Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rhode Island - #13, May 29, 1790

Today's post is Rhode Island - the last of the original thirteen colonies to become part of the United States. It is somewhat ironic (?) that the smallest state in the Union and member of New England is the final puzzle piece of the fledgling United States. However, for a small state, it has a really long "official" name (the longest official name of any US state) - Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It is not clear why the state is named Rhode Island. There are some who say it is for the Greek Island of Rhodes and others who say it was the Dutch, who named it Roodt Eyland (Red Island) for its red clay soil. However, it is in no way an island. The state was founded by Roger Williams, who had been banished by the Puritans from Massachusetts for his religious beliefs, as a place for "only civil things."

Rhode Island is the home to the Ivy League's Brown University, where both of the Brave Astronaut's parents went. In fact - the family lore is that the two of them met on a park bench on the campus after being set up by a mutual friend. They never saw or dated anyone else. My mother grew up in Providence and never wanted to go anywhere else to college.

Rhode Island is also home to Newport - the playground of the rich and famous. One can tour several mansions of Gilded Age scions, including the Astors, the Vanderbilts, and the Bouviers. In the early part of the 20th Century, Newport was the home of the America's Cup races and on land, the International Tennis Hall of Fame may be found there.

For a small state, it holds a number of famous firsts:
  • The first law prohibiting slavery in North America was passed in Rhode Island on May 18, 1652.
  • Slater Mill in Pawtucket is regarded as the birth place of the Industrial Revolution in the US.
  • The oldest Fourth of July Parade in the country is held in Bristol, Rhode Island.
  • Ann Smith Franklin (Benjamin Franklin's sister-in-law) of the Newport Mercury was the first female newspaper editor in America
  • Rhode Island was the first Colony to declare independence from Britain on May 4, 1776.
  • Pelham Street in Newport was the first in America to be illuminated by gaslight in 1806
  • Watch Hill has the nation's oldest carousel that has been in continuous operation since 1850.
  • The first nine hole golf course in America was completed in Newport in 1890.
  • The Rhode Island State House was the first building with an all-marble dome to be built in the United States (1895–1901)
  • In 1980, Rhode Island became the first and only state to decriminalize prostitution, but prostitution was outlawed again in 2009
Lincoln Chafee, a former Senator, is currently the state's Governor, having won election as an Independent, though previously was a member of the Republican Party. Rhode Island is one of the few states in the Union that does not have a Governor's Mansion. Both of Rhode Island's Senators are Democrats, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. The small state has two Congressmen, also both Democrats.
Prominent Rhode Islanders (here's a few lists to peruse, one, two, and three)


njm said...

You forgot about the Naval War College in Newport.

Unknown said...

What NJM said.

Plus, Touro Synagogue (oldest in U.S.)

I would guess that the Island part refers to Aquidneck Island, the island on which Newport sits.

Brave Astronaut said...

The lists are of course, by no way complete. Your suggestions are always welcome.