The General Assembly passed the Oyster Act of 1844, which was Rhode Island’s first aquaculture law. Part of a larger story of controversy over property rights in the state's territorial waters, the act established a system of leasing tracts of submerged land for the purpose of culturing oysters, as well as setting up a board of three shellfishery commissioners— who served without salary—and a fee structure for the leases. The fee structure ranged from a high of $10 per acre per year to a low of $1 per acre per year for larger, multiple-acre leases. The first year of leasing generated $60 in lease fees.
This series consists of signed agreements with accompanying plot maps depicting leased oyster bed grounds, primarily in the Providence River near Field's Point. References are also made to beds near Starve Goat Island, Fuller's Lower Rocks, and Crook Dolphin. Issued by the Commissioners of Rhode Island Shell Fisheries during the period 1844 - 1854, these lots of approximately one acre in size were granted to individuals for a term of ten (10) years at a perannum cost of $10.00 payable to the General Treasurer. (Rhode Island Public Laws, 1844.)