Of course, wisdom tells us that good things come in small packages, too. And that’s certainly true when it comes to today’s Wonder of the Day. We’re not talking about Alaska, or Texas, or any of the BIG states. We’re talking about the smallest state in the Union.
And what state is that? It’s Rhode Island, of course! Rhode Island isn’t an island, but it does contain a lot of islands. Rhode Island is known as The Ocean State, and some of its most famous areas can be found on its many islands. In fact, nowhere in the state lies more than 30 miles from salt water!
So how small is Rhode Island? From top to bottom (north to south), it stretches only about 48 miles. From side to side (east to west), it extends only around 37 miles. When all the land is accounted for, Rhode Island consists of only 1,045 square miles.
Of course, a large part of Rhode Island consists of the water surrounding its many islands, including a large body of water in the middle of the state called Narragansett Bay. Even if you count this water, Rhode Island only amounts to about 1,550 square miles — and that’s still quite a bit smaller than the next largest state, Delaware.
Although Rhode Island itself is small, it happens to have the longest official name of any state in the Union: “The State of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.” Most people just call it Rhode Island or one of its nicknames, like “Little Rhody.”
If you’re WONDERing how Rhode Island came to have such a name, given that it’s not an actual island in itself, there’s some debate about exactly how it came to be. One story claims that the name came from Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano, who described the area in 1524, and compared it to the Isle of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea.
Others claim that Dutch explorer Adriaen Block named the area “Roode Eyland” in 1614, when he noticed the red rock ledges along the coast of Aquidneck Island. Whichever story is true, the area was known as “Rode Island” when it was settled by Englishman Roger Williams. It became one of the original 13 British colonies, and it was the last of those colonies to become a state on May 29, 1790.
Today, Rhode Island remains an important state with strong ties to the sea and trade. It houses many major industrial businesses and is known in particular for its silverware and fine jewelry. Other prominent industries include textiles, rubber products, machinery, and tourism.