11 Fun Facts About Rhode Island

You probably know that Rhode Island (whose full name is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) is the smallest state in the United States, with an area of a mere 1,214 square miles. Locals often joke that you can go from one side to another in 30 minutes. But you’ve heard all that before—what about some facts about Rhode Island that you might have never realized?

1. The first in many sports

Rhode Island was the home of many great firsts in sports—in 1876, the first ever outdoor polo match played in the U.S., in 1895, the first open golf tournament, and in 1899, the first National Lawn Tennis Championship, otherwise known as badminton.

2. Saying no to Prohibition

Rhode Island was one of just a few states that never approved the 18th amendment banning the sale of alcohol, otherwise known as Prohibition.

3. Not coffee, not milk, but coffee milk

As of 1993, Rhode Island’s official state drink is coffee milk.

4. The first circus and first jazz fest

Newport hosted the United States’ first circus performance, dating all the way back to 1774. And in 1954, Newport hosted America’s first jazz festival.

5. Revolutionary War

Though most attribute the start of the Revolutionary War to the Boston Tea Party, nearly two years before that historic moment, some Rhode Islanders burned down a British ship called “The Gaspee,” killing one of the warship’s officers.

6. Strange laws

Want to avoid getting in trouble while riding a Rhode Island trolley? Don’t throw pickle juice, to start — that will land you with a fine!

7. State bird

The official state bird of Rhode Island is the Rhode Island Red Chicken.

8. Great deals!

Rhode Island was home to the first discount department store in America, Ann and Hope.

9. Banned from Massachusetts

Roger Williams, a revolutionary thinker in his ideas about freedom of religion and speech, was banned from Plymouth, Massachusetts, for his views, but then went on to found Rhode Island.

10. Oldest church

Jacqueline Bouvier and John Fitzgerald Kennedy got married in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Rhode Island.

11. Don’t drive too fast

Ever gotten a speeding ticket? Well at least you weren’t pulled over by Rhode Island Judge Darius Baker, who in August 1904 became the first judge to sentence a driver to jail for driving too quickly.

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