This week in ‘Picture Postals’, part of The Beth Murray collection of Providence photographs. My thanks to the Providence Public Library, which has large scans of the screened postcard version of these Providence postcards, postcards once issued as sets by the city’s Book Shop. I’ve selected the views and places more relevant to Lovecraft.

Benefit Street, Providence.

Thomas Street, Providence. Appears in “The Call of Cthulhu”.

The view from the garden of the Shakespeare’s Head.

“John Carter … His old shop & office, the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head, in Gaol-Lane” (Lovecraft, speaking of Providence)

The John Carter house on Benefit Street.

Along the River Seekonk, Providence. On the way to one of Lovecraft’s favourite places, the wooded bluff above York Pond. The spot is around the corner in the distance. The young Lovecraft used to row on this river, most likely hiring a boat from the boat-house rather than Red Bridge, and would land on the Twin Islands in the river’s stream.

George Street, Providence. City centre and the then-new Industrial Trust building in the distance.

Looking up College Hill toward’s Lovecraft’s last home. The olde left side swept away for new RSID buildings, though somewhat sympathetically done with an old courtyard archway retained.

The Handicraft Club half-way up College Hill. Lovecraft’s aunt lived here for a while.

Another view of the Handicraft Club half-way up College Hill.

One of the entrances to the covered shopping Arcade, Providence. A favourite childhood haunt of the young Lovecraft.

View across to the new State House.

Another State House view.

Street market in the Italian quarter, Federal Hill. Setting of the late story “The Haunter of the Dark”.

The Baptist church, where Lovecraft tried to play “Yes, We Have No Bananas” on the organ.

I haven’t tried to foist colourising on them, since most of them are too contrasty (which doesn’t take colour well). There are more pictures to be found at the Library’s website and even more if you root around and hang around on eBay. Usually noted there as a “Book Shop” card…

I’ve found that Murray (1913-?) also issued a 34-page photobook for Lovecraft’s favourite local day-tip location, This is Newport: A book of photographs (1948).

Therefore she was also photographing in the mid-late 1940s. Interestingly she also issued the presumably similar title This is Providence: Photographs (1947). These dates suggest the dates of her pictures may well be earlier than the circa 1960 dates of the Book Shop’s postcard-set. We may be looking at Providence circa the mid 1940s, less than a decade after Lovecraft died. This earlier date would explain the somewhat rough ‘immediate post-war’ feel re: the b&w quality of the prints. At that time she would have been limited in materials and camera, and was likely printing them up for cheap reproduction in her books rather than as big art-prints.

There is no trace of either of her books on It’s possible there may be better quality / more pictures in the books, and possibly even some biography. There appears to be no institutional archive with her negatives, from which better prints might now be made.