Looking Backward Into the Present

Using the Popular Culture of the Past to Help Answer Perplexing Questions in the Present

Which U.S. state has the longest name?

I am almost embarrassed to say that until recently, I did not know the answer to this question.  But while researching the last post on commonwealth vs. state, I stumbled upon this interesting fact.  The real name of the state known popularly as “Rhode Island” is actually officially known as “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”.

So not only is Rhode Island technically not an island, but Rhode Island is technically not the official state name.  Naturally, that left me wondering: how did the smallest state in the union get the longest name?

As the map clearly shows, Rhode Island is not actually an island

According to the book, State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols  by Barbara Smith Shearer:

When Dutch explorer Adrian Block came upon an island with red clay shores, he named it in his native tongue “Roodt Eylandt,” meaning “red island.” Under English rule, the name was anglicized in the then current spelling.

Rhode Island’s status as the smallest state lends it the nicknames Little Rhody and the Smallest State. Roger Williams, who founded Providence Plantation in 1636, is honored by the sobriquet the Land of Roger Williams.  Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is also known as the Plantation State.

There you have the abbreviated version of the facts behind the naming of Rhode Island.  If you, like me,  didn’t know this information before, you can now breath a little easier.


1 Comment»

  Nathan wrote @

So, it seems, they can take Longest State Name off their resume now.


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