Rhode Island is one of the fifty states that make up the United States of America and one of the six New England states in the northeast section of the country, along with Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It is bordered to the west by Connecticut, to the north by Massachusetts, to the east by Massachusetts, and to the south by the Atlantic Ocean. Providence is the capital and largest city. Other important cities in Rhode Island are Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket, and East Providence.
Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states by size with an area of 1,044.93 square miles (2706.36 sq km), but ranks 43rd in population with 1,048,319 in the 2000 census. The next larger state, Delaware, is nearly twice as big. It is 3rd among states in population density. It is not certain how its name originated, but it is known that it was applied to the island in Narrangansett Bay prior to be applied to the whole colony. It is nicknamed the “Ocean State.”
The earliest inhabitants of Rhode Island were, first, Paleo-Indians, around 11,500 years ago. When Europeans arrived, the encountered Native Americans from the Algonquian language group, including the Wampanoag, the Narrangansett, the Nipmuc, and the Pequot. The first European settlement was Providence Plantation, founded by Roger Williams, a pioneer for religious freedom who got along well with the Narrangasett from his arrival in 1636.
Conflict arose between the Providence settlements and the nearby Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut settlements. After the Sugar Act of 1764, which was particularly difficult for Rhode Island to swallow, there were a number of acts of defiance, culminating with the burning of the Gaspee, a British vessel that had been pursuing a smuggler ship when it ran aground. Given this atmosphere, it is not surprising that Rhode Island sent aid to Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party in 1773 or sent its militia to help when the battles of Lexington and Concord began the American Revolution in April, 1775. Rhode Island became the last of the thirteen original colonies to join the Union on 29 May 1790.
The proper name for a resident of Rhode Island is a Rhode Islander. The state motto of Rhode Island is Hope. The motto appears on the state seal, which shows an anchor. The combination may be a reference to Hebrews 6:18–19 which contains the phrase “hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” The anchor and motto also appear on the state coat of arms on a field of blue, and on the state flag on a field of white surrounded by thirteen stars. Other state emblems include the following:
- State Flower: Violet
- State Bird: Rhode Island Red
- State Tree: Red Maple
- State Shell: Quahaug (quahog) — used to make wampum
- State Fish: Striped Bass
- State Beverage: Coffee Milk, a drink made with milk and coffee syrup
- State Fruit: Rhode Island Greening Apple