Did Lovecraft ever receive ‘picture postals’ from R. E. Howard, dropping through the mailbox in Providence? Perhaps. Although Cross Plains, Texas, does not seem to have been the sort of place one would make a postcard of — unless perhaps one could do something artistic with sagebrush and cattle and a sunset. But if they did once make such things as postcards, then it seems that a view of the town bank and main row of stores might have been the standard ‘town view’…
Rogers photo, 1920s, newly repaired and colourised.
I had a dig around on Archive.org and found the town’s water-tower, as seen behind the stores in the above picture, in full-length and in detail. One can see figures standing on the top railing and sitting on the bottom struts, for scale…
Entrance to Wilbraham Academy, Mass. Note the curiously Eastern looking sculpture on the frontage, with the light-globe resembling a turban.
“I tarried eight days in Wilbraham, picking up many strange legends of great interest to me, since both Mrs. Miniter and Miss Beebe are expert in the curious folklore of that archaick region. I am at this very moment introducing one, as subsidiary colour, into a weird novelette I am writing. [This would become the famous “The Dunwich Horror”, set just east of Wilbraham and heavily inspired by the district.] I visited all the churchyards and burying places, and inspected the pleasing village of Wilbraham proper, where still flourishes the old academy founded in 1825.” — H.P. Lovecraft, “Observations on Several Parts of America”, in Lovecraft’s Collected Essays, Volume 4: Travel.
Lovecraft visited Marblehead many times, and it was one of his favourite places.
Marblehead Historical Society, Lee Mansion.
“This time the Lee Mansion was open, and I came nigh to fainting at its sheer BRITANNICK [British] magnificence. No fumbling provincial workmanship here, but sumptuous carvings, mantels, balustrades, and wainscotting, made by the finest artisans of OLD ENGLAND, and wrought in solid mahogany. You must see them, Sonny! The luxuriously perfect artistry of every line of this classical abode leaves the spectator virtually breathless!” — Lovecraft in Selected Letters I, page 235.
Also the old Town Hall…
“She [Sonia] visited Lovecraft in Providence on 4-5 September, staying at the Crown Hotel.” — S.T. Joshi, I Am Providence.
“Having entertained Lovecraft and his aunt for lunch at the Crown Hotel, Sonia suggested inviting several leading amateurs [to town]…” — L. Sprague deCamp, Lovecraft: A Biography.
One wonders if Sonia treated Lovecraft to a ‘Deep One’ ice-cream sundae at the Hotel’s ‘Deep Sea Cocktail Lounge’, in lieu of something alcoholic…
“I am not much of a vaudeville follower, but it happens that I saw him [Houdini] at the old Keith’s Theatre here nearly a quarter of a century ago [c. 1905] it must have been at the very outset of his career, for he was not then especially well known.” — H.P. Lovecraft, letter to Henneberger, 2nd February 1924.
Poster (apparently genuine?) advertising Houdini’s 1905 tour, in this case the Newport stop in New England. The word “Metamorphosis” would surely have caught the 15 or 16 year-old Lovecraft’s eye.
Providence Opera House (green board and canopy, on the left of the picture). It was a 1,500 seater.
“… we were acquainted with Mr. Morrow [Robert Morrow], the lessee & manager of Providence’s chief theatre — The Providence Opera House — (he lived directly across the street) so that it was not thought too shocking to let my aunt take me to see something [on the stage, when a young boy in 1896]” — H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Kleiner dated 16th November 1916.
An impression of the pre-show hustle and bustle the boy Lovecraft might have encountered on arriving, before the age of the motor-car…
Some may doubt that the boy Lovecraft was in one of those carriages. Yet, at this time his family still had a horse & carriage and a live-in coachman to drive it.
Below are a selection of Lovecraft-era postcards from the shoreline at Newburyport, Lovecraft’s base model for the town of Innsmouth in “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.
Mostly toward Joppa and Plum Island, the stretch of shortline that runs about a half-mile to a mile south-east of the main town, along the Merrimack River waterfront.
“Newburyport is one of the most hauntingly quaint towns in America [… it has a] spectral hush & semidesertion […] In Haverhill, 8 miles up the Merrimac [River], they call it ‘The City of the Living Dead’ [Among its other features, he noted] the unpaved sidewalks on pre-Revolutionary streets with rotting, half-deserted houses south of the Square. When I first saw Newburyport I mistook the central square for a mere neighbourhood shopping centre, & kept on the car (it was a trolley-car then) in the expectation of reaching some real ‘downtown’. Only when the line ended — at the ‘Joppa’ fishing hamlet — did I realise that the half-deserted square I had passed through was actually ‘downtown’!” — H.P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters IV, pages 259-260.
Lovecraft apparently got off at the end of the line, presumably toward the islands end of the Joppa stretch, and walked back to town. If he had followed the line further he would have found the route hooking around east and over to the islands resort area, such as it was, which was more to the east of the town as the crow flies. He probably didn’t see the Plum Island section except on postcards, or perhaps on another trip or from the train or bus.
Also, the old railway track…
“Then I thought of the abandoned railway to Rowley, whose solid line of ballasted, weed-grown earth still stretched off to the northwest from the crumbling station on the edge of the river-gorge.” — “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.
Want more postcards and a map? See my earlier Old Newburyport post of 2014, which also has couple more pictures of Joppa.