Providence City Guide
Providence was first settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, who had been exiled from Massachusetts for his outspoken opposition to the Church of England. Wishing to establish a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters, Williams purchased the land from the Narragansett natives and named the settlement in honor of "God's merciful providence." The rocky and heavily wooded land made farming difficult for the settlers, so Providence turned to fishing and maritime trade in the mid 1770s, becoming a major commercial center. However, British laws such as the Sugar Act (which levied a tax on sugar and molasses imports) had a serious impact on Providence's trade. In response, the citizens of Providence spilled what is said to be the first blood of the American Revolution in 1772, in the infamous Gaspée Affair.
Following the war, Providence became a great industrial center when it shifted its focus to manufacturing. From around 1830 until the Great Depression in the 1920s, Providence boasted some of the largest manufacturing plants and factories in the U.S. Immigrants, drawn by the promise of jobs, flocked to the city. In response to this growth, Providence residents ratified a city charter in November of 1831. Providence was a joint state capital with Newport until 1900, when it became the sole capital of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (the state's official name).