This little girl, Ada Josephine Cowper, was born in Dublin in 1865 and her family lived at 29 Fitzwilliam Place. Thanks to the online availability of church records I have been able to find out something about her life. Her marriage, at the age of twenty-seven, to Ernest Henry Knox resulted in a move to his family home Greenwoodpark, Crossmolina, County Mayo where he was a land agent. The house which was built in 1814 is now a ruin.
Ada had two children, Ada Eveleen and the exotically named Zinna Ethel! Zinna married into the Toler-Aylward family of Shankill Castle, Paulstown, County Kilkenny and it was there that Ada senior died at the age of 71 on the 6th of November 1936!
The grandly named Royal Panopticon of Science & Art was run by James Simonton. It opened to much fanfare in 1862, five years’ before Ada’s photograph was taken. Simonton had been involved in several photographic partnerships prior to this solo endeavour. Before establishing himself at 70 Grafton Street (note the typo on the card above), he was based on Dublin’s other main thoroughfare, Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street).
Simonton spared no expense on the decoration and design of his new premises and an article in The Irish Builder of July 1862 elaborates upon the studio’s mahogany fittings, spacious staircase adorned with sculpture and ‘encaustic tile pavement and richly ornamented soffet.’ In addition to the photographic trade Simonton also displayed paintings, dioramas and scientific inventions. At the time of his marriage in 1859 to Frances Isabella Harricks he listed his occupation as ‘artist’ so it is no surprise that he was to host discussions on artistic matters.
Simonton’s business thrived during the 1860s and early 70s as he benefited from the carte-de-visite craze, however, he announced in 1875 that he was retiring from the ‘fancy goods’ trade and filed for bankruptcy in 1876. He attempted to open a public house in the 1880s but his application for a licence was not successful. Instead, he reverted to photography and entered into partnership with a man called Edwards with whom he ran a business at 28 Grafton Street until 1883.