger Williams would be proud to see his "colony" so don't sell short this precious port: Rhode Island's it for me.

Rhode Island, oh, Rhode Island surrounded by the sea. Some people roam the earth for home; Rhode Island's it for me.

Rhode Island, oh, Rhode Island surrounded by the sea. Some people roam the earth for home: Rhode Island's it for me!


Rhode Island:

A Timeline

10,000 years ago: Native Americans inhabit the territory now known as Rhode Island.

1524: Giovanni da Verrazzano, exploring the Atlantic Coast on behalf of France, "discovers" Rhode Island.

1614: Adriaen Block, a Dutch mariner, visits Block Island and bestows his name upon it.

1620s: Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colony settlers visit and trade with Native peoples.

1635: Reverend William Blackstone becomes area's first European resident when he builds a house in what is now Cumberland.

1636: Roger Williams, a religious refugee from Massachusetts, establishes the first permanent European settlement in Rhode Island at Providence.

1638-42: The towns of Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick are founded. America's First Baptist Church is established in Providence. (The current building on North Main Street was completed in 1775).

1644: Roger Williams obtains first charter from England uniting Rhode Island.

1663: Royal Charter establishes the "Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." The Charter guarantees religious freedom and allows for substantial self-governance.

1675-76: King Philip's War devastates the Native population and results in Providence being burnt to the ground.

1700s: Rhode Island grows and prospers thanks to agriculture, fishing and the shipping industry. Newport, Bristol, and Providence are busy ports.

1763: Newport's Touro Synagogue, the oldest in North America, is dedicated.

1764: The College of Rhode Island, later renamed Brown University, is founded.

1760s-70s: Several incidents in which the Colonists rebel against the English, most famously the 1772 burning of the British ship The Gaspee after it runs aground in Warwick pursuing smugglers.

1772-82: Rhode Island loses nearly 10 percent of its population, the result of war casualties, Loyalists departing for England and Canada and a poor economy.

1775: A year after sending delegates to the Continental Congress, the General Assembly creates a 1,500 man army, the first permanent army in the colonies.

1776: On May 4, Rhode Island becomes the first colony to declare independence from Great Britain. Aquidneck Island is occupied by the British in December.

1778: The Battle of Rhode Island, the only full blown Revolutionary era battle on Rhode Island soil, takes place. American troops, initially helped by the French, attack British forces occupying Newport. The Black Regiment, a battalion of black soldiers, assists the Americans who ultimately are forced to retreat. British forces quit Newport the following year.

1784: Slavery is abolished by the General Assembly by virtue of the "Gradual Emancipation Act."

1787: The Constitutional Convention is held in Philadelphia; Rhode Island is the only future US state not to send delegates.

1790: Rhode Island is the last of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the US Constitution with the condition that a Bill of Rights be included.

1790-93: America's Industrial Revolution begins on the banks of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket when Samuel Slater builds the United States' first cotton mill.

1800: Providence surpasses Newport as Rhode Island's largest city.

1815: The "Great Gale" causes serious damage.

1820s: Rhode Island rapidly industrializes and the Blackstone River Valley becomes a world center for textile production.

1828: Blackstone Canal, linking Worcester, MA and Providence, opens; it closes in 1848. School Act establishes free public education.

1829: The Providence Journal, the oldest continually publishing daily in North America, debuts.

1831: Race riot in Providence produces five deaths and prompts the city to incorporate the following year.

1835: Railroad connecting Providence and Boston begins operation.

1839: Kingscote, the first of the Newport Mansions, is commissioned.

1842: Dorr's Rebellion expands the franchise and increases the power of non-property owners and urban dwellers. State constitution is adopted.

1846: Providence and Worcester Railroad debuts; Providence's Union Station opens two years later.

1860: Rhode Island is the most industrialized state in the country with half of its workforce employed in manufacturing. Child labor is common.

1860s: Rhode Island sends over 25,000 soldiers to fight on behalf of the Union effort in the Civil War. Local factories supply weapons, munitions, uniforms and other manufactured goods.

1863: Rhode Island Hospital is founded.

1866: Racial segregation is outlawed.

1882: Public schooling becomes mandatory.

1883-84: Newport Naval Station and US Naval War College open.

1884: The Providence Grays defeat the New York Metropolitans in the first World Series.

1880s-1920s: Substantial immigration from Quebec, the British Isles and northern and southern Europe changes the face of the state.

1895: The Breakers, the most extravagant of the Newport Mansions, is completed.

1900-01: Providence becomes Rhode Island's only capital (previously it shared this role with Newport). The new State House opens for business.

1905: Rhode Island becomes a majority Catholic state.

1917: The US enters WWI and over 28,000 Rhode Islanders join the army. Women gain the right to vote.

1920s-30s: Massive decline in the textile industry due to relocation to the southern states and the Depression.

1922: 600-room Biltmore Hotel opens in Providence; local radio stations begin broadcasting.

1926: Scituate Reservoir begins operation, capping a decade long construction project.

1929: Mount Hope Bridge connecting Bristol and Portsmouth replaces the ferry.

1931: Hillsgrove State Airport opens in Warwick; it is renamed T.F. Green State Airport after the former governor in 1938.

1935: "Bloodless Revolution" changes state politics and shifts power to the Democrats.

1936: Rhode Island celebrates its 300th birthday.

1938: A major hurricane causes over 250 deaths and alters the state's coastline.

1940: Jamestown Bridge links Conanicut Island with the mainland.

1941-45: Over 92,000 Rhode Islanders serve during WWII; thousands more on the home front are engaged in wartime production.

1950s-60s: Movement of population to suburbs; Providence shrinks dramatically.

1953: Senator John F. Kennedy is married to Jacqueline Bouvier at St. Mary's Church in Newport.

1954: First Newport Jazz Festival (the folk festival debuts in 1959). Hurricane Carol hits at the end of August, causing major damage.

1966: Route 95 is completed through the length of Rhode Island.

1968: Midland Mall, subsequently renamed Rhode Island Mall, opens. Warwick Mall follows four year later.

1969: Newport Bridge opens.

1972: Providence Civic Center (now known as the Dunkin' Donuts Center) opens.

1978: A blizzard drops several feet of snow and paralyzes much of the state for a week.

1989: A Greek tanker runs aground and spills 300,000 gallons of heating oil in Narragansett Bay. Seven years later, another accident results in a North Cape oil barge discharging 820,000 gallons of oil in the Bay.

1991: Governor Bruce Sundlun closes dozens of financial institutions in wake of the failure of the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation.

1990s: Providence Renaissance brings new life to downtown and includes uncovering the Providence River, and the opening of the Rhode Island Convention Center and Providence Place Mall.

2002: Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci resigns and reports to federal prison following conviction on corruption charges.

2003: Station Night Club fire in West Warwick kills 100 and seriously injures many others. In July, State Police seize cigarettes and arrest tribe members in a raid on a smoke-shop opened by Narragansett Indians in Charlestown.

2007: Rhode Island enters into recession ahead of the other New England states, and much of the US.

2010: Heavy late March rains cause flooding in a number of Rhode Island communities.


Rhode Island Essentials


The state's official moniker is "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," which is the longest name of any state in the union. The name is a bit of a puzzler as the pocket-sized land mass that comprises much of the state is not in fact an island.

One explanation is related to Giovanni da Verrazzano's 1524 visit to Narragansett Bay. Verrazzano, an Italian exploring the Atlantic Coast on behalf of France, spied what is now called Block Island and thought it similar in appearance to the Greek island of Rhodes and so bestowed the name "Rhode Island" upon it. Later, English colonists, perhaps out of confusion, applied this name to Aquidneck Island which is larger and much closer to the mainland.

Another version of the story holds that the "Rhode" name may have come from the 1614 voyage of Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who not only named Block Island after himself, but applied the name "roode" (Dutch for red) to Aquidneck.

Regardless of its provenance, the name was cemented when England's King Charles II granted the 1663 Royal Charter to the "Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Recently, the "Providence Plantations" part of the name has generated controversy. Some Rhode Islanders, particularly those of African descent, find the word "Plantations" racist, even though the "Plantations" moniker as originally applied did not have anything to do with slavery. A 2010 ballot measure that proposed shortening the state's official name to the commonly used "Rhode Island" was soundly defeated.

Location: One of the six New England states, Rhode Island is bordered on the north and east by Massachusetts, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by Connecticut.

State capital: Providence

Motto: "Hope"

Nicknames: The "Ocean State," "Little Rhody," "Rogue's Island"

State seal: The seal features an anchor and the word "Hope" surrounded by the words "Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1636."

State flag: The flag's background is white and features a circle of thirteen gold stars at its center. In the middle of the circle lies a gold anchor with a blue ribbon below it inscribed with the word "Hope."

Year of entry into the Union: 1790

Time zone: Eastern Standard Time

Area code: 401

Voting age: 18

Drinking age: 21

Zip codes: 91 zip codes, all beginning with "028" or "029."

Legal holidays: New Year's Day (January 1), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4), Victory Day (second Monday in August), Labor Day (first Monday in September), Columbus Day (second Monday in October), Veteran's Day (November 11), Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November), and Christmas Day (December 25).

License plate: "Ocean State" appears at the bottom, and "Rhode Island" is along the top with a small anchor at the top left. The plate number is superimposed over a wave motif. Specialty plates include designations for war veterans, Purple Heart recipients, National Guard members, and firefighters. There are also specialty plates featuring a sailboat design, Mr. Potato Head (benefits the Rhode Island Community Food Bank), and Conservation Through Education (benefits Save the Bay and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island).

State quarter: Issued in 2001, it reads "Rhode Island 1790 The Ocean State" and features a vintage sailboat in the foreground, and the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge in the background.


Rhode Island's population is roughly 1,050,000. Among the six New England states, Rhode Island ranks fifth in population, ahead of Vermont which has about 621,000 people, and behind New Hampshire and Maine which have roughly 1.3 million people each.

Rhode Island is the 43rd most populous state in the US; Hawaii is number 42 and Montana number 44. Other places with a population comparable to Rhode Island's include the Asian nation of Timor-Leste, and the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Rhode Island's largest city is Providence with a population of 172, 000, ranking it 137th in the nation. The population of the Providence-New Bedford-Fall River RI-MA metropolitan statistical area is 1.6 million, 37th in the nation.

• Rhode Island's percentage of the US population: 0.034

• California's percentage of the US population: 12.03

• Rhode Island's percentage of New England's population: 7.3

Source: US Census Bureau.


Rhode Island has five counties, and contrary to popular belief there is no such official entity as "South County"; South County Beaches are actually located in Washington County. Almost two-thirds of Rhode Island's population lives in Providence County, which in addition to the city of Providence includes the municipalities of Woonsocket, Cumberland, Pawtucket, East Providence, North Providence, Johnston and Cranston.


At 1,045 square miles of land, Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union. Number 49 ranked Delaware is about twice as big, and the city of Houston, Texas is a little more than half Little Rhody's size. Rhode Island's diminutive footprint results in its invocation as a unit of measurement for everything from icebergs, fires, and oil spills to western cattle ranches and foreign principalities. Whether describing an ice shelf or European duchy as "half the size of Rhode Island" clarifies matters is another story.

Moreover, there is no agreement on Rhode Island's size — it is variously reported as just over 1,000 square miles (US Census Bureau), approximately 1,200 square miles (State of Rhode Island) and over 1,500 square miles (World Almanac). It all depends on whether inland and Narragansett Bay water is included. Regardless, Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns are crammed into a limited space, making the state the second most densely populated in the country, trailing only New Jersey.


Rhode Island's population of just over one million people is basically stable, or stagnant, depending on how you look at it. During the first ten years of the twenty-first century, the state population increased by only five thousand people; population growth for the entire decade was a mere one half of one percent. In some of those years, the state population actually declined. Typically, Rhode Island gains population through natural increase (births minus deaths) and net international migration (those coming to Rhode Island from abroad minus those leaving). However, moving vans are more likely to be departing Rhode Island for other US states than the converse. The result is negligible population growth, a trend that is expected to continue.


Excerpted from Rhode Island 101 by Tim Lehnert. Copyright © 2011 MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc..
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