Nevin & Smith studio Elizabeth St. Hobart 1867-1868

NEVIN & SMITH Hobart Tasmania
ANSON Bros reprints 1890

A view of Thomas Nevin’s studio, third door down on right side of Elizabeth St. Hobart
Stereograph by T. J. Nevin ca. 1867
TMAG Ref: Q1994-56-33

The firm of Nevin & Smith stamps and label 1867-1868
Robert Smith and Thomas J. Nevin established the firm of Nevin & Smith soon after Nevin acquired the stock, studio and glass house of Alfred Bock at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town in 1865 on Bock’s imminent departure from Tasmania. The partnership was brief, lasting less than two years. It was dissolved by Thomas Nevin’s family solicitor, the Hon. W. R. Giblin, in February 1868.

Robert Smith may have been an independent photographer prior to his partnership with Thomas Nevin. By about 1863, according to Esther Mather (d.1872, aged 77 years), Smith was providing the citizens of Hobart Town with coloured photographs. In this letter written by Esther Mather to her [step] grandson, dated 1st October, 1865, she refers to a coloured portrait taken at Smiths, possibly a few years earlier, which compared less favourably with the one taken that day of her brother at Charles A. Woolley’s studio:

[Page 1]
My dear Francis,
Thou wilt think me long in not not [sic] sending the likeness I promised but it has not been for want of thought about thee but I have been so very much engaged with one thing or another that I have hardly had time to write a few lines but thou wilt be better off in the end for I only met up with my Brother to day [sic] which I also enclose Its from Wooleys [sic] and I consider it a very good # one [superscript inserted] probably more like him now than the coloured ones from Smiths I don,t remember having given George one but if I have not I will get one for [Page 2] Him and send It…

Source: Morris Miller Library, University of Tasmania,
Special Collections Ref: M.19/70:
Notes:”The letter is from the Mather family papers and is from Esther Mather to her [step] grandson, Joseph Francis Mather, in which she makes reference of her likeness from Woolleys being better than the coloured ones from Smiths. It is dated 1.8. 1865″

On Robert Smith’s departure to Goulburn, NSW, where he opened a small photographic studio before turning to farming and politics, his former partner Thomas J. Nevin pasted the verso of a few more photographs with the label bearing their name, but with Smith’s name struck through, and the word “Late”added.

The STAMP with the Prince of Wales’ BLAZON
Two studio stamps and one label have survived from their brief partnership. The first stamp featuring the Prince of Wales’ blazon of three feathers and a coronet, banded with the German “ICH DIEN” (I Serve) dates from the visit of Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, in 1868 on the Royal yacht, H.M.S. Galatea.

These two children (below) may have been photographed for inclusion in an album of forty-eight photographic prints depicting the children of Tasmania which was gifted to Prince Alfred at his final reception on 18th January 1868 before returning to NSW where he was to survive an assassination attempt weeks later (at Clontarf, 12th March 1868). According to Jack Cato (1977:58), a group of Tasmanian photographers was invited to contribute to the Children’s Album:

All the cities presented the Duke with official albums of photographs, and many photographers presented private ones. Henry Johnstone gave him a book of pictures of the beautiful women of Victoria. Charles Nettleton gave a book of prints of Melbourne and the countryside. But best of all was the one given by the photographers of Tasmania – a collection of prints showing the beautiful children of the island. The Duke was so charmed with it that he requested a duplicate album be made and sent to his mother.

From: Jack Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia (1977 ed. p.58)

One account (Joan Kerr ed. 1992) records that four photographers were commissioned by the colonial government of Tasmania to cover the Prince Alfred’s visit, notably Samuel Clifford and George Cherry, and possibly Cato had this group in mind, but an album of children’s portraits to commemorate the event as a Royal gift has yet to come to light in either Australian public collections or the Royal Collections.

Nevin & Smith children 1868Nevin & Smith children verso 1868

Creator: Nevin & Smith, photographer.
Title: [Studio portrait of two children] [picture] / Nevin & Smith.
Access/Copyright: Reproduction rights: State Library of Victoria
Accession number(s): H2005.34/2004; H2005.34/2004A
Date(s) of creation: [ca. 1867-ca. 1875]
Contents/Summary: Both standing on either side of a chair, whole-length, full face, boy on left, girl on right.
Not dated but Nevin worked at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, between 1867-1875.
Ref.: Australians behind the camera, directory of early Australian photographers, 1841-1945 / Sandy Barrie, 2002.
Photographer printed on verso: From / Nevin & Smith / late Bock’s / 140 Elizabeth Street / Hobart Town.
Source/Donor: Gift of Mr John Etkins; 2005.

State Library of Victoria

Bearded young man, Nevin & Smith, Hobart 1868Bearded young man, verso Nevin & Smith, Hobart 1868

Carte-de-visite of bearded young man in check jacket, hand tinted, 1868
Photographers: Nevin & Smith. Late Bock’s, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
Courtesy of © The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

This photograph, a delicately coloured carte-de-visite in a buff oval mount of an upper-body portrait of an unidentified bearded man in semi-profile, wearing a summer check-pattern jacket was also taken in late 1867 to January 1868 during the visit of Prince Alfred. It was printed verso with the rare Nevin & Smith stamp bearing the Prince of Wales’ blazon of three feathers. These scans are courtesy of Liam Peters’ private collection (received here in 2010).

Elizabeth Rachel Day was born and baptised at St Mary’s, Rotherhithe UK in 1847 and died at Hobart Tasmania in 1914. She was the eldest daughter of Captain James Day, master mariner (1806-1882) and Rachel Pocock (d. Hobart,1857) who were married at St. David’s Church, Hobarton, 6th January 1841 in the presence of her paternal uncle, Captain Edward Goldsmith and Margaret Fuller. She married photographer Thomas J. Nevin in July 1871 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley near Hobart . Her younger sister Mary Sophia Day married Captain Hector Axup in 1878, also at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley (Tasmania).

Nevin & Smith full length carte of Elizabeth DayNevin & Smith verso full length carte of Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Rachel Day, ca, 1867, married Thomas J. Nevin in 1871
Taken by Thomas Nevin at Nevin & Smith (late Bock’s)
140, Elizabeth Street Hobart Town
Full-length portrait, carte-de-visite
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2009 ARR. Watermarked.

In this full-length portrait and the one below, she wears the same top coat. The studio decor of the full-length portrait above, however, is very different from the later portraits taken by Thomas Nevin at the City Photographic Establishment. The carpet and table and drape were most likely furnishings recently acquired by Nevin at auction in 1865 of Alfred Bock’s lease of the studio, stock-in-trade, and the glasshouse when Bock became insolvent and departed for Victoria.

Elizabeth Rachel Day 1868 by Thomas J. Nevin Tasmania

Elizabeth Rachel Day, fiancée of Thomas Nevin, 1868
Vignetted carte-de-visite, upper-body portrait, brooch and earrings tinted yellow.
Verso bears the same Nevin & Smith studio stamp as the full-length portrait

The cartouche stamp of Nevin & Smith ca, 1868
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection

Although a personal memento in many respects, and as such, surprisingly stamped verso, these two photographs of Elizabeth Rachel Day taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1868 while operating as the firm Nevin & Smith may have been intended for circulation to a large circle of friends, such as the group featured in the Nevin & Smith stereograph of a group of terpsichoreans (below) celebrating a special occasion.

The stereograph below of a large group of men and women in formal wear, some seated on the grass, many more dancing in a circle close to the River Derwent, was taken about the same time as the full-length portrait of Elizabeth Rachel Day. She wore a white dress, a dark topcoat and white hat for the studio portrait, and many women in the outdoor stereograph wore the same outfit on this day. It was taken at Rosny (Hobart) to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 27th, 1868, and pasted verso with Nevin & Smith’s advertising label for commercial reproduction and distribution.

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

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online catalogue 2006)
“Tasmanian Views from Nevin & Smith …. plus Tombstones copied, Terms – Cheap!”
REF: Q1994.56.20.1
MEDIUM: Paper and printing ink,
MAKER: Nevin & Smith [Artist];
DATE: 1860s
DESCRIPTION : Label from the back of Q1994.56.20 for photographers Nevin & Smith, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobarton
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: On back a pink label: Tasmanian views/ from/ Nevin & Smith,/ Photographers,/ 140, Elizabeth St., Hobarton./ Stereoscopic and Album Portraits/ Views Photographed./ Views of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms —Cheap!

This stereograph of a house bears a yellow rather than pink Nevin & Smith label, with Smith’s name struck through, the word “Late” superimposed, and the plural “s” on the word “Photographers” crossed out. It was taken before Smith’s departure from the partnership in February 1868 but reprinted soon after. From 1869, Thomas Nevin replaced this label with a blind stamp impress on the recto of outdoor stereographs with the simple wording “T. Nevin Photo”. Different designs of stamps, labels and verso inscriptions used by Thomas Nevin to date number at least eight.

Unlike another single image carte-de-visite photograph of a large single-storey house on a hill taken by Nevin of his parents’ family home at Kangaroo Valley, this stereograph of a house bears his commercial label (Smith’s name struck through) pasted verso, and was therefore intended for sale to his clientele. The subject of the photograph might possibly represent the back door of his parents’ house, but it more likely represents another Kangaroo Valley house built to a similar architectural template, distinguished from his parents’ house by a blue stone side wall behind the trees. Either some tinting of the grass was attempted but otherwise abandoned, suggesting a rejected copy, or the greenish tinge is mould, the combined result of age and poor storage.

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

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online catalogue 2006)
REF: Q16826.9
ITEM NAME: photograph:
MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope,
MAKER: T Nevin [Photographer];
TITLE: ‘Tasmanian Views.’
DATE: 1870c
DESCRIPTION : No information relative to title of his images. This one, of a house or maybe a school.
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: (On back) Tas. Views from Nevin & Smith (Late) Photographers (s crossed out) 140 Elizabeth Street. Steroscopic and Album Portraits Views Photographed. Views of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms:-Cheap!

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holds fifty or more of stereographs collectively identified as either the work of Thomas J. Nevin or Nevin & Smith, or even the work of Clifford & Nevin, some stamped verso, some inscribed verso and some blank. Many have survived in barely fair condition, not simply because these early stereographs were printed on absorbent salt paper which rendered the image fuzzy over time, they were salvaged from private and public archive locations where conditions were less than optimal. Wherever two very similar photographs have survived, one with Thomas Nevin’s stamp or inscription, one without, the following circumstances of their production have to be considered:

1. duplicates of a stamped original chosen for commercial profit were not routinely stamped but simply supplied to the client as a copy.

2. duplicates of an original or another very similar original showing the same subject and location but differing in minor details of pose etc were not stamped, especially photographs taken for immediate use by friends, family or even government officials known to the photographer.

3. one original photograph bearing a specimen studio stamp was submitted to the Customs and Patent Office to register copyright of that particular stamp for one year, or for a limited quantity to be produced for a specified fee. Thomas Nevin covered the registration of seven different stamps from 1865 to 1888

4. some originals were flawed at the moment of capture, or rendered useless during printing and colouring, and so not stamped or circulated but nonetheless retained by the studio, which then ensured a life beyond the photographer’s control in the hands of collectors.

5. Many stock commercial negatives by Thomas J. Nevin were acquired and reproduced by Samuel Clifford until Clifford’s retirement in 1878. The Anson Brothers acquired Nevin’s, Clifford’s and even Baily’s negatives (the latter through theft) and reproduced them with their own studio stamps.

In spite of these caveats which segue into disputes about attribution, it must be remembered that Thomas J. Nevin had begun professional photography at his New Town studio by 1864 and with Alfred Bock by 1865. By 1867 he was in commercial production at Bock’s former studio at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart with partner Robert Smith until 1868, soon afterwards joining friends and colleagues on travelling excursions around the island, such as Samuel Clifford and Henry Hall Baily, as well as taking commissions for the Colonial Government’s Lands Department, the Hobart City Corporation, the Municipal Police Office, and the New Town Territorial Police, retiring from professional photography after twenty-five years only at the birth of his last child, Albert, in 1888.

The cottage that Thomas Nevin’s father, John Nevin, built at Kangaroo Valley Tasmania
“T.J. Nevin Photo” inscribed on verso, ca. 1868.
From © KLW NFC Imprint & The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

Nevin and Smith dissolution 26 Feb 1868

Mercury, 26 February 1868
Dissolution notice of the partnership between Robert Smith and Thomas Nevin. William Robert Giblin, later Attorney-General and Premier, was Thomas Nevin’s solicitor and witness.

Robert Smith at Goulburn, NSW
Robert Smith opened a small photographic studio in Goulburn (NSW) soon after departing Hobart. Extant examples of his work are rare. This one, a carte-de-visite on a dark mount of a woman taken at the Goulburn studio ca. 1870 appeared recently on eBay (2016).

Carte-de-visite on dark mount of an unidentified woman ca. 1869
Photographer: R. Smith, Artist, Auburn St. Goulburn (NSW)

Verso: Carte-de-visite on dark mount of an unidentified woman ca. 1869
Photographer: R. Smith, Artist, Auburn St. Goulburn (NSW)

Reprints by the Anson Bros.

Anson’s books of Tasmanian scenes, both north, south and the interior (Endpaper of album)
Publication Information:
[S.l. : s.n.], 1890? ([Hobart] : Mercury Office)
Physical description: 1 endpaper : Black/red lettering, 40 X 58 cm.
In: Picturesque and interesting Tasmania
Citation: Digitised item from: Tasmaniana Library, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Electronic resources:

The Anson Brothers had acquired commercially viable negatives and prints from both studios of Thomas J. Nevin and Samuel Clifford by 1878 for reproduction. In addition, in 1880 they reprinted on glass an Aboriginal group portrait originally taken by Charles A. Woolley in 1866 which is held in the private collection of John and Robyn McCullagh. They also reproduced Clifford and Nevin’s stereographs taken in 1873 and 1874 at Port Arthur, printed as an album in 1889 titled “Port Arthur Past and Present” .

Ansons Bros. photographic album, Port Arthur Past and Present (1889)
Taken at the State Library of NSW 2009
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

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