Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States by area. However, very few people know that it has the longest name of any state in the union. The official name of what is commonly referred to as Rhode Island is "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations".
The name Rhode Island and Providence Plantations derives from the merging of two colonies, Providence Plantations and Rhode Island. Providence Plantations was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the City of Providence. Rhode Island is the area now known as Aquidneck Island, which comprises the city of Newport and the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay.
A push to drop "Providence Plantations" from the state's name advanced further than ever when the Rhode Island House and Senate each passed different versions of a bill that would allow residents to vote in a referendum in 2010 as to whether their home should simply be called "State of Rhode Island". One of the two versions of the bill must now be approved by both chambers of the legislature and signed by the Governor before the referendum can be scheduled. Those who support dropping "Providence Plantations" from the state's name argue it conjures up images of slavery, while those opposing the change in name argue it's an unnecessary rewriting of history that ignores Rhode Island's tradition of religious liberty and tolerance.
The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was the first of the thirteen original colonies to declare independence from British rule and the last to ratify the United States Constitution. The state's official nickname is "The Ocean State", a reference to the state's geography, as nearly one tenth of Rhode Island's inland area is covered by salt water. In addition, no resident of the state is more than a thirty minute drive from the water's edge.