Obscure New England State Symbols: Rhode Island

Each state has a myriad of official symbols that respresent their cultural heritage and individual history. These include a state flag, motto, song, and bird. But did you know that each region also has their own variety of obscure symbols such as a state treat, state fossil, and even a state dance?

Over the past three weeks we have covered Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire’s lesser known state symbols. This week we arrive at Rhode Island!

Rhode Island State Shell: Quahaug

You can tell whether or not someone is from New England by what they call a hard shell clam. To the rest of the world, they are simply clams. To us, they will always be quauhaugs! Rhode Island designated the quahaug (Mercenaria mercenaria) as its official state shell in 1987.


Rhode Island State Drink: Coffee Milk

Forget the Hershey’s Syrup! In Rhode Island, it’s coffee milk all the way! Made from a thick, sticky coffee syrup, coffee milk was introduced to Rhode Island in the early 1920’s, and became the official state drink in 1993.


Rhode Island State Marine Mammal: Harbor Seal

Harbor seals are large, friendly aquatic mammals weighing about 250 pounds. Their diet consists mainly of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans – including Rhode Island quahaugs! The harbor seal was designated the official state marine mammal on July 14, 2016.


Rhode Island State Appetizer: Calamari

Rhode Island was the first state to adopt an official appetizer on June 27, 2014. They chose calamari – which is usually served deep fried with a garlic butter sauce in the Ocean State.


Rhode Island State Folk Art: Carousel

The Charles I.D. Looff Carousel – or the Crescent Park Carousel – was built in 1895 by Danish artist, Charles I.D. Looff. It is one of the few handmade carousels still in use today and features 56 hand carved wood jumping horses, 6 stationary horses, 4 chariots, a camel, a Wurlitzer military band organ, decorative panels, beveled mirrors, faceted glass jewels, electric lights, and colored sandwich glass windows. Rhode Island designated the carousel its state symbol of American folk art in 1985.


Rhode Island State Motto: Hope

The official state motto appearing on the great seal and flag of Rhode Island reads simply “Hope.” It was likely inspired by the biblical phrase “Hope we have as an anchor of the soul.”

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