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Useful Notes / Rhode Island

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"Welcome to Rhode Island! Thanks for visiting Rhode Island!"

The smallest state in the Union, which it formerly made up for with its long official name.

Rhode Island, one of The Thirteen American Colonies, is a state in New England in the United States. It is most famous for being the smallest state by area, at only 1,214 square miles — just over half the size of the second smallest state, Delaware (1,982 square miles) — however, with just a hair under 1.1 million residents (as of the 2020 Census), it ranks 44th out of 50 in population and is also the second most densely populated (after New Jersey)note . Its small size makes it a convenient measuring tool for area comparisons in the US — "the wildfires burned an area three times the size of Rhode Island!" Despite the name, most of the state's territory and population are in fact on the mainland, which formed the "Providence Plantations" part of the original colony.

Rhode Island's geography is dominated by Narragansett Bay in the middle of the state. The southeastern portion is mostly comprised of a chain of islands inside the bay. The largest of these is Rhode Island, which is home to Newport and is the namesake of the state. It's better known by locals as Aquidneck Island, its original Native American name, in order to distinguish it from the state. While the state is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, its shoreline is 384 miles in length, hence its nickname of "the Ocean State."

Founded in 1630 by Roger Williams, a religious exile from Puritan Massachusetts, on land purchased from the Narragansett ruler Canonicus, the colony was a haven in New England for those dissatisfied with Puritan orthodoxy, or who had simply run afoul of its strict rules. Its original (and, until 2020, official) name was "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" ("plantations" meaning "colonies" or "settlements" in the parlance of the day). Newport and Providence, its largest cities, became prosperous population centers in the largely-rural British America, and in 1764, Brown University, still a highly prestigious Ivy League university to this day, was founded in Providence. On May 4, 1776, three months before the American Declaration of Independence was published, Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from the British Empire, and the state was home to several prominent figures of the Revolutionary Period, most notably Stephen Hopkins.

On the other hand, the state boycotted the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and was the last state to ratify the Constitution a full three years after it had been adopted. Its small size and population led it to heavily favor the looser Articles of Confederation, which made the states more autonomous and provided for equal voices to all states regardless of population size, at the cost of any functional government for the US as a whole.

Historically, Rhode Island was known for its textile, jewelry, silverware, commercial fishing, and toy industries. Slater Mill in Pawtucket was established in 1793 as the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in the country, a development considered to be the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the building became the very first entry on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Apart from fishing and toys - Hasbro was founded in Providence in 1923 and is still headquartered in nearby Pawtucket - most of those industries have long since left Rhode Island. The state's main industry nowadays is tourism, particularly in Newport, a port city with a long history and considerable significance in the The American Revolution and The Gilded Age in particular.

Rhode Island today has a population of around 1.1 million people, packed into only 1,200 square miles. Its capital and largest city is Providence, whose metro area covers most of the state and parts of Bristol County, Massachusetts; The metro area for the city is often combined with those of the nearby Massachusetts cities of Fall River and New Bedford, and the three cities share a media market. Rhode Island, along with Connecticut, has no county governments, with the counties mainly existing as geographical subdivisions for the sheriffs (which are part of the state government) and decentralized courts located throughout the state, and the state uses the local, autonomous "town meeting" system. Despite its small size, Providence is home to five prominent universities: Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island College, and Providence College. Satellite campuses for the Community College of Rhode Island (main campus in Warwick) and the University of Rhode Island (main campus in Kingston) are also in the city.

Like much of New England, it has a strong maritime tradition, and seafood like clams and lobster features prominently in local cuisine. Culturally, it's most famous as the home of the aforementioned Brown University, which is regarded as selective and prestigious even among the already-selective-and-prestigious Ivy League universities. In politics, it's one of the most resolute strongholds of the Democratic Party, having voted for Democratic candidates in every presidential election since 1988, and by a margin of at least 20 points since 1992. Rhode Island is "bluer" (i.e., more pro-Democratic party) even than the rest of solidly blue New England; many other New England states like Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire have strong local Republican parties, even as they favor the Democrats in national politics, and often vote for Republican governors. Rhode Island hasn't had a Republican governor in a decade.

In the 1990s, Providence's "Fort Thunder" art and music scene was nationally renowned for spawning several well-known Noise Rock bands, the most famous of which are Black Dice and Lightning Bolt. It's also the home of the Newport Folk (famous for being the site of Bob Dylan 'going electric' in 1965) and Jazz Festivals in Newport every summer.

To gamers, Rhode Island is known for being at the center of the scandal involving the collapse of 38 Studios, the game developer headed up by former Red Sox star Curt Schilling, which had received a $75-million loan from the state. Following 38 Studios' bankruptcy, the state of Rhode Island owned the rights to all of the studio's assets, including their sole release, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The state eventually sold those rights to THQ Nordic.

A useful and especially beloved depiction of Rhode Island culture are the cartoons of Don Bousquet that were published in the Providence Journal from 1980 to 2014. Bousquet's single panel cartoons were something of a local version of The Far Side and simultaneously lampooned and codified daily life and language in Rhode Island, including the distinct Rhode Island accent (i.e. how Rhode Islanders compact the entire sentence "Did you eat yet?" to simply "Jeet?"), traffic and road conditions on the state's highways, the wistfulness of older Newporters and Jamestowners of life before the construction of the Newport Bridge, and especially residents' persistant refusal to use their turn signals (or "blinkers" in local parlance). Bousquet and local journalist Mark Patinkin published the humorous Rhode Island Dictionary in 1993 that explores many of these concepts and accent quirks.

Media Set in Rhode Island

Despite its resemblance, the Industrial Trust building, Providence's tallest skyscraper, is not the basis of the Daily Planet building in the Superman franchise or the The Adventures of Superman show. Even so, the building is widely known as the "Superman building" anyway.

Filmed in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has a lucrative tax incentive for film and television productions, and as a result it's one of the most popular filming locations in all of New England, often California Doubling for the rest of the region. Among the productions filmed in Rhode Island, but not explicitly set in it, include:

Creators from Rhode Island