Monday, July 25, 2016

6 Distracting Facts about Rhode Island

1. You already knew that Rhode Island is the smallest US state at 1,214 square miles, but did you know it was the second most populous (after New Jersey) with 1,006 people per square mile? Are you doing math right now to estimate the state population?

2. Rhode Island's official name is "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," which is the longest name of any US state. The "plantations" in the title was retained by voter decision in 2010 (the word is believed to have been used as a synonym for "colony" rather than as a term for a place where people were subjugated by other people).

3. The colony, founded on land given to Roger Williams by two local tribes after Williams was ejected from Massachusetts colony, was a safe haven for those who were persecuted for religious beliefs (such as Baptists, Quakers, and Jews) different from those of the Puritan leadership of most New England colonies. Rhode Island established a separation of church and state from the beginning.

4. In 1652, the colony passed a law to prevent slavery, but it was mostly ignored. During the Revolutionary War, the First Rhode Island Regiment was the first African American military unit to fight for the United States (on August 29, 1778). In spite of this, in the years following the Revolution, 60 - 90% of African slave trade was controlled by Rhode Island merchants.

5. During the Industrial Revolution of the early 1800s, many people moved to cities to find work in factories and mills. By 1829, 60% of the state's free white males were ineligible to vote because they weren't landowners. Eventually, a poll tax of $1.00 was established, allowing landless white men to vote if they could pay the tax.

6. Gilbert Stuart (who painted the classic portrait of George Washington) was born in Rhode Island, and his family had the first snuff mill in the New World. The property, now a museum, currently has a working grist mill and a working snuff mill powered by a creek.