Market Square, Providence, Rhode Island

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Providence's Market Square in 1844.

Market Square is a market square in Providence, Rhode Island. It is located at the intersection of present-day North Main Street and College Street. Market Square has been a longtime focal point in Providence for news, shopping, and gossip.[1]


In the 17th century the land comprising modern day Market Square was originally owned by Chad Brown, progenitor of the Brown family, later affiliated with Brown University.[citation needed]

Civil War era[edit]

During the Civil War, Market Square was the site of several public "war meetings" presided by mayor Jabez C. Knight.[2][3][4] During these meetings, public officials and dignitaries made public announcements and attempted to build up enlistment and support for the Union side during the war.[2][3][4]

One such meeting was held in August 1862 to announce the Militia Act of 1862,[3] which gave the state authority to draft.[5] The act also allowed African-Americans to participate in the war as soldiers and war laborers.[6] The announcement was received with "loud cheers."[3] Governor William Sprague IV called for "colored citizens" to form a regiment, and promised to personally accompany this regiment into battle.[3] In July 1863, after the Enrollment Act established a national draft, a blindfolded official selected names of conscripted men from a wheel in Market Square.[4]

Electric lights[edit]

In 1882 the first electric arc lights in Providence were installed by the Rhode Island Electric Lighting Company on Market Square and Westminster Street.[7]

Emma Goldman[edit]

On September 7[8] (or September 8[9]), 1897, the anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman was arrested for "unlawful open air speaking" and "attracting a crowd"[1] when she attempted to speak in at Market Square, during a four-month lecture tour. The mayor of Providence had warned Goldman that she would be arrested if she spoke in Providence.[9] She had been traveling to lecture on topics such as "Why I am an Anarchist-Communist," "Woman", "Marriage", the recent assassination of the Spanish Premier, and a speech "Berkman's Unjust Sentence," about Alexander Berkman's imprisonment for the murder of Henry Clay Frick.[8] After jailing Goldman overnight, the Providence authorities ordered her to leave town within 24 hours, or else face three months imprisonment.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b "Market House and the Market Square". GoProvidence. Providence Warwick Convention & Visitor Bureau. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "RHODE ISLAND MOVING.; TRIBUTE TO THE DEAD SOLDIERS, ETC.". The New York Times. 24 July 1861. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "WAR MEETING IN PROVIDENCE, R.I.; A REGIMENT OF COLORED MEN TO BE COMMANDED BY GOV. SPRAGUE.". New York Times. 5 August 1862. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "The Draft Commenced in Rhode Island". The New York Times. 10 July 1863. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  5. ^ "The Draft in the Civil War". United States History. Online Highways LLC. Retrieved 6 July 2016. The Militia Act of 1862 gave the President authority to draft 300,000 militiamen for up to nine months. It was to be a state run affair ... 
  6. ^ "Militia Act Law & Legal Definition". US Legal. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  7. ^ Cady, John Hutchins (October 1952). "The Providence Market House" (PDF). Rhode Island History (Rhode Island Historical Society) 11 (4): 111. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c "Emma Goldman: She Fought the Law". American Experience. PBS. 
  9. ^ a b c "Chronology" (PDF). p. 502. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 

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