The work of Limerick photographer Franz S. Haselbeck is one of the greatest Irish photographic collections, chronicling an exciting period in Irish history. Haselbeck was never fully appreciated during his lifetime (1885–1973), but his granddaughter, Patricia Haselbeck Flynn, recently painstakingly catalogued his archives, some of which are now on display in Limerick City Hall.
Haselbeck was a photographer in Limerick City from 1912 until his death, in 1973. He cycled all over the city and surrounding countryside photographing important events of the time, including the War of Independence, construction projects, the military, and taking portraits of the locals.
His work now provides one of the most important and comprehensive views into 20th century Ireland. Spanning six decades of major change, the collection is made up of almost 5,000 surviving images and documents from the early 1900s to the 1960s.
Patricia Haselbeck Flynn inherited the collection in 1990 and, working closely with the Limerick City Museum and Archives (LCMA ), she has insured her grandfather’s archive of work will be preserved. She also penned the book Franz S. Haselbeck’s Ireland and curated an exhibition of his work and equipment, named The Street, in Limerick City. It is the culmination of years of work.
She explained “It was almost as if my grandfather knew that it would be important to the city to record these events, as if he felt that it was his civic duty. In turn, I felt it to be my own civic duty to try to preserve it for all and have spent the intervening years in that quest.
“This collection of images of early 20th century Limerick right through to the 1960s is both beautiful and fascinating...I am sure my grandfather would be very proud of their use,” she added.
Some of the earliest photographs in the collection portray the Irish Volunteers and the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1913 and 1914, when the world was heading towards the First World War and Ireland was striving for Home Rule. Haselbeck’s collection goes on to record Ireland’s War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
The archive also documents major building projects and industrial Limerick, including a photo of massive concrete silos at Ranks Flour Mill, the huge scale of the Shannon Scheme at Ardnacrusha, Mungret Cement Factory, and Irish Wire on the Dock Road.
“His work now provides one of the most important and comprehensive views into 20th century Ireland”
The photographer took snaps of Limerick’s streets, its lanes, shop fronts and major buildings, including churches, Georgian terraces, and mills. In his studio, he captured a record of Limerick families, from baby photo shoots to Holy Communions, weddings, and family portraits.
Speaking about the collection, Jacqui Hayes, archivist with the Limerick City Museum and Archives (LCMA), said “Franz Haselbeck enjoyed capturing the major events of his time and through his lens the people and places of Limerick come to life. He was very interested in technology, architecture and engineering and his photographs of the great construction projects reflect this passion.”
Haselbeck’s family moved from Germany, via England, to Wolfe Tone Street in Limerick, in the early 1900s. There, they established a sausage and pudding craft business, but Franz’s artistic temperament saw him pursue a career as a photographer.
After attending the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and serving as an apprentice at Finnerty’s Photographic Company on Westmoreland Street in Dublin, Haselbeck went on to travel widely in Europe.
After his return, he was employed by the renowned Louis Anthony Studio in Killarney for three tourist seasons, from 1910 to 1912. He then settled in Limerick, where he set up his own studio. From then until his death in 1973 he photographed all aspects of Limerick life.
Haselbeck was passionate about his work, consistently embracing new equipment and techniques. Now, the skill and professionalism of this remarkable photographer are being fully appreciated. From the British military, to the Irish police force, to sporting events and street scenes, the breadth of subject matter and composition show a photographer who mastered his craft as he chronicled a changing Ireland.