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Posts Tagged ‘1950s Dublin’

 

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This small snapshot was taken in 1957 and it is captioned on the back as a ‘Dublin liquor store.’ It shows numbers 52 and 53 Dame Street and the side street called Temple Lane South. Although it includes two Georgian buildings, the image is decidedly modern in its composition and atmosphere. Two cars can be seen moving out of the shot, three hat-wearing men are ambling down the street, one with a parcel under his arm. A female cyclist wearing a fashionably tight skirt and knitted sweater has stopped by the path. Bicycles are lined up against the side wall of number 53 on Temple Lane South.

Perhaps the modern feel is heightened by the fact that the front of No. 53 (the headquarters of the wine and spirit distributor, D.E. Williams) was designed by the modernist architecture Michael Scott. When first opened, it was described by The Irish Times on the 16th of August 1941 as being ‘carried out in teak’ and as ‘a notable example of simplicity and elegance in design.’ By 1957 the exterior is pretty much unchanged excepting for the addition of an incongruous curved wooden flower box over the door. You can click on the above image to see a larger version of the snapshot.

The window display bears the slogan ‘Give Every Man his Dew.’ This refers to the whiskey Tullamore Dew which takes its name from the initials of the distributor D.E. Williams. An article, dating from 1954, on the history of the company can be found here. Now an Italian restaurant called Nico’s (one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city) which first opened in 1963. It is mentioned in this piece from the Dublin blog ‘Come Here to Me’ that also includes a really nice photograph of the building taken in recent years. This review also references the restaurant’s history.

The next building, No. 52, was occupied by several legal firms. Street directories also give home addresses for the ‘legal eagles’ that were mainly in affluent parts of South county Dublin and Wicklow: John K. Lloyd-Blood, commissioner for oaths, home address Glencot House, Kilmacnogue, County Wickow; Gwynne Stirling, residence Marino Lodge, Killiney; Raymond French, solicitor, Knocksinna House, Stillorgan Road.

Number 52 is now a hair and beauty salon called Preen. It has not been altered too much since this photograph was taken. It now has two doors instead of one, however, the latticed windows have been retained on the upper storey. The ground floor and basement recently sold for 661,000 Euros to an overseas investor.

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As stated above the print is small (3 inches x 4 inches). A stamp on the back includes the Minox logo stating that it is an original Minox print with the date of June 11-1957. Minox cameras were produced in Latvia and after the Second World War in West Germany. They were a desirable luxury item that was widely advertised in Europe and America. The firm was also known for a particular sub-miniature camera favoured by spies. The snapshot is printed on Leonar paper, one of the most popular papers in post-war Europe. You can read a history of the firm with particular reference to their Leigrano paper here.

The use of the phrase ‘liquor store’ suggests that this photograph was taken by an American. One who could afford to travel and purchase a Minox camera. It is amazing the tangents that a single snapshot can take you on: from a Michael Scott designed shop-front to whiskey labels and spy cameras.

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This series of portraits shows members of the rural vocational organisation Muintir na Tíre (People of the Land). Established in 1937, it aimed to counter societal breakdown in rural Ireland. It followed the teaching of the Catholic Church’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which hoped to challenge the threat of communism through strong lay and vocational organisation. Eoin Devereux’s 1991 article on Muintir na Tíre noted that it reflected the strong anti-urbanism which prevailed in Ireland during the period and that persists in certain quarters to this day.

The following quotation from the organisation’s 1941 handbook is very revealing: “Country life is not dull. It is the city life that is cheerless and stupid and vapid, degenerate, futile and foreign with its narrow conventions, its artificiality and its purchased amusements.” Despite the organisation’s antagonism towards the urban, Devereux notes that many of its leaders were urban-based professionals.

This accords with the location of the photographer’s studio. J. Dunne worked from 36 Leinster Road in Rathmines, a suburb of Dublin. These portraits are more informal than official passport photographs and more revealing of the sitters’ personalities. From a sartorial point of view their clothes are typical of the 1950s as tweeds and woollens dominate. Tank tops, wide neck ties, thickly framed horn-rimmed glasses were popular with the men. Some wear the pin of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart (PTAA), an Irish organisation for Catholic teetotallers.

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There is more variety in the women’s outfits. One wears a fitted dress with a fur-ruffled collar while another has a broad-shouldered fake fur coat. Tweed is also popular with the ladies as were knitted tops and twin sets. These are adorned with pearls, brooches and lace collars. All wear badges with the organisation’s logo featuring a cross superimposed on a plough, thus linking the rural and the religious.

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The portraits were most likely taken at a function room or in Dunne’s studio in suburban Rathmines where he operated for a short while from 1954. The series is interesting in that it shows a certain cohort of middle-class, respectable, Irish people of a variety of ages. These portraits were instigated, not by the usual familial ties which cause a visit to the photographic studio, but rather by membership of a vocational organisation.JDunne-Portraits-7JDunne-Portraits-9JDunne-Portraits-10 JDunne-Portraits-11 JDunne-Portraits-12

Further reading: Eoin Devereux, ‘Saving rural Ireland – Muintir na Tíre and its Anti-Urbanism, 1931-1958’ in The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 17, 2 (December 1991): 23-40.

Maurice Curtis, A Challenge to Democracy: Militant Catholicism in Modern Ireland. Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2010.

Maurice Curtis, “Miraculous Meddlers: The Catholic Action Movement.” History Ireland 18, 5 (2010): 34-37.

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The Phoenix Park’s association with motorsport started as early as 1903. The Gordon Bennett Cup Race which took place in Ireland in that year is cited as the background for James Joyce’s short story After the Race. Joyce used motor racing to lampoon the aspirations of Dublin’s social climbing nouveau riche. It was one of fifteen stories that appeared in Dubliners and this month marks the 100th anniversary of its publication. A reimagining and rewriting of these stories, Dubliners 100, will be launched today.

This lady was photographed in the Phoenix Park sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Due to petrol rationing racing was suspended during the Second World War and did not re-commence until the late 1940s. On the subject of rationing, I was delighted to have my article ‘Coupons, Clothing and Class: The Rationing of Dress in Ireland, 1942-1948’ published in the latest issue of Costume.

The fashions worn by this women indicate that the photo was taken towards the end of the 1940s or in the early 1950s. Her loose fitting, midi length shift dress and matching jacket were typical of the post-war period. Her stylish outfit reflects the comparative wealth of those involved in motor sport and mirrors the glamour and allure alluded to by Joyce in After the Race.

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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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The monument, which is just visible in the background of this 1950s snapshot, allowed me to pinpoint the photograph’s exact location as being on Hawkins Street. The gothic revival and Celtic monument was erected ca.1906 to commemorate a Dublin Metropolitan Police Constable, Patrick Sheahan, who lost his life in the line of duty. The group stand at the rere of the faux-tudor Gas Company headquarters which was designed by Robinson Keefe. You can see some detailed photographs of it here.

This photograph was rescued from a skip by my good friend, Garry O’Neill, and features in his long awaited book on decades of Dublin street style entitled Where were you? It was published and designed by Niall McCormack of HiTone and will be launched tomorrow in the Gallery of Photography, Meeting House Square, Temple Bar.

On another note, I was delighted to be asked by the excellent Irish history blog Pue’s Occurrences to review a new photography bookRevolution: a photographic history of revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923 includes some rarely seen images from private and public collections.

I also wrote a little piece for Stacy Waldman’s blog House of Mirth on my favourite Halloween photograph. Stacy’s gathered together some really amazing photographs from collectors and fans of vernacular photography including Barbara Levine, Ron Slattery and Robert E. Jackson.

As if this wasn’t enough photography related activity, I went to Après Paris at the Sugar Club last Thursday. This event was organised by PhotoIreland festival and featured up-dates on Paris Photo and talk of next year’s PhotoIreland festival which I am already looking forward to! 

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This snapshot is crammed full of amazing details like the sign for ‘private wine rooms upstairs’;  the young fella peaking over the odd little car;  the banner advertising Player’s cigarettes and the shadowy sign in the window. Despite my loathing of Arthur’s Day I am still fond of the ‘Guinness is good for you’ sign.

This photograph has me totally puzzled though as I cannot locate a Dublin pub whose street number is 32 and which is also next door to a stationer’s/tobacconist’s. The name of the shop looks like Hegarty and in the original print I can faintly make out a surname ending in ‘lly’ on the etched pub sign. I have checked one or two Thom’s Street directories for the 1920s, 30s and 40s but to no avail.

Perhaps the photograph wasn’t taken in Dublin which would disappoint me though it really shouldn’t matter as the image is a great snippet of street life wherever it originates. Any suggestions welcome?

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This photograph is another great skip find and shows a ragged little young fella in the Phoenix Park, Dublin with the Wellington Monument in the background. The obelisk commemorates the Duke’s many military victories and dates from 1861. The centred figure typifies the snapshot aesthetic and the hat brings to mind the Western novels and films which were so popular in Ireland during the 1950s and 60s.

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