This woman sports one of the most sought after garments of the 1860s. Her spectacular paisley patterned shawl is as voluminous as the crinolined silk skirt it partially covers. A fine shawl such as this was definitely a status symbol!
Numerous outlets throughout Dublin sold shawls including Switzer, Ferguson & Co. at 91-93 Grafton Street. In July 1860, their extensive range included the following: “square and long tissue Grenadines, printed Llama and long and square French and Paisley.”
Also on Grafton Street, the Shawl Warehouse at number 100 was run by James Forest and Sons. On Wednesday, May 31st, 1865, they advertised that they were now “showing their stock of French, Paisley, Norwich and every description of fashionable shawl.”
Shawls were often offered as prizes in raffles such as that run by the Phibsborough Art Union in July 1866 when Mrs Forman won a Paisley shawl in the raffle to benefit St. Peter’s Church, Phibsborough, Dublin.
Shawls were itemised in executors sales and indeed sometimes featured in court cases. The ‘Police Intelligence’ section of The Irish Times for August 2nd, 1870, notes that “Catherine Duffy was brought up in custody on remand, charged by Catherine Butterly with stealing a Paisley shawl from a room in a house at 38 City Quay. Sent to trial for City Sessions.”
Not all shawls were of the equal quality and the complicated history of the Paisley pattern reveals much about trade between India and Europe. The teardrop shaped pattern has it origins in Iran and the Kashmir region of India. By the nineteenth-century shawls were being made in the Scottish town of Paisley.
Cheaper copies were printed not woven and indeed the finest European shawls did not have as many threads as those imported from India. The woman in this carte-de-visite also wears some high-end accessories such as her parasol and leather goods. Her low-browed spoon bonnet is decorated with artificial flowers and ties in a large bow. This was also the height of fashion for the 1860s!
The photographer on this occasion was Thomas North also based on Grafton Street. The logo he used on his 1860s cards can be viewed here. The firm was at 71 Grafton Street from 1861 until at least 1900.
In the 1901 census, Thomas North is listed a living at 101 Rathmines Road. He was by then 73 years’ of age. Born in Hampshire, England, his second wife Mary Jane was 25 years’ his junior. Amongst those living in the household were two of his sons: the exotically name Theophilus Vese and Thomas Ernest whose occupation was listed as a ‘photographic artist.’ By the 1911 census, Thomas is no longer listed as a photographer and we can assume that the business did not last long after his father’s death.