I bought this little photo for a few euros and was surprised at how well it scanned as the original is only 68 x 74 mm. Several years later I came across the postcard which shows the same view of William Street, Galway – even the shadows are identical!
Dillon’s Jewellers can be seen in both images. This company is credited with the revival of the Claddagh ring and in 1904, its founder wrote an article on the origins of the ring for the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. A very similar view of William Street can be found on the Old Galway Archive hosted by Kennys Bookshop.
The postcard was sent by someone called William on the 20th June 1920 from the Railway Hotel, Galway to a Miss Turtle in Baltinglass. The Turtles were a Quaker family who owned an iron-mongers and grocers in the Wicklow village – it reads as follows: “Hello Nellie! You would like this place! The sea is just full of fishing boats. Just in front of this hotel there is a small public park and the boys and girls have swings on the trees. This is market day here, plenty of produce in the street, fish, turf & cattle, oats etc.”
James Valentine & Sons printed the postcard. They were major producers of postcards between 1900 and 1930. I wrote an article on the firm for Routledge’s Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography which traces the company’s development from a producer of topographical prints. A recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art examined the collection of postcards of American streets owned by the photographer, Walker Evans (1903-1975) and explores how these vernacular images directly influenced Evans’s artistic development.