Go to Top

History Bytes

History Bytes: President James Monroe’s Visit to Newport

Two hundred years ago today, on June 28 1817, Newport hosted a visit by President James Monroe as he travelled through New England. The president arrived from Stonington, Connecticut on the famed U.S. Revenue Cutter VIGILANT accompanied by Capt. John Cahoone, Oliver Hazard Perry (most noted for his heroic role in the Battle of Lake Erie), and other dignitaries. Salutes were fired from Fort Adams and Fort Wolcott as the schooner toured the harbor. Later, President Monroe visited Tonomy Hill with its commanding view of the town and bay, and attended a reception with Rhode Island governor Nehemiah Knight and a welcoming committee.  The following day, President Monroe attended services at the Episcopal, Baptist, and Congregational churches. He later paid a special visit to William Ellery, one of four surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence. At the end of the day, the president visited manufacturing sites at Fall River, then sailed to Bristol and Providence.

Image:  Building contract for the Revenue Cutter Vigilant dated 1812, drafted and signed by William Ellery, as well as Capt. John Cahoone and ship builder Benjamin Marble.


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)