10 Fun Facts About Rhode Island

10 Fun Facts About Rhode Island

Dec 11
10 Fun Facts About Rhode Island

Rhode Island may be small in size, but it’s big on history! Us trivia buffs love to learn the secrets of the places we live, so here are 10 amazing facts you’d never guess about our nation’s smallest state.

1. Hasbro Is Headquartered Here

Rhode Island doesn’t have much industry anymore, beyond the headquarters for Fidelity’s investments division, but the state is home to the headquarters for Hasbro Toys. Hasbro is located right in the heart of Downtown Providence, where you can see a giant Mr. Potato Head hanging out on the street. While Hasbro isn’t the biggest toy company in the world (Lego took that throne in 2017), it’s still manufacturer of all the Marvel-licensed toys you’ll ever find on store shelves, and the originator of the Cabbage Patch Kids.

Bonus fact: Mr. Potato Head is the official “family travel ambassador” of Rhode Island.

2. Rhode Island Is Named After A Greek Island

Rhode Island is named after Rhodes, a small Greek island off the southwest tip of Turkey. In previous centuries, Rhodes was famous across the world for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Colossus was a gigantic statue of the Greek God Helios. Erected in 280 BC, the enormous figure collapsed in 226 BBC and never fully rebuilt. That’s a small island with an enormous statue. Sounds a bit like Rhode Island, doesn’t it?

Bonus fact: Rhode Island’s full name is “Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.”

3. Rhode Island Hated Prohibition

Maybe Rhode Islanders like to drink a bit, or maybe they just have a better sense of economics than the rest of us. Rhode Island was one of only two states (along with Connecticut) not to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, otherwise known as Prohibition. Why, you ask? Rhode Island in the 1920s was about as Catholic as they come, after Italian, Irish and Polish immigrants flocked to the state. Many devout Catholics saw Prohibition as a scheme cooked up by Protestants to outlaw the Catholic Mass, which uses wine during the Sacrament. Some Rhode Islanders became titans running rum up and down the New England coast during Prohibition.

4. Rhode Island Has Some Weird Laws

It’s illegal to throw pickle juice at a trolley in Providence. Also still on the books is a prohibition against labor, business, work or play on Sundays. Technically, it’s still possible for the state to penalize a company for making employees work on Sunday. And watch out roadsters. Before passing a car on the left (but not the right), you are required to make a loud noise.

Bonus Fact: Newport has outlawed smoking a pipe after sunset.

5. (Arguably) The First Official Circus

Before the circus came to town, it came to Rhode Island. The first American circus was held in Newport in 1774. Jacob Bates was an English equestrian who roared through Europe with his feats on horseback. His big trick, riding four horses at the same time, wowed audiences from London to Paris. When Bates came to America and toured the East Coast, he inspired a young man, Christopher Gardner, to attempt tricks of his own. Gardner became a phenom, ultimately establishing his own riding academy in Newport, Rhode Island. Gardner would perform his feats in a ring, allowing Rhode Island to lay claim to America’s first circus.

6. Coffee Milk Is The State Drink

You’ve probably never heard of coffee milk. It’s a weird idea. Take some coffee-flavored syrup and stir it into milk. Now you’ve got coffee milk. Coffee milk isn’t very popular anywhere else, but it’s the state drink of Rhode Island. Buzz buzz buzz!

7. Someone Accidentally Set Off A Nuke

It’s a dubious distinction, but Rhode Island is the only place on American soil where a nuclear explosion went off outside of a controlled environment (like a power plant). It all happened in Wood River in 1964, at United Nuclear Corporation Recovery Systems. The facility dealt with scrap materials, deriving highly-enriched uranium after the material’s were used to produce fuel. Technician Robert Peabody, working with a tank of radioactive uranium-235, accidentally reached from the wrong bottle. Instead of pouring in trichloroethane, Peabody picked up more uranium and emptied it into the stirrer. The result? What’s known as a criticality accident, an uncontrolled nuclear fission chain reaction. Peabody was exposed to massive amounts of radiation. The 37-year-old died 49 hours later.

8. Home To The World’s Biggest Insect

At last check, Providence is still home to the world’s largest bug. It’s a 2-ton, 58-foot long termite named Nibbles Woodaway. You can see Nibbles every time you drive out of Providence, affixed to the top of a pest control building. Taking its cue from Nibbles, the company’s name is “Big Blue Bug Pest Control.”

9. One Big Dome

For such a small state, Rhode Island likes to do things big. The dome at the Rhode Island State House is the fourth largest self-supporting such structure in the whole world, behind only St. Peter’s Basilica, the Taj Mahal and the Minnesota State Capitol.

10. Religious Freedom

Long a bastion of religious freedom, Rhode Island is home to both the first Baptist church and the first synagogue built in America.

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