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Rhode Island

Roger Williams, a political and religious leader, founded the first permanent settlement of Europeans in Rhode Island at Providence in 1636 on land purchased from the Narragansett Indians.

Roger Williams.

Forced to flee Massachusetts because of persecution, Williams established a policy of religious and political freedom in his new settlement. Other leaders advocating freedom of worship soon established similar communities on either side of Narragansett Bay. These communities united, and in 1663 King Charles II of England granted them a royal charter, providing for a greater degree of self-government than any other colony in the New World and authorizing the continuation of freedom of religion.

At the start of the Revolutionary War, Rhode Islanders were among the first colonists to take action against British rule by attacking British vessels. On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island was the first colony to renounce allegiance to Great Britain and declare independence. Although no major battles took place in the state, Rhode Island regiments participated in every major campaign of the war. Rhode Islanders such as General Nathanael Greene, second-in-command to General George Washington, and Commodore Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy, distinguished themselves as military leaders and heroes.

NO ONE knows how many immigrants who went through Ellis Island wound up in Rhode Island. Many foreign-born Rhode Islanders came directly to the port of Providence, or arrived here via Boston.

"Rocky Point", Residence of Fred. W. Vanderbilt. Newport, Rhode Island, 1893

The immigrants arrived in Rhode Island in waves: first the Irish, in the mid-1800s, after the potato famine hit their homeland. About the same time, French-Canadians began arriving. In 1880, Russian Jews began to emigrate to escape persecution by the government. Armenians came in the 1890s, following the massacre by the Turkish Empire. Greek immigration began around the same tme. And the Italians - the largest portion of the immigrants to come into the country through Ellis Island - began arriving in great numbers, along with Portuguese at the turn of the century. Other groups included Syrians, Lebanese and Poles.

August 7, 1888, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

A Story or Two About Industries That Were "Protected" To Death.

. . . "You used to have iron manufactures in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but these always depended on having pig iron as their basis from other districts. If you had chosen to let in foreign pig iron there is nothing in the wages of your workingmen which would have hindered Massachusetts and Rhode Island from manufacturing the highest grades of iron on a large scale. But you shut your door to the pig iron of other countries, and as you did not produce any yourself you have destroyed your iron manufacture. If you would have let iron come in free you might have built ships at Providence and Boston, but with your tariff you have made this impossible."

The price of wool was higher throughout the low tariff period, between 1840 and 1801, on the average, than it has been since.

Fine broadcloth that rich men wear pays a duty of 41 per cent. Cheap mixed woolens for the workingmen pay about 77 per cent. An expensive Indian shawl which the rich man's wife wears pays 40 per cent. The heavy common shawl of the poor man's wife pays 80 per cent. Fine thread lace, which is too expensive for the poor, pays a duty of 30 per cent., and 10 per cent, is all that is collected on diamonds. But common spool thread pays 51 per cent. Dainty silk hosiery pays 50 per cent., but worsted stockings pay 73 per cent.

The number of men who were locked out or went on strike in Pennsylvania last year, chiefly in the "protected" industries, was 111,317. This was nearly 33 per cent, of all the strikers in the United States for the year. N. Y. News.

Goat Island Naval Torpedo Station

The Torpedo Station's mission was to develop torpedoes, torpedo equipment, explosives, and electrical equipment. Through experiments conducted there, the torpedo evolved from the immobile explosive mine of the Civil War period to the efficient and highly mobile weapon of today. The Station worked on other ordnance projects, including an impractical dynamite-throwing gun, projectile explosives such as dynamite and nitroglycerine, and gun cotton. The Navy's first smokeless gunpowder was also manufactured there. The first experiments in shipboard electricity were conducted at the Torpedo Station in the late 1880s.

The machine shop was wired to conform with a plan for illuminating ships with electric lights in July 1887. Wiring the shop in this manner provided light for the factory, and facilitated experiments and demonstrations in the application of electric power to warships. In 1902 a wireless antenna mast 180 feet high was erected at the Station to allow tests and evaluations of wireless radio communications. Rose Island was acquired in 1869 for the storage of explosives and for experimental firings, and in 1919, Gould Island was purchased and placed under the Station's jurisdiction.

September 20, 1875, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Narragansett Bay

1777 Transportation Map. Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Blaskowitz.

Boston Daily Globe , Monday Morning, September 1, 1873
Boston, Massachusetts

The Popular Pleasure Resort - The Immense Travel - Various Ports of Interest Along Shore - The Squantum Club - Ocean Cottage - Riverside - Bullock's Point.

From an Occasional Correspondent.

Providence, August 21, 1873

A sail down Narragansett Bay is always pleasant, even to those familiar with its shores. To a stranger or to one who has not visited it for many years, it is with no common interest that he gazes upon this great arm of the sea, with its multitudes of attractions. Here nature keeps perpetual holiday. Thousands upon thousands are coming and going all the time. The number of passengers carried by the American, the People's, and the Union Steamboat Company's excursion boats from various places, steam-tugs, yachts and nondescript craft, is almost startling. In the opinion of competent judges, it is no exaggerated estimate to say that 40,000 people pass up and down Narragansett Bay every week, from Providence and all the towns on the railroads running into the city, back as far as New Hampshire and Vermont. From the north, east and west they flock in, crowding the steamboats even to discomfort. Every day new excursions are advertised; Regimental Reunions, Veteran Associations, Odd Fellows, Masons, Good Templars, Church parties and Sunday-schools. These and other excursions are for the people. Exclusiveness does not pay. Pretension is not welcome. Here is pleasure without restraint. The middle classes predominate. With flags and streamers, the tumult of the crowd and music by the band, boat after boat is off, forming in line as handsome a squadron as ever graced a gala day. Mounting the hurricane deck of one of the finest steamers that furrows the water of Narragansett Bay.

It was the determination of your correspondent to see what was to be seen. Leaving the narrow channel, colliers, warehouses, cars, bridges, the public hospital, the gasometer and other execressences, out upon the widening stream, the expanding water of the bay, the breast swells to enjoy this noble sheet of water, upon which the sun shines bright and cheery, and over whose sparkling surface ripples the freshening breeze, tempering the air with delicious coolness. Swiftly and stately the River Belle glides down the stream . . .

Squantum Club, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.

"Newport and Rocky Piont are well known, but there are resorts on the coves and inlets, the peninsula and the winding shore of this picturesque bay, which though less known are none the less attractive to those who visit them. Field's Point, Ocean Cottage, Silver Spring, Pawtuxet, Bullock's Point, Oakland Beach, as well as Rocky Point, Narragansett Pier and Newport, attest that both nature and man have done their part to make Narragansett Bay the watering-place for the multitude . . .

Rocky Point, Narrangansett Bay, Rhode Island.

Among so many places it is difficult to make a selection reach one has its particular attractions. Field's Point, Ocean Cottage and Silver Spring have the advantage of being nearest the city. At all these places a good shore dinner may be obtained for fifty cents. Ocean Cottage has the reputation of giving the best shore dinners. This prestige is certainly well maintained. The cooking is all done by steam, including the baking of clams. The grounds, which belong to the Union Steamboat Company, are beautifully laid out in shade trees, groves, hills, dales and pleasant walks. The place with all its attractions is open to visitors, with the free use of its swings, croquet sets and dancing hall . . .

Steamship travel poster available by clicking on the image.
Travel Poster, c. 1882

The Project

Maritime Nations, Sea Captains, Ships, Merchants, Merchandise, Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.


Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California.

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