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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.

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

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.

The story of Newport, Rhode Island's pirates began with war, ended with revolution and inspired swashbuckling legends for generations to come. From 1690 to the American Revolution, many of Newport's fathers, husbands and sons sailed under the black flag. They would return home from plundering the high seas to attend church and serve in public offices. The citizens of Newport welcomed pirates with their exotic goods and gold to spend. The community changed its tune when Newport's prosperous shipping fleet was on the receiving end of piracy during the early eighteenth century. Locals who had once offered safe haven were suddenly more than pleased to cooperate with London's hunt for pirates, including the largest mass hanging of pirates in the colonies at Gravelly Point.

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 . . .

"Newport and Rocky Point 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.

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 . . .

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

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



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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