From glass negative to printed carte:
Thomas Nevin’s capture of convict Tuck, but was it BEWLEY TUCK or JOHN TUCK?
One man, two names, one image.
In addition to the photograph of Bewley Tuck, the Archives Office of Tasmania holds two relevant convict records :
04 Aug 1831
18 Mar 1831
16 May 1833
13 Dec 1832
Two versions exist of the one photograph taken of a convict who was labelled JOHN TUCK on a glass negative, or a lantern slide reproduction print from Nevin’s original glass plate, and BEWLEY TUCK on a carte-de-visite.
Were they one and the same person, or two different men? The Archives Office of Tasmania holds a record for each name, with different transportation dates and physical descriptions, so they must have been two different men, so why is there just one image of the same man, identified as John Tuck on a glass negative, and Bewley Tuck on the carte printed from the negative?
The image of the man himself on the glass negative of John Tuck is the original photograph taken by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in the week ending May, 1875, the date of Bewley Tuck’s discharge.
Although the artefact pictured here, i.e. the item held now in a public collection is catalogued as the 1870s original, it may in fact be a later reproduction of Nevin’s 1875 glass negative, developed again as a lantern slide by John Watt Beattie in the 1900s for use in his lectures on Tasmanian history. Images of Tasmanian convicts were also used in lectures on physiognomy delivered by a phrenologist, Mr Sheridan. The Mercury reported his lecture on 30 March 1892 had focused on the criminal type, classifications within the type, and the use of composite photography in phrenology.
There were two great types of criminals-the normal criminal, as already mentioned, and the epileptic.
Mr Sheridan on the criminal type portrayed by phrenology
The Mercury 30 March 1892
If Beattie had made a new lantern slide from the negative of Nevin’s original, this may account for the name “John Tuck” appearing on one side of the frame, and another name scratched out appearing on the other side. It is likely therefore to be an error by later copyists such as Beattie and Searle ca. 1917, who reproduced these convict images as “Types of Convicts – Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur“, to be sold as tourist tokens in Beattie’s convictaria shop and museum. A few dozen more of these later lantern slide reproductions are held at the NLA (prisoners Rosetta, Meaghers, Lee, attributed to Beattie & Searle ca. 1916) and at QVMAG which holds 30 or so prints from the Beattie negatives, together with the vignettes, mostly of the same prisoner. This print of Tuck is held at the TMAG.
Thomas Nevin photographed absconders, arrests, and discharges on a weekly basis at the Hobart Gaol. When he photographed this man in May 1875, Tuck was known to his gaolers only as Bewley Tuck. His name appeared only once in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania -Reports of Crime for Police Information, between 1871 and 1875, and that one occasion was his discharge.
The weekly police gazette, Tasmania -Reports of Crime for Police Information
Nevin photographed Tuck once, and once only, and reprinted the carte from his negative for pasting onto the convict’s record sheet for future police reference, should Tuck fall under suspicion for another offence. The image printed as a vignette was a standard police record photo, small enough to fit onto the parchment record with room for written details.
It’s up to the reader to decide which physical description of the two men fits the image, keeping in mind that these convict records are transportation records written in the 1830s, and the photograph by Nevin was taken in 1875. That is a difference of over 40 years, and both of the written records indicate that John Tuck and Bewley Tuck were 18 years old when transported. The discharge details for Bewley Tuck in 1875 give his age at 65 yrs, and an anchor tattoo on back of left hand.
The “punctum” – the detail that grabs the eye – and informs a viewer’s interpretation, may be in the image itself, or in the written description, for example, the “long scar below left cheek bone” in John Tuck’s record. In the negative image, it’s below the right cheek bone, or is it?
The glass negative with “John Tuck” written down the right side.
What has been scratched out on the left?
The carte on the left bears the number “3″. Its mirror version on the right shows the image as it appeared on the original negative. The mirror version, straightened, shows that there was just one image of this man, captured first on glass, then printed as vignetted carte.
Verso and recto of same image in vignette format in the QVMAG database. Notice that it is number 3 in the series copied at the QVMAG ca. 1985 for distribution to other public institutions (AOT, NLA, TMAG): the first, number 1 being of prisoner Nutt aka White, and number 2 being Wm Yeomans (also at NLA as a vignette). None of these first three cartes copied from the QVMAG Beattie collections, from which Nevin’s 1870s original negatives and vignetted duplicates were drawn, has the inscriptions on verso “Taken at Port Arthur”. See this article here: Aliases, Copies and Misattribution.
RECORDS for BEWLEY TUCK
Convict No: 71572
SEE Given Names:
Voyage Ship: Lotus
Voyage No: 104
Arrival Date: 16 May 1833
Departure Date: 13 Dec 1832
Departure Port: Portsmouth
Conduct Record: CON94/1/ p202, CON31/1/43, CON37/1/9 p5285
Appropriation List: CON27/1/6, CSO1/1/652 14642, MM33/6
Description List: CON18/1/13 p107
Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-13 Image 57
Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON31-1-43 image 98
RECORDS for JOHN TUCK
AOT: Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Digital image no. 50
Convict No: 71580
SEE Given Names:
Voyage Ship: Argyle
Voyage No: 87
Arrival Date: 04 Aug 1831
Departure Date: 18 Mar 1831
Departure Port: Plymouth
Conduct Record: CON31/1/43
Appropriation List: CON27/1/5, MM33/6
Description List: CON18/1/3 p90
Bewley Tuck in the news 2001
27 Jan 2001
The journey south from Hobart to the peninsula is beautiful. Winding through lush agricultural land, with the gum trees pushed back to the wilderness of the mountains, the road passes through a replica of Constable’s English countryside, all hay bales and picture-perfect dairy cows. Our first stop, the tiny town of Richmond, continues the English theme – tea shops serve up yet more Devonshire Teas, there’s a pub called The Stables, and a dinky model village of Hobart Town as it was in the 1820s. There’s even a Richmond Bridge. But this Richmond Bridge was built by convict labour, and nearby is Richmond’s biggest claim to fame – Richmond Jail.
Built between 1825 and 1840, the prison is tiny, yet housed up to 85 prisoners. Walking round the minuscule exercise yard, the punishment rooms, the flogging yard and the suffocating isolation cells, we get a real feeling for the privations these men and women suffered. One convict’s record seems particularly pathetic – young Bewley Tuck was imprisoned in 1837 for seven years for stealing a loaf of bread. After further misdeeds his stay was extended, and his final entry shows an extra 15 years to be served for committing “abnormal acts”.
- Bewley Tuck can speak for himself
- Aliases, Copies and Misattribution.
- Laterality: poses in Nevin’s portraits
- Rare document with prisoner carte at the PCHS
John Watt Beattie studios, museum & reprints