World History

Rhode Island State History – War, Colonial, Revolution, Industry

Native Americans

People have lived in what is now Rhode Island for thousands of years. Various Native American tribes ruled the land before Europeans arrived. These tribes spoke Algonquian, lived in tenements, and grew corn, beans, and pumpkins. The largest of the tribes were the Narragansetts. Other tribes included the Wampanoag, Niantic, Nipmuc, and Pequot tribes.

Information about Rhode Island State:

Capital Providence
Population 1,093,734 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Providence, Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket, East Providence
Borders Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York (maritime border), Atlantic Ocean
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $71,402.2 million (2022 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Key Industries Jewelry, metal products, shipbuilding, healthcare, tourism, and electrical equipment
Agriculture products include dairy products, eggs, nursery products, and vegetables

Flag of Rhode Island State:

Europeans Arrive

The first recorded European visit was in 1524, when the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano arrived. He met with some of the local tribes and mapped parts of the coast. Some 90 years later, in 1614, the Dutch explorer Adrian Blok arrived. He also mapped the coastline, including Narragansett Bay and Block Island, which bears his name.


The first European settlement was founded by Roger Williams in his 1636. Williams moved to Rhode Island after being exiled from Massachusetts because of his religious beliefs. Williams named the settlement Providence, which he said was a place of religious freedom.

Providence is now the capital of Rhode Island, and Williams is considered the “Father of Rhode Island.” Others who wanted religious freedom also followed Williams into the area. Anne Hutchinson was also asked to leave Massachusetts on religious grounds. She founded the settlement of Portsmouth in her 1638.

As more and more settlers settled in the area, they began breaking away from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1644 they united under a single government and formed their own colony. In 1663 they received a royal charter from the King of England.

Rhode Island State Symbols

  • Rhode Island State Nickname: Ocean State
  • Rhode Island State Slogan:Unwind
  • Rhode Island State Motto:Hope
  • Rhode Island State flower:Violet
  • Rhode Island State bird:Rhode Island Red Chicken
  • Rhode Island State fish: Striped bass
  • Rhode Island State tree: Red Maple
  • Rhode Island State mammal: NA
  • Rhode Island State foods: Coffee Milk

King Philip’s War

From 1675 to 1676, New England settlers waged war against the local Native Americans. The Native American leader was a Wampanoag chief named King Philip. Many settlements on Rhode Island were attacked, including Providence.

The greatest battle of the war was the Battle of the Great Swamp, in which a large force of Narangampsett’s army was defeated and the fortress burned to the ground. In the end, King Philip was hunted down and killed. After the war, only a few Native Americans lived in the colony.

American Revolution

When Britain began taxing the American colonies, Rhode Island aspired for independence. In 1772, Providence settlers attacked and set the British ship Gaspie ablaze. Rhode Island was also one of the first colonies to renounce allegiance to Britain on May 4, 1776.

The Geography of Rhode Island State:

  • Total Size of Rhode Island: 1,045 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point of Rhode Island: Atlantic Ocean at Sea Level (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point of Rhode Island: Jerimoth Hill at 812 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Providence (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Central Point of Rhode Island: Located in Kent County approx. 1 mile south-southwest of Crompton (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties of Rhode Island: 5 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water of Rhode Island: Atlantic Ocean, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Scituate Reservoir, Sakonnet River

Becoming a State

After the war, Rhode Island was reluctant to join the United States. They wanted to make sure the constitution protected their rights. They finally agreed to participate after the Bill of Rights was written into the Constitution. Rhode Island became the 13th state to join the Union on May 29, 1790.

Famous People of Rhode Island State:

Meredith Vieira TV talk show host and news anchor
Gilbert Stuart Artist who painted the famous portrait of George Washington
Matthew C. Perry U.S. Naval commander
Elisabeth Hasselbeck TV talk show host and reality TV star
George Cohan Musical composer who wrote patriotic songs such as ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ and ‘Over There’
Chris Van Allsburg Author who wrote Jumanji, The Polar Express, and Zathura

Interesting Facts of Rhode Island State:

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States.

The first circus in the United States was held in 1774 in Newport, Rhode Island.

The official name of Rhode Island is Rhode Island and Providence Plantation.

The Tennis Hall of Fame is located in Rhode Island.

All state residents live within about 30 miles of a body of water. It was the last of the original 13 colonies to become the only state.

The oldest merry-go-round in the United States is the Flying Horse Carousel on Watch Hill.

The official state rock is Cumberlandite. This is a rare stone that is produced only in the state.

This nickname comes from the fact that such a small state has so many beaches. Rhode Island enacted the first law outlawing slavery in 1652.

Timeline Overview:

1524 – Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano becomes the first European to visit Rhode Island.
1614 – Dutch navigator Adrian Block arrives and maps the coast, including Block Island.
1636 – The first settlement of Providence is founded by Roger Williams.
1638 – Anne Hutchinson founded the City of Portsmouth.
1644 – The Rhode Island Colony and Providence Plantation are founded.
1676 – War between settlers and Indians ends by King Philip.
1784 – Brown University is founded by John Brown.
1772 – Residents of Providence attack and burn the British ship Gaspie.
1776 – Rhode Island declares independence from Great Britain.
1790 – The U.S. Congress recognizes Rhode Island as the 13th state.
1841 – Thomas Doll leads a rebellion demanding the right to vote.
1938 – A strong hurricane hits the coast, destroying many homes.