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.