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Posts Tagged ‘1900s Dublin’

The chill in the air reminded me of this beautiful carte-de-visite showing a Dublin girl in her lavish winter outfit. The expression on her wise little face, peaking out from the large bonnet, makes me think that she might have been a tad precocious and spoilt!

The matching coat, muff and gaiters are made from a material which looks like the fake or fun furs which were popular during my childhood in the 1970s. In my attempt to identify the fabric, I received several suggestions as to what this material might be including an Astrakhan fur, a reversed shearling or a bouclè wool. In general, I find Noreen Marshall’s Dictionary of Children’s Clothes 1700s to Present to be very useful and the excellent photographs in this V&A publication make it a vital resource for the historian of children’s costume.

Lauder Brothers worked from 32 Westmoreland Street from the 1850s to 1900 although I think that this image dates from the later decades of their tenure at this premises. Edward Chandler included several of their card backs in his invaluable book Photography in Ireland: the Nineteenth Century and the example above matches those from the 1890s. I located a similar, although possibly later image, from a Romanian studio on an interesting blog called The Cabinet Card Gallery.

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Henry Dunbar based his business in a premises on O’Connell Street which had a long association with the photographic trade. Between 1859 and 1890, number 39 was the building from which Thomas Millard ran his photographic studio. Firstly in partnership as Simonton & Millard; then for a short period in the 1860s trading solely as Thomas Millard and finally working with J.V. Robinson between 1864 and 1889.

Mr Dunbar’s business was not as long-lasting. He appears at this address for the first time in 1889 and died on the 13th December 1905 at the age of 54. The winding-up of his affairs was conducted by his son, Arthur Dunbar, who was a resident of Regent’s Square, York.

I know little more about Dunbar, except that his early adoption of the name O’Connell Street rather than Sackville Street is an indicator of nationalist leanings. In late 1884, the largely nationalist Dublin Corporation had voted to re-name the city’s main thoroughfare in honour of Daniel O’Connell, the champion of Catholic Emancipation. This was not to the liking of the majority of the street’s traders who got a court order preventing the name change. Dunbar was, of course, making a political point by his use of the street’s new name!

The verso of the cabinet card is nicely executed and alludes to the artistic nature of photography. The ‘photographer as artist’ is displayed alongside some typical studio props. This generic design was probably purchased from France or Germany which is where most photographers sourced their card backs.

The photograph itself provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of work during the period. Certain details are typical of Victorian or Edwardian tradesman, for example, the apron and white shirt sleeves. Most wear hats and have impressive moustaches. I love the individual who is posed in the act of ‘hammering’ a basket! Baskets were used to house and transport a wide variety of goods and as late as 1924, Dublin street directories listed nine basket-makers in the centre of the city.

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These two groups of sisters are beautifully presented with matching dresses and hairstyles. The girls above were photographed by Robert Lyttle of  Belfast, and have fabulous banana curls tied with large ribbons. Their light coloured linen or cotton dresses are worn with dark tights and lace-up boots or shoes. I particularly like the detailed smocking and the series of pin tucks at the bottom of their skirts. Interestingly, they all wore necklaces and bracelets.

The second group were photographed at William McCrae’s Studio, Berkeley Road, Phibsborough, Dublin. They too wear matching white outfits with the dark tights and shoes so typical of the era. Their dresses have nautical details which are similar to a 1905 girl’s sailor suit held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the girls in either photographs were, however, based on the skirt lengths and the studio addresses it is probable that the photographs were taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Census records show that in 1911, Belfast-born Robert Lyttle was living at 23 Kingsmere Avenue with his wife Eleanor and three children (Gwen, Norman and Cecil). He doesn’t feature as a photographer in the 1901 census. Curiously, the verso of the photograph lists him as the Official Photographer of the Football Association of Ireland!

William McCrae was of Scottish origin and in 1911 lived over his Berkeley Street studio with his six surviving children. By this time, his Irish-born wife, Rebecca, had died. Since their marriage in 1887, she had given birth to at least nine children! The family are listed as members of the United Free Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian group who were in existence from 1900.

By 1916, McCrae had also opened a studio at the fashionable location of Grafton Street. The business was continued by his sons, one of whom may have been the photographer commissioned to record the aftermath of the North Strand bombings in 1941. 

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In my mind’s eye, I like to think that Leopold Bloom’s daughter, Milly, looked a little like this young girl who was photographed by Chancellor’s of Dublin. In Ulysses, fifteen year-old Milly is portrayed as a lively and headstrong girl who was sent from Dublin to the midlands town of Mullingar to serve her time as an apprentice photographer. She reports her progress to her father in a letter stating that she is ‘getting on swimming in the photo business now.’ Bloom appeared to think that her aptitude for photography might be hereditary citing a cousin in Hungary who ran a successful photographic studio.

The career of photographer was probably a good choice for a sociable young girl. The other duller option, which is mentioned in the novel, was to send her to a Skerry’s secretarial college to learn shorthand and typing. However, Bloom also hints that Milly was sent to Mullingar to keep her occupied and out of harm’s way. 

So what was the the probability of a young girl being apprenticed to a photographer in early 20th century Ireland?  The 1901 census reveals that 110 of the 485 photographers in Ireland were women. Of these, 91 were single women and 74% of the total were under the age of 31.

James Joyce was familiar with the town of Mullingar having spent a period there in 1900 and 1901 (see Leo Daly, James Joyce and the Mullingar Connection, Dolmen Press, 1975) . During this time there were several photographic studios operating in the town, the largest and best known was that of Philip Shaw. In the 1901 census, his 17 year-old niece Ethel was his apprentice. Could this studio and Ethel have been Joyce’s inspiration? 

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I took a stroll down to Park Place yesterday to see if I could locate the building from which Guthrie Brothers operated. I have always liked the row of two and three storey houses which are located on an otherwise bleak stretch beside the Phoenix Park. The walk between Conyngham Road and Islandbridge features in James Joyce’s short story ‘A painful case’ where it is described as lonely and desolate. According to the 1901 census the business was in No.7 Park Place, however, I think some of the houses must have been demolished as there is no number 7 on that row now.

The Guthrie Brothers were born in China and South Africa, however, their mother hailed from County Fermanagh. They describe themselves on the census as ‘Photographic Artists’. The business was ideally located beside several military barracks including Islandbridge (Clancy) Barracks and the Royal now Collins Barracks. I believe the man in the photograph served in a regiment called The Buffs otherwise known as the Royal East Kent Regiment. It was probably taken between the 1890s and 1910s and is in the Cabinet Card format. A finger print is visible on the image- perhaps it was one of the Guthrie Brothers or their assistants! This person’s face and demeanor does nothing to dispel the image of the dour and stern military man!  

Like the Guthrie Brothers, Mr Honey (great name) boasts royal patronage. I think the man in the photograph also served with the Buffs though it is a more humane portrait than that taken by the Guthries. The sitter is younger and is not as imposing. The photographer was born in Devizes, Wiltshire and moved to Cork in the 1890s. The 1901 census shows that daughters gave violin lessons. 

The design on the verso of the photograph has some nice little details including a bamboo fan featuring a seascape and some ‘oriental’ patterns and line drawings. I bought the two photographs separately but I think they really make a good pairing!

 

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Before 1907, if you were sending a postcard to the United States you couldn’t write anything other than the address on the back of the card. As a result of this people wrote their messages around the image and this led to an interesting and quirky intersection of words and pictures. The pattern created by the text against the image is often fascinating. The sender of the first postcard from Howth/Beann Eadair has managed to write a considerable amount of text over the sea and sky! It was sent to California in April 1905. The second card was sent to Boston in 1905 and mentions a trip to the Dublin Horse Show and Donaghadee, near Belfast. 

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This photograph shows a woman called Kathleen Shanks playing tennis. I reckon it dates from between 1900 and 1910 although I am not too sure of the location.  It might be at the Clontarf Lawn Tennis Club as the family lived in that area, however, there are several other clubs in suburban Dublin whose courts are in similar settings. I like the silhouetted houses and the fact that the two men in the background appear to float in mid air just like the tennis ball that Kathleen is about to hit!
White was considered a suitable colour for sporting activities as it does not show perspiration as readily as other colours and Kathleen’s outfit was typical of that worn during the early twentieth century. The Painted Woman blog has a great post on the history of tennis clothing for women with particular emphasis on the 1930s.

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