Rhode Island State Facts - Rhode Island Firsts

Catch up on your state trivia with these Rhode Island history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.

Official Name Rhode Island
Capital Providence
41.82195 N, 071.41973 W
Constitution Ratified 1846
Statehood May 29, 1790
13th state
Number of Counties 5 Counties in Rhode Island
Largest County
(by population)
Providence County
413 sq. mi.

Rhode Island History Firsts & State Facts

  • 1524 - The Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazano, while sailing for France, was the first European to explore Rhode Island. By comparing Block Island with the Mediterranean island Rhodes, he accidentally gave it its name.
  • 1638 - Rhode Island founder Roger Williams established the First Baptist Church in America in 1638. The existing structure was built in 1775.
  • 1642 - Settled in 1642 Pawtuxet Village in Warwick lays claim to being New England's oldest village.
  • 1673 - The White Horse Tavern was built in 1673 and is the oldest operating tavern in the United States.
  • 1676 - The Cogswell Tower in Central Falls was the site of an Indian observation point in use during King Phillips War in 1676. The tower was built in 1904 as part of the last will and testament of Caroline Cogswell.
  • 1676 - Nine Men's Misery monument in Cumberland is the oldest known monument to veterans in the United States. It was erected in memory of the colonists killed in Pierce's Fight during King Phillips War in 1676.
  • 1678 - The first traffic law was created in 1678, when authorities banned galloping horses on local streets in Newport. In 1904, the first speeding ticket was also given in Newport.
  • 1716 - Portsmouth is home to the oldest schoolhouse in the United States. The school was built.
  • 1763 - The Touro Synagogue in Newport was completed in 1763 and is the oldest synagogue in the United States.
  • 1764 - Brown University in Providence is the state's oldest institution of higher education and one of the oldest in the nation. It was chartered in 1764 as Rhode Island College.
  • 1774 - The first circus in the United States was in Newport.
  • 1775 - The existing structure the First Baptist Church was built in 1775, Rhode Island founder Roger Williams established the First Baptist Church in America in 1638.
  • 1776 - On May 4, 1776 Rhode Island was the first colony to renounce allegiance to Great Britain and declare independence.
  • 1785 - Since 1785 Bristol has the longest running, unbroken series of 4th of July Independence Day observances in the country.
  • 1790 - The era know as The Industrial Revolution started in Rhode Island with the development and construction in 1790 of Samuel Slater's water-powered cotton mill in Pawtucket.
  • 1828 - St. Mary's, Rhode Island's oldest Roman Catholic parish was founded in 1828.
  • 1861 - More than 23,000 Rhode Islanders fought for the Union during the American Civil War (1861-1865).
  • 1875 - Find out more about the Rhode Island State Great seal
  • 1876 - Polo was played for the first time in the United States in 1876 near Newport.
  • 1878 - George M. Cohan was born in Providence in 1878. He wrote, "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and a wide variety of other musical entertainment.
  • 1880 - Built in 1880 Channing Memorial Church was named for William Ellery Channing, a leader in the Unitarian Church and the abolitionist movement. Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", attended this church.
  • 1887 - The first torpedo boat "Stiletto" was built in Bristol in 1887.
  • 1895 - The state was home to the first open golf tournament.
  • 1897 - Find out more about the Rhode Island State Flag
  • 1899 -
    • Rhode Island was home to the first National Lawn Tennis Championship.
    • Standing 11 feet tall and 278 feet above ground the Independent Man is a gold-covered, bronze statue placed atop the State House on December 18, 1899.
  • 1904 - Judge Darius Baker imposed the first jail sentence for speeding in an automobile on August 28, 1904 in Newport.
  • 1946;1964 - The Red maple (Acer rubrum) was designated as the Rhode Island State Tree
  • 1950 - A reproduction of the original Liberty Bell is in the entrance hall on the south entrance to the State House. It was donated to the people of the state by the United States Treasury Department in 1950, when Harry S. Truman was president. It is about 3-1/2 feet tall and the diameter of the bell at its widest part is approximately 3-1/2 feet. It is such a realistic copy that is even has a crack similar to the original Liberty Bell.
  • 1953 - The church, St. Mary's(Rhode Island's oldest Roman Catholic parish) is best known as the site of the wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier to John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
  • 1954 - The Rhode Island red (Gallus gallus domesticus) was selected as the Rhode Island State Bird
  • 1966 -
  • 1968;2001 - The Violet (Viola sororia) was designated as Rhode Island State Flower
  • 1985 - The Charles I.D. Looff carousel, also known as the Crescent Park carousel designated as the Rhode Island State American Folk Art
  • 1987 - Quahaug (Mercenaria mercenaria) was selected as the Rhode Island State Shell
  • 1991 - The Rhode Island greening apple (Malus Mill.) was designated as Rhode Island State Fruit
  • 1992 - Replica of the continental sailing vessel known as "Providence" was designated as Rhode Island State Flagship & tall ship ambassador
  • 1993 - Coffee milk was made Rhode Island State Drink
  • 1996 - "Rhode Island," words and music by T. Clark Brown - Adopted as state song was replaced by "Rhode Island's It For Me" and named the Rhode Island State March
  • 1996 - "Rhode Island's It For Me," lyrics by Charlie Hall, music by Maria Day, arranged by Kathryn Chester replaced "Rhode Island" as the Rhode Island State Song
  • 2000 -
  • 2012 - The SSV Oliver Hazard Perry was designated as the Rhode Island State Sailing educational vessel

More Rhode Island History Firsts & State Facts

  • Rhode Island is the smallest state in size in the United States. It covers an area of 1,214 square miles. Its distances North to South are 48 miles and East to West 37 miles.
  • Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen colonies to become a state.
  • Rhode Island shares a state water border with New York.
  • Rhode Island never ratified the 18th Amendment prohibition.
  • Despite its small geographic size, Rhode Island has an extensive shoreline and mild summer climate, which contribute to its renown as a vacation state.
  • Rhode Island is a primary center for jewelry manufacturing in the United States.
  • Despite its dense population, 60 percent of the state is forestland.
  • The largest manufacturer of silverware in the world is in Providence
  • The first British troops sent from England to squash the revolution landed in Newport.
  • The portrait of George Washington found on the United States one-dollar bill was painted by Rhode Islander Gilbert Stuart.
  • Rhode Island has no county government. It is divided into 39 municipalities each having its own form of local government.
  • The Flying Horse Carousel is the nation's oldest carousel. It is located in the resort town of Watch Hill.
  • Ann and Hope was the first discount department store in the United States the property was opened in Rhode Island.
  • Rhode Island is home to the Tennis Hall of Fame.
  • Rhode Island's official state name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
  • Rhode Island is known for making silverware and fine jewelry.
  • The world's largest bug is on the roof of New England Pest Control in Providence. It's a big blue termite, 58 feet long and 928 times actual termite size.
  • At the Point Judith corrosion test site material samples sit exposed for years and are analyzed to determine the toll taken by ocean air and the sun.
  • Rhode Islanders were the firsts to take military action against England by sinking one of her ships in the Narragansett Bay located between Newport and Providence. The english ship was called "The Gaspee".
  • Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, established the first practical working model of Democracy after he was banished from Plymouth, Massachusetts because of his "extreme views" concerning freedom of speech and religion.
  • Thomas Jefferson and John Adams publicly acknowledged Roger Williams, as the originator of the concepts and principles reflected in The First Amendment. Among those principles were freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of public assembly.
  • The first British troops sent from England to squash the revolution landed in Newport.
  • Though second in command to George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, a Rhode Islander, is acknowledged by many historians as having been the most capable and significant General of the Revolutionary effort. Cornwallis feared Greene and his forces most. Greene ultimately defeated Cornwallis.
  • At Little Compton is home to the gravesite of the first girl born to colonists in New England. The baby was the daughter of pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden.
  • Warwick enjoys a reputation of being Rhode Island's Retail Capital.
  • Rhode Island Red Monument in Adamsville pays homage to the world-famous poultry breed.
  • The Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport is the United States' oldest library building.
  • The Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence is the official state symbol of folk art.
  • New England's oldest Masonic Temple in Warren was built in the 18th century with timbers from British frigates sunk in Newport Harbor during the Revolutionary War.
  • Swamp Meadow Covered Bridge in Foster is the only remaining covered bridge in Rhode Island.
  • The first Afro-American regiment to fight for America made a gallant stand against the British in the Battle of Rhode Island.
  • Pelham Street in Newport was the first street in the country to use gas-illuminated streetlights.
  • Cumberlandite is the official state rock. It is dark brown or black with white markings and found on both sides of Narragansett Bay but not north of Cumberland.
  • The Quonset hut was invented at Quonset Point a key naval reserve base.
  • Jerimoth Hill is the state's highest point at 812 feet above sea level.
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