The Archives Office of Tasmania has digitized and displayed online 92 carte-de-visite photographs of Tasmanian convicts. All are captioned “Photograph taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin” and some are dated 1874 or earlier. Few were taken at Port Arthur, and many were taken over a period of years in the 1870s-1880s. The date and place of the AOT caption reflects an error made by an archivist, possibly in the early 1900s; the photographer attribution to Nevin, however, is correct.
The Colonial Government of Tasmania had adopted the practice of taking identification photographs and establishing an Habitual Criminals Register or Rogue’s Gallery in 1872 from precedents set by the British Prevention of Crimes Act of 1871. The extant photographs are “booking photographs” or “mugshots” taken of men who were arrested, arraigned, sentenced, reconvicted and/or discharged during the 1870s and early 1880s. For the most part they were recidivists, habitual criminals and repeat offenders. Thomas Nevin took the majority of these photographs at the Municipal Police Office (PO on records) at the Hobart Town Hall and at the Supreme Court and Hobart Town Gaol. The AOT records were acquired in the 1950s – minus these 1870s-1880s photographs which John Watt Beattie salvaged for reproduction and for sale to tourists – from records originally held at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office and from records held at the Sheriff’s Office, Hobart Gaol. He deposited his collection finally with the Launceston Municipal Council and the QV Museum.
The weekly police gazettes detailing the records of the men, their age, appearance and sentencing were called (until 1884) Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police, James Barnard Government Printer. The original prisoner ID cartes – Nevin made at least four from each negative – were pasted to the criminal’s record sheet, collated with police records for the police gazette, pasted into the police registers, and circulated to other prisons and regional police stations on the prisoner’s discharge.
Here are two examples of Nevin’s photographs of prisoners and their records from the police gazettes chosen at random which detail the exact time and place of the photograph:
1. Charles Steventon was convicted of larceny and photographed by Nevin at the Police Office Hobart on January 4th, 1873.
Steventon was discharged to Hobart on 27th July 1872
Record of Steventon’s sentence tabled in Parliament 9th June 1873
Steventon convicted at Hobart on 4th January 1873
Click on images for readable version
Steventon was discharged from Hobart Town on 4th November 1874. He may have been photographed again on this date.
2. Charles Brown, 22 years old, aka William Forster, wanted for absconding, was photographed by Nevin when Brown surrendered himself to the Hobart Gaol and charged on January 9th, 1874. See this article here about mismatched records.
|From Archives Office of Tasmania convicts|
Charles Brown surrendered himself to the Hobart Gaol, 9th January 1874.
Current estimates at April 2009 of the total number of Tasmanian prisoner photographs still extant in various formats produced from Nevin’s original glass negatives as prints, as vignetted cartes-de-visite, as duplicates or as copies in public collections, several of which bear verso the government printer’s Royal Arms seal and Nevin’s name, are as follows:
Archives Office of Tasmania holds 92
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery holds 112
National Library of Australia holds 84
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holds 58
Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site holds 3
Port Arthur Historic Site holds a few reproduced as tourist postcards
The Mitchell Library State Library NSW holds 11
Private collectors have indicated 15
Several of these items are duplicates made by Nevin at the time of photographic capture from his glass negatives; copies were made and circulated to other public collections from the QVMAG collection in 1958, 1977, 1982, 1985, 1991 and more recently for online display at the AOT as well as at the TMAG, QVMAG and NLA. As several images of the same man are extant, some with aliases, the number of actual number of convicts represented is difficult to determine. More are being discovered in archives or donated by the public on a regular basis. The numbers appearing on recto or verso of the cartes held in various public collections range from 1 to 316. Some cartes of two different men bear the same number, eg. the number 3 appears on Moran’s carte at the NLA, and on Tuck’s carte at the QVMAG and AOT.
|Webshots of Nevin’s convicts at Archives Tasmania|
Visit the Archives Office of Tasmania and enter “Nevin” in the Description box.