A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Sledding down College Hill

Even though the snow has melted in Providence for now, my winter sports dreams are still alive.

In 1791 a group of merchants and land owners in Providence around Main Street (now South Main Street) and Benefit Street signed a petition to the Providence Town Council to encourage them into action to stop children from sledding down the ‘cross streets and lanes’. The winter in the late 18th Century in Rhode Island involved a lot of snow, ice and mud. Everything a child could wish for.

So this winter should I see some children trying to sled down a hill near me, instead of writing to City Hall, I may just offer to help.

MSS 214 SG1 S1 No.6075 Providence Town Papers. Petition, 28 January 1791.


To the Worshipfull Town Council of the Town of Providence

The Petition of the Subscribers Inhabitants of the said Town most Respectfully sheweth.

That from the verry Dangerou[s] and Inconvenient practice that the Children of the Town are now in; of Slideing on Sleds down the Cross Streets and lanes that lead into the Main Street, much Danger arises to the Lives of the Inhabitants, as well as to Strangers that resort to this Town to Transact Business. That the practice is so Dangerous that the Lives and Limbs of the verry Children that practice this Business are often Indanger’d thereby.

Your Petitioners therefore Request that the Town Council would take this Representation into their most serious Consideration, and make such Orders and Regulations as they shall think necessary for preventing the abuse and Injury complained of and the will ever Pray.

Providence January 28th 1791

MSS 214 SG1 S1 No. 6079 (Verso). Providence Town Papers. Petition, 28 January 1791.

Signed on Verso:


Daniel Tillinghast

Thomas Lloyd Halsey

George Tillinghast

Welcome Arnold

Nicholas Brown

Nicholas Brown, Junior

Joseph Nightingale

Stephen Hopkins

Martin Seamans

Nathanael Gladding, Junior

Obadiah Seameans

Oliver Bowen Jr.

Jabez Bowen

Cyprian Sterry

Joseph Peck

Ephraim Bowen

William Peck

Samuel Westcott

Thomas Sabin

Fa[obscured] Martin

James Green

Thomas Jones

Elisha Brown

Robert Newell

Richard Jackson

John Updike

James Arnold

William Bowen

Joseph Russell

William Larned

William Page

Philip Allen

Nathan Waterman

John Carter

Ephraim Bowen, Junior

John I. Clark

John Brown


2 comments on “Sledding down College Hill

  1. Cheryl Hall
    23 December 2017

    My dad grew up in Portsmouth and moved to Buffalo in his 20s. We grew up used to abundant snow nearly every year here in Western New York. Dad told us that a snowfall good enough for sledding was rare in Portsmouth, and typically there would be sufficient snow for one good day. He and his friends would try to extend sledding one more day by gathering up the remaining snow and packing it on the hill. I don’t know where he did his sledding. Reading this article brought back that memory-thank you for that!

  2. rihswebsite
    5 January 2018

    Thank you Cheryl! We are glad that this brought back some happy memories.

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This entry was posted on 21 December 2017 by in Collection Notes.

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