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1790

United States Constitution

May 29

By a two vote margin (34-32), Rhode Island became the last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1790

Drawing of Federal Hall, with horse and carriage in front.

June 12

Joseph Stanton Jr., a native of Charlestown, and Theodore Foster, originally of Brookfield, Massachusetts, but later of Providence, were elected by the general assembly as the state's first United States senators.

1790

Theodore Foster (Pro-admin/F-RI)

June 25

Joseph Stanton Jr., and Theodore Foster produced their credentials for office and took their oaths at Federal Hall in New York City. Afterwards Stanton and Foster drew lots to determine their Senate class assignments. Stanton drew the Class 2 seat (with a four year term to expire in 1793) while Foster drew the Class 1 seat (with a two year term to expire in 1791). The statute regulating the taking of an oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution, was enacted on June 1, 1789.

1797

PPT Seal

July 6

The Senate elected William Bradford as its president pro tempore. Bradford, originally of Plympton, Massachusetts, but later of Bristol, Rhode Island, had been a physician but abandoned his practice to study law before entering into politics.

1800

June 6

Senator Theodore Foster's younger brother, Dwight Foster, was elected as a United States senator from Massachusetts and they served together until their retirements in March 1803.

1809

Congressional Cemetery cenotaphs

June 4

After less than three months in office, Senator Francis Malbone of Newport died on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Malbone was later interred at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

1816

William Hunter (F-RI)

December 16

Senator William Hunter of Newport became chairman of the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), serving until 1817.

1818

James Burrill, Jr. (F-RI)

November 20

Providence-born senator James Burrill, Jr., became chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, serving until 1819.

1820

December 27

A funeral service for Senator James Burrill, Jr., was held in the Senate Chamber. Burrill was later interred at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

1834

Asher Robbins (A/AJ/W-RI)

May 27

The Senate resolved the contested election between Senator Asher Robbins, originally of Wethersfield but later of Newport, and former representative Elisha Reynolds Potter of Little Rest (now Kingston). The incumbent, Robbins, retained his seat.

1842

February 1

A funeral service for Senator Nathan Fellows Dixon of Westerly was held in the Senate Chamber. Dixon was the grandfather of Senator Nathan Fellows Dixon, also of Westerly, who served in the Senate from 1889 to 1895.

1853

Philip Allen (D-RI)

December 12

Senator Philip Allen of Providence became chairman of the Committee on Agriculture (today's Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry), serving until 1857.

1857

James Fowler Simmons (W-RI)

March 4

Ten years after the expiration of his term as Rhode Island's Class 2 senator, James Fowler Simmons, who was born near Little Compton but moved to Providence, was seated as the state's Class 1 senator.

1859

March 4

Henry Bowen Anthony, born in Coventry but later of Providence, began his 25 years of Senate service. During his tenure Anthony chaired the Joint Committee on Printing for a total of 21 years, 5 months, and 28 days, the sixth-longest tenure for a Senate committee chairman.

1862

 

Senator Henry B. Anthony became Republican Conference chairman, serving in that position until 1884. As chair, Anthony acted much like the later majority leaders, giving committee assignments to members of his party, calling up bills for debate, and often speaking for his party on the issues of the day.

1862

James F. Simmons (W-RI)

September 5

Senator James F. Simmons resigned his seat after the Committee on the Judiciary reported in July that the corruption charges leveled against him were essentially correct.

1869

PPT Seal

March 23

The Senate elected Henry B. Anthony as its president pro tempore, a position Anthony was elected to 16 more times between 1869 and 1875.

1870

Statue of Nathanael Greene, National Statuary Hall Collection

January 20

The Senate moved to accept a marble statue of Revolutionary War major general Nathanael Greene of Warwick, sculpted by Henry Kirke Brown, for placement in Congress's National Statuary Hall Collection. The statute was the first placed in the collection.

1872

Statue of Roger Williams, National Statuary Hall Collection

January 9

The Senate moved to accept a marble statue by Frank Simmons of Roger Williams, co-founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, for placement in the Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.

1873

Battle of Lake Erie

 

A painting depicting the Battle of Lake Erie by William Henry Powell was unveiled in the east stairway of the Capitol’s Senate wing. The painting features United States Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who was born and raised in Rhode Island. Perry earned the title "Hero of Lake Erie" for leading American forces in a decisive naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal on January 6, 1814.

1873

William Sprague (R-RI)

March 

Senator William Sprague was denied the chairmanship of the Committee on Appropriations after Republican Party leaders decided that his personal affairs had affected his mental stability. His wife, Kate Chase Sprague, daughter of Supreme Court Justice Salmon P. Chase, was having an affair with Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York and Sprague's textile mills were in a state of bankruptcy. The party's distrust of Sprague was sealed by his harangues on the Senate floor about the corrupting evils of wealth. Born in Cranston but later of Providence, Sprague was the nephew of former senator William Sprague (1842-1844).

1877

Ambrose Everett Burnside (R-RI)

March 9

Senator and Civil War major general Ambrose Everett Burnside, originally of Liberty, Indiana, but a resident of Providence, became chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor (today's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), serving until 1879.

1880

Henry B. Anthony (R-RI)

February 5

The Senate adopted what came to be known as the "Anthony Rule," allowing senators to speak no more than five minutes on certain measures before voting. Named for its sponsor, Senator Henry B. Anthony, this was the Senate's first effort to add a cloture provision to its rules. On March 19, 1884, it was formally adopted as Rule VIII of the Senate.

1881

Ambrose E. Burnside (R-RI)

March 18

Senator Ambrose E. Burnside became chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, serving until May.

1881

Nelson W. Aldrich (R-RI)

October 5

Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, born in Foster but later of Providence, began his near 30 years of Senate service when he was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Ambrose E. Burnside in September. Aldrich was described by his secretary, and later Senate sergeant at arms (1919-1933), David S. Barry as "the suave and steel spined boss of the United States Senate." Aldrich also was grandfather to Vice President Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller and great-grandfather to West Virginia senator John D. Rockefeller IV.

1887

December 12

Senator Nelson W. Aldrich became chairman of the Committee on Rules (today's Committee on Rules and Administration), serving until 1893. Aldrich chaired the committee again from 1895 to 1899.

1898

The Show's Over

February 2

Senator Nelson W. Aldrich became chairman of the Committee on Finance, serving until his retirement from the Senate in 1911. During these years, Aldrich was one of the "Senate Four" who dominated the chamber's deliberations. Aldrich served as a sort of floor leader before that position had been established.

1900

George P. Wetmore (R-RI)

February 23

Senator George Peabody Wetmore, born to American parents in England but a resident of Providence, authorized William C. McCauslen, who had already depicted Vice Presidents William R. King and John Tyler, to execute the bust of Andrew Johnson for the Senate's Vice Presidential Bust Collection.

1913

Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

April 8

The Seventeenth Amendment, providing for the direct election of senators, became part of the Constitution. The amendment was first put into effect for the 1914 elections.

1916

Henry F. Lippitt (R-RI)

November 7

Incumbent senator Henry F. Lippitt of Providence was defeated by Peter Goelet Gerry, originally of New York City but later of Warwick, in Rhode Island's first direct Senate election.

1918

Cover of the Farewell Address Notebook

February 22

Senator Peter G. Gerry read George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address on the floor of the Senate Chamber, a tradition dating to 1862.

1919

Peter G. Gerry (D-RI)

May 17

Senator Peter G. Gerry was elected Democratic Party whip and served until 1929.

1919

David S. Barry

May 19

David S. Barry, the former editor-in-chief of the Providence Journal, was appointed Senate sergeant at arms and served until his dismissal in 1933.

1929

Jesse H. Metcalf (R-RI)

April 22

Senator Jesse H. Metcalf of Providence became chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor (today's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), serving until 1933.

1933

Felix Hebert (R-RI)

March 8

Senator Felix Hebert of West Warwick was appointed Republican Party whip and served until 1935.

1935

Peter G. Gerry (D-RI)

January 3

After losing re-election in 1928 to Felix Hebert, Peter G. Gerry returned to the Senate by defeating Hebert. Gerry served in the Senate for a total of 24 years (1917-1929 and 1935-1947).

1937

Theodore Francis Green

January 3

Theodore Francis Green of Providence defeated incumbent senator Jesse H. Metcalf of Providence and began his 24 years of Senate service. Green was the grandnephew of Samuel Greene Arnold of Providence, and the great grandson of James Burrill, Jr., both former senators.

1942

Cover of the Farewell Address Notebook

February 23

Senator Theodore F. Green read George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address on the floor of the Senate Chamber, a tradition dating to 1862.

1949

James H. McGrath (D-RI)

August 23

Following his nomination on August 2 and his Senate confirmation on August 18, James Howard McGrath of Providence, a former United States solicitor general, resigned his Senate seat to accept appointment as attorney general of the United States. He served in President Harry Truman's cabinet from 1949 to 1952.

1950

John Orlando Pastore (D-RI)

December 19

John Orlando Pastore of Providence took his oath of office, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Edward L. Leahy of Bristol. Leahy had been appointed in 1949 by then-governor Pastore to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James H. McGrath. Pastore was the first Italian American elected to the Senate and served for just over 26 years.

1952

Cover of the Farewell Address Notebook

February 22

Senator John Orlando Pastore read George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address on the floor of the Senate Chamber, a tradition dating to 1862.

1955

Theodore F. Green (D-RI)

January 11

Senator Theodore F. Green became chairman of the Committee on Rules and Administration, serving until 1957.

1957

Theodore Francis Green

January 9

Senator Theodore F. Green became chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations at the age of 89 and served until his retirement in 1961. Greene was 93 when he retired--the oldest man to have served in Congress until 1996, when he was surpassed by Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

1961

Claiborne Pell

January 3

Born in New York City, Claiborne Pell of Newport began 37 years of Senate service during which he cast over 13,000 votes. When Pell left the Senate in 1997, he was Rhode Island's longest serving senator.

1965

Robert G. Dunphy

January 14

Rhode Island native Robert G. Dunphy became Senate sergeant at arms and served until June 30, 1972.

1965

Claiborne Pell

March 10

Senator Claiborne Pell sponsored the law establishing the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

1972

May 25

The Senate passed an education bill that included "Basic Educational Opportunity Grants," which were later renamed Pell Grants. Senator Claiborne Pell was largely responsible for their creation. Pell Grants provide financial aid funds to U.S. college students.

1977

Nelson Aldrich by Paul Peter Kiehart

 

A portrait of Senator Nelson W. Aldrich by Paul Peter Kiehart was accepted by the U.S. Senate Commission on Art.

1978

Claiborne Pell

January 27

Senator Claiborne Pell became chairman of the Committee on Rules and Administration, serving until 1981.

1984

John H. Chafee

November 28

Senator John H. Chafee was elected chairman of the Republican Conference, serving until 1990.

1987

Claiborne Pell (D-RI)

January 6

Senator Claiborne Pell became chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, serving until 1995.

1995

John H. Chafee

January 5

Senator John H. Chafee became chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, serving until 1999.

2000

John H. Chafee (R-RI)

August 9

John H. Chafee was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

2007

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

August 3

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Newport received the Golden Gavel Award for presiding over the Senate for 100 hours in a single session.