The Franklin Lyceum of Providence is described as a society dedicated to self-education. They were established in 1831 and hosted many prominent figures for lectures throughout their time as an organization. Some of those figures included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frances Osgood, Mark Twain, and of course, Edgar Allan Poe. These lectures were held at various venues throughout Providence since the Lyceum itself had no address (having held their meetings at their private homes until 1858, when they finally secured a building at 62 Westminster Street).
Poe would lecture before the Lyceum at Howard’s Hall on December 20, 1848. Doors were opened at 6:30pm and the lecture started at 7:30pm. Tickets were sold at a nearby bookstore as well as Leland’s Music Store in the week leading up to the event. On the night of lecture, Poe spoke on “The Poetic Principle” before a sold-out crowd of 1,800 people! Sarah Helen Whitman sat in the very front row. Spectators who were friends of Whitman and knew of her engagement to Poe recounted that while he recited works such as “The Raven” and “The Bells,” they exchanged numerous flirtatious expressions with each other. The lecture must have impressed Whitman so profoundly that the next day she set the wedding date for Christmas day.
Howard’s Hall is no longer standing, however, we do have this early rendering of the building circa 1847 (thanks to Brown’s Digital Repository) that shows what the building looked like when Poe lectured there in 1848: