“27th [October 1918] — Government officials, Watch and Ward Society men and United States troops from Camp Devens raid two houses on Cumberland Hill, [about four miles north of Providence] arresting 40 people. Proprietor of one house uses shotgun and troops are ordered to shoot to kill. One of Watch and Ward men is shot in the leg by man who really had attempted to put bullet into injured man’s abdomen. Both vice places are broken up by direction of Government authorities, because soldiers and sailors were frequenting them. Many robberies had been complained of. Most every man arrested in the raid was armed with gun and brass knuckles [knuckle-dusters].” — from news summary of the month’s events, Providence Magazine, Nov 1918, p.605.

Who were the Watch and Ward Society? Here’s the description from a 2011 book by Neil Miller, Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil

“An influential watchdog organization, bankrolled by society’s upper crust, it actively suppressed vices like gambling and prostitution, and oversaw the mass censorship of books and plays.”

Evidently they were also active in areas close to Providence. They were originally the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice. More details here. Lovecraft mentions them in Selected Letters III, musing idly on the prospect of being sent a copy of Venus in Furs for Christmas…

“I certainly wouldn’t get het up and call in the repressed perverts of the Watch and Ward Society of Boston.”

In what might be an interesting little sidelight on Lovecraft’s literary flowering circa summer 1926…

“In 1926 [5th April], the [Watch and Ward] society challenged a Herbert Asbury story called “Hatrack”, published in H.L. Mencken’s American Mercury. In Boston, with police, press, and a large crowd in attendance, Mencken sold a copy of the magazine to society president John Chase. Mencken was arrested. In the ensuing trial [6th April], the magazine was found not to be obscene, and Mencken was acquitted. Mencken proceeded to successfully sue the Watch and Ward Society for illegal restraint of trade.”

Presumably many pulp authors and editors felt some relief that the Watch and Ward Society had taken such a decisive legal pummeling.