Photographers Thomas Nevin and Robert Smith, Hobart Tasmania, 1867-1868

Thomas J. NEVIN & Robert SMITH, ‘Nevin & Smith’ 1867-1868
Mrs Esther MATHER and the coloured portraits
Robert SMITH at Goulburn NSW
ANSON Bros albums 1890

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

Robert Smith may have been an independent photographer with his own studio in Hobart prior to his partnership with Thomas J. Nevin at Alfred Bock’s former studio. By about 1863, according to Mrs Esther Mather (1895-1872), a photographer she calls simply “Smith” was providing the citizens of Hobart Town with coloured photographs. In this letter to her step-son, dated October 1865, she refers briefly 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:

Mrs Mather, letter 1865

Mrs Mather, letter 1865


[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 dont remember having given George one but if I have not I will get one for [Page 2] Him and send It…

Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR
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 taking up farming and politics, Thomas 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.

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 to Hobart of Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, in late 1867 on his first command, H.M.S. Galatea.

This carte-de-visite of two unidentified children may have been intended for inclusion in an album of photographic prints depicting the children of Tasmania which was gifted to Prince Alfred during his visit to Hobart before he returned to Sydney in January 1868 where he was to survive an assassination attempt weeks later (at Clontarf, March 1868).

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

Hand-tinted cdv of young man with wispy beard in check coat
Photographers: Nevin & Smith 1868
Scan courtesy of © The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

This photograph, a delicately coloured carte-de-visite portrait of an unidentified bearded man in semi-profile, wearing a summer check-pattern jacket, which is printed verso with the rare Nevin & Smith stamp bearing the Prince of Wales’ blazon of three feathers and coronet, banded with the motto “ICH DIEN” (I Serve), was also taken in late 1867 during Prince Alfred’s visit to Hobart.

Thomas J. Nevin photographed his future wife Elizabeth Rachel Day (1847-1914) in the late 1860s; they married in July 1871 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley (Tasmania). He took this photograph of his fiancée when she was barely out of her teens, circa 1867-8, while operating as the firm, Nevin & Smith. Although a personal memento in many respects, and as such, surprisingly stamped verso, it 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 (below) celebrating a special occasion.

Elizabeth Rachel Day, married Thomas Nevin in 1871
Taken by Thomas Nevin at Nevin & Smith (late Bock’s) ca. 1867-8
140, Elizabeth Street Hobart Town
Full-length portrait, carte-de-visite
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collection ARR. Watermarked.

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./ Viiews of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms —Cheap!

This stereograph (below) 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, 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 (see pinkish cdv below), this stereograph of a house bears his commercial label (Smith’s name struck through) pasted verso, and was therefore intended for sale to clients. 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. Some tinting of the grass was attempted but otherwise abandoned, suggesting a rejected copy.

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 by Thomas Nevin or T. J. Nevin; Nevin & Smith; and Clifford (Samuel) & Nevin, some stamped verso, some inscribed verso and some blank, in addition to the fifty (50) or so photographs of Tasmanian prisoners (labelled as convicts) taken by Nevin on government contract in the 1870s. Many of the stereographs have survived in barely fair condition, not simply because these early examples of his work 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 well-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. 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 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.

Despite such caveats which segue into disputes about attribution, it must be remembered that Thomas 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, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, with partner Robert Smith until 1868, soon afterwards joining friends and colleagues Samuel Clifford and Henry Hall Baily on travelling excursions, as well as taking commissions as government contractor 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

Dissolution notice of Nevin & Smith partnership, Mercury,26 February 1868

This dissolution notice was published in the Hobart Mercury on 26 February 1868 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)

Anson Bros. albums

Title: Anson’s books of Tasmanian scenes, both north, south and the interior
Creator(s):Anson Bros
Date: 1890?
Description: 1 endpaper : Black/red lettering, 40 X 58 cm.
Related to: In: Picturesque and interesting Tasmania. No. 1
Subjects: Anson Bros, Craw and Ratcliff, Booksellers, Stationers and Fancy
Other titles: Best photographs of Tasmania’s world-fames scenery, mountains, lakes, ferns and rocks Endpaper of album
Format: album
Location: Tasmaniana Library
ADRI: AUTAS001125641373

The Anson Brothers acquired the stock in 1878 of both Thomas Nevin and Samuel Clifford; in addition, they reprinted in 1880 – on glass – an Aboriginal portrait taken by Charles A. Woolley in 1866 which is privately held in The McCullagh Collection. They also reproduced Clifford and Nevin’s photographs taken in 1873 and 1874 at Port Arthur, printed as an album in 1889 titled Port Arthur Past and Present  held at the State Library of NSW.

Anson Bros. photographic album, Port Arthur Past and Present, held at the SLNSW (1889)
State Library of NSW
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2009

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