The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Seaports of the World

United States: Rhode Island

Roger Williams founded the first permanent settlement of Europeans in Rhode Island at Providence in 1636 on land purchased from the Narragansett Indians.

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.

Steamboat Landing at Rocky Point Rhode Island.
Steamboat Landing, Rocky Point, Rhode Island

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.

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.

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Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Narragansett Bay

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 . . .

Narragansett Rhode Island.
Narragansett, Rhode Island,
Bay View of the Squantum Club

"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 . . .

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Rocky Point, Narragansett 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

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Rhode Island's Founders: From Settlement to Statehood

The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation in the Revolutionary War

Hidden History of Rhode Island: Not-to-be-Forgotten Tales of the Ocean State
(American Chronicles History Press)

United States History

Battle At Sea.
Battle at Sea and
3,000 Years of Naval History

How Gettysburg Shaped American Memory.
These Honored Dead: How the Story of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory

Thomas A. Desjardin
DaCapo Press

Children in Colonial America (Children and Youth in America)Publication.
Edited by James Marten
(New York University Press)
The Pilgrims and Puritans did not arrive on the shores of New England alone. Through essays, primary documents, and contemporary illustrations, Children in Colonial America examines the unique aspects of childhood in the American colonies between the late sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries. The twelve original essays observe a diverse cross-section of children— from indigenous peoples of the east coast and Mexico to Dutch-born children of the Plymouth colony and African-born offspring of slaves in the Caribbean—and explore themes including parenting and childrearing practices, children's health and education, sibling relations, child abuse, mental health, gender, play, and rites of passage. Taken together, the essays and documents in Children in Colonial America shed light on the ways in which the process of colonization shaped childhood, and in turn how the experience of children affected life in colonial America.

Sextant by David Barrie.
A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans
Mapping the World's Oceans.
David Barrie.

Rare and Collectible Books at

Rare Books.
First Migrants
Ancient Migration in Global Perspective
Ancient Migrations.
Peter Bellwood

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