Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S. and it is also the eight least populated. That being said, it is the second most densely populated of the 50 U.S. States.
Today we'll go into depth, exploring the various information available on this state ranging from the geography, to the climate, to the history and culture. Before we begin, let's take a quick look at some important information about this place:
Nickname(s): The Ocean State, Little Rhody, The Plantation State
State bird: Rhode Island Red Chicken
Fish: Striped Bass
Tree: Red Maple
RI State Overview
RI is located in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest state in area, one of the least populated, but also the most densely packed population. It is the second most densely populated behind New Jersey.
It is bordered by Connecticut to the west, and Massachusetts to the north and east. It has a water boundary that is shares with Long Island in New York to the southwest. In addition to all of this, it also has the longest name of any state.
Of the thirteen original colonies, RI was the first to declare independence from Britain. It did so on May 4, 1776 which was two months before any of the other colonies. Despite this, it was the last of the original thirteen to ratify the United States Constitution.
The official nickname is "The Ocean State" because the various bays, and inlets account for about 14% of the total area.
The History of Rhode Island
In 1636, Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for having differing religious views. He settled in a new place on land given to him by the Narragansett and Pequot tribes.
He called this place "Providence." He said "having a sense of God's merciful providence unto me in my distress." This area would eventually become a sanctuary where religious freedom could be found. In 1638, after speaking with Williams, Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, John Clarke, Phillip Sherman, and others who were religiously persecuted settled on Aquidneck Island.
During the American Revolution, the British occupied Newport until a combination of Franco-American forces fought together to drive them out. The 1st Rhode Island Regiment was the first Africa-American military unit.
During the post-revolution era, RI was a major player in the slave trade. In 1774, the slave population was 6.3% of the total, which was twice as high as any other New England colony. Following the revolution, merchants in this state controlled between 60% and 90% of the American trade of African slaves.
In addition to this, the state was a major player in the Industrial Revolution. It began when Thomas Somers started reproducing textile machine plans he imported from England.
During the Civil War, RI supplied 25,236 fighting men, 1,685 of whom died. They also supplied the Union Army with materials needed to win the war, utilizing their industrial capacity. The state abolished racial segregation in 1866 in all the public schools.
Since the Great Depression, the state has been under the control of the Democratic Party.
Geography and Climate
The state is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long. It has two natural regions which consist of the eastern and western portions of the state. The east contains the lowlands of the Narragansett Bay, and the west forms a portion of the New England Upland.
Narragansett Bay is a major feature in the state's topography as it contains over 30 islands, one of which is Aquideck Island. That state rock is Cumberlandite, which is found only in the city of Cumberland and only in this state.
The area is on the borderline of being a humid subtropical climate and a humid continental climate. It has warm, rainy summers and cold winters.
The State's Unique Culture
Some of the Rhode Islanders speak with a unique non-rhotic accent that people describe as a mixture of the New York and Boston accents. For example, water sounds like "watuh." Other unique aspects of the dialect are below:
Drinking fountains are referred to as "bubblers."
Milkshakes are referred to as "cabinets."
Foot-long sandwiches are called "grinders."
There are number of dishes that are unique to the state as well. For example, Hot wieners are smaller than normal hot dogs and are covered in a meat sauce, chopped onions, mustard, and celery salt.
Another famous dish is the Snail Salad which includes five pounds of snails mixed with other seafood ingredients. It is prepared "family style" for several people to eat from the same dish. The aforementioned "grinders" are submarine sandwiches, a popular example being the Italian grinder which is made from various cold cuts, sausage, and peppers on hearty bread.
Pizza strips are rectangular strips of pizza without cheese. They are instead covered in a dense and zesty tomato paste and baked that way. Just like the colonial times, johnnycakes are still prepared with corn meal and water, then pan-fried like pancakes.
During fairs and carnivals, dough boys are served which are plate-sized disks of fried dough served with pizza sauce or powdered sugar. One of the culinary traditions in Rhode Island is the clam cake.
This is a deep fried ball of buttery dough with chopped pieces of clam inside. They are usually sold in half-dozen or full dozen quantities.
According to an article from the Providence Journal this state also has the highest number and density of coffee and doughnut shops per capita in the U.S. At one point, there were over 225 Dunkin' Donuts locations in the state.
The official state drink is called "Coffee Milk" and its made with a unique coffee syrup mixed with milk. The syrup was invented in the state and is sold in almost every supermarket.