Dublin in the 20th Century

This exhibition tells the story of Dublin in the 20th Century, with artefacts from the Little Museum of Dublin. Photography by Alex Kearns.

Welcome to No.15 St.Stephen's Green...The Little Museum of Dublin

Museum Tour Starting in 'The Outer Room'The Little Museum of Dublin

the 1900s

Queen Victoria comes to Dublin in 1900. The old world ends with her death the following winter after 63 years on the throne. But the century and the city take a while to notice. The key social event of this first decade is the 1907 International Exhibition in Herbert Park, "where the quality come to take the air." In working class Dublin there is seldom time to take the air. Nearly a third of the city's inhabitants live in overcrowded tenements. Those great Georgian mansions mask some of the worst slums in Europe.

The Arrival of Queen Victoria (1900). (1900-04-04/1900-04-25)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Arrival of Queen Victoria, 1900
Queen Victoria visited Dublin in 1900, near the end of her long reign. She landed at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) on April 4th. The streets were lined with delighted Dubliners, and Victoria arrived in ‘her’ city through mock-castellated gates on Leeson Street Bridge.

James Joyce's Letter to Lady Gregory (1902). (1902-11-11/1902-11-11)The Little Museum of Dublin

This is one of the most extraordinary letters ever written in Dublin. Angry, boastful, prophetic and full of self pity, it captures the frustration of a young genius in a small town, as 20 year old James Joyce tells Lady Gregory of his plans to go - "alone and friendless" - to Paris. "I do not know what will happen to me in Paris but my case can hardly be worse there than it is here."

"To be quite frank," he writes, "I am without means to pay my medical fees and they refuse to get me any grinding or tuitions…"

The letter contains a plea for help – "I am writing to you to know can you help me in any way" – and a litany of self-assurances that speak to Joyce's genius but also to the insecurity that often dogs young men:

"I am not despondent however for I know that even if I fail to make my way such failure proves very little. I shall try myself against the powers of the world."

The original of this letter was missing for many years. The Letters of James Joyce [Volume 1] notes that "a typewritten copy made by Lady Gregory was found amongst the papers of the late W.B. Yeats."

Theatre Royal State Performance (1904). (1904-04-28)The Little Museum of Dublin

The famous Theatre Royal was well-known for its comedic musical productions and operas. This souvenir programme recalls the visit of King Edward VII to Dublin.

Souvenir of Dublin Exhibition (1907) Photo (1)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Irish International Exhibition was the key social event of the first decade. It was hosted on the grounds of Herbert Park in Ballsbridge between May and November of 1907. The aim was to promote domestic industry by showcasing Irish products, as well as encouraging the development of commercial links by inviting all countries to exhibit their goods. This souvenir silk postcard from the exhibition shows the central exhibition hall.

Souvenir of Dublin Exhibition (1907) Photo (2)The Little Museum of Dublin

Nearly three million visitors came to ogle at everything from industrial machinery to fine art, but the main attraction was a full-scale Somali village and the rare whimsy of a water chute and switchback railway. This souvenir silk postcard from the exhibition captures a scene from O’Connell Bridge.

Dublin Exhibition Builder's Photo (1907). (1907-05-04/1907-11-09)The Little Museum of Dublin

Some of the men who helped to create the Irish International Exhibition of 1907. The total cost of the buildings and enclosure of the site was £118,061. Additional expenditure brought the cost to £123,604.

Thwaite's Lemonade Bottle. (1900-01-01/1909-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Thwaites Brewery is a company that was founded in Blackburn, Lancashire, England by Daniel Thwaites in 1807. The company still produces a large variety of beers and ales today. This bottle is engraved with the name 'Mineral Water Distributors Ltd. Dublin'.

Henrietta Street Tenements. (1900-01-01/1909-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

A hundred years ago Dublin was smaller than Belfast. Most people were poorly-housed, poorly paid or chronically unemployed, and the city had the highest infant mortality rate in Europe. The story of tenement life is best depicted in John Cooke's Darkest Dublin Collection, now held in the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

In the census of 1911 we learn that in the 15 houses on Henrietta Street, there were 835 people. In one house alone there were over a hundred inhabitants.Throughout the first half of the century, nearly a third of Dublin's population lived in overcrowded tenements.

The tenement system had it's origins in the middle of the 19th Century, when Dublin saw an influx of people from the countryside in the wake of the Famine. In the words of archaeologist and historian Christiaan Corlett, "a Dublin solution was found to a Dublin problem," when many fine Georgian residences were converted to house far more people than they were originally designed to accommodate.

In 1913 John Cooke presented his pictorial account of the city's slums to the Dublin Housing Inquiry. They represent a grim and highly vivid account of the slum conditions at that time. For more information on this period, see Corlett's excellent book, Darkest Dublin.

John McCormack Signed Photo. (1884-06-14/1945-09-16)The Little Museum of Dublin

This is a signed photo of the great Irish tenor Count John McCormack, who famously sang 64 notes in a single breath (during Mozart's Don Giovanni). In 1904 McCormack reputedly gave James Joyce singing lessons before Joyce entered the Feis Ceoil tenor competition, winning a very respectable bronze medal. That same year Joyce met Nora Barnacle, his future wife.

Talbot, Coall and Son. (1900-01-01/1909-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Talbot, Coall and Son was an estate agent based in Dún Laoghaire, a south Dublin port known as Kingstown until 1921. The firm was listed in the 1913 telephone directory at Kingstown 13, and once helped the family of playwright J.M. Synge to buy a house in the area.

Sandycove Bathers' Association Rule Book (1907). (1907-01-01/1907-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Since the 1880's Sandycove Bather's Association has faithfully maintained Dublin's famous 'Forty Foot' diving spot in Dún Laoghaire.

Famously in the first chapter of Joyce's 'Ulysses', characters Stephen and Buck Mulligan go for a swim in the Forty Foot ("the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea") and are joined by an English academic named Haines.

Theatre Royal Programme (1908). (1908-04-28/1908-04-28)The Little Museum of Dublin

Four different Theatre Royals were erected on Hawkin's Street in Dublin. This programme is from the second which opened in 1897 and closed in 1934. The theatre was designed by Frank Matcham and had seating for an audience of 2,011 people.

Padraig Pearse Wall Plaque. (1879-11-10/1916-05-03)The Little Museum of Dublin

Patrick Pearse was the founder of the Irish language school St. Enda’s, as well as being a poet, journalist and qualified barrister. It was Pearse who stood outside the G.P.O. on Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) to read aloud the 'Proclamation of the Irish Republic' on Easter Monday 1916 which signalled the start of the 1916 Rising.

After a week of intense fighting, surrounded on all sides and after witnessing the death of three elderly civilians by a British barricade, Pearse had a note delivered to the British Army's General Lowe stating his wish to surrender to “prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”.

Pearse was executed weeks later along with fourteen other leaders of the Rising. These executions would eventually re-ignite a wave of nationalism across the country, leading to a 'War of Independence' which was led by some of the survivors of the Easter Rising including Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera.

Queen Victoria Statue at Leinster House. (1908-02-17/1948-07)The Little Museum of Dublin

Created by the popular Irish sculptor John Hughes in 1908, this statue of Queen Victoria dominated the front garden of Leinster House near Merrion Square for fourteen years until it was moved to the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. In the 1980s, the statue was relocated to the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, Australia.

The Royal University, Earlsfort Terrace. (1883/1970)The Little Museum of Dublin

Built for the Great Dublin International Exhibition of 1865, Earlsfort Terrace was later converted into an examination centre for the Royal University of Ireland. It then became part of University College Dublin's campus and remained so until 2007. It now houses Ireland's National Concert Hall.

Weekly Freeman. (1761/1922)The Little Museum of Dublin

The weekend edition of the Freeman’s Journal, the Weekly Freeman, was published in Dublin for 161 years until 1922. The Weekly Freeman once published a remarkable typographic error: in 1900, during Queen Victoria’s visit to Kingstown, the newspaper erroneously remarked that the Queen and her party “pissed over Leeson Street bridge,” rather than “passed over Leeson Street bridge.”

Stephen's Green Garrison. (1916-04-24/1916-04-30)The Little Museum of Dublin

the 1910s

A beleaguered working class finds its voice in the Lockout. It appears that Irish nationalism is about to give birth to Home Rule, but the First World War interrupts proceedings, and nationalists are impatient. The Easter Rising of 1916 is the formative act in the movement for independence. It makes martyrs of mad/visionary leaders like Patrick Pearse. But was it necessary? The First World War ends, and now the Irish go to war against the English. Meanwhile iconoclasts like James Joyce and William Butler Yeats make their art of Dublin.

Dolphin's Barn Brick (1910). (1910-01-01/1910-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Dolphin’s Barn Brick and Tile Company was established in 1900, and bricks with the Dolphin’s Barn stamp were used widely throughout the city between 1900 and 1942. The distinctive yellowish colour of the bricks means there is a tendency to describe all bricks of a similar colour as ‘Dolphin’s Barn’ bricks, even ones that were produced long before the factory opened. The company was a major employer, and its bricks were used in many notable buildings around Dublin, including the GMB in Trinity College, Steevens’ Hospital and the National Gallery of Ireland. The company merged with the Mount Argus works and the Rathnew Brick Company in 1921. It ceased operation in 1942.

Scoil Éanna Prospectus (1910). (1910-01-01/1910-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

This school prospectus encapsulates the two great loves of Patrick Pearse’s life: education and the Irish language. Greatly encouraged by the example of Belgian schools, in 1908 Pearse founded Scoil Éanna in Ranelagh, a bilingual school for boys, followed shortly in 1910 by a girls’ school, Scoil Íde.

As well as teaching through both Irish and English, Pearse pursued and pioneered a child-centred approach to education. His 1912 collection of essays, The Murder Machine, was an indictment of the British education system, placing Pearse at the forefront of educational innovation.

Imperial Hotel Dublin Saucer. (1837-01/1916-04)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Imperial Hotel was destroyed by shells from the British gunboat Helga during the 1916 Rising. The hotel was built in 1837, and the site is now occupied by part of the Clery's Department Store building.

Trade Unionist James Larkin was arrested in 1913 after sneaking into the Imperial Hotel in disguise to give a speech to workers gathered below on Sackville St. (now O'Connell St.) This speech constituted a coup against both the authorities and William Martin Murphy, leader of the Dublin employers during the The Lockout of 1913. Murphy was among the hotel's owners.

Cheque made out to Pádraig Mac Piarais (1911). (1911-09-27/1911-09-27)The Little Museum of Dublin

This cheque for four pounds and nine shillings was paid to Pádraig Mac Piarais, future President of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, who signed the reverse side in both Irish and English. This small piece of paper highlights the common misnomer of 'Padraig Pearse'. A central figure in the Irish Language revival movement, Pearse practiced linguistic dichotomy. He signed his name either Pádraig Mac Piarais or P.H. Pearse, never a mongrel of the two.

Dog Licence (1912). (1912-03-30/1913-03-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

From the minutely detailed collie on the stamps to the requirement for the clerk to sign the form in two separate places, this Dog Licence is no simple record of payment. It is a monument to the fusty bureaucracy of the British Empire.

Bram Stoker BustThe Little Museum of Dublin

Abraham 'Bram' Stoker was born at 15 Marino Crescent, Dublin in 1847. He was a sickly child and bed ridden with an unknown illness until he started school aged seven after making a full recovery. He completed his education at Trinity College Dublin. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. However he is best known for his world-famous gothic novel, Dracula, published in 1897. Stoker died in London in 1912 at the age of 64.

The Irish Worker (Edited by Jim Larkin) (1912). (1912-09-28/1912-09-28)The Little Museum of Dublin

In June 1911, James Larkin, the Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, established a newspaper – The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate – as a pro-labour alternative to the capitalist press. On 'Bloody Sunday' August 31st 1913, the Dublin Metropolitan Police brutally charged a workers’ rally led by Larkin and James Connolly in Sackville Street. By the end of September that year, 25,000 men were on strike and heading for a harsh winter. The strikers were supported for a time, but the Lockout ultimately ended in defeat for the workers.

Leinster Markets off D'Olier St. by Estella Solomons (1913). (1882/1968)The Little Museum of Dublin

Many Dubliners lived in the sort of tenements depicted in this 1913 etching by Estella Solomons. Solomons was, like Harry Kernoff, Jewish. Her brother, Bethel, was master of the Rotunda Hospital. Estella studied art under Walter Osborne and William Orpen, and later married Seamus O’Sullivan, with whom she produced the Dublin Magazine for 35 years.

First World War Recruitment Poster (1915). (1914-06-28/1918-11-11)The Little Museum of Dublin

Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the iconic face of British army recruitment posters and Secretary of state for war, was born in County Kerry in 1850. Why should Irishmen fight for the English? Ulster Unionists saw it as an opportunity to showcase their loyalty to the Empire. The Nationalist community was divided, with Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond encouraging Irishmen to join up and fight for Home Rule, while others saw “England’s difficulty as Ireland’s opportunity.”

HMS Dublin Flag, Battle of Jutland (1916). (1916-05-31/1916-06-01)The Little Museum of Dublin

HMS Dublin Flag, 1910s
The Battle of Jutland was one of the key naval engagements of the First World War. HMS Dublin played a part in the battle, which was fought in 1916. The ship had been adopted by a committee of Dublin citizens and businessmen who raised funds to provide it with a band and other amenities. When the ship was decommissioned in 1926, Dublin Chamber of Commerce was presented with its battle-scarred ensign – complete with Union Jack – and in turn the Chamber donated it to Christ Church, since when it has languished, unseen, in the cathedral crypt.

Sinn Fein Rebellion (1916). (1916-04-24/1916-04-30)The Little Museum of Dublin

This picture shows Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) before and after the 1916 Rising. Like many documents of the period, it refers to the Rising as the Sinn Féin Rebellion. Sinn Féin had nothing to do with the Rising, though nationalists flooded into the party as public opinion turned quickly against British rule.

Stephen's Green Garrison. (1916-04-24/1916-04-30)The Little Museum of Dublin

St. Stephen’s Green Garrison, 1916/1940s
This somewhat gory souvenir placard recalls the aftermath of the Easter Rising. Michael Mallin’s garrison of 200 men was camped across the road from the museum in St Stephen's Green (Countess Markiewicz was his second- in-command). The British forces made use of the high buildings surrounding the square to gain an advantage over the rebels.

Each morning both sides halted fire to allow the groundskeeper time to feed his prize-winning ducks. Eventually the rebels were forced to retreat to the Royal College of Surgeons on the west side of the Green. The casualties are remembered on this placard from the 1940s; as you can see, Mallin was executed for his part in the Rising.

Commandant De Valera in Arrested (1916)The Little Museum of Dublin

Commandant De Valera in Custody, 1916 – Mick O'Dea
Mick O’Dea RHA tackles the second decade of the 20th Century, a seismic period in Irish life, where rebellion was followed by a War of Independence. Making compelling work in his signature style, from the photographs of the day, Mick uses brilliantly economic handling of line and colour to breathe new life into the telling of the tale. Steeped personally in the history of the period, Mick’s painting, 'Commandant De Valera in Custody 1916' shows De Valera arrested by two Tommies in the aftermath of the 1916 rising. The future Taoiseach and President of the Republic, spared execution because of his American birth, stands tall between his captors. He would cast a long and controversial shadow over Irish politics until his death in 1975.

C&C Lemonade Bottle (1918). (1918-10-10/1918-10-10)The Little Museum of Dublin

Lemonade Bottle, 1918
This unopened bottle of lemonade was found by David Casserly in the wreck of the RMS Leinster, which was sunk by a German submarine in October 1918, two months before the end of the First World War. The greatest disaster in Irish maritime history, the loss of the mail boat off the coast of Dún Laoghaire took the lives of 501 people, including about 300 soliders and nurses returning to the front. The bottle was manufactured by Cantrell and Cochrane, better known as C&C. It was made in Bristol, by the Price stoneware company.

Belvedere Hurling Team feat. Kevin Barry (1919). (1902-02-20/1920-11-06)The Little Museum of Dublin

Kevin Barry started to attend Belvedere College in 1916. On the 15th of August 1920 he joined a group of IRA volunteers who wanted to ambush a British Army vehicle in order to capture their weapons. During the operation, three British soldiers died and Kevin Barry was the only volunteer captured. He was tortured, and executed in the Mountjoy Jail on November 6th 1920.

'The Outer Room' Facing the 1920's SectionThe Little Museum of Dublin

the 1920s

The new state has a difficult birth, after battles with the English and then among ourselves. In the Civil War two sides argue over the peace treaty with England. Eventually the new government wins the day, and Anti-Treaty leader Éamon de Valera is sent into the wilderness. Dev is even excommunicated by the Catholic Church, which soon exerts a firm grip on moral matters. Red postboxes are painted green, but Dublin still feels like the antiquated outpost of an empire now rejected. Don’t expect a renaissance. The capital limps into independence. 

Republic of Ireland Bond sold by Éamon De Valera. (1920-01-21/1920-01-21)The Little Museum of Dublin

Republic of Ireland Bond, 1920
During the year and a half he spent criss-crossing the United States, Éamon de Valera used ‘republican bonds’ as a method of fundraising. Raising close to $6 million, the bonds were powerful tools, legitimising the Irish Republic in the eyes of people at home and abroad. However, after the Civil War the issue of whom the money belonged to would prove contentious. This $10 bond is dated January 21st 1920 and was issued to a Mrs. Goode.

Stained Glass Window by Harry Clarke. (1889-03-17/1931-01-06)The Little Museum of Dublin

Harry Clarke was Ireland’s pre-eminent stained-glass artist. His religious works are renowned for emulating the spirit of Irish medieval manuscript illumination. In his secular designs the Dubliner experimented with innovative new techniques, culminating in his masterpiece ‘The eve of St Agnes’ (1923-24). Clarke’s work was commissioned throughout Ireland and also in Australia and the United States. You can see his stained-glass windows in Bewley’s Café (1927), around the corner from the museum.

Accreditation of Dáil Plenipotentiaries (1921). (1921-10-07/1921-10-07)The Little Museum of Dublin

Accreditation of Dáil Plenipotentiaries, 1921
This is the most important historical document in the museum. Appointing Dáil Éireann’s delegation for the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations, it includes signed instructions from Éamon de Valera, who had recently been chosen as Dáil President by his colleagues. It is one of five original copies, and for 40 years the document languished at the back of a filing cabinet in a law firm on Ormond Quay. The exact role and powers of the plenipotentiaries would de disputed in the bitter debate that surrounded the Dáil’s ratification of the Treaty.

Michael Collins by John Lavery (1921). (1921-10-11/1921-12-06)The Little Museum of Dublin

Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith – Sir John Lavery, 1922
In 1922 Sir John Lavery painted famous portraits of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith (below) while both were in London negotiating with the British government. Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance, Director of Information, and Teachta Dála (TD) for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Adjutant General, Director of Intelligence, and Director of Organisation and Arms Procurement for the IRA, President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood from November 1920 until his death, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army. Griffith was also part of the delegation that signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.

Arthur Griffith by John Lavery (1921). (1921-10-11/1921-12-06)The Little Museum of Dublin

Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, was also part of the delegation that signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The Treaty did not provide full independence from Britain – Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK and an oath to the King would have to be sworn by all members of the Dáil. A civil war broke out, which the anti-Treaty side eventually lost. Collins and Griffith were both dead by the end of the war – Collins killed in an ambush in Béal na Bláth, Griffith succumbing to heart failure.

The Four Courts On Fire, Civil War. (1922). (1922-06-28/1922-07-05)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Four Courts in flames, 1922
Republican forces opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 had taken over The Four Courts on Inns Quay in central Dublin. The newly formed Irish Free State was put under pressure to deal with the situation by the British government, who threatened to suspend the evacuation of British troops from Ireland if the rebels were not rounded up. Reluctantly in the early hours of the 28th June 1922, as head of the Irish Free State Army, Michael Collins had the Four Courts surrounded and attacked the building with heavy artillery. This signalled the beginning of the Civil War.

War News No.3. (1922). (1922-06-30/1922-06-30)The Little Museum of Dublin

War News No. 3, 1922
The Anti-Treaty War News includes a report dated 29th of June: “The attack on the Four Courts... is a complete failure...Despite continuous heavy gun and rifle fire, the defences of the Four Courts are intact.” In fact, shelling by the Free State Army, which began on the 28th of June and precipitated outright Civil War, brought about the surrender of the Anti-Treaty’s Dublin headquarters by midday on the 1st of July. Quite apart from the damage to one of Dublin’s finest buildings, the incident also saw the destruction of hundreds of years of Irish historical records.

First English Edition of Ulysses (1922). (1922-10-12/1922-10-12)The Little Museum of Dublin

First English Edition of Ulysses, 1922
The history of Ulysses in print is almost as labyrinthine as the story itself. The Egoist Press edition of Joyce’s great masterpiece has been called the second printing of the first edition, which was published by Shakespeare and Company earlier in the same year. This is the first English edition. When the Shakespeare and Co. first edition sold out within a few months, the Egoist Press purchased the original printing plates from Sylvia Beach, the initial publisher. Printed in Dijon by the printers who had created the plates, the title page makes the following curious claim: ‘Published by the Egoist Press, London, by John Rodker, Paris.’ A private edition – like the Shakespeare and Co. edition – it was limited to 2,000 copies on handmade paper. Some 500 of those copies were confiscated by New York Postal authorities on the grounds of obscenity. This volume is number 1936.

James Connolly Citizen's Army, Liberty Hall. (1920-01-01/1929-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

James Connolly and the Citizen Army, Liberty Hall, Dublin by Harry Kernoff, 1920s
This woodcutting was made by Harry Kernoff, a Jewish Dublin artist. It represents James Connolly, an Scottish socialist who, with Patrick Pearse, led the Easter Rising of 1916. Connolly was also one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. Captured after the rebel surrender, a badly injured Connolly was executed by a British Army firing squad on the 12th May 1916. Due to his injuries he couldn't stand to face his firing squad – he was executed sitting down, tied to a chair.

Civil War Propaganda Photo (1923). (1922-06-28/1923-05-24)The Little Museum of Dublin

This photo was taken during the Civil War. It shows an 'Irregular' soldier in plain clothes capturing a Free State soldier in uniform. The photo was used by the Anti-Treaty side for propaganda purposes and appears to be staged.

The Dublin Stock Exchange. (1924). (1920-01-01/1929-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Dublin Stock Exchange, 1924
The Dublin Stock Exchange has been on Anglesea Street since the late 19th century. A composite work, this picture of the Exchange's members was created by the famous Lafayette photography agency, which was given the title of Royal Photographer in Dublin during visits by Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.

Tailteann Games Croke Park. (1924). (1924-08-02/1924-08-17)The Little Museum of Dublin

The opening ceremony of the 1928 Tailteann Games
Ten of Ireland’s most accomplished artists have each produced a piece that reflects on some aspect of life in Dublin during the 20th Century. The celebrated illustrator p.j. lynch took on the decade of the twenties, a period of civil war and economic hardship which was illuminated by the Tailteann Games. These games were one of the attempts by the new government to foster a Celtic spirit in a newly free nation. Ancient imagery informed the event’s style and approach, which included sporting and artistic events across the city. Returning athletes from European-based Olympic games participated, raising the profile of the Tailteann Games which continued throughout the decade. Johnny Weismuller, Tarzan from the movies and an Olympic swimmer, participated in a swim in the Phoenix Park. P.J. depicts the opening ceremony in Croke Park.

Letter from the Archbishop of Dublin. (1928). Photo 1The Little Museum of Dublin

Letter from the Archbishop of Dublin, 1928
In his letter to Chief Justice Hugh Kennedy, Archbishop of Dublin Edward Byrne reaffirms the Catholic Church’s prohibition on Catholics entering Trinity College Dublin. The Archbishop explains: “How the authorities of any Catholic school can, in the face of their conscientious obligations, encourage their pupils to risk their soul’s salvation in Trinity College is to me an absolutely insoluble puzzle.”

Letter from the Archbishop of Dublin. (1928). Photo 2The Little Museum of Dublin

Hilton Edwards by Harry Kernoff. (1928)The Little Museum of Dublin

Contrary to appearances, the Irish are not visually illiterate. This fine portrait of Hilton Edwards is by the Jewish artist Harry Kernoff. In 1928 Edwards co- founded the Gate Theatre with Micheál MacLiammóir, who like Edwards was actually English. In the Gate they presented European plays in contrast to the Irish peasant fare at the Abbey. (The two theatres were written off as Sodom and Begorrah). Edwards sat for this portrait in 1928, the year the Gate was founded.

Lady Heath Aviatrix Postcard from N.Y. (1929). (1929-07-06/1929-07-06)The Little Museum of Dublin

Signed postcard, Lady Mary Heath
In 1928, Lady Heath became the first person to fly solo from Cape Town to London. Lady Heath began life as Sophie Catherine Theresa Mary Peirce-Evans in Limerick. Sophie attended St Margaret's Hall on Mespil Road, Dublin, later enrolling in the Royal College of Science in Ireland (which later became subsumed into U.C.D.).

In an era when the world had gone aviation mad, Lady Heath was more than able to hold her own. "Britain's Lady Lindy" as she was known in the United States, made front page news as the first pilot, male or female, to fly a small open-cockpit aircraft from Cape Town to London (Croydon Aerodrome). She had thought it would take her three weeks; as it turned out, it took her three months, from January to May 1928.

'The Treasury' with 1930's SectionThe Little Museum of Dublin

the 1930s

Church and state formalise their relationship. Éamon de Valera becomes leader of the Free State in 1932 (he will rule for 16 consecutive years) and promptly hosts a vast religious jamboree. The Eucharistic Congress attracts a million people to mass in Phoenix Park. Then de Valera launches a trade war with our biggest trading partner, Britain. Storm clouds gather in Europe as the world looks set for war, but we Irish try to stay out of it. The problems of slum-dwellers begin to be addressed, with the construction of new suburbs like Crumlin and Kimmage.

Sketch of Matt Talbot by Sean Dixon. (1931). (1931/1931)The Little Museum of Dublin

Sketch of Matt Talbot by Seán Dixon, 1931
Seán Dixon completed this sketch after the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore commissioned him to paint a portrait of Matt Talbot. Regarded as the Patron Saint of dipsomaniacs, Talbot was an alcoholic until a sudden and permanent reformation at 28. After taking a vow of abstinence, the Dublin labourer devoted the rest of his life to work and prayer, leading a harsh ascetic existence of self-deprivation and punishment. When he was found dead on a Dublin street in 1925, Talbot’s body was covered in chains that must have caused acute pain. A statue of the pious northsider can be found next to the city’s Talbot Memorial Bridge.

SudocremThe Little Museum of Dublin

Sudocrem was invented by Dublin pharmacist Thomas Smith in 1931. It was originally called "Smith's Cream". Now sold in 30 countries around the world, it remains your only man for the nappy rash.

Arnott's Box. (1930-01-01/1930-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Arnotts Box, 1930s
Established at 15 Henry Street in 1843, Arnotts was for many years the largest department store in Dublin. Patrick Pearse allegedly stopped off to settle his account on his way to the GPO on the day of the Rising. In recent years the store has become a prominent victim of the recession.

His Master's Voice - Cumann na nGaedheal Poster (1932). (1932-02-16/1932-02-16)The Little Museum of Dublin

Eucharistic Congress St. Patrick Picture. (1932). (1932-06-22/1932-06-26)The Little Museum of Dublin

Eucharistic Congress St Patrick picture, 1932
Ireland hosted the Eucharistic Congress in part to celebrate the 1,500th anniversary of the coming of St. Patrick to Ireland.

Make Sure of Alfie First. (1930-01-01/1939-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Bicycle-wheel maker, barman, publican, councillor, senator, M.P. and T.D., Alderman Alfred Byrne is best remembered as Lord Mayor of Dublin. Between 1930 and 1939 Alfie, as he was affectionately known, monopolised the post of Lord Mayor, serving the city for nine consecutive terms. A room dedicated to Alfie containing key documents from his archive can be visited on the second floor of the Little Museum.

Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne Signed Chocolate BoxThe Little Museum of Dublin

John Jameson Framed Printing Press. (1930-01-01/1939-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Jameson Ad Printing Plate, 1930s
Dublin is indefatigably proud of its reputation as a boozy town. Jameson whiskey was first made here in 1780, when a distillery opened on Bow Street. This plate was used for printing advertisements. It assures readers that “The quality of John Jameson Three Star whiskey is the same the wide world over.”

ESB Showroom, 25 St.Stephen's Green (1930's). (1930-01-01/1939-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

ESB Showroom 25 St. Stephen’s Green and advertisement, 1930s
It is arguable that the most positive decision made by the new Free State government was to build the Shannon Scheme. The project cost £5.5 million, which was about 20% of the government day to day expenditure at that time, and it involved the construction of Ardnacrusha Power Station. Critics of the scheme said it would be a White Elephant as the demand for electricity would never be sufficient to justify the project costs. They were wrong. There was a huge growth in electricity sales from 43kWh hours in 1930 to 218kWh hours in 1937. ESB’s first showroom at 25 St. Stephens Green was part of the success story. Opening in 1929, it sold £315.6sh.8d worth of electrical equipment in its first week of business.

Butchers Social Union Bingo Card (1930's). (1930-01-01/1939-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Butchers Social Union Bingo Card, 1930s
In the 1930s the Butchers Social Union found themselves faced with a mystery. Their leather bingo cards kept going missing. One day someone noticed that bingo players were stealing the cards to patch holes in their shoes. So the Union decided to stamp several holes in the cards, thus foiling the thieves.

Alex Findlater & Co. (1930's)The Little Museum of Dublin

Alex Findlater & Co. started life in 1823, trading whiskey, wine and beer. The company expanded rapidly, adding general groceries to its alcohol trade, and became a major institution, with branches all over the city. Ultimately, pressure from supermarkets became too much for Findlaters’ more traditional service – as William Findlater had predicted at a 1902 staff meeting: “This brings up the question of packet goods, which is one of the curses of the trade, unless they bear our own brand. If this is encouraged much further it will mean the passing out of the grocer, and he will be replaced by a mere hander-out of packet goods, or, we will have nothing but girls behind our counters, which may be unpleasant to many of the young men present!”

Last Film Censor by Ultra Conservative James Montgomery. (1923-01-01/1930-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Final Cut
This is the last film censor’s certificate that James Montgomery ever signed. Appointed in 1923, this self-styled ‘moral sieve’ cut any scenes with kissing, blasphemy, incest, divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, adultery or illegitimacy. He didn’t like the word virgin, or any mention of prostitutes – ‘with or without a heart of gold.’

Two and a half thousand films have been banned in the history of this state. Of those, James Montgomery personally banned over 1,800. He once said of a film under review: “The girl dancing on the village green shows more leg than I’ve seen on any village green in Ireland. Better amputate them.”

Monopoly (Irish Free State Edition). (1922-12-06/1937-12-29)The Little Museum of Dublin

This very rare edition of the famous board game Monopoly was printed in Dublin by the Ormond Printing Company a few years after Ireland’s independence in 1922 and is marked 'Manufactured in the Irish Free State'.

Ireland v Hungary (1939). (1939-05-18/1939-05-18)The Little Museum of Dublin

Ireland v Hungary, 1939
At first glance it looks as if the Irish soccer team is giving a fascist salute in this picture, which was taken in Budapest. In 1939, Hungary was ruled by a right-wing dictator, and was close to Germany and Italy. But Hungary was not fascist, and while it did have a fascist movement, it was a threat to the ruling regime, and was actually banned in 1939. Some members of that movement, the Arrow Cross, did use a closed-fist salute (the classic fascist salute was open-handed) but the truth is probably more innocuous. Three cheers for Hungary?

Emergency Gas Mask (1939). (1939-09-01/1945-05-08)The Little Museum of Dublin

Emergency Gas Mask, 1939
Ireland chose to remain neutral in the Second World War, but there was still a fear that the country could be attacked. A state of emergency was declared (hence ‘the Emergency’), and gas masks like this were made widely available.

Cabinet in 'The Outer Room'The Little Museum of Dublin

the 1940s

Ireland asserts its neutrality during the Second World War. Or Ireland disgraces itself. Faintly touched by the conflict unfolding around it, the city remains remote and provincial. But many citizens are on the side of the Allies, and although de Valera offers his condolences to the Germans on the death of Hitler, the government is largely pro-British. In 1948 a coalition led by Fianna Fáil’s adversaries, Fine Gael, sweeps to power, and the new Taoiseach declares the country a republic. The final link is broken.

Clery & Co. Delivery Box (1941). (1941-01-01/1941-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Clery’s Box, 1941
A box from Clery’s tailoring department in 1941. Clery’s was founded as ‘The New or Palatial Mart’ in 1853, bought over and renamed by M. J. Clery in 1883. The current building – which is modelled on Selfridge’s of London – dates from 1922, the original having been destroyed during the Easter Rising. In 1943, this much-loved department store was taken over by the Guiney family, who also owned the nearby Guiney’s department store.

James Joyce Death Mask (1941). (1882-02-02/1941-01-13)The Little Museum of Dublin

James Joyce’s Death Mask, 1941
On 11 January 1941, James Joyce – who was 58 years old – underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer in a Zurich hospital. The following day he fell into a coma, before waking, briefly, and calling for his wife and children. They were still on their way to the hospital when he died 15 minutes later. While two senior Irish diplomats were apparently in Switzerland at the time, neither attended Joyce’s funeral, and the Irish government subsequently declined Nora Joyce’s offer to permit the repatriation of his remains. This facsimile of Joyce’s death mask commemorates our greatest novelist.

Telegram from George Bernard Shaw (1943). (1943-07-09/1943-07-09)The Little Museum of Dublin

Postcard from George Bernard Shaw, 1943
In 1943 the playwright George Bernard Shaw was living in London. Shaw went to school here on St. Stephen’s Green, and never lost his accent, even though he left Dublin at 20. A magazine called The Strand asked a number of writers when they thought the Second World War would end. “Nothing doing,” Shaw writes here, “I never prophesy until I know; and nobody yet knows where those two will end. My best guess is that Adolf will enjoy a dignified retirement in the Vice-Regal Lodge in Dublin, which is presumably to let at present.”

McDowell Ring House, Telegram, Clarence Hotel (1944). (1944-04-06/1944-04-06)The Little Museum of Dublin

A Dublin love story
McDowell Ring House and Clarence Hotel are two renowned establishments in Dublin. These framed documents show a receipt for two rings bought in McDowell Ring House, a telegram of congratulations for Mr. & Mrs.Clayton on the occasion of their wedding and a bill for the Claytons stay at the Clarence Hotel. A whirlwind engagement, marriage and honeymoon in the space of a day or two in April 1944!

Brendan Bracken by Olive Murray. (1901-02-15/1958-08-08)The Little Museum of Dublin

Brendan Bracken - Olive Murray
One of the most mysterious Dubliners of the 20th Century, Bracken was an adventurer who tried to disguise his roots (Dublin/Tipperary), claiming instead to be Australian. A Tory MP at the age of 28, he published both the Economist and the Financial Times, and was loyal to Churchill when the latter had been cast into the political wilderness after the First World War. In 1940, when Ireland practiced scrupulous neutrality, Brendan Bracken played a key role in Churchill’s succession as Prime Minister, and went on to serve as Minister of Information for three years. Viscount Bracken died in 1958 at the age of 57. He is the subject of an excellent biography by fellow Dubliner Charles Lysaght.

The Irish Times (1943)The Little Museum of Dublin

Ireland stayed neutral during the Second World War. At that time, the editor of The Irish Times was Robert Bertie Smyllie who accepted Ireland’s neutrality as the only policy possible under its circumstances. However, he found himself limited by censorship imposed by the government.

Maureen O'Hara (1940's). Photo 1The Little Museum of Dublin

Portrait of Maureen O’Hara, 1940s
The great Maureen O’Hara, star of The Quiet Man and Miracle on 34th Street, was born in Ranelagh in 1920. Now aged 91, she lives in Glengarriff in Cork. O’Hara trained as an actor at the Abbey Theatre and the Ena Mary Burke School of Drama and Elocution in Dublin. Her father owned shares in Shamrock Rovers F.C. and she remains a fan.

Maureen O'Hara (1940's). Photo 2The Little Museum of Dublin

This is a French movie poster of John Ford's classic film 'The Quiet Man' about a retired American boxer, John Wayne, who returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds true love with Maureen O'Hara. Most people fondly remember the classic scene where John Wayne drags Maureen O'Hara through towns and face down through fields. Wayne and O'Hara were known to be constantly playing tricks on each other on set.
The last line of the wedding toast was censored by Republic Pictures. It should have said, "May their days be long and full of happiness. May their children be many and full of health. And may they live in peace and national freedom". After the film was completed, Republic Pictures decided "national freedom" in Ireland was too controversial a concept.

Tram Tickets (1940's). (1872/1949)The Little Museum of Dublin

Tram Tickets, 1940s
The tramways began operating in 1872 and the very last line closed in 1959. The last tram in the city proper left Nelson’s Pillar in 1949. The tram barely made it, as the Irish Times reported:

“Tram No. 252, the last one, had struggled free from the clutches of thousands of souvenir hunters in Westmoreland Street and had set out for Blackrock; two hours later it crawled into its home depot. The tram’s seats were gone, windows smashed, side panelling ripped away, still accompanied by a roaring, singing, hooting crowd, which had to be forcibly restrained by police reinforcements from breaking into the Blackrock depot.”

Swastika Laundry Tag (1940's). (1940-01-01/1940-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Swastika company was founded in 1912 by John W. Brittain in Ballsbridge, Dublin. In 1939, the company changed its name to, “Swastika Laundry” in order to avoid any association with Nazi Regime in Germany. It ceased to exist as a company in 1960.

De Valera with Dr. Alan Thompson and Dr. Bethal Solomons. (1947/1947)The Little Museum of Dublin

Éamon de Valera with Dr. Alan Thompson and Dr. Bethal Solomons, 1947
A rare photograph of then-Taoiseach Éamon de Valera smiling. De Valera is being greeted by Dr. Bethal Solomons at the Rotunda Bicentenary Congress. Dr. Solomons was “a world famous obstetrician and gynaecologist, rugby international, horseman, leader of liberal Jewry and of Irish literary and artistic renaissance.” Master of the Rotunda Hospital, he won ten caps on the Irish rugby team, was the first president of the Liberal Synagogue in Dublin, and was even mentioned in Finnegans Wake.

St. Mary's Rugby Team (1947). (1947-01-01/1948-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

This St. Mary's team were semi-finalists in the Leinster Senior Cup at Lansdowne Road. Terry Coveney, who was out-half on the team, played for Ireland, while the writer Ulick O'Connor featured on the same team as wing forward.

Fianna Fail Election Poster 'Workers' (1948). (1948-01-01/1948-02-04)The Little Museum of Dublin

Fianna Fáil Election Poster, 1948
Fianna Fáil had a tangled birth in the Civil War. Sinn Féin split into pro-and Anti-Treaty factions, with de Valera leading the Anti-Treaty faction. Anti-treaty Sinn Féin boycotted the Dáil for several years after the end of the Civil War until a faction around Éamon de Valera split and created Fianna Fáil. They first came to power in 1932 and were long the most popular party in Ireland. The 1948 election was controversial as Éamon de Valera introduced the Electoral Amendment Act, which was seen as an attempt to ensure the continued dominance of Fianna Fáil. But de Valera failed to retain power after the other parties joined together to create the first coalition government.

Ration Book (1948). (1948-01-01/1948-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Ration Book, 1948
During the ‘Emergency’ the Free State had a rationing system like that in Great Britain. Sugar, tea, butter, margarine, bread, flour and clothing were among the many items for which ration tickets were required. Poor families were hardest hit by the restrictions as bread was a central part of their diet. The most unpopular figure at the time was not Minister for Supplies Seán ‘half-ounce’ Lemass, but the notorious ‘glimmer man’ who went door-to-door to ensure that citizens were not using gas after hours.

Schools International Photo, Eire v England (1948). (1948-05-08/1948-05-08)The Little Museum of Dublin

Schools International Photo, 1948
Irish schoolboys took on their English counterparts in the 1948 Schools International, and beat them 1-0 on home ground. Many of the players on the Irish team came from the Johnville and Home Farm teams, including Gerry Mackey, the team captain. Mackey went on to play for Shamrock Rovers and is the only man to have captained the Irish team at schoolboy, youth and senior levels.

Flyer for Blackrock Baths (1949). (1949-08-27/1949-08-27)The Little Museum of Dublin

Flyer for Blackrock Baths, 1949
The Blackrock Baths was created following public outcry at access to the sea being cut off by the building of the Dublin-Kingstown railway line in 1834. Hugely popular, the baths often witnessed displays by Dublin’s great high-diving and springboard-diving champion, Eddie Heron. During the 1980s the baths fell into disuse and were later dismantled and sold to a private firm.

'The Treasury' with items from the 1950'sThe Little Museum of Dublin

the 1950s

The capital is governed by a loose cabal of religious conservatives, rural civil servants and aging republicans. The moral climate is fearful and tense. If you want to prosper you must leave the country. Or stand and fight. But don’t imagine that Dublin is going to change. Throughout the 1950s she is like a child, immune to the gravity of her own mistakes and unable to assert her independence with any confidence. The economy continues to disappoint. At the end of the decade Éamon de Valera hands control to his deputy, Seán Lemass. Roll on the 1960s.

Dublin Harbour Plan (1951). (1951-01-01/1951-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Dublin was a port before it was a city. This map shows the quays, sheds and tramways under the jurisdiction of the Dublin Port and Docks Board in 1951. At the time, ships unloaded much further up the Liffey – the port moved downstream with the advent of larger container ships.

Monument Creameries Invoice. (1953-03-07/1953-03-07)The Little Museum of Dublin

Monument Creameries Invoice, 1953
The Monument Creameries was a chain of shops that was founded on Parnell Street in 1920 by Séamus and Agnes Ryan (née Harding). The Hardings were Republican activists during the War of Independence, and Séamus was later elected to the Seanad. The Parnell Street branch was the first of 36, and the family lived in the wealthy Dublin suburb of Foxrock. Kathleen Ryan, an actress, and John Ryan, an artist, writer and benefactor of many other artists, were among the Ryans’ eight children.

Abbey Theatre - The Righteous Are Bold Poster. (1954-02-15/1954-02-21)The Little Museum of Dublin

The Righteous Are Bold Poster, 1954
This poster advertises a run of The Righteous Are Bold by Frank Carney. It was the most-performed play in the Abbey Theatre (which was temporarily housed in the Queen’s Theatre). Now largely forgotten, the play was hugely popular in its day because it featured the first exorcism to be shown on an Irish stage. The plot concerns an Irish emigrant returning home from London who is possessed by some ‘evil’, and the ensuing battle between scientific, pagan and Catholic beliefs as to how it should be removed. It was performed 245 times, 96 of those on its first run in 1946.

Shamrock Rover's Photo (1954). (1954-01-01/1954-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Shamrock Rovers Photo, 1954
Shamrock Rovers F.C. was founded in Ringsend in 1901. This celebrated club has supplied more players to the Irish national team than any other, and it remains the most successful club in Irish history. Shamrock Rovers have always worn a green and white striped strip (until 1926 the stripes were vertical).

Re-Opening of Gaiety Theatre. Invitation to Lord Mayor. (1955-11-25/1955-11-25)The Little Museum of Dublin

Re-Opening of the Gaiety Theatre, 1955
An invitation to the Lord Mayor of Dublin to attend the performance that re-opened the Gaiety on the 25th of November, 1955. The Gaiety had been forced to close ten months previously when Dublin Corporation condemned the upper circle balcony as unsafe. The auditorium had to be redesigned with safer exits before the Gaiety could re-open. Denis Larkin, son of the famous labour activist Jim Larkin, was Lord Mayor at the time.

Hafner's Advertisements (1950's). (1950-01-01/1959-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Dublin Airport Terminal (1950's). (1950-01-01/1959-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Dublin Airport Terminal, 1950s
The airport was a British Royal Flying Corps base during World War I. It was taken over by the Air Corps when Ireland gained independence. Work commenced on the terminal in 1938 after the Government was persuaded to support “such an elaborate plan” despite the fact that annual passenger numbers were only in the hundreds.  The tiered design and curvilinear forms echo the lines of the great ocean-going liners.

Menu from Russell Hotel (1950's). (1950-01-01/1959-12-31)The Little Museum of Dublin

Menu from Russell Hotel, 1950s
This menu from the Russell Hotel, on the south side of St Stephen’s Green, suggests that politics and business have long been intimate. It was produced for a dinner hosted by R. F. Browne, Chairman of the ESB. The menu reads like a who’s who, with a line-up that includes Erskine Childers (President from 1973 until his death in 1974), Seán Lemass (Taoiseach from 1959-1966), Jack Lynch (Taoiseach in the 1960s and 1970s), Arthur Cox (Legal advisor to the ESB), Dr. Tom Murray (Secretary of the Department of Finance and future chair of the ESB), Henry Kennedy (a Director of the ESB, Bank of Ireland and many other companies), J. P. Digby (Chairman and founder of Pye Ireland and a Director of the ESB), John H. Ryan (a Director of Bank of Ireland), T. MacMahon (Director of the ESB) and Brendan O’Cearbhaill (Director of the ESB). Blue Nun wine was served at the meal.

P&T Post Box (1950's). (1924/1984)The Little Museum of Dublin