The pauper on Thomas Nevin’s carpet and Brother Payne

T. J. NEVIN studio decor

It is likely that the man photographed here standing on Thomas Nevin’s carpet was William Graves rather than a knife-sharpener known as “Brother Payne” and that Nevin photographed him in May 1875. This may not be the only photograph of William Graves taken by government contractor T. J. Nevin. There may have been a standard half-body prisoner mugshot and carte-de-visite printed as well to attach to William Grave’s rap sheet. But no standard prisoner cdv is extant, and there may be a reason why none ever existed.

Reference: PH30/1/221
Title: Brother Payne [sic]
Subject: people, portraits
Locality: not identified
Date: 1880

Although the Archives Office of Tasmania calls this man Payne, he is not the same man identified as “Brother Payne” in the images below. He is likely to be a pauper, arrested as William Graves, photographed standing on Thomas Nevin’s studio carpet.

Thomas Nevin may have photographed this man who was his probable “captive” William Graves using this full-length shot because Graves was not going to be imprisoned at the Hobart Gaol; he was going to another receiving depot, one for paupers such as the Brickfields Depot in Hobart or even the Lunatic Asylum. And because Graves was “well-known in the Glenorchy district” – possibly due to his mental and physical state – and because Nevin took an active role in the detective work, the occasion warranted a studio portrait. Who would have paid for such a studio photo? Not the poor man himself. It is likely to be Nevin’s souvenir of the event.

Very few prisoner identification photographs currently in existence by government contractor Thomas Nevin are of paupers; none exist at all of all those (109) who had been transferred by mid 1873 from Port Arthur to Hobart, because the police did not think a photograph of a pauper per se was necessary without a further conviction (see William Lee’s record below). Thomas Nevin’s police photographs printed from his glass negative in standard half-body format and in oval carte-de-visite mounts,all depict criminals who re-offended, who were arrested on warrant, and who were photographed again on discharge. They were recidivists and habitual offenders, for the most part. Their mugshots were taken because of these reasons, per police regulations of the day, and for the same reasons that mugshots are taken today of those when “booked”, remanded on trial and discharged with conditions. William Graves may have been too decrepit, too ill or too non compis mentis to be incarcerated in a gaol.

The police gazette described Graves in these terms:

About 60 years of age, about 5 feet 5 inches high, lame of right leg, walks with a crutch. Well known in Glenorchy district.

POLICE RECORDS for William Graves

Warrant for William Graves’ arrest, published 19th March 1875

William Graves was arrested by P. C. Badcock of the New Town Territorial Police,“assisted by Thomas Nevin”on 21st May 1875.

William Graves was tried and detained at New Norfolk because the Lunatic Asylum was located there.

William Graves, aged 65, tried at New Norfolk, sentenced to one month for being found in a dwelling house, left leg crippled, discharged 23 June, 1875. BDM records indictate that he was born in 1810 and died in 1893, aged 83, at the New Town Charitable Institution.

Another pauper photographed by T. J. Nevin was William Lee, transported per Neptune, 78 years old in 1872 when he was convicted for being idle and disorderly in August, then discharged as a prisoner from the Brickfields Depot in Hobart on 1st October, 1873, and thereafter discharged as a pauper in 1874 and 1875. The paper print here was removed from the Hobart Gaol prisoner’s rap sheet, and then pasted onto a page in an album created by Edward Searle while working at John Watt Beattie’s studio in 1915. The page was originally exhibited at Beattie’s convictaria museum located in Hobart and cunningly labelled with the wording “Port Arthur” to attract the tourist. See this article: Mugshots Removed: Edward Searle’s Album 1915.

National Library of Australia Catalogue NOTES
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

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, discharged from Brickfields Depot, Hobart 12 September 1874

William Lee, pauper, discharged 29 January 1875
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1875. James Barnard Government Printer.

With the intense promotion of Tasmania’s penal heritage in the early 1900s, due largely to the release of the first 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 removed from the police registers and photo books by John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle for sale as tourist tokens in Beattie’s convictaria museum in the 1900s which he called The Port Arthur Museum, although it was located in Hobart and not at Port Arthur. Some of Beattie and Searle’s reprints were sold in albums as “Types of Convicts – Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur“, such as this one of convict William Lee, held at the National Library of Australia. A series of forty original mugshots taken by Nevin in the 1870s which Beattie removed from the prisoners’ rap sheets and mounted in three panels was displayed in conjunction with the travelling fake convict ship the Success in the early 1900s. Presumably Searle or Beattie wrote the caption on the album leaf – ” Official Prison photographs from Port Arthur” – to hype the transportation and penal heritage of both his museum objects, which were for sale, and of the State’s history. Just as he hyped his “Port Arthur” Museum with the “Port Arthur” label, despite its location in Hobart because the label guaranteed sales, he has hyped this photo of William Lee with the label “Port Arthur”. The very ordinary facts of Lee’s life as a prisoner and pauper in a city depot would not have played on the tourist’s simultaneous feelings of fascination and repulsion of the State’s history.


Reference: PH30/1/221
Title: Brother Payne
Subject: people, portraits
Locality: not identified
Date: 1880

This is not Brother Payne, this man was too old in 1875 ca to be the same man in the photographs below. The Archive Office of Tasmania has catalogued the photograph with the assumption that the man photographed here on Thomas Nevin’s carpet was Brother Payne, a sawyer by trade and character in the Hobart streets who sharpened knives from a trolley cart. The term “Brother” may be a courtesy title of Methodist origin.

Since the man photographed here is standing on the very same carpet that appears in Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s wedding photograph, dated to 12th July 1871, he cannot be the same man identified as Brother Payne in other photographs held at AOT which are unattributed and are dated 1880-1900. For example:

Archives Office of Tasmania catalogue
Reference: NS1013/1/1279
Title: Payne, Knife Grinder
Subject: grinding wheels, men, men’s clothing
Locality: not identified

This same image was catalogued again at the AOT with the date “1900”:

Archives Office of Tasmania catalogue
Reference: PH30/1/744
Title: Knife grinder
Subject: people
Locality: Tasmania
Date: 1900

Archives Office of Tasmania catalogue
Reference: NS1013/1/1278
Title: Payne, Knife Grinder
Subject: machinery, men, men’s clothing
Locality: not identified

Archives Office of Tasmania catalogue
Reference: PH30/1/220
Title: ‘Brother Payne’
Subject: people, portraits
Locality: not identified
Date: 1880

Although Thomas Nevin used several types of carpet in different studio locales, the carpet on which the pauper stands appears again in all of these photographs, and the address of the studio stamps on verso is his principal business address, “140 Elizabeth St, Hobart Town“. The pattern on the carpet is lozenge or diamond squares alternating with chain links, the oblong ends providing depth and perspective.

Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s wedding photo, July 1871
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection.

Thomas Nevin’s photograph of his father, John Nevin, ca. 1874.
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection.

Tinted flowers on table, hatless seated woman, ca. 1872
From © The Geoff Harrisson Collection.

This carte of a seated woman, unidentified, with handbag, umbrella and hat ca 1871
From © The Marcel Safier Collection.

From © The Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2006 -2010. ARR.

This young man may have been one Thomas Nevin’s apprentices or assistants. The stereoscopic apparatus pictured in the photograph is a double lens stereograph viewer. A box of this size could hold a large number of stereo cards; turning the wooden handle (underneath the young man’s right hand) changed the card being viewed. The photograph can be accurately dated from ca. February 1873, as the verso has the official government insignia of the Royal Arms lion and unicorn rampant enclosed within Nevin’s studio stamp.This type of stamp was printed for Thomas Nevin’s commission to photograph Tasmanian prisoners at the Port Arthur and Hobart Gaols from 1873 while still a commercial photographer; on his appointment as a full-time civil servant with the Municipal Police Office and Hobart City Corporation in 1876, his use of this stamp signifying joint copyright with the government was unnecessary.

The carpet also appears in this Nevin photograph of a young man standing next to a stereoscope which bears on the verso his “T. J. Nevin” studio stamp with the government insignia, dated ca. 1874, from the McCullagh Collection.

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