Henry A Barker.

The southern gateway of New England online

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Familiarity makes all seem of little account and it is only when the great-
ness of what It possesses is set before them by visitors from afar, that citizens
and neighbors begin to take notice.

Such, at any rate, is the position that Providence like some other Eastern
cities seems to hold today, and half the great things for which she is noted at


a distance, are practically unknown within her city limits. That, compared
with her population, she is the^frichest city in the Union, is commonly
believed, but that she has several artjgalleries and museums that in the
richness of their exhibits are second to none in the world, and a library that


has a widespread fame throughout Europe and America, is not so generally
known; nor is it realized that one of her private citizens has housed under his
roof the finest Shakespearian Library in existence, and that others of her
townsmen possess almost unrivalled collections of the works of the world s



greatest painters. Nor is it adequately perceived that the city herself, to a
greater extent perhaps than any other one town, has given character and
impress to the annals of American history.

But all these things and many others that are true in regard to Providence
furnish the reasons why she should be distinguished among cities, without
regard to her size, and her place on the map.

This very place on the map, however, gives her advantages over many
other cities which are of incalculable benefit. Sheltered as she is by her
northern hills from the severe storms of the New England winter, and with
the heat of the summer sun tempered by the prevailing breezes from her
broad bay, she enjoys a climate the year round that is more even and less
susceptible to violent changes than that of any other large city in New
England. It is mild in winter and invigorating and healthful in summer
and for manufacturing purposes almost without a rival. The surrounding
country is rich in natural beauties; in fertile valleys, in rolling hills and
winding rivers; and in the broad reaches and picturesque inlets of Narra-
gansett Bay.

Like old London, and Boston of our own country, both of which have a
great proportion of their people living beyond their corporate limits. Provi-
dence is the centre of a metropolitan group of populous places. These


add gready to
her quoted
popul at ion,
and make her
about the tenth
largest among
This IS the ex-
planation of
her appearance,
which is very proper-
ly, that of a city of a
half million rather
than a quarter million of

If, however, we go
ond this "Greater Provi-
dence" and draw a circle on
a radius of say, eighty miles
— which marks the limits of
a day's convenient excursion
to the waters of Narragansett
Bay or to anything of special
interest which Providence may
have to offer, — we find that it
contains more people than can
be found in any similar circle
anywhere in the Western Hemisphere except those of New York and

In its offerings as an artistic and educational centre. Providence is hardly
excelled by any other city in America. It is particularly rich in oppor-
tunities for scientific or historical study, and its special schools, including its
great academy of arts, and the wealth of its colonial architecture combine
to produce an atmosphere conducive to the enjoyment of the student, the
literary worker and the art lover.

Of the famous galleries, museums and libraries, with which the city is
enriched there are at least half a score, all splendid of their kind, and all
conducted on broad and generous principles. At the head of the list is the



Rhode Island School of Design, and few institutions in the country can
compare with it either as a museum or as a school of applied art. Its notable
success furnishes abundant tribute to the wisdom of its founders and bene-
factors and its teaching of the practical relation of beauty and utility, makes
it a commanding factor in the artistic and industrial development of the State.
It furnishes instruction to artisans in drawing, painting, modeling and
designing, that they may successfully apply the principles of art to the
requirements of trade and manufactures ; it gives systematic training of
students in the practice of art, that they may understand its principles, give
instruction to others or become artists, and it worthily promotes the general
advancement of art education by the exhibition of works of art and art
studies and by lectures on art. But it is for the general utility of its courses
that the School of Design is most noted, for in almost no other institution of
a similar character can the practical results of such courses be so practically
applied to the life of the community. Its Museum, which is visited each
year by thousands of pilgrims from other cities, consists of eight galleries.
Three of them contain oil and water color paintings and engravings; two con-
tain casts of the masterpieces of classic and Renaissance sculpture; one
has a fine collection of autotypes illustrating the history of painting; one is
devoted to collections of Japanese pottery, metal work, lacquer, and textiles;
one contains a representative collection of peasant pottery, from many

New Federal


countries; while the Colonial House which forms the continuation of these
galleries contains the fine Pendleton Collection. From the annual exhibi-
tions by American artists, a number of paintings have been purchased
and added to the permanent collection in the Museum.

In the picture gallery can be seen paintings by Renaissance Italian and
Dutch masters; the work of the "Ten American Painters," paintings by
Bouguereau, Shannon, Alexander and Chase, and many landscapes by the
Barbizon School, while the sculpture gallery has been clevedy arranged
to illustrate the growth and decline of Classic art. The library with its
rare and unusual volumes, is a valuable possession for the city.

The Pendleton House, which is a part of the School, is a veritable
treasurehouse, interesting as to the building itself and unrivalled in its way
in the wealth of its contents, which are unusual, unique, and complete.
No other house in the world, probably, contains such a wonderful collection
of antique mahogany furniture, rugs, mirrors, porcelains, china and silver.
The collection represents the life work of the late Charles Leonard Pendleton,
who was known on both sides of the Atlantic as a connoisseur in things
antique, and by whom it was presented to the Rhode Island School of Design,
with the stipulation that a typical Colonial house be erected to hold his
treasures. Although it is in reality a modern fireproof museum, the place
is unique, in that house and furniture are in perfect harmony, giving the
impression of a private mansion of a gentleman of taste and wealth who

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must have
lived in the
e i gh teenth
century, and
furnished his
house vs'ith
the best pro-
ductions of
that period.

In the Ann-
mary Brow^n
Memor i al,
has a most
unusual mu-
seum that can-
not be dupli-
cated in this country.
It contains a wonderful col-
lection of family relics and
costumes, first editions of
volumes, many of them out
of print, rare old engravings,
works of old masters and
paintings by modern artists.
In its examples of early print-
ing this collection rivals the
one contained in the celebrated
Plantin Museum of Antwerp.
Some of these books date as far
back as the 13 th century and are
curious examples of a period long
before the art of printing was perfected,
the " Regulae Cancellarie," printed in
Pauperum," or " Bible of the Poor," of which there are three or four
in the collection, the first print of Gutenberg, the "Cologne Chronicles,"
printed in 1490, and specimens of the works of the first printing known to
Venice; but possibly the gem of this collection of rare books is one called
"Lactantius," the work of Sweynheym and Pannarty, the most celebrated



Among its famous treasures is
Rome in 1484, the " Biblia


printers in Italy. The collection goes back to the so-called "block book,"
printed by means of engraving on wood, before Gutenberg invented mova-
ble type in 1 440.

Of the collection of paintings one's interest may be easily divided betw^een
those of the old masters and the modern works of art. The galleries devoted
to displays of pictures are dignified apartments of noble proportions. Of
the old masters there are examples, by Rembrandt, Hans Holbein, Van-
Dyke, Canaletto, Angelica Kauffman, Guido Reni, Teniers, Quentin
Matsys, Jordaens and many others. In the modern gallery nearly every
example is worthy of mention. The Annmary Memorial Museum is a
beautiful memorial and a noble and lasting one.

As a collection relatmg to the history of the American continent, the John
Carter Brown Library, which occupies a beautiful building on the Middle
Campus of Brown University, stands without a peer. Like the Annmary
Museum it contains specimens of early printing, but its world wide fame is
due to the fact that it is the one library in the world that must be consulted
by every first-hand investigator into the discovery, exploration, setdement
and colonial history of all parts of the two Americas, and with its liberal
endowment it may be expected to maintain the supremacy it has won. It
is compiled from every language and is something at which posterity may

Of other museums, two of the most fascinating are the R. I. Historical
Society with its gallery full of rare manuscripts and relics, and the Atheneum
which during its long existence has acquired a notable library and yet more


notable atmosphere of literary and artistic charm. The Natural History
Museum at Roger Williams Park, which is the only public municipal
museum in New England, is popular and useful as well, and there are
one or two smaller museums that are good of their kind.

Of course. Providence is proud of its fine old University on College Hill.
Formedy known as Rhode Island College when it was established in I 764,
its name was subsequently changed to Brown University, in honor of its
early benefactor. Its beautiful campus, "Under the Elms," has given
inspiration to many men who have made their mark in American history ;
but Pembroke, the department for gids, is beginning to demand consideration
also. Most interesting of the buildings, admired for its stately dignity and
the traditions of 140 college years, is University Hall, famous as the head-
quarters of our French Allies during the Revolutionary War, and as the
building wherein George Washington received his "LL.D." Splendid
library facilities are connected with the University. In addition to various
"Department libraries" the Brown University Library contains 140,000
volumes, including the Harris Collection of American poetry, the largest of
its kind in the wodd, and the Wheaton collection of Rhode Island history.
Its contents, which also include many works of art, have long overtaxed the
capacity of the attractive, Venetian Gothic building on Waterman Street and
will shortly be removed to a white marble home in the John Hay Memorial

As has recently been said by a French writer, it is probably due to Brown
University, more than to
any other factor, that
Providence with its great
industries and the su-
premacy of manufactur-
ing life as the mainspring
of its remarkable pros-
perity, has not lost its
ideals of culture and tra-
dition and become merely
a great over-grown
factory village.

The Providence Pub-
lic Library is famous for
methods that have been
copied extensively in


Europe as well
as in America.
It is celebrated
lor its means of
for its reference
and children
departments, and
for special col-
lections, includ-
ing the Harris
Library on
Slavery and the

Civil War, the Williams collection of Folk-lore, the Standard Library of Best

Literature and the Rhode Island Medical Society's Library of several

thousand volumes.

Of the private collections in Providence one at least has no equal in the

world. It is the Shakespearian collection belonging to Marsden J. Perry.

So long as It remains complete, it is not likely that any other collection

can surpass it, for many of its most valuable works are without duplicates.
Through recent exhibitions it has become known that Mr. Richard

Canfield owns the most important collection of the works of Whistler to be

found in this country. It is very likely true that he also possesses the largest

gallery of modern French painting in America, although there are several

other citizens of Providence whose collections would be in the "World's

Famous" class if they

were generally known.
Two of Gilbert

Stuart's beautiful and

famous paintings of

Washington are to be

found in Providence,

one in the house of a

private collector and one

in the reception room of

the State House.

The diversity of the

clubs in and around

Providence gives a vivid



idea of the character of
its people and of their
occupations and enjoy-
ments. Besides the usual
assortment of business
clubs and social clubs
belonging to a large city,
there is an extraordinary
number of clubs of very
varied interests and in-

Semi-exclusive clubs,
like the Hope Club, are
found in most large cities,
though they may not
often be able to secure
such beautiful surroundings in such a convenient location. University Clubs
are becoming numerous, though none of these west of the Alleghanies may
hope to inhabit a fine old Colonial mansion. More popular organizations
of business men, with down-town cafes and spacious apartments, like those
of the flourishing West Side Club, exist in most of the cities which appear
in large type upon the North American map. It is, however, in the
unusual number of clubs that are " different," and of striking indi-
viduality that Providence appears peculiar. Its varied surroundings, of






course, give opportunity for
unusually beautiful country
clubs, some of them with
historic settings, like the
Agawam and Wanna-
moisett. Its winding, gently
flowing rivers close to the
population center, give in-
spiration for a bewildering
number of canoe clubs,
mostly with unpronounce-
able names; the broader
reaches of the Seekonk
afford opportunity for row-
ing clubs, like the Narra-
gansett and the Pawtucket
Boat Club ; the wealth of attractions of Narragansett Bay which can be
cruised for a week without exhausting its delights, gives possibility to such
fine establishments as the Rhode Island Yacht Club, the Edgewood Club
and several others possess. If Providence, especially since the "Good Roads"
movement has made headway, has been looked upon as a great automobile
rendezvous, it has for a very much longer period, been famous for the
enjoyment of its nearby waterways. The Rhode Islander's loyalty to his
native clambake brought about the beginnings of the splendid Squantum
and Pomham Club establishments on ' the East bay shore, and several
others upon the west
side, while the cosmo-
politan character of the
population IS attested by
the almost endless list of
societies with foreign
sounding names. Surely
the Providence Art Club
is a notable factor in the
life of the town, and its
quaint old home, which
by the way, was built
in 1 767 by Edward
Percival, is well known
to visitors from many


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distant lands as a place of fascination rarely equalled and never
duplicated. For cricket and polo, and tennis and golf, there are abundant
opportunities, and although Providence is not considered an especially
musical city, it supports a considerable number of musical organizations.
The list of "organizations, societies, etc.," given in the Providence Directory
is an appalling one and the impression that it is unusually long and varied
is entirely confirmed by a study of the directories of other cities. The "Blue
Book" gives a list of ninety more or less "fashionable" ones, but this is only
a small proportion of them all. Certain it is, that w^hatever one's tastes or
accomplishments, nationality or condition in life, he need not lack for
congenial environment.

Great popular resorts and amusement parks also abound. The shores
of the bay and the picturesque nooks along the rivers have furnished the
setting for such places as Vanity Fair and Rocky Point, Rhodes on -the-
Pawtuxet and many others that cater to great throngs. Some of these
resorts at times take care of more than 50,000 visitors on a single day, and
when one considers the number of attractions that are always open, particu-
larly in summer, it would seem as if all Rhode Islanders, as well as their
neighbors from over the Massachusetts border, must spend all their days
and nights in pursuit of pleasure. But the Rhode Islanders are, in reality,
industrious and somewhat frugal, and they have more individual savings
bank deposits than any equal number of people in any other state. It has
been said by somebody, that the average man is only two walls away
from starvation, but if this is the case, the people of Providence at any rate
are not "average men," for the bank deposits average $677.88 apiece all

There is enough money in the Providence banks to rebuild the city in a
much more cosdy manner, if it were swept off the earth by a conflagration
tomorrow. In a short time, however, there may be enough to build several
such cities, for the deposits are increasing in much greater ratio than the realty
valuation. The national and state banks and trust companies, for example,
more than trebled their deposits in the ten years ending with 1908. With
but a brief setback, caused by the national business depression of 1907,
their prosperity has increased by leaps and bounds. The city is located
in the most prosperous district in the United States, and it has been estimated
that one-twentieth of all the wealth in the country is within fifty miles of

The present condition of the city is pretty well indicated by the fact that
more buildings were begun during the first six months of 1910 than in any
previous six months in its history ; the bank clearings thus far in 1910 are


the largest ever known, and the business of the Providence Post Office at
the end of 1909 showed a greater percentage of increase than that of any
other first class post office in the United States.

The average inhabitant of Providence, unlike the dweller in almost any
other American city, doesn't care a picayune about how big it is or how
small it is, and he has only the vaguest idea of local statistics of any kind.

Instead of fighting madly to bring in every last name to the census man
and then to pad the returns with a few hundred imaginary ones, he pays no
attention whatever until the official result is announced, and then looks at it
with a mild credulity and surprise that it should be so large. To be sure,
except so far as we must be taught to make provision for the greater needs
of the future population, there is no great fascination in population tables.
Nor is there any special virtue in mere bigness. Very big cities are not
always more prosperous than very small ones, and the people who live in
them are not necessarily happier than they would be in a town of half the

And so the new civic movement of Providence rather takes the form of an
inquiry into local conditions and the gathering of information for instructing
its natives than of an attempt to impress the outsider.

"The city must know itself first," its promoters say ; "it must know itself
exactly as it is, — what its deficiencies are, as well as its advantages, as
compared with other places." Instead of forming a "500,000 club" and
annexing all the suburbs at one fell swoop, as would be justified in this
particular case, they calmly announce, "We don't care so much about how
many people there are as we do to know what sort of people they are. If
the city can be developed so that it will be the best possible sort of place to
live in and to work in, it will prosper all right, and grow big full fast
enough." The Board of Trade sets out to improve urban conditions, by
which efficient and useful citizens may be created. "We don't want any
more industries than we've got," said a member of the publicity committee
recently, "unless the new ones are of at least as high a grade as the average
that we have already. Otherwise they will be a burden rather than a
benefit. And we don't want to lure anybody to come here, unless he
can improve his condition by coming." Rather a revolutionary idea for
a "Publicity Department" to espouse perhaps, but it is based on economics
and humanity.

Yet all the same the census shows that the factories of greater Providence
have been increasing at the rate of about one a week for the last few years.
Though no especial effort has ever been made to attract new manufacturing
establishments. Providence has become one of the greatest industrial centres


of the United States, noted for the variety of its products and the skilled
workmanship of its artisans.

Among its great manufactories, the "Big Five," as they are called, each
ranks as the foremost and largest of its kind in the world; and it is believed
that such a statement may also be true of half a dozen additional establish-

Pre-eminent among its varied industries is the manufacture of jewelry
with its allied interests, such as chasing, enamelling, die sinking, etc.; and
its products, which amounted in 1 906 to $3 1 ,000,000, are distributed
among the nations of the earth. Undoubtedly, with its suburbs. Providence
is the greatest jewelry manufacturing centre of the world.

Providence contains the largest silverware establishment and the largest
mechanical tool manufactory in the world, and the product of its workers in
the white metal is greater than that of any State in the country outside of
Rhode Island. The Providence District is by far the greatest textile centre
of the country. It has no near competitor in the world in the manufacture
of screws and of files; and it is the second largest producer of butterine prod-
ucts. It is a large producer also of malt liquors, foundry and machine shop
products and rubber goods and leads in the dyeing and finishing of textiles.
Being surrounded by the greatest cotton and woollen manufacturing district
in America, it has become one of the greatest cotton and wool markets, as
well as the national headquarters for the supplying of textile mill machinery,
metal mill supplies, and for the planning and insuring of mills. It has been
said that nearly every manufactured product in textiles, iron, gold, silver
and other metals is made in Providence, in either a large or small way.
The very populous area all around gives industrial enterprises a great
"Home Market," in which to dispose of their wares, and a large and varied
industrial army from which to obtain skilled workmen.

It has been remarked that the Metropolitan District, if it were all one city
in name as it is in appearance, would rank in population tenth or eleventh
among the great cities of the country; but in manufactures in 1900, (last
United States census), it was sixth among industrial centres for capital
invested and wage-earners employed, and fifth in the annual amount of
wages paid. $143,000,000 of products were being annually produced in
factories which had a capital of $140,787,000, and paid $31,687,953 to
their 75,000 employees. The industries of the city proper were represented
by a little over two-thirds of the above figure.

But it does not take long in Rhode Island for any kind of statistics to
become hopelessly obsolete, for since 1900, according to the census report,
its manufactures have increased more rapidly than those of any other state ;

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Online LibraryHenry A BarkerThe southern gateway of New England → online text (page 2 of 4)