Postcards from the Past

A plethora of pithy postcard images from the turn of the century.

About this Property

#Dating the Postcard Views

  1. Whitman’s Fountain Pump: circa 1880. Just a guess here. The advertisement mentions a Patent that was granted in 1878, so this is after that
  2. Saints Peter’s and Paul’s Cathedral: circa 1890–1900. The Cathedral was built in 1878 and postcards become most popular in 1893 and later
  3. Saints Peter’s and Paul’s Cathedral, colorized: circa 1900. We are guessing that this collotype version came later and used the older photo as its basis
  4. Whitman’s Fountain Pump: circa 1890. The building we now know as Market Square was called the Board of Trade up until about 1920, but more importantly, the photographic basis for this postcard was found and credited to P.H. Rose in 1890.
  5. The old Industrial Trust and Banigan buildings: circa 1900. Mostly a guess here based on the street life — namely horse-drawn carriages and trolleys on tracks. Downtown Providence had trollies as early as 1892, the first Industrial Trust building was built in 1893 and the Banigan building opened in 1896. Cars were popularized between 1900 and 1915, when the number of them in America jumped from just 8,000 to more than 2 million.
  6. Rhode Island Hospital: circa 1906. The postcard seller dated this card based on the postmark. The Southwest pavilion, seen to the left, was built in 1900 and stood until 2014. (Source)
  7. The old Industrial Trust Building: circa 1910. Built in 1893, we date this postcard a little later only because of the quality of the photo and printing
  8. The Union Trust tower: circa 1910. This ornate tower on Dorrance Street was built in 1901 but was only 4 bays deep, as seen here. Its modern 7-bay form was completed in 1920
  9. First Church of Christian Scientists: circa 1913. A guess here, based on the construction completion in 1913. This stately building still stands on Meeting Street as the First Church of Christ, Scientist
  10. State Normal School: circa 1915. Built in 1898, the roots of Rhode Island College started here, just south of the State House on the site of what is now Providence Place Mall.
  11. Turks Head buildings, then and now: circa 1915. An odd promotional postcard of progress. Guessing 1915 based on the construction of the Turks Head tower in 1913
  12. Fruit Market: circa 1920. The Fruit Market set up on the corners of South Water St and Memorial Blvd. with the Banigan building in the background. Guessing the 1920s based on the proliferation and style of automobiles
  13. City Hall: circa 1922. The newly constructed Woolworth building is present to the left of City Hall, which was completed in 1922
  14. East down Westminster: pre 1925. Difficult to date this one exactly, but we know it was before 1925 because of the presence of Butler’s Exchange, which fronted Exchange Place and Westminster Street, and suffered a devastating fire in 1925. Someone who knows more about the businesses present could give us a better date
  15. RI College of Education: circa 1920. The State Normal School changed its name to the Rhode Island College of Education in 1920. These buildings were razed to build Providence Place Mall in 1996–1997. The mall opened in 1999
  16. State Capitol Annex: circa 1930. An odd postcard of mostly green lawn, we can also see the State Capitol Annex, built 1928, and St. Patrick’s Church to the right, built on Smith Street in 1842 until demolition in 1979
  17. Bustling Weybosset Street: circa 1940. Based mostly on the style of the cars and signage, we place it in the 1940s but it could be late 30s as well

Our research is not as good as some, so please, if you have reasons why our dates are all wrong, let us know in the anecdotes.