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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.”

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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.

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This colour photograph was taken on the 13th of August 1968 in the County Kerry town of Killorglin (Cill Orglan). This date coincides with the annual Puck Fair, one the oldest fairs in Ireland and the scene of much revelry with public houses remaining open until 3 am. Centred around a cattle fair, the festival also includes traditional music and the capture of a wild goat which is then displayed in the centre of the town!

The two men, sleeping-off the effects of the night before, are oblivious to the rest of the town. In the background, a group of men sit on the street as a Morris Minor car passes by. I love the small details such as the empty Carroll’s No.1 cigarette pack and the half-drunk bottle of milk.

The colour process picks out the reddish brown of the window frame. Similar colours are replicated on the back of the ice-cream van.

I don’t know who the photographer was and it is part of a series of images which I have featured in other posts. A quick look on the Killorgan Archive Society’s excellent website leads me to believe that the photograph was taken at the corner of Michael J. Culloty’s Bar, Main Street.

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This early carte-de-visite shows a white Bull Terrier. Its ears are cropped, a practice which became illegal in Britain and Ireland from the 1880s. Bull and Staffordshire terriers are now distinct breeds, however, they were both known as Bull Terriers in the 1860s. Interestingly, the man credited with refining these breeds was Mullingar-born, James Hinks. Perhaps, he was on a return visit to his native town and brought along one of his prize-winning white terriers? Or it might just be a coincidence? I’ve been in touch with fellow librarians in The Kennel Club and they hope to explore the connection.

The photograph is very stark with none of the usual backdrops and accessories that we associate with Victorian portrait studios. However, this is an early image and the owner was probably keen to show off the dog’s features. You can just about make out the variegations of the fabric upon which the dog sits.

The studio is named as Wallis, Mullingar. This is most surely owned by the printer and later newspaper owner, Sampson Wallis (1836-1903), a Wexford man who is listed in Pigot’s Directory of 1870 as a stationer, bookseller and printer. He lived on Earl Street, Mullingar and was the owner and editor of the Westmeath Guardian for over a quarter of century from 1874. He was also listed as a local agent for the scheme offering ‘Free and Assisted Emigration to Queensland, Australia.’

The style of card, thin paper stock and brown tones of the albumen print lead me to believe that this image dates from between 1860 and 1870, most likely in the middle of this period.

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There is so much to like in this hand coloured carte-de-visite from the Dublin studio of M. Allen of 12 Westland Row. In addition to the sea themed backdrop, with its sailing boat on the horizon, the papier mâché rock creates a virtual beach for the lavishly dressed young boy. His two-piece suit of light material includes a jacket with long-sleeves gathered into cuffs. These are trimmed with a band of colour as are the side seams and edges of his shorts. A matching ribbon adorns his straw hat. Candy stripped cotton stockings complement his flat buckled slippers. His elaborate hairstyle of long ringlets with a short fringe is very similar to another little boy’s taken by the same studio in May 1873.

The hand tinting is very well executed and is probably the work of Miss Margaret Allen (1832-1914), the daughter of the studio owner, Mark Allen. Her family had a long association with the Dublin art world and sold art supplies and lithographs. She was definitely involved in the photographic side of her father’s business as an advertisement from 1871 states that “Miss Allen pays particular attention to the photographing of babies and young children.” She was an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and a notice in The Irish Times of the 21st October 1861 states that she ran classes in ‘Drawing and Painting from Life.’ It informed the people of Dublin that “Miss Allen begs to announce that her academy is open on Tuesday and Friday from nine till five o’clock. A living model poses from ten till three.” Miss Allen’s father died in 1879 and she spent her final years in various boarding houses in Dublin listing her income as “an allowance from a friend.”

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Even though people spend many of their waking hours at work, the office is seldom photographed or shown as clearly as it is in this series of images taken in August 1948. These photographs are of a Dublin clothing wholesalers called Robert P. Shaw and Sons, which was located at 46 South William Street for two years’ between 1948 and 1950. The location was the centre of the ‘rag trade’ in Ireland and an area which up until recently housed many wholesalers and workshops.

The Georgian building was partitioned into many units and street directories show that in 1949 there were at least five other businesses and two residential units at number 46. These included Cunningham & Co., manufacturers, importers and wholesale warehousemen and Farrell & Co., typewriting and duplicating services. I was able to deduce the location by enlarging the address on an envelope resting beside the classic Underwood typewriter. A little card on the noticeboard refers to the tardy closing of the front door and the fact that the staff of Cunningham & Co. vacate the building promptly at 6 o’clock every evening!

The secretary’s office is of particular interest and shows a calendar opened to the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of August. I love her sweater and waved hair which were very typical of the period. The photographs have a formal quality which is rather like the set of a play. There are many details to take in, for example, the beautifully designed advertisements for ranges such as Luxan, Francella and Daphne. The sales room has some chairs which were upholstered in a contemporary fabric and the circular table is complete with an ashtray for the waiting salesmen. Notes on the the photographs refer to the interior features in a manner indicating that the offices had recently undergone a renovation, for example, one caption highlights the ‘effective use of cork tiles.’ By 1951, however, Robert P. Shaw and Sons were gone from the location and the unit was filled by another clothing agent. Perhaps, their line in Shamrock and Britannia unshrinkable all wool underwear was no longer popular!

The photographs were commissioned from Keogh Brothers, a firm who are better known for their images of the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and for several commemorative albums which they created during that period. There is an excellent StoryMap feature on South William Street’s connection with the garment industry and Ruth Griffin’s research into the history of the district provides a great picture of this most interesting street.

Overall, this series of photographs gives us an atmospheric glimpse of mid-twentieth century working life.

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This pair of Northern Irish studio portraits feature two tightly laced ladies whose cinched-in waists are accentuated by belts or corsets worn as outwear. The photograph by J. Glass dates from the 1890s and shows a woman wearing an unusual leather laced belt with an attachment that looks like a telephone cord! The verso of this carte-de-visite incorporates a design which was registered by Marion and Co. in 1894. The woman’s husband wears a Union flag, demonstrating his political affiliation and loyalist leanings.

The photograph from Belfast is very similar to another image I posted about a few years back. I love her precariously balanced hat which includes a large bow and buckle feature. The high neckline accentuated with a brooch; ruched velvet bodice and puffed Juliet sleeves are typical of the time. Her tight lacing may, in fact, be part of the bodice of her dress rather than a separate guêpière or waist cincher. Whilst researching this post, I came across many phrases to describe a variety of exterior corsets, for example, corselets, Swiss waists, waspies, waist cinchers and guêpière. Fortunately, The Dreamstress site had an excellent post which clarifies the difference between some of them and which you can read here.

The firm of McBride and Co., 3 High Street, Belfast, were (see W.A. Maguire’s A Century in Focus: Photography and Photographers in the North of Ireland, 1839-1939) at this location between 1894-1901. This dates both photographs to a similar time period and indeed the women’s silhouettes are remarkably alike.

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This photographic postcard displays a playful interaction between image and text. It was sent from Gilnahirk, County Down, to a young boy in Malton, Yorkshire, England in late 1904. The oval portrait, with bare trees silhouetted in the background, shows a man with his arms folded. He is wearing a stiff white collar and his well oiled hair is parted in the centre, a style that was very typical of the era.

I really like the sender’s typically Northern Irish use of the word ‘wee’ and the self-deprecating way in which he draws attention to his grumpy demeanour: “Dear George, Do you remember ever seeing this wee chap? Hope you are keeping well. Wishing you a Happy XMas and a bright and prosperous New Year. With love to all, Joe. I’m not always quite so solemn looking.”

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The boy in question was Master George Pexton who lived at the Railway Hotel, Norton, Malton, Yorkshire, a photograph of the establishment can be seen here.

The postal mark places the sender in Belfast city on the evening of the 23rd of December and one can imagine the card being received just in time for Christmas. Overall, the document is a delightful snippet of early 20th century life.

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