The first people to inhabit the geographic region that later would become Rhode Island arrive after migrating across the land bridge between Asian and North America.
During the thousands of years before European arrival, the Native Americans living in the region include the Nipmuc, Pequot, Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes.
1524-1642 EARLY EUROPEAN EXPLORATION
Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano discovers Rhode Island while employed by the French monarchy. He is the first European since the Norse colonization of the Americas around AD 1000 to explore the Atlantic coast of North America.
Henry Hudson, an English explorer and navigator, explores the area that would be Rhode Island while looking for a western route to the Orient for the Dutch East India Company.
Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visits the island and renames it "Isle of Rhodes."
Reverend William Blackstone, an Anglican priest, becomes the first Rhode Island settler after the Puritans expel him from Boston after for allegedly trying to bring the Church of England to the new settlement.
The settlement of Providence is founded by Roger Williams, who was also banished by the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views. Williams' settlement is established to provide religious liberty and a separation of church and state.
The Narragansett are persuaded to form an alliance with the English to rid the area of the Pequot tribe.
The Portsmouth Compact is signed, establishing the settlement of Portsmouth.
The first Baptist Church in America is founded in Providence.
The Newport Compact is signed to establish the southern settlement of Newport.
1643-1699 RHODE ISLAND COLONY
Samuel Gorton founds Shawomet, the fourth settlement on Rhode Island. A few years later, the settlement is renamed Warwick after the Earl of Warwick.
Rhode Island is refused admission into the New England Confederation due to its reputation for being "anarchistic." (A common nickname for the colony is "Rogue Island.") It is also more sympathetic to Native Americans, and the purpose of the Confederation is to unite Puritan colonies against local tribes.
The settlements of Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport unite for common independence as the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
The first recorded African slaves arrive in Rhode Island.
(July 8) Charles II grants the charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It serves as Rhode Island's constitution until 1842.
The White Horse Tavern, now the oldest-operating tavern in the U.S., is built.
The decisive battle in King Philip's War is fought against the Narragansett and Narragansett chief King Philip is killed at Rhode Island's Mount Hope The chief had led attacks on settlers throughout New England.
(March 26) Nine colonial militiamen under the command of Captain Michael Pierce are pursued and slaughtered in Cumberland. Nine Men's Misery Monument is erected at the site the same year. It is the oldest known veteran's monument in the U.S.
The first known traffic law is created in Newport when authorities ban galloping horses on local streets. The first speeding ticket would also be given in Newport in 1904.
King James II orders Rhode Island to submit to England and its appointed governor, Edmund Andros. The colony's charter is suspended until Andros is deposed.
King William and Queen Mary issue a patent extending Rhode Island's territory to three miles east and northeast of Narragansett Bay, conflicting with the claims of the Plymouth Colony. Transfers of territory between Rhode Island and Massachusetts continue.
1700-1775 PRE-REVOLUTIONARY ERA
Ann Smith Franklin, editor of the Newport Mercury in Newport, becomes the first woman newspaper editor in America.
Touro Synagogue, one of the first synagogues in America, is founded in Newport.
Brown University is founded. It is the first college in the U.S. to accept students regardless of religious affiliation. It's now the third oldest institution of higher education in New England and the seventh oldest in the country.
The British sloop Liberty is set on fire in the Newport Harbor in protest of British taxes. This act—along with acts like the Boston Tea Party—is part of a growing disaffection with British rule in the colonies.
Rhode Island colonists attack the grounded British warship the Gaspee in one of the first acts of American rebellion.
(May 17) The idea of a Continental Congress is first proposed in at a town meeting in Providence. Once formed, the Congress will become the governing body of the United States during the Revolutionary War.
(June 15) Rhode Island elects the first delegates to the Continental Congress, Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward.
Along with Connecticut, the Rhode Island colony prohibits further importation of slaves. The slave population in Rhode Island at the time is nearly twice as high as in any other New England colony.
The first circus in the U.S. is held in Newport.
1776-1789 REVOLUTIONARY RHODE ISLAND
(May 4) Rhode Island is the first British colony to declare its independence, two months before the official national Declaration of Independence.
British forces occupy Newport.
(August 29) Generals John Sullivan and Lafayette win a partial victory in the Battle of Rhode Island but fail to force the British to retreat. The battle features the first African-American military unit (the 1st Rhode Island Regiment) to fight for the United States.
British forces evacuate Rhode Island.
French troops are stationed in Rhode Island under General Rochambeau. Newport becomes the base of the French forces in the U.S. for the rest of the war. As a result, the Rhode Island General Assembly repeals a law banning Catholics from living in Rhode Island and the first Catholic mass is held in Newport.
The march to Yorktown, Virginia, begins in Newport. American and French troops would defeat the British under the joint command of Generals George Washington and Rochambeau, the beginning of the end of the Revolutionary War.
Farmers burn grain, dump milk, and leave apples to rot in a strike against Providence and Newport merchants who refuse to accept their paper money that depreciation has made nearly worthless. The strike has little result since 90 percent of Americans raise their own food at the time.
The U.S. Constitutional Convention gives states the right to set voting qualifications. Rhode Island is the first eastern state to vote on women's suffrage, denying women the right to vote.
(May 29) Rhode Island and Providence Plantations becomes the 13th state. (only doing so after threat of having its exports taxed as a foreign nation).
1790-1858 INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The first successful cotton mill is established by Samuel Slater and David Wilkinson in the Blackstone River Valley. Slater would become known as the father of the American Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century, Rhode Island would become one of the most industrialized states in the nation, with its large number of textile factories.
Pelham Street in Newport becomes one of the first streets in America to be illuminated by gaslight.
Rhode Island votes against the War of 1812. Later in the war, Governor William Jones threatens succession and is quoted as saying, "notwithstanding our respect for the laws and our strong attachment to the union of states, there may be evils greater than can be apprehended from a refusal to submit to unconstitutional laws." Ultimately 500 troops are sent for federal service.
The Hartford Convention is held among Federalist leaders from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The leaders secretly adopt amendments regarding potential succession, which post-war are accused of being treasonous. The Federalist Party is disgraced and disbands in most places after the end of the War of 1812.
The first strike in America in which women participate is held in Pawtucket. Female loom workers join male weavers to protest the attempt by mill owners to reduce wages by 25 percent and lengthen the workday.
Construction begins on the Blackstone Canal from Worcester to Providence in an attempt for Rhode Island entrepreneurs to capture the central Massachusetts market. The project ultimately costs $750,000, twice its projected budget, but is a huge economic success.
Providence lawyer Thomas Wilson Dorr founds the People's Party and submits a new constitution that grants voting rights to those who don't own property. It passes through a popular referendum, but Governor Samuel Ward King opposes it. At the time, Rhode Island is one of the only states without universal suffrage for white men.
Dorr's Rebellion. A short-lived armed insurrection led by Thomas Dorr, it forces the state to abolish the Charter of 1663 and expand voting rights.
The present state constitution is adopted. Voting rights are extended to any free man, regardless of race, who could pay a poll tax of $1.
The first train runs from Providence to Worcester, Massachusetts. The Union Passenger Depot, a massive Providence terminal, is built in 1848. The railroads help to bring about rapid demographic and economic growth in Rhode Island.
1859-1899 THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERAS
Rhode Island is the first state to send troops in response to President Lincoln's pre-Civil War request for help from the states.
Rhode Island's four largest industries—cotton textiles, woolen goods, base metals, and precious metals—begin to boom. They are joined by a fifth industry—rubber goods—in the second half of the 19th century.
The United States Naval Academy is moved from Annapolis, Maryland to Newport, Rhode Island due to concerns about the political sympathies of Marylanders (who are suspected of siding with the Confederate states).
The Civil War begins. More than 23,000 Rhode Islanders fight on the side of the Union. A year later Fort Adams becomes the headquarters and recruit depot for the 15th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
Rhode Island abolishes racial segregation.
Rhode Island is the first eastern state to vote on a referendum to give women the right to vote; the referendum fails to pass.
The first nine-hole golf course is completed in Newport. The state would also host the first open golf tournament in 1895.
The Rhode Island State House is the first building built in the U.S. with an all-marble dome. It is the world's fourth largest self-supported marble dome. It houses the Rhode Island Charter of 1663.
1900-1949 EARLY TO MID 20TH CENTURY
Rhode Island gives women the right to vote in the presidential election of 1918, two years before the 19th amendment grants women's suffrage countrywide.
Rhode Island suffers heavy losses from the Spanish flu outbreak. In Providence, 941 people die from the infection.
Ku Klux Klan membership surges among the native-born white population in response to the large waves of immigrants moving into the state.
The Great Depression leads to many of Rhode Island's textile mills being moved to the South.
The "Bloodless Revolution," organized by Democratic politicians under Governor Theodore Francis Green, replaces the Republican leadership that has existed in Rhode Island since the middle of the 19th century. The Rhode Island Democratic Party has dominated state politics since.
1950-PRESENT MODERN RHODE ISLAND
Jacqueline Bouvier's marries John F. Kennedy in Rhode Island's oldest Roman Catholic church, St. Mary's.
(August) Hurricane Diane brings the worst flooding in the state's history. Voters approve funding of a hurricane barrier across the Providence River.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 relaxes federal immigration quotas, resulting in a wave of Portuguese, Hispanic, and Southeast Asian immigrants.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Needham rules that Rhode Island wives must use their husbands' surnames. His decision is overturned in 1979.
(February 6) The worst snowstorm in Rhode Island history batters the state. Snowfall ranges from 16 inches along the southern coast to 55 inches in Lincoln. The "Blizzard of '78" claims 21 lives and many residents went over a week without heat, water, food, and electricity.
Rhode Island becomes the first state to officially decriminalize prostitution.
The World Prodigy, a 560-foot tanker, runs aground on Brenton Reef near Newport and spills a million gallons of fuel oil, causing extensive environmental damage.
Rhode Island becomes the third state to extend civil rights protection to transsexuals and transvestites.
(February 20) Fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick kills 100 people, becoming the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.
The State Legislature votes to drop "Providence Plantations" from Rhode Island's name, due to the misconception that it relates to slavery.
Click to enlarge an image
1524: The Narragansett tribe Bandera, present day
1636: Roger Williams statue by Franklin Simmons
1636: Deed to Providence, signed by Chief Canonicus
1638: Portsmouth Compact
1673: White Horse Tavern
1675: King Philip
1675: "King Philip's Seat," a Native American meeting place on Mount Hope
1676: The site of Nine Men's Misery in Cumberland
1693: Queen Mary II
1763: Touro synagogue exterior in Newport
1764: Copper-plate engraving of Brown University from 1795
1772: Burning of the Gaspée
1778: Drawing of an African-American infantryman (left) from the Rhode Island Regiment
1793: Samuel Slater
1812: Governor William Jones
1814: The secret journal of the Hartford Convention
1841: Thomas W. Dorr
1861: United States Naval Academy seal
1901: "Independent Man" atop the dome of the Providence State House
1935: Governor Theodore Francis Green
1953: Jacqueline Kennedy at Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island on the day of her wedding
1955: August 17 weather map featuring Hurricane Diane
1978: Surface map of the worst snowstorm in Rhode Island history
1980: Front Door of a Providence "spa" featuring multiple police stickers