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Rhode Island is the 50th largest state or, in other words, the smallest state in the nation. It is 48 miles by 37 miles.  Though the smallest in size, its population is considerably larger than our largest state of Alaska.  Any point in the state is no more than thirty miles from sea water.

1790 – 68,825
1800 – 69,122
1850 – 147,545
1900 – 428,556
1920 – 604,397
1940 – 713,346
1950 – 791,896
1960 – 859,488
1970 – 946-725
1978 - 935,000
1980 – 947,154
1990 – 1,003,464
2000 – 1,048,319
2005 - 1,076,189 (estimate)

Population Density
2000 - 1,003.2 persons per square mile

Major Cities: Providence, Warwick, Cranston

Rhode island is the smallest state but it has the longest official name "State of Rhode Island and Providence plantations

Rhode Island is located in the Eastern Time Zone


Rhode Island is located on the Eastern Coast of the United States.  It is bordered by Massachusetts both on the north and the east.  The western border is shared with Connecticut.  The southern border is the Atlantic Ocean and Rhode Island Sound.  A water border is shared with New York.

Latitude: 41”18’N to 42”1’N
Longitude: 71”8’W to 71”53’W

Total area - 1,214 square miles
Total land area - 1,045 square miles


Rhode Island is not an island, but many islands are located within the state.  Block Island is about twelve miles off the southern coast.  Narragansett Bay is a major geographic feature of the state with over 30 islands in the bay.  The largest island is Aquidneck Island with the major cities of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth. Other islands in this bay are Hope, Prudence and Despair.

The state has few real mountains and is mostly flat.  The highest point if just 812 feet above sea level at Jerimoth Hill.

Lowest point: sea level
Highest point: 812 feet above sea level at Jerimoth Hill
Mean Elevation: 200 feet above sea level


Rhode Island was one of the thirteen original colonies.  It was the first to declare independence from England on May 4, 1776 and it was also the last to ratify the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790.  The state Constitution was ratified on 29 May 1790
In the Colonial days, the Puritans of Massachusetts set up rigid rules for settlers. One of the settlers, Roger Williams, opposed their "follow the rules, or else!" motto. He moved south and began a new settlement called Providence. The rules for this new area kept religious rules away from the government rules. The people gave this a new name, "soul liberty." All were welcome in Rhode Island, many of whom were unwelcome in other areas. Williams named his settlement Providence Plantations. Not long after, on the Isle of Rhodes, Newport was founded. Providence continued to grow and become one of New England's largest cities.


Rhode Island was the birthplace of the American factory system. The Old Slater Mill, in Pawtucket, displays this history. Built in 1793, it looked more like a schoolhouse with its belltower, but it was America's first successful attempt to spin cotton by machine. This became one of Rhode Island's largest industries. Though the textile industry has diminished in the state, it still remains an important part of the economy. By the late 1970's, about half of the lace produced in the US is made here.

Another industry began here when a Providence jeweler, Nehemiah Dodge, developed a way to make inexpensive jewelry by putting only a coating of the precious silver or gold on cheap metal. This process is known as costume jewelry and remains a big business in Rhode Island. The state is also one of the larger producers of lobsters, behind Maine and Massachusetts.

Per capita income:
1999 - $21,688
2000 - $29,685
Median Household Income:
2003 - $45,006


Rhode Island could be known as America's "first vacationland." They say that Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazano, was sailing along the coast in 1524 when he found Narragansett Bay. He found the area so pleasant that he stayed a "fortnight," becoming the first two-week vacation on record! Several hundred years later, rich southerners came to spend summers in the cool seaside village of Newport. They built huge "summer cottages" that were more like palaces. Though that period of history has gone, some of the "cottages" remain as museums or attractions of a previous time.

Rhode Island State House

This building was built between 1895 and 1904. It is built of white Georgia marble and has a self-supporting marble covered dome, one of only four in the world. The others are the dome of St. Peter's in Vatican City (which is the largest), the Minnesota State Capital in St. Paul and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. It was designed in 1891-92 by the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White. The land for the new state house was purchased for $400,607.01. The ground was broken on 16 September 1895 and the cornerstone laid on 15 October 1896. The state house and grounds became official property of the government of Rhode Island no 11 June 1904 at a final cost (including furnishings) of $3,018,416.33. To complete the building 327,000 cubic feet of marble, 15,000,000 bricks and 1,309 tons of iron floor beams were used. It is 333 feet long, 189 feet wide through the central Rotunda and 235 feet tall from the terrace to the tip of the Independent Man's spear atop the dome (1998).




Rhode Island Secretary of State Office

Official Rhode Island State Website
Rhode Island DMV

Rhode Island State Library

A short history of Rhode Island
Rhode Island Presidents & Governors



Brown University
Community College of Rhode Island
Gibbs College
Johnson & Wales University
Providence College
Rhode Island College
Roger Williams University
Salve Regina University
University of Rhode Island

Organizations and Groups

Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce
Newport County Chamber of Commerce

Rhode Island GenWeb Project page
Cemeteries of Rhode Island

Attractions and other Information:

The Providence Children's Museum

Find the weather for anyplace in the USA


This page was created 16 April 2001

This page was last updated 20 September 2006 at 10:39 pm

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