Our Tenth Anniversary

Ten years ago we started blogging about Tasmanian photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923).  We look forward to another two years at least as the project draws closer to completion. Contributions and donations are most welcome, and many thanks for your involvement.

Email all enquiries here.


Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914)
Original by her husband Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1874
Photo copyright KLW FC Group  © KLW NFC Imprint ARR

Categories: Nevin Family Collections, Reviews | Tags: ,

Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

Marion’s Excelsior Camera, 22 & 23 Soho Sq., London W,
The firm operated from this address between c.1866 – 1913.
Held at the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site, Campbell St. Hobart, Tasmania, site of the former Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court.
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

This camera was used by the (as yet) unidentified photographer at the Hobart Gaol from the 1890s. Prior to the 1890s, prisoners were photographed by Constable John Nevin who was resident at the Gaol until his death from typhoid fever in 1891, working with his brother, commercial photographer and civil servant Thomas J. Nevin who attended the gaol and Supreme Court sessions on a weekly roster. They used two rooms above the women’s laundry as a studio. The cameras they used were wet plate, multi-lens cameras such as the 1860s American Scovill (possibly Peck) style wet-plate camera with four Darlot No.4 lenses, a Simon Wing ‘Repeating’ camera, or a stereoscopic, sliding box type, wet plate (wood, brass & glass), by Ottewill & Co, lenses manufactured by A Ross, London, England, 1860 – 1870.

Advertisement for the Marion Excelsior Studio Camera 1898, available in 9½, 12 and 15 square formats. with repeating single dark slide, extra front and all carriers with double extension, priced from  £5.5 to £13.10.

Sources: https://archive.org/stream/1898britishjourn00londuoft#page/10/mode/2up

Michael Wm or Maurice Walch 1893-1935
The Marion Excelsior camera was used by the visiting photographer to the Hobart Gaol to photograph this Huon resident and recidivist, Michael William Walch in 1909 for his front and profile pair of mugshots, pasted at lower centre of page, and if still in use in 1935 at the Gaol, for the trio of a full-length photograph, a full frontal photograph, and the small profile photograph of Michael Walch who by that date had changed his middle name from William to Maurice (lower left of rap sheet.). In 1906 and 1935 he was arrested for the same offence of exposing himself. The earliest mugshots at right were taken in 1893 when he was 23 years old on being sentenced at the Supreme Court Hobart for common assault. By 1935 he would have been 65 years old when he was photographed at the Police Office Hobart in his three piece suit, shirt and tie, and hat. He served six months for indecent exposure. The full length photograph was introduced in the 1920s. For the most engaging police photographs in this genre, visit the  NSW Justice and Police Museum mugshots page, especially the selection published by Peter Doyle. Crooks Like Us (2009),

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

Thomas Clark 1897
A first offender, prisoner Thomas Clark and his co-arsonist George Campbell (see below), were sentenced to 4 years in 1896 but discharged in October 1897. The photographer applied the mugshot methods of Bertillon required by prison regulations by the 1890s in providing a pair of photographs, one full frontal and one in profile, but still printed both photographs in oval mounts typical of earlier commercial carte-de-visite production. Thomas Clark was photographed wearing the prison-issue houndstooth patterned tie with a shirt in the fortnight prior to discharge, but not the full prison uniform. The third photograph pasted to the bottom of his criminal sheet was taken on arrest, wearing the same collarless shirt and coat as his partner in crime, George Campbell, who was an inmate of the Boy’s Training school when captured.

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

George Campbell 1888 and 1897
These two photographs (Reg: 776) of prisoner George Campbell, one full frontal printed into an oval mount, the other in profile and unmounted, were taken a fortnight before he was discharged from the Hobart Gaol on 6th October 1897. Although appearing to wear civilian clothes, he was wearing the prison-issue houndstooth patterned tie on discharge. In 1888 he was sentenced to 4 years for larceny, and another 4 years for arson in 1896. He was sentenced for the same crime and on the same date as the prisoner Thomas Clark (see above), 24th March 1896. The third unmounted full frontal photograph pasted to the bottom of his rap sheet shows George Campbell as younger, thinner, and wearing his own shirt. It was probably taken on arrest while he was still at the Training School (Boys’ Orphanage).

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

Joshua Anson 1877 and 1897
Joshua Anson was indicted for feloniously stealing a quantity of photographic goods from his employer, H. H. Baily, photographer, of Hobart Town on May 31st, 1877. The charge was larceny as a servant. The prisoner pleaded not guilty. Despite the depositions of good character from photographer Samuel Clifford, Charles Walch the stationer, and W.R. Giblin, lawyer and Attorney-General, Joshua Anson (b. 1854, Hobart), was found guilty of stealing goods valued at £88, though the real value of the goods, which included camera equipment, negatives, paper, mounts, chemicals, tripods etc exceeded £140. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with parole. On July 12, 1877, the Mercury reported that Joshua Anson’s appeal was ” to seek to retrieve his character by an honest career in another colony; and asked that during his incarceration he might be kept from the company of other prisoners as much as possible, though not, he said, on account of feeling himself above them, as the verdict of the jury removed that possibility.” The seriousness of the crime warranted a 14 year sentence, but the jury strongly recommended him to mercy “on account of his youth“.

Joshua Anson did not take the two photographs of himself that were pasted to his criminal sheet, the first (on left) in 1877 when he was 23 yrs old, and the second (on right) in 1897 when he was 43 yrs old, nor did he photograph any of the other prisoners for gaol records while serving time at the Hobart Gaol. His abhorrence of the company of convicts was extreme, as his statement testifies. His 1877 prisoner mugshot was taken by Constable John Nevin in situ, and unmounted. Thomas Nevin may have printed another for the Municipal Police Office Registry at the Town Hall, Macquaries St. Hobart where he was the Hall and Office Keeper, but it is yet to be identified among the Tasmanian prisoner cdvs held in public collections. Joshua Anson was certainly the beneficiary of Thomas Nevin’s stock and commercial negatives when Samuel Clifford acquired them in 1876 and then sold them on to Joshua Anson and his brother Henry Anson in 1878. The Anson brothers reprinted Clifford & Nevin’s Port Arthur stereoscopes for their highly commercial album, published in 1890 as Port Arthur Past and Present without due acknowledgement to either Nevin or Clifford.

The Launceston Examiner reported another theft by Joshua Anson on 30 May, 1896. The arrest, he was reported to have said, had brought on two epileptic fits. He was imprisoned again at the Hobart Gaol, served 12 months and discharged on 1st January 1897.

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1


HOBART, Friday
At the City Court to-day Joshua Anson, photographer, was charged with having robbed Charles Perkins of £32 12s5d. Accused, who was not represented by counsel, stated he had had two epileptic fits since he was arrested, and his head was not now clear. He asked for a remand. After the evidence of the prosecution had been taken, the accused was remanded till Tuesday.
Beautiful spring-like weather is prevailing.

Source; Launceston Examiner, 30 May, 1896

John Jones 1896
Both photographs taken of prisoner John Jones at the beginning and end of his sentence, June and December 1896, were vignetted (cloudy background) and posed in full frontal gaze. He was photographed as clean shaven with closely cropped hair in the first, taken on incarceration for being idle etc, and again  six months later, in the fortnight before being discharged, with full beard, more hair, and still wearing the prison-issue tie. The discharge photo was registered No. 685.

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

George Davis 1895
A single photograph in semi profile, with the registration number 560 was taken at the Police Office, Hobart where prisoner George Davis was repeatedly detained for short sentences from 14 days to three months. For some reason, the Hobart Gaol header on this form has been taped over. The prison scarf or tie worn during these last years of the 19th century featured a large lozenge pattern.

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

James Connolly 1876 and 1895
Thomas Nevin photographed this prisoner James Connolly (or Conly) at the Hobart Gaol on being transferred from Port Arthur on 29th November 1876, per this record, the Conduct PA Register Con 94-1-2 1873-76 (State Library Tasmania)

Prisoner James Connolly was photographed in November 1876 by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol
(QVMAG Collection: Ref. No.Q1985_p_0086). This last photograph, a single full frontal image, registered as No. 503, was taken at the Hobart Gaol on James Connolly’s transfer to the New Town Invalid Depot in July 1895. A short hand-written record of his criminal history was pasted over a duplicate of the first sheet.

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

Michael Charlton 1901
This record gives a registration number for the photograph – “B1″. Prisoner Michael Charlton was convicted at the Police Office Hobart on 21st December 1900 and discharged on 5th January 1901, serving a sentence of three weeks at the Hobart Gaol for “obtaining passage by sea” which presumably meant he was caught as a stowaway. The two photographs, one full frontal, and one profile, were taken according to the Bertillon method in the same sitting on conviction at the Police Office, and printed with the date of the sitting “21-12-00″ across the bottom of the photograph in profile. Extensively torn from use, and rotted from poor storage, the book was salvaged  from the Hobart Gaol, transferred to the Archives Office Tasmania in the 1950s. This buff coloured page was pasted onto the blue criminal record form used by the gaol, visible at the torn edges.

Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

These mugshot books are held at the State Library and Archives Office of Tasmania.

Series Number: GD67
Start Date: 01 Jan 1860
End Date: 31 Dec 1936
Date Range of Holdings:
01 Jan 1860 to 31 Dec 1901
01 Jan 1934 to 31 Dec 1936
Access: Open
Creating Agency:
• TA31 GAOL (BRANCH) 01 Jan 1823 31 Dec 1936
• TA32 GAOL DEPARTMENT 01 Jan 1936 31 Dec 1959
Description (Content/Function):
Name, ship, trade, height, age, complexion, head, hair, whiskers, visage, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, native place; remarks: sometimes include – civil condition, clothing, family, offence, sentence, photograph.

System of Arrangement:
The relationship of these volumes to each other is somewhat obscure. There is considerable date overlap and some people are included in more than one volume. Each volume is arranged roughly chronologically. The situation is further confused by the fact that some volumes have been indexed at a later date and marked ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ etc,. not all of these indexed volumes have survived. There is no indication as to why some were indexed and others not, as what differences there are between volumes which have been indexed are also apparent between some of those which have not been indexed. Indexed volumes are: c.1860-74 ‘A’ GD67/1, 1862-66 ‘B’ GD67/2, 1866-70 ‘C’ GD67/4, 1870-77 ‘D’ GD 67/5, c1874-86 ‘E’ GD 67/7, c1884-91 ‘G’ GD67/8, c1892-97 ‘H’ GD 67/11, c1897-1901 ‘I’ GD 67/12, c1934-36 ‘L’ GD67/13 contained in (the back) GD67/7. Generally the same format as CON18.

Information Sources:
Controlling Series:
Related Series:
Items in Series:
• GD67/1/1 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/2 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/3 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/4 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/5 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/6 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/7 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/8 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/9 Physical description of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/10 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/11 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/12 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
• GD67/1/13 Physical descrption of prisoners received 01 Jan 1860 31 Dec 1936
© State of Tasmania, Archives Office of Tasmania 2006

Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

Categories: 19th Century Prison Photography, Archives Office Tasmania, Hobart Gaol, Police mugshots by Nevin | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nevin’s photographs at the Art Gallery NSW exhibition 2015


Stereograph by Thomas J Nevin bottom of page 270
Catalogue for the exhibition The Photograph and Australia, Judith Annear (ed)
Art Gallery of NSW, 21 March – 8 June 2015.
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

The Stereograph
Of the many dozens of stereographs taken by Thomas J. Nevin in the late 1860s which are held in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collections, this particular one was chosen for display at The Photograph and Australia exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, 21 March – 8 June 2015.

The Exhibition catalogue on page 296 lists the stereograph with these details:

“Thomas J Nevin
Elizabeth St 1860s
7.3 x 7 cm (each)
8.5 x 17.4 cm (card)
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

The old TMAG database (online until 2006) listed this stereograph with these details:

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Ref: Q1994.56.12
Sepia stereoscope salt paper print
T . Nevin [Artist] 1860s late
Hobart from near 140 Elizabeth Street on corner Patrick ? Street.
Nevin & Smith photographic Studio in buildings on extreme right [refer also to Q1994.56.33]
Impress on front: T Nevin/ photo

The reference to another stereograph of a similar view in the old TMAG database entry (above) is to this one, Q1994.56.33, (below) which depicts the same line of buildings, including Thomas Nevin’s studio located at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, just “three doors from Patrick Street” according to press advertisements by the studio’s former operator until 1867, Alfred Bock. The studio at No. 140 with the business name of The City Photographic Establishment and the shop and residence were separated by an entrance leading to the glasshouse at No. 138½, visible in both captures this side of the pavement overhang as the street begins its descent to the wharves.

This stereograph (below) was taken at a different time from the one displayed at the AGNSW, and possibly taken with a different stereoscopic camera. The horse and cart, the man in a light suit standing next to a lamp post on the corner of Patrick and Elizabeth Street, and the side of the building partially displaying the merchant’s name “Lovell (?) ” who sold pianos – all are missing – yet this second capture adds no more to the line of buildings on the other side of the street than the one above, despite being photographed from a greater distance. Both stereographs were framed in an arched buff mount.

This second stereograph was not stamped by Nevin, unlike the one above which carries his blindstamp impress lower centre between the two images. The stamping of one, and not the other of a similar set-up, appears to have been his common practice. When Nevin took two or more photographs depicting similar scenes, he stamped one either recto or verso, and left the second one blank. Compare this pair of two slightly different stereographs of Elizabeth Street with his pair of  two slightly different stereographs of visitors/surveyors to the Salt Caves at Victoria, Huon Valley.

The reasons behind this practice may vary from experimentation with one, so no need for a stamp, and satisfaction with the other according to the client who commissioned it on commercial terms, hence the stamp. Further copies of the same photograph or those of similar subjects were included as a further possibility for the same commission fee. One stamped photograph per batch of 100 or per a yearly fee was required by photographers to register copyright of a particular trademark with the Office of the Registrar of Patents, Customs House, Hobart. Tasmanian photographers’ copyright of their work was regulated by the Registration of Trade Marks Act 28, No. 6, Victoria, from 1864. Only two copies of their trade mark, applied to the “goods” they were intended to protect were required to be deposited with the Registrar. The applicant was issued with a one year Provisional Certificate, and if no objection was raised, the copyright endured absolute for a period of 14 years. Nevin registered copyright of at least six commercial trademarks and at least one of his trademarks, registered under colonial warrant and featuring the Supreme Court’s Royal Arms insignia, was held jointly when commissioned by the Hobart City Council. This pair of slightly different stereographs of the same scene taken at different times, like those taken at the Salt Caves, are most likely estrays from the Lands and Survey Department, supplied at the request of  James Erskine Calder, Surveyor-General.

Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1868
140 Elizabeth St. Hobart showing Nevin’s studio, formerly Alfred Bock’s, “three doors from Patrick St.”
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Ref: Q1994.56.33.
Photo taken at TMAG 10th November 2014
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Verso: Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1868
140 Elizabeth St. Hobart showing Nevin’s studio, formerly Alfred Bock’s, “three doors from Patrick St.”
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Ref: Q1994.56.33.
Photo taken at TMAG 10th November 2014
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

The Mugshot
One reviewer of the exhibition The Photograph and Australia has noted the lack of mugshots apart from Ned Kelly’s rap sheet bearing two photographs. Others which were included were not identified as such. This vignette by Thomas Nevin of William Russell, who was imprisoned for two months in 1882, is a case in point, despite the fact that the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery submitted it as a prisoner mugshot with the detail of Russell’s prison sentence written on the verso, albeit unattributed.

Wm Russell prisoner

Exhibited at the AGNSW 2015

Details per page 299 of Catalogue, The Photograph and Australia

“William Rusille (?) /native/free (?) /2 months c 1874
10.3 x 6.3 cm (card)
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

The AGNSW exhibitors have transcribed information from barely legible details on the verso of this photograph, but added the date “1874” through a common misconception. The date “1874” ascribed to this photograph is an error. It is a date which has been routinely applied to all carte-de-visite mounted photographs of Tasmanian prisoners/convicts held in public collections when nothing is known of the prisoner’s history at the time the photograph was taken. It is an error caused by an early 20th century exhibitor who wrote “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” across the versos of the extant 300 or so cdvs of “convicts” purely in the interests of government-sponsored penal heritage tourism in the 1920s to coincide with the making of the film For The Term of His Natural Life, based on Marcus Clarke’s 1874 novel..

This prisoner, Willliam Russell, was photographed once on incarceration in February 1882 at the Hobart Gaol. He was tried at Hobart on 17th February 1882 for unlawfully beating, sentenced to two months, and discharged on 19th April 1882. He was listed as Free, born in Tasmania ca. 1856, and bearing an unusual tattoo on his upper right arm: “EYGM”. The police gazette* record of his age and height was corrected a week later on 28th April 1882.

This photograph, the booking shot, which was printed first as a vignette (cloudy background), was reprinted in an oval mount two month’s later, in April 1882, when William Russell was discharged. For such a short sentence of two months, when the prisoner’s physical appearance is unlikely to have changed, a reprint of the booking shot rather than a new photograph seems to have satisfied police requirements. The unusual feature of this photograph and many others printed for gaol records right up to the last of Thomas Nevin’s involvement with prisoner identification photography in 1888 is the use of an oval mount typical of his earlier commercial practice. Only the full frontal gaze had changed from the earlier pose with the prisoner’s eyelines deflected to left or right of the frame.,
Taken by Constable John Nevin and Thomas J. Nevin, February 1882, Hobart Gaol.


*Source: Tasmania Reports of Crimes Information for Police, J. Barnard, Gov’t Printer.

Categories: 19th Century Prison Photography, Art Gallery NSW, Exhibitions and Publications, Hobart Gaol, Police mugshots by Nevin, Police Records, Stereographs, TMAG | Tags: , , , ,

ANZAC 1915-2015

Great-grand-daughter of photographer Thomas J. Nevin and Elizabeth Rachel Day, Di Drew, directed this episode of the Australian TV series 1915 in 1982.

Episode 1, Disc 2, “Soldiers of the King” (1982)
Extract from Disc 2, ABC DVD 2005
Di Drew, the director of this episode

Visit Di Drew’s home page: 1915 gallery

Categories: Descendants and In-Laws, Videos | Tags: ,

Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

Understandable, it seems, that a commercially produced photograph in 1860s-1870s Tasmania would show some sort of colouring to enhance its decorative or sentimental appeal, especially if the narrative suggested by the photograph was the civilizing of Tasmanian Aborigines who were thought to be near extinction by the last few decades of the 19th century, and that the photographic studio renowned for bold artistic experimentations with colouring was Friths on Murray Street, Hobart. Less understandable is the hand-tinting of photographs of prisoners – or “Convict Portraits” as they became known – taken expressly for police use as gaol records, unless, of course, the photographic studio engaged for the purpose of providing those mugshots was operated by Thomas J. Nevin, on Elizabeth Street, Hobart.

While civil servant and police photographer Thomas Nevin was so well-known for his hand-tinted photographs that he was taunted with derogatory remarks about his “ornaments of colour” when questioned by the Mayor in a police committee meeting in December 1880, the hand-tinting of these two extant prints of Tasmanian Aborigines (below) of photographs attributed to Henry Frith taken in 1864 is unlikely to be the work of his colleague Letitia Davidson, described in the press as a “portrait painter” who departed Tasmania in 1867. The hand-tinting on these two examples was applied by later copyists at Hobart studios in the 1870s.

Friths Studio 1864
The original session in which these two photographs were taken of the same four sitters, Tasmanian Aboriginal people identified by Julie Gough (see below, 2014) as William Lanne (male, seated), Mary Ann (standing), Trucanini (on viewer’s right) and Pangernowidedic (on viewer’s left) is dated 1864 and widely credited to the studio of Henry Albert Frith of 19 Murray Street, Hobart. The original photographs were mass produced over the next 40 years in various formats, as a large albumen silver photograph (NGA), as a sennotype, as a lantern slide, and as a plain mounted rectangular carte-de-visite. The originals were taken separately at Government House on the same day with minor changes in seating arrangements. Both of these reproductions were hand-tinted after printing at dates later than the 1864 original sitting, These two images were not processed as sennotypes of the 1860s for which both Henry Frith and Alfred Bock were renowned exponents, nor were they reproduced in the genre of photographic portraits painted over in oils which were much sought after in the 1890s. These reproductions were delicately tinted by studio colourists in the 1870s, using three colours: blue, yellow, and rose, typically applied to some feature of apparel and to some facial features. This palette and application to prints is typically found on Nevin’s portraiture of family, clients, and convicts.

Henry Frith’s advertisement: 
Photographs of the Last of the Aborigines of Tasmania. 
Copies of the Original Picture Photographed for the Government
Source: Advertising. (1865, October 7). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved May 7, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8835349

This first reproduction was obtained by Sir George Grey (1812-1898), Governor of New Zealand, probably ca. 1882 through requests in letters (Auckland PL manuscripts) made to the former Tasmanian Surveyor-General James Erskine Calder for long-neglected Tasmaniana. Calder sourced books mainly from bookseller William Legrand and photographs from John Watt Beattie whose major source of early Tasmanian photographers’ work for his own commercial reproduction from the 1890s onwards was the Royal Society’s Museum. This one sent to Grey was not a late Beattie reproduction; it was an older reproduction, a hand-tinted copy from the 1870s already held by the Museum when it was sourced and sent to Grey in New Zealand, and which he shortly afterwards donated to the Auckland Art Gallery in 1893. The second hand-tinted cdv reproduction (below) is dated ca. 1875 by (Prof) Jane Lennon, antiques dealer.

Auckland Art Gallery
Title: The Last of the Native Race of Tasmania
Production Date:
Medium: black and white photograph, hand coloured
Size (hxw): 200 x 170 mm
Credit Line: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Sir George Grey,1893
Accession No: 1893/2 Other ID: 1893/2/A

This second hand-tinted reproduction (below) was dated ca. 1875 by Jane Lennon when John Hawkins published it in 2008. Hawkins notes the seating re-arrangement but not the fact that the balustrades on the upper internal balcony on either side of the sitters are more visible, while the tops of the columns are not. This may be another photographer’s negative, perhaps one taken by someone working with Frith, Letitia Davidson, for example, who may have been present on the occasion, which was the annual Ball held at Government House in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday (May 27th). The print is not as carefully reproduced as the one above, and the hand-tinting differs slightly as well. Any number of studios in the 1870s might have reproduced this less formally represented photograph.

The note to this print dates it as ca. 1875 (Plate 13: Hawkins 2008)

[Source]: John Hawkins, A Suggested History of Tasmanian Aboriginal Kangaroo Skin or Sinew, Human Bone, Shell, Feather, Apple Seed & Wombat Necklaces
Published Australiana, November 2008 Vol. 30 No. 4
Note to this photograph (Plate 13: Hawkins 2008)
“Courtesy Jane Lennon Antiques, Hobart,”

The 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition
Julie Gough on pages 45 and 46 of of her chapter titled “The First Photographs of Tasmanian Aboriginal People” in Calling the shots: Indigenous photographies edited by Jane Lydon (2014), suggests that Henry Frith’s assistant, Letitia Davidson took this photograph of two women (below) at Oyster Cove, one of a collection held at the State library of NSW with attribution to Francis Russell Nixon, dated 1858 (reproduced by Beattie 1890, 1899).

Above: Julie Gough’s attribution of this photograph to Letitia Davidson (2014:46). 

Several factors mitigate against this re-attribution to Letitia Davidson. Firstly, although the photograph was reprinted by Beattie in the 1890s, only minor changes to the mount were made from the original which was likely to have belonged to the series published by Bishop Francis Russell Nixon in the 1854 copy of his book, Cruise of the Beacon, which gives an account of his trip around the islands of Bass Strait (digitised at http://stors.tas.gov.au/AUTAS001131821795.) None of the photographs in Nixon’s 1854 edition nor identical images from that edition which Beattie reproduced in the 1890s were hand-tinted, yet Letitia Davidson’s tender for the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition specified her intentions to provide five “large colored pictures

 Miss Davidson (Frith and Co.), 5 large colored
pictures, £8 each, and to pay her own expenses
to Oyster Cove.

Source: INTERCOLONIAL EXHIBITION. (1866, June 6). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8839726

These are Beattie’s reproductions (above) from the 1890s (SLNSW) of the originals (below) which were published in Nixon’s Cruise of the Beacon in 1854 (TAHO) and not in 1858, nor indeed for the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition. None is hand-tinted. Furthermore, the way Nixon has contextualised these originals in the Cruise of the Beacon, which is by way of a subjoined lengthy quotation from the Oyster Cove superintendent, Dr. Milligan, might suggest that Nixon was not even the original photographer, since he does not openly claim to be so anywhere in the text. Another photographer of the 1850s cohort may well have taken these originals for Dr Milligan prior to their publication in London by Nixon in 1854. The watercolour and pen illustrations are by Nixon, as the handwritten dedication to his wife A.M. states, and those illustrations are indexed with page numbers in the frontispiece, but the photographs have no page listings or indexed titles.

[Above]: The originals, published in the 1854 edition of Francis Russell Nixon’s Cruise of the Beacon, London: printed by Richard Clay, Bread Street Hill.

Julie Gough has chosen this photograph of two Aboriginal women sitting together, held at the State Library of NSW, conventionally attributed to Bishop Nixon (dated 1858, reproduced by J. W. Beattie (1890s), as Mrs Davidson’s work, which is catalogued as “2. … Wapperty, Bessy Clarke” at PXD 571 – Digital Order Number: a1897002.  She presumes Mrs Davidson visited Oyster Cove to take the photograph:

“Mrs Davidson was the sister of Henry Albert Frith, and his photographic hand colourist. One of Frith’s last Hobart commissions was his famous August 1864 sennotype of William Lanne, Mary Ann, Trucanini and Pangernowidedic at Government House, which was mass produced and also popular as a glass lantern slide. When Frith departed Hobart soon after, it was his sister,  Davidson, who applied to the Royal Society, along with with Samuel Clifford, Charles Woolley and Alfred Bock, to be commissioned to make photographs of the Tasmanian Aborigines (by which was meant those living at Oyster Cove) for the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne. Charles Woolley was awarded the commission, given his influential connections [footnote 74]. The other applicants planned to visit Oyster Cove to take their photographs, whereas Woolley’s resultant early examples of anthropological photography were indoor studio works [footnote75]. Davidson, it is presumed, not to be deterred, did visit Oyster Cove and made photographs that were exhibited along with Woolley’s in Melbourne [footnote 76].”

Source: Calling the Shots at Google books

The basis for Julie Gough’s attribution of this photograph of two Aboriginal women to Mrs Davidson, Murray Street, Hobart is this entry on the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition Catalogue (above, p.83, State Library of Victoria; also on p. 87 in this version) which lists Mrs Davidson’s exhibit as:

714~Davidson, Mrs., Murray-st., Hobart Town.—Photographs of two Aboriginal women

Yet this entry in the 1866 Exhibition catalogue is somewhat ambiguous: it implies that Mrs Davidson exhibited not one but several photographs of two women, and does not state whether the two women were photographed as a couple in a single portrait, or whether there were several versions of this couple photographed together, or whether these two women were each photographed individually. More importantly, it does not state whether the photographs were hand-coloured, as was her intention when she submitted her tender, published in The Mercury on June 6th, 1866. Did she exhibit the five photographs she had planned? Apart from these vagaries, there is the question too about Letitia Davidson’s identity. Twice in the press she was referred to as “Miss Davidson”, as in the notice above of June 6th 1866, and again in April 1867 when she advertised the sale of photographica and furniture at the shop, 19 Murray St. prior to departure from Tasmania in May 1867. “Davidson” may have been her maiden name. Those who referred to her as “Mrs Davidson” may have extended her a simple courtesy shown to unmarried older women. On the other hand, some photo historians assumed she was the sister of the brothers Frederick and Henry Firth, repeated here by Julie Gough. If so, who and where was Mr Davidson?  Was he James William Davidson who married a Letitia Frith at Edinburgh on 11th February 1845? Was he the surveyor working in Hobart in the 1860s?

Letitia Davidson’s dagueurreotypes have yet to be identified, as well.

Mrs Davidson was a “portrait painter” at Murray St Hobart by 1861, according to the newspaper report of a theft from her shop of a daquerreotype by a woman called Mary Hughes (Mercury, 9 April 1861). Julie Gough has designated Mrs Davidson’s role that of  a “colourist”  and not a “portrait painter” . The latter occupation involved a good deal more than the hand-tinting of facial features and items of clothing on prints in the years when the sennotype was a patented and complex format much sought out by the clients at Mrs Davidson’s studio, 1864-65, established with the Frith brothers. However, the portrait of two Aboriginal women chosen for re-attribution to Mrs Davidson is not hand-coloured, so the occupational term “colourist” applied to this appellate case contradicts or undermines an otherwise sincere attempt at re-attribution in our era when so few photographs taken by women in the mid 19th century have survived or been identified as such.

So, what did the Jurors of the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia, Melbourne think of photographs “touched” with colour, and who won medals? They ranked tinted and coloured photographs as second class. It might well have been the case that Letitia Davidson’s photographs of two Aboriginal women were tinted or colored as she had stated in her tender but are not known to exist or identified at this point in time, and she forfeited consideration as a result. The usual Tasmanian photographers of the mid 1860s won medals: Morton Allport, William Cawston, Henry Hall Bailey [sic], Samuel Clifford, Stephen Spurling, and Charles A. Woolley for his Aboriginal portraits.


“The Jurors regret that so large a proportion of the exhibits are ‘touched’, the merit being divided between the photographer and the artist. Admitting that many of the tinted and coloured photographs are entitled to much commendation, the Jurors are of the opinion that the purely untouched specimens should stand first in the order of desert.”

The catalogue on pps 350-351.

Researchers Davies & Stanbury listed Mrs Davidson as a photographer in Hobart 1862-1867 and Melbourne 1869-1870. The general consensus in the 1990s from photohistorians was that none of Mrs Davidson’s works are extant. Clearly, more research is needed, especially as Mrs Davidson was publicly acknowledged in 1861 as a portrait painter whose daguerreotypes were available at her shop in Murray Street.

Letitia Davidson, the daguerreotype and Mary Hughes
Prosecutrix Letitia Davidson, portrait painter, Murray St. Hobart, had not even noticed a daguerreotype was missing from the counter in the shop and studio she operated with brothers Frederick and Henry Frith until it was brought back to her for identification by Detective Macguire. Despite the return of the daguerreotype, hardly missed in any event, and despite knowing that the offender Mary Hughes was an elderly  beggar from an earlier encounter at her house, Mrs Davidson somewhat heartlessly prosecuted the case, resulting in a three month sentence with hard labour for Mary Hughes.

Mary Hughes remanded on a charge of stealing a daguerreotype portrait, the property of Letitia Davidson.

The Mercury 9 April 1861

Mary Hughes had tried pawning the daguerreotype but the pawnbroker Mrs S. W. Roberts retained it and notified police, resulting in three months’ imprisonment with hard labor for this theft from Mrs Davidson (The Mercury 10 April 1861). Mary Hughes was repeatedly imprisoned for begging, the last recorded sentence being 1868.

Mary Hughes, transported on the convict ship Westmoreland, tried in the Supreme Court Hobart on 31st January 1868, born in England, aged 70 yrs old, height 4’10”. grey hair, Free in Servitude, was discharged from the Hobart Gaol on 29th April 1868, having served a three month sentence for begging.

Thomas Nevin’s coloured convict portraits
Vignetted portraits of Tasmanian convicts from the 1870s-1880s are relatively rare, and hand-tinted portraits even more remarkable, given the photographs were taken for daily use by police in the course of surveillance, detection and arrest.

Prisoners John Britton or Brittain (No. 417) and David Clark (No. 421)
Absconders detained as “paupers” at the Invalid Depots, Hobart, Tasmania 
Hand-tinted photographs by Thomas J. Nevin 1874-1879.
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014

CAUTION: These photographs are all WATERMARKED

Verso: Prisoners John Britton or Brittain (No. 417) and David Clark (No. 421)
Absconders detained as “paupers” at the Invalid Depots, Hobart, Tasmania 
Hand-tinted photographs by Thomas J. Nevin 1874-1879.
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014u

These two carte-de-visite prisoner identification photogaphs (portraits or mugshots) were taken and printed by commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1874 for the Municipal Police Office registry, Hobart Town Hall, while he was still operating from his studio, the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart. Nevin and his assistants took some time over these two prisoner photographs, printing them as vignettes (cloudy background) and hand-tinting the prison-issue, check-patterned scarf in light blue to better identify the sitter as a prisoner. At least five more of these hand-tinted prisoner photographs by Nevin are held in public institutions (see more below from the NLA, TMAG, and SLNSW).

Someone removed these two originals from the prisoner’s criminal record sheet at an unknown date. The versos show a strong fabric weave, suggesting the photographs were originally pasted to parchment, as some were. For example, Nevin’s photograph of prisoner Allan Williamson on display at the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site, was attached to Williamson’s original parchment rap sheet. Hundreds of these 1870s mugshots in national collections were removed in similar manner and for at least three reasons: an attempt to destroy any association with convict ancestry by the living, especially photographic records; salvage for commercial exploitation to encourage tourism by selling or displaying single items in private and public museums (1890s and 1930s ); or simply because of deterioration in poor storage conditions (1950s, Hobart Gaol.)

Parchment rots and stinks when damp and poorly stored. The Sheriff’s Office at the Hobart Gaol handed over bundles of rotting prison records to the Archives Office of Tasmania in 1955, some from the Benevolent society. Estrays which had been salvaged by government photographer John Beattie from the Hobart Gaol photographer’s room above the laundry before it was demolished in 1915, were displayed in his “Port Arthur” convictaria museum in Hobart, and bequeathed to the Launceston City and QVMAG on his death in 1930. Others were privately collected by David Scott Mitchell at the State Library of NSW (1907), and Dr Neil Gunson, National Library, Canberra (1964). or auctioned off, at least from the late 1890s to the 1960s. A selection of the extant 300 or so at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston were exhibited as Thomas J. Nevin’s prison photography in 1977. A hundred or more prisoner photographs from Beattie’s collection were thereafter dispersed piecemeal to national and state libraries and museums.

A significant number of Nevin’s duplicates of his originals, and there were at least four made from every negative, were stand-alone cartes-de-visite, often the result of producing more from the same negative when the offender committed or was suspected of further crimes. Despite their long journey from Nevin’s hand in the 1870s to the present day, these two prisoner photographs representing John Britton and David Clark have retained a certain delicacy and freshness which must have stirred an aesthetic appreciation in the depositor at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. But are they objets-d’art or are they vernacular records? Thomas J. Nevin was mocked for his photographic “ornaments of colour” by the representative defending two police constables at the Mayor’s Court meeting of the Police Committee. That meeting effected his removal from full-time civil service with the Hobart City Corporation on a trumped-up charge on December 3rd, 1880. His detractors had these two and the other tinted prisoner mugshots in mind: ornaments such as these were judged all too inappropriate for representing the likeness of common criminals.

Prisoner John Britton or Brittain
This vignetted carte-de-visite prisoner identification photograph of a “pauper” was taken of John Britton, as he was known to the police in 1879, but he was transported to VDL (Tasmania) in 1842 as John Brittain on board the Candahar. He was 26 yrs old when he arrived in VDL 1842, born ca.1816 and by 1874 when this photograph was taken, he was ca. 58 yrs old.

Prisoner John Britton, transported per the Candahar (1842)
Detained at the Brickfields Depot for Paupers for 4 yrs (1874-1879)
Prisoner number 26 (1874) and number 417 (1879), Absconded in government clothing
Discharged from the Brickfields Depot for Paupers 25 November 1879

Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014


Archives Office Tasmania
Name: Brittain, John
Record Type: Convicts
Arrival date: 21 Jul 1842
Departure date: 2 Apr 1842
Departure port: Spithead
Ship: Candahar
Voyage number: 194
Index number: 7367
Document ID:
Conduct Record CON33/1/23
Description List CON18/1/31 Page 163
Indent CON14/1/14
Muster RollCON 28/1/1

Prisoner David Clark

Absconder from Brickfields
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014

The Returns of Paupers in the Police Gazettes assign a number to the Brickfields Depot and to the Cascades Depot inmates, and some but not others to the inmates at the Invalid Depot, New Town which was close by to Nevin’s photographic studio established by 1864 at New Town and maintained until 1888 concurrently with his City studio. This inmate was not to be found in the Police Gazette records with the number assigned by Authority (No. 421) written on the back of his photograph, so he may have been photographed by Nevin at the New Town depot. The similiarities between the two photographs, however, suggest a common place of capture and the same photographer and colourist, so Britain’s mugshot taken at Brickfields (North Hobart depot) seems to be the common place for both photographic captures.

The second problem – apart from not locating his name in the Police Gazettes with his number 421 – nor identifying him from Returns of convictions and discharges recorded in the police gazettes 1866-1885, is the possibility that he was transported on the ship David Clarke, rather than being a man called David Clark, although there are many convicts called David Clark(e) who might fit his description.

Absconders from Invalid Depot, Cascades 1879

More examples by Nevin
These are more examples of hand-tinted photographs of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s-1880s by T. Nevin held at the National Library of Australia and the State Library of NSW:

Detail of the tinted photograph (below on right) of prisoner Walter Johnstone aka Henry Bramall
NLA Catalogue  nla.pic-vn4270027.
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR. Watermarked.

Johnstone aka Bramall or Taylor absconded, reported February 6, 1874
Source: Tasmania Reports on Crime for Police Information

Walter Johnstone aka Henry Bramall aka Taylor
NLA Collection  nla.pic-vn4270027
Vignette on left, not tinted but mounted, and hand-tinted mounted cdv 
Original prisoner mugshots by T. J. Nevin 1874
Photos recto and verso taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR. Watermarked.

William Campbell, hanged as Job Smith 1875 
NLA Collection nla.pic-vn4270353
Hand-tinted vignetted and mounted prisoner portrait by T.J. Nevin 1874
Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR. Watermarked.

The Death Warrant for James Sutherland, 23rd May 1883
Hand-tinted mounted cdv by Thomas J. Nevin 1880s
Mitchell Library SLNSW
Tasmania. Supreme Court – Death warrants and related papers, 1818-1884
Mitchell Bequest, 1907
Call Number C 202 – C 203
Taken at the State Library NSW
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009 ARR

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Categories: 19th Century Prison Photography, Exhibitions and Publications, Mitchell Library NSW, National Library of Australia, Police mugshots by Nevin, Police Records, TMAG | Tags: , , , , , ,

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