Only about 48 miles long and 37 miles wide, Rhode Island is the smallest state in area, though more than 400 meandering miles of shore and inlets line the Ocean State's coast.
Rhode Island's independent streak – it was the only state to reject ratification of the 18th Amendment banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol in 1920 – dates back to its 17th century roots as the land of self-governance and individual freedoms.
Forced to flee religious persecution in Massachusetts, Roger Williams founded the first permanent settlement in 1636 in Providence on land purchased from the Narragansett Indians. Newport became a major trading and shipping port, and Rhode Island's economy boomed.
Rhode Island was the first of the original 13 colonies to renounce allegiance to Great Britain in 1776 and was the last to ratify the Constitution in 1790, insisting that the Bill of Rights be added.
Following the American Revolution, the country's first successful water-powered cotton mill in this state sparked the nation's Industrial Revolution. The mill was developed by Samuel Slater, hailed as the father of the American textile industry.
Though Providence is among the most racially diverse cities in the country, the rest of the state lacks variety. About 84 percent of Rhode Islanders are non-Hispanic whites, though the African-American, Native American, Asian and Hispanic populations have all grown since 2010.
About the same number of Rhode Island residents graduated from high school as the national average, but the number who hold at least an associate degree is higher than the national average. The state is home to renowned schools such as Ivy League Brown University, and to the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Rhode Island and Providence College.
At $60,596, the median household income in 2016 was a little higher than the national average of $57,617, and the poverty rate was lower than average. The median value of owner-occupied housing, $247,700, is about 20 percent higher than the national average.
Major Rhode Island industries include biomedicine, cyber and data analytics, defense shipbuilding and maritime products, advanced business services and manufacturing. The state's transportation and tourism industries also are growing, with billions of dollars poured into the state annually.
Top tourist destinations include Newport for its ritzy sailing, its annual jazz festival and shopping spots. The coastal town also is listed by U.S. News as a top affordable wedding destination. Providence is well-known as a historic college town on a river with a more relaxed vibe than its larger counterpart, Boston.
The state is less religious than average; Pew Research Center identifies 49 percent of adults in Rhode Island as “highly religious.”
Rhode Island leans Democratic. The last time the state gave its four electoral votes to the Republican presidential nominee was for incumbent President Ronald Reagan in 1984, when only Minnesota and Washington, D.C., went Democratic.