Prisoner George FISHER and Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith

Chief Justice Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith (1819–1909) of the Supreme Court Hobart was administrator of the colony of Tasmania in 1874 and most interested in the uses of judicial and forensic photography which he had witnessed on a visit to Victoria in 1872 (TRE1/1/363 1154). He was photographed by the Hobart City Corporation’s commissioned photographer Thomas Nevin in the 1870s in an unusually informal pose, his expression one of vindication while examining a carte-de-visite photograph of a prisoner held in his right hand. Sir Francis Smith’s professional interest in the uses of judicial photography to increase surveillance and reduce crime was more than justified when he became the victim of burglary himself at his home by absconder and recidivist George Fisher in 1877.

Thomas Nevin’s commission to photograph prisoners on arraignment at the Supreme Court from the early 1870s proved most effective when this photograph of Fisher, taken in December 1874 on Fisher’s incarceration at the Hobart Gaol Campbell St. for “forging an order to defraud J. E. Risby“, was reprinted and re-issued for his re-arrest in 1877 for the burglary at Sir Francis Smith’s home. Fisher had been sentenced to 12 years in December 1874 by the Chief Justice, and sent to Port Arthur, arriving there on Christmas Day. He was transferred back to the Hobart Gaol one year later in December 1875. In August 1877, he managed to abscond, broke into the Chief Justice’s home and stole several articles of clothing and other items of personal property. The mugshot being examined by Sir Francis Smith in this reprint by Beattie for the Members of Parliament album (1895) was issued with the arrest warrant for Fisher in 1877, as one of Nevin’s several duplicates taken in December 1874 – January 1875.

Left: Prisoner George Fisher December 1874 (NLA Collection)
Right: Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith 1877 (TAHO Collection)
Photographs by Thomas J. Nevin, Supreme Court, Hobart.

Rough Calendar of the Hobart Supreme Court
Habitual criminal George Fisher was sentenced twice – in 1875 and 1877 – at the Supreme Court Hobart by Chief Justice Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith. These records are from the Supreme Court Calendars which were used by photographer Thomas J. Nevin as an indication of which Oyer sessions he need to attend, and which prisoners he needed to photograph around the date of sentencing. A simple tick next to the prisoner’s name showed that a bill was issued and paid, and a photograph taken. The “C.J” initials against a name or sentence indicate the judgement passed by the Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith.

Supreme Court Records, TAHO Ref: GD70-1-1
George Fisher, 1st December, 1874, page 35.

Supreme Court Records, TAHO Ref: GD70-1-1
George Fisher, 31st August, 1877, page 59

In reverse order, these official records document George Fisher’s criminal career from this sentence in 1877 back to his earliest record of arrival in VDL in 1845.

1877: arrest and arraignment
.

Warrants issued for the arrest of George Fisher, 3rd August 1877 and the 7th September 1877.

TRANSCRIPT

WARANTS ISSUED, AND NOW IN THIS OFFICE
HOBART TOWN. – On the 3rd instant, by E. Maher, Esquire, J.P., for the arrest of George Fisher, charged with having, on the 32st ultimo, at Hobart Town, feloniously and burglariously broken and entered the dwelling-house of Sir Francis Smith and stolen therefrom one blue cloth sacque coat, value £4, two pairs of coloured blankets, value £5, and other articles, amounting in all to the value of £15, the property of Sir Francis Smith.
For description see Crime Report of the 31st ultimo, page 138, Absconded.

George Fisher was arrested on 14th September 1877


George Fisher per Stratheden, TL, arraigned in the Supreme Court, 27th November 1877 for burglary, sentenced to six years.

1875: transferred to the Hobart Gaol from Port Arthur
This photograph was taken by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in December 1874 prior to Fisher’s departure for the Port Arthur prison.  George Fisher, per Stratheden, TL, 48 years old, was arraigned in the Supreme Court Hobart, 1st December 1874, sentenced to 12 years for forgery and stealing. He was sent to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there three weeks later on Christmas Day, 25th December, 1874. He was sent back to the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, on 5th December 1875, spending just 12 months there.

NLA Catalogue. Photograph by T. J. Nevin December 1874
Verso inscription:
George Fisher, per Streathaden [i.e. Stratheden], taken at Port Arthur, 1874
1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.3 x 5.6 cm
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Gunson Collection file 203/​7/​54.
Inscription: “227”–On reverse.

George Fisher’s record 1875-1877 from the Port Arthur Conduct Registers
TAHO Records ref: CON94-1-2_00110_S

George Fisher, per Stratheden, was sent to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on Christmas Day, 25th December, 1874. He was sent back to the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, on 5th December 1875.

1874: Ticket of leave and recidivism

Geoge Fisher per Stratheden was enlarged with a TOL on 15th April 1874

George Fisher had served a sentence of 12 years,for the crime of burglary committed in 1861. He was discharged on 17th April 1874, granted a ticket-of-leave, and re-offended within months.

George Fisher, per Stratheden, TL, 48 years old, was arraigned in the Supreme Court Hobart, 1st December 1874, sentenced to 12 years for forgery and stealing. He was sent to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on Christmas Day, 25 the December, 1874. He was sent back to the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, on 5th December 1875, spending just 12 months there.

1871: Letter from Port Arthur
George Fisher appeared to be literate and polite, despite his criminality. On the retirement of the physician  Dr. G.J. Dinham  from Port Arthur, George Fisher wrote him this letter, dated 14th June 1871:

Title: Copy of letter dated from George Fisher prisoner to Dr. G.J. Dinham on his retirement from Port Arthur
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: NS1264-1-1
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

1861: Burglary 
In 1861, George Fisher was sentenced to twelve years for burglary which he served at Port Arthur until he was enlarged with a ticket-of-leave in 1874. See the transportation record below for the lengthy list of offences committed from arrival in 1845 until 1874.

1855: Marriage

Name: Boatwright, Elizabeth
Record Type:Marriage Permissions
Ship/free: Cadet
Marriage to:Fisher, George
Ship/free:Stratheden
Permission date:22 Jan 1855
Document ID:
NAME_INDEXES:1243862
Resource CON52/1/7 Page 126
RGD37/14 : 1855/448

1845: Transportation Records

State Library of Tasmania
FISHER, George
Convict No: 23396
Extra Identifier:
SEE Surname:
SEE Given Names:
Voyage Ship: Stratheden
Voyage No: 261
Arrival Date: 25 Dec 1845
Departure Date: 03 Aug 1845
Departure Port: London
Conduct Record: CON33/1/73, CON94/1/ p47
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List: CON27/1/11
Other Records:
Indent: CON14/1/33
Description List: CON18/1/46

Sir Francis Smith (1819–1909)
Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith administered the colony in 1874-75 and did so again in 1880. The Australian Dictionary of Biography details his birth, education and judicial career.

Reprint by John Watt Beattie 1895
Title: Sir Francis Smith
In: In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 66
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19–]
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 14 x 10 cm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001136190915
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
Notes: Exact measurements 140 x 98 mm
Title inscribed in pencil beneath image in unknown hand
In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania – no. 66 / photographed by J.W. Beattie

Although this photograph is accredited to J.W. Beattie (1859-1930) by the State Library of Tasmania, it is a reprint made several decades later than the original capture taken in the late 1870s . Here the Tasmanian administrator, Attorney-General and Chief Justice, who was born in 1818, looks like a man in his fifties. He appears to be about 15 years older than his earlier 1860s portrait by Reutlinger, Paris 1860s, (below) which portrays a man in his early forties. Sir Francis Smith would have been an old man of eighty years or so by the time Beattie produced his Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania series in 1895-1900, and clearly this is not a portrait of an eighty year old. It is yet another reprint by Beattie without acknowledgement to the original photographer.

Archives Office of Tasmania
Guide to the Public Records of Tasmania – Section Two –
Governor’s Office Record Group


APPENDIX A Succession of Governors etc,

  • Colonel Thomas F. Gore Browne, 25th Regiment, 11 Dec. 1861-30 Dec. 1868.
    – Lieutenant-Colonel William C. Trevor, 14th Regiment (Administrator),
    30 Dec. 1868-15 Jan. 1869.
  • Charles Du Cane Esq., 15 Jan. 1869-28 Nov. 1874.
    Sir Francis Smith (Administrator), 30 Nov. 1874-13 Jan. 1875,
  • Frederick A. Weld, Esq., 13 Jan. 1875-5 Apr. 1880.
    Sir Francis Smith (Administrator), 6 Apr.-21 Oct. 1880.
    – Lieut.-General Sir John Henry Lefroy, R.A., (Administrator), 21 Oct. 1880-Dec.
    1881.
  • Sir George C. Strahan, R.A., 7 Dec. 1881-28 Oct. 1886.
    – W. R. Giblin, Esq., (Administrator), 29 Oct.-18 Nov. 1886.
    – Sir William L. Dobson (Administrator), 18 Nov. 1886-11 Mar. 1887.
  • Sir Robert G. C. Hamilton, 11 Mar. 1887-30 Nov. 1892.
    – Sir William L. Dobson (Administrator), 1 Dec. 1892-8 Aug. 1893.
  • Rt. Hon. J. W. Joseph, Viscount Gormanston, 8 Aug. 1893-14 Aug. 1900.

Sir Francis Smith
Creator(s): Reutlinger, Charles
Date: 186-?
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 9 x 6 cm.
Notes: Exact measurements 89 x 56 mm, Title inscribed in pencil on verso in unknown hand., Head and shoulders facing front.
Subjects: Smith, Francis Villeneuve – Sir – 1818-1909
Location: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
ADRI: AUTAS001125883934

Supreme Court Calendars 1870-1882
The “C.J” initials against a sentence indicate the judgement passed by the Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith. The initials “P.O.” inidicates Police Office. Dozens of photographs of prisoners taken at these sessions by T.J. Nevin are extant in public collections.

Supreme Court Calendars, TAHO Ref: GD70-1-1

In 1883, Chief Justice Francis Smith signed the death warrant for James Sutherland. Thomas Nevin’s hand-tinted carte-de-visite photograph of prisoner Sutherland was pasted next to the death warrant at the Hobart Gaol when the records were bound in book form.

Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2009
Items: Tasmania, Supreme Court Death Warrants
Mitchell Library NSW C203

[Above]: death warrant for the execution of James Sutherland at the Hobart Gaol 1883 signed by Francis Smith. Carte-de-visite with hand tinting of James Sutherland taken by Thomas Nevin and Constable John Nevin in the week before the execution, May 1883.

Signature of Francis Smith on death warrant 1883

Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2009
Items: Tasmania, Supreme Court Death Warrants
Mitchell Library NSW C203

[Above]:the seal of the Supreme Court on the death warrant with Francis Smith’s signature. The Royal Arms insignia of the Supreme Court also appears encircled in Nevin’s Royal Arms government stamp on the verso of a number of his photographs of Tasmanian prisoners (QVMAG, SLNSW), and on the versos of portraits of government officials (TMAG, NZNL, private collections.)

Versos: T.J. Nevin [photographer]: Tasmanian prisoners  cdvs
State Library NSW Ref: PXB 274
Photos taken at the State Library NSW 
Copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

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