The PARKHURST prisoners & anthropometry

“There is no criminal type”: Dr Goring, the Lombrosian Theory, Bertillonage, and Beattie’s Studio reprints of T. J. Nevin’s convict portraits of the Parkhurst boys ca 1916.

NYT criminal types 1913

On the left, Havelock Ellis’ sketches of the criminal stereotype, and on the right, the thirty outlines based on photographs by Dr. Goring from stock held at the Parkhurst Prison, Isle of Wight.

Source: The New York Times Nov. 2, 1913 [pdf]



November 2, 1913, Sunday

Section: Magazine Section, Page SM13, 4250 words

THE ‘criminal type’ is an anthropological monster. There is no such thing as a ‘criminal type.'” In other words, the criminal is a normal person, not markedly different from the rest of humanity who have managed to keep out of prison. In other words, there are in ministers and Cambridge undergraduates and college professors the making of pickpockets and thieves, as well as murderers and forgers…

Tourists to Tasmania in the early 1900s were encouraged to disagree with this sort of thinking put forward in newspapers by Dr Goring. With the intense promotion of Tasmania’s penal heritage in the early 1900s, due largely to the release of the film based on Marcus Clarke’s 1874 novel, For The Term of His Natural Life (1908, 22 minutes), many Tasmanian prisoner ID photographs taken by Thomas Nevin on government contract to police and prison authorities in the 1870s were reprinted by John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle for sale as tourist tokens in Beattie’s convictaria museum in the 1900s, called The Port Arthur Museum, although it was located in Hobart and not at Port Arthur.

Some of Searle and Beattie’s reprints were sold in albums as “Types of Convicts – Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur“, such as this one of convict William Lee. The paper reprint is from a lantern slide reproduction of Nevin’s original glass negative, taken of William Lee per the ship Neptune on a prisoner discharge from the Brickfields Depot, Hobart, October 1873. He was regularly discharged thereafter as a pauper in 1874 and 1875.

The album leaf is cunningly labelled with “Port Arthur” to attract the tourist. Presumably Searle or Beattie wrote the caption – ” Official Prison photographs from Port Arthur” – to hype the commercial value they saw in promoting the penal heritage of both their museum objects and the State’s history. Just as they hyped the “Port Arthur” Museum with the “Port Arthur” label, despite its location in Hobart, they hyped this photo of William Lee with the label “Port Arthur”. It had become a brand name, much as it is in today’s aggressive promotion of the Port Arthur Historic Site as Tasmania’s premier tourist destination. The very ordinary facts of Lee’s life as a prisoner and pauper in a city depot would not have sold his photo without the caption, the brand name. The unspoken appeal to the tourist imagination, through their revulsion and fascination, was to suggest that despite such humble beginnings, a transported felon could do well in the colonies, but a pauper’s end-of-life story, if revealed, offered nothing.


National Library of Australia Catalogue
Part of the collection of photographs compiled by Australian photographer E. W. Searle while working for J. W. Beattie in Hobart during 1911-1915.
On the photograph held, the image including the name of the subject appears in reverse.”Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur” and “Types of Convicts”–Inscription on page of album, below photograph.
Subject Lee, William

POLICE RECORDS for William Lee

Click on image for readable version

William Lee per Neptune, aged 78 years, last tried August 1872 for being idle and disorderly, discharged on 1st October 1873 from the Brickfields Depot, Hobart. William Lee, pauper, was discharged again from Brickfields Depot, Hobart 12 September 1874 and discharged again on 29 January 1875

In 1977, The Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania, held an exhibition of T.J. Nevin’s convicts photographs sourced from John Watt Beattie’s collection which had been deposited there in 1930. Newspaper reports of the 1977 exhibition noted that some of the prisoners had been transported to Tasmania as Parkhurst boys.

Clearly for commercial reasons, Beattie and Searle’s reprinting of Nevin’s 1870s police mugshots was meant to curry and to cater to the popular belief in the existence of a criminal type, a theory proposed by Lombroso, demonstrated for the Paris police by Bertillon, expanded by Havelock Ellis and refuted by Dr Goring, Medical Officer, H.M. Prison, London, who collated data from the stock of prisoner photographs held at Parkhurst prison to support his views. Beattie and Searle may well have been aware of the debates and reports of Goring’s experiments.

November 2, 1913, Sunday






The Nevin family were closely connected to the Parkhurst Prison in several respects. Thomas J. Nevin’s father, John Nevin, worked as a warden of the adult convicts and Parkhurst boys on board the convict transport the Fairlie to assist the passage of his family, English-born wife Mary and their three Irish-born children: Thomas, aged 10, (born 1842), Mary Ann (born 1846), and Jack, babe in arms (William J. born 1851), arriving in Hobart on July 3rd, 1852. When the Nevin family settled on property in trust to the Wesleyan Church, at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart, John Nevin became both a Wesleyan trustee of the chapel and the local schoolmaster.

The Fairlie left the Isle of Wight on March 2, 1852 and sailed from Plymouth on March 11, 1852, with a total of 292 male prisoners and 32 Parkhurst boys on board. All of the boys were said to have disembarked in Tasmania. Thomas Nevin was still a child in 1852 but he would have been able to recognise and recount the identifiable features of these adult prisoners and Parkhurst boys from their common experience as passengers on board the Fairlie. This was a distinct advantage when Nevin began working with police in the early 1870s.

By the early 1870s, Thomas Nevin had become a commercial photographer working in Hobart on commission to provide prisoner identification photographs for police and prison authorities. Some of these Parkhurst boys who were still incarcerated, or who had re-offended and were imprisoned for a second or third time between 1870 and 1880 were among his subjects. For example, George WHITE, alias NUTT, was a former Parkhurst boy who was transported as George Nutt, shoemaker. He was a 13 year old boy sentenced to 7 years in May 1848 at the Central Criminal Court London for larceny. When he arrived in Hobart with the Nevins aboard the Fairlie on July 3, 1852 he was about 17 years old. His various felonies landed him in the Separate Model Prison at Port Arthur in 1871. He escaped from Port Arthur in August 1875, was sought by police with a warrant and offer of reward to his captor, and was arrested and imprisoned at the Hobart Gaol on 15th September 1875, where he was photographed by Nevin. His photograph or copy held at the AOT was numbered “1” on the mount, presumably by Beattie when it was reprinted for sale in the 1900s.


Archives Office of Tasmania
George White alias Nutt convict transported per Fairlie 1852
Photo taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin 1874

POLICE RECORDS for George Nutt

reward for George White aka Nutt

George Nutt absconded, per notice in the police gazette on 27th August, 1875.
Some details were amended in the following week’s description for police information:

The notice appeared again on the eve of Nutt’s capture:

And the notice of his arrest appeared in the same issue.

Nutt arrested 3 Sept 1875

Sources: Tasmania Reports on Crime for Police Information 1875. Govt printer.

November 2, 1913, Sunday

“What the statistics show”: more from the article “There is no criminal type“…


Source: New York Times November 2, 1913 (avaliable online)


Mugshots 2008 Raynal Pellicer Bertillon 1888 from Mugshots (Pellicer) 2008

Mugshots by Raynal Pellicer 2008
Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

Suspect Identities by Simon Cole 2001

Suspect Identities by Simon Cole 2001

p. 19 Suspect Identities