Rhode Island is the smallest state in the Union and is sandwiched between Massachusetts and Connecticut in the New England region. Its flat landscape is composed of several islands and harbors. In fact, no point on Rhode Island is more than 30 miles from sea water. The eastern half of the state is dominated by the Narragansett Bay, which juts deep into the state. The western half of the state has a much larger land area but much lower population. There are over 30 islands in Narragansett Bay, the largest being Aquidneck Island. Most of the first settlers of Rhode Island came because of religious persecution, namely Roger Williams in 1636, and Anne Hutchinson in 1637. Early alliances were made between the powerful Narragansett tribe and the White settlers, but animosities eventually culminated into King Philip's War in 1675 and 76. Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from Britain on May 4th, 1776, but was the last to ratify the U.S. Constitution on May 29th, 1790, becoming the last of the original 13 colonies to enter the Union.
Hispanics make up the largest minority group in Rhode Island, at approximately 8.7% according to 2005 estimates. The three largest ancestral groups are Italian, Irish, and French/French-Canadian. The state has the largest percentage of Italian-Americans and Portuguese than any other state in the nation. Providence, the largest city and capital, is the economic, cultural and political hub of the state. Though Rhode Island is 45th in the nation for gross state product, it is 16th in per capita personal income. Health services, tourism, and manufacturing are the biggest industries. Jewelry and silverware are particularly strong industries in the Providence area. Rhode Island has the largest percentage of Catholics in the nation, due mainly to the Italian, Irish, Portuguese and French populations. Despite Republican strength in the early 20th century, the state is largely Democratic, voting Left in the last 5 Presidential candidates.