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History Bytes

History Bytes: Valuable Services Rendered

On May 31, 1869, the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations passed a “Resolution in acknowledgement of the valuable services rendered by Miss Ida Lewis of Newport.”

Ida Lewis, the famous keeper of the Lime Rock lighthouse, made her first rescue at the age of 16 and continued to save lives until she was 64 years old. However, it was a rescue in the spring of 1869 that catapulted her onto a national stage. That March Ida rescued two soldiers from drowning when their boat capsized in the harbor. In appreciation of Ida’s dedication to her job as the keeper of Lime Rock, and in appreciation of her heroism, the following was passed.

Resolved: That this General Assembly desires to recognize the heroism of Miss Ida Lewis of Newport in repeatedly saving the lives of drowning men in at the risk of her own and we are proud that one of our own citizens by her courage and humanity has won the admiration of the whole country.

Resolved: That a copy of these resolutions be sent to Miss Ida Lewis of Newport.

You can view the Resolution, as well as other items and memorabilia from Ida’s life, on display in the exhibit Ida Lewis: a Newport Story. Located at the Newport Historical Society Research Center. Summer 2017.

Image: General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations May 31 1869 Resolution

History Bytes: The Circus

This week marks the final appearance of the Ringling Brothers Circus in Rhode Island, as it prepares to fade into the sunset nationally. Circuses have been coming to Newport for over two centuries, beginning with a performance of skilled horsemanship in 1774. On 24 May of that year,  equestrian Christopher H. Gardner attracted as many three thousand residents to watch his trick riding and comedic equestrian skits at an enclosure in the north end of Newport. Later, circuses traveled with menageries of exotic animals and birds (living natural curiosities). Over time the menageries were trained and incorporated into the circus performance. 

Image: Menagerie, featuring The Great Indian Elephant (Rhode Island Republican, 7 May 1828)

History Bytes: Susan B. Anthony’s Rhode Island Roots

Susan Brownell Anthony (1820-1906), the most recognizable of American social reformers and women’s rights activists, was the product of eight generations of Quaker teachings. From the establishment of the Quaker religion, women in the Society of Friends had complete equality in the worship service and governance of the congregation. This practice of equality was passed down through generations and must have shaped Susan’s strong support of abolitionism, suffragism, property rights and fair wages for women and more. Susan’s ancestry can be traced to John Anthony (1607-1675), who settled in Portsmouth, Rhode Island around 1640. Through intermarriages, her ancestors include Potters, Clarkes, Shermans, Coggeshalls and other founding settlers of Rhode Island. Over time, her family followed very typical Quaker migration routes from Portsmouth to Dartmouth and Adams, Massachusetts, through the Nine Partners region of Dutchess County, New York, finally settling in Rochester.

Image: Early Anthony family death entries from the records of the Rhode Island Monthly Meeting of Friends