History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People
Giovanni da Verrazano explored the Narragansett Bay for France in 1524,
several groups of Native Americans inhabited the area.
The largest of these groups was the Narragansett.
the 1630s, Puritan leaders in Massachusetts forced all to leave who did
not practice their faith.
Roger Williams, a minister who believed in religious freedom,
left in 1636.
He purchased land from the Indians and founded Providence, Rhode
Island’s first permanent white settlement, with a policy of religious
and political freedom.
others were also forced to leave Massachusetts.
They purchased land from the Indians and founded settlements in
Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick.
In 1647, England joined these three settlements with Providence
to form the Rhode Island Colony.
1662, King Philip became chief of the Wampanoag Indian tribe when his
He feared white men and disliked that some settlers were taking
land without paying for it.
In 1675, a series of battles were fought between the colonists
and the Wampanoag tribe.
Troops from Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut defeated the
Indians in the Great Swamp Fight near Kingston, Rhode Island.
The war ended in southern New England that year, but continued in
Maine and New Hampshire until King Philips death in 1676.
colonists in Rhode Island were farmers.
Many owned large plantations along Narragansett Bay where slaves
raised crops and cared for cattle.
Even though slavery was important to its economy, Rhode Island
was the first colony to prohibit the importation of slaves in 1774.
the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), many great leaders were from Rhode
Island and were among the top organizers of the Continental Navy.
Britain occupied Newport for a time and raided other settlements,
but there were no major battles in Rhode Island.
May of 1776, Rhode Island became the first colony to declare its
independence from Great Britain.
However in fear of the larger states, Rhode Island was the last
of the original thirteen colonies to become a state on May 29, 1790.
Rhode Island waited for the Bill of Rights to be added to the
Constitution that limited federal government and guarantied individual
the late 1700s, textile manufacturing grew to become the leading
industry in Rhode Island.
Spinning machines were first built in 1790 by Samuel Slater.
These machines, plenty of waterpower, nearby markets in Boston
and New York City, and excellent transportation allowed the textile
industry to grow rapidly.
The jewelry and fishing industries were also important businesses
in Rhode Island at this time.
the early 1800s, Rhode Island laws did not change to meet the needs of
the growing city population.
Many people were not given the right to vote, giving rural areas
greater representation in government that the larger cities.
The Dorr Rebellion was an attempt by Thomas Dorr and his
followers to form their own government.
The revolt failed, but led to a new constitution in 1843 that
increased voting rights to native-born Rhode Island men of legal age or
those that served in the militia.
25,000 Rhode Islanders fought for the Union Army and Navy during the
Civil War (1861-1865).
After the war, Newport became an important military center.
In 1883, the Newport Naval Station was built; the following year,
the Naval War College established.
Prosperity continued and the industries developed worldwide
textile industry declined during the 1920s.
Many factories moved south for lower labor and transportation
To compensate, industries increased production of machinery,
tools, and metal products.
During World War II (1939-1945), the U.S. Navy built a base at
Quonset Point creating many jobs.
the war, the economy fell again and unemployment rose to 17% in Rhode
By the end of the 1960s, a diversified economy with electronic,
chemical, and plastic industries dropped the unemployment to 3%.
The University of Rhode Island began development of a scientific
research center in Saunderstown where many laboratories and the
nation’s first state-owned nuclear reactor can be found.
also increased with construction of new roads and bridges.
In 1969, the Newport Bridge was completed, linking Newport with
That same year, Highway 95 connected Rhode Island to Connecticut