Aliases, Copies, and Misattribution


… numbered copies … 1.2,3, …

George White as Nutt, George Nutt alias White …

Above: The database image of George NUTT with verso at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery: note that the verso is inscribed with the conventional date of Nevin’s photographic registration (1874), the alias, and the ship on which Nutt was originally transported before 1853, but the transcription which appears on many other versos of convicts’ cartes – “Taken at Port Arthur” – is absent. Nevin may have photographed Nutt at Port Arthur prison between 23rd February and 8th May 1874; the former date being another sentence for Nutt for breaking the cell while trying to escape, the latter being one of the dates on which Nevin attended the penal site on police business with prisoner Job Smith whom he had photographed with the alias William Campbell (see details of Nutt’s serial offenses on the large Fairlie ship transportation record below.)

The transcriber of the notes on the verso of the carte has collated the prisoner’s record with the photograph, and assumed the date “1874” was the date of Nevin’s photograph. Nevin would have taken another photograph of Nutt in any event as a re-offender in 1875 when Nutt was arrested for absconding, and this is the image.

Webshot AOT of Thomas Nevin’s carte of George Nutt alias White 1875
Click on image for large view


The vignette of convict George Nutt alias White, which is also online at the Archives Office of Tasmania was taken by Thomas Nevin soon after Nutt was arrested on September 3rd, 1875. Nutt escaped while under sentence on 24th August, 1875 from the Port Arthur settlement, and was considered desperate enough that a reward was offered which was posted in the weekly police gazettes (Tasmania Reports on Crime for Police Information 1875) during the fortnight of the convict’s freedom.

Above: The notice in the gazette on 27th August, 1875.

Some details about his height 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, September 3rd, 1875.

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


Thomas Nevin was able to recognize and describe George Nutt from their common experience as passengers travelling to Australia on board the Fairlie, which arrived in Hobart on July 3rd, 1852. Thomas Nevin was still a child in 1852, the ten year old son of a Fairlie guard, John Nevin, accompanying his mother Mary and three siblings, William John (Jack) , Rebecca and Mary Ann. George Nutt was a Parkhurst boy, a transported exile from the prison of the Isle of Wight. He would have been about 18 years old in 1852, if he was 42 years old when he fled the Port Arthur prison in 1875.

Above: Nutt’s convict record at AOT
Ref: CON33-1-107_00197_L

Unlike many of these transportation records, this one contains some information of Nutt’s work record and serial criminal offenses upto his discharge in 1884.


The Archives Office of Tasmania & the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery copies of this prisoner’s vignette both bear the number “1” on the mount, recto. An ink stain of a square stamp partially covering the convict’s face is evident on this one, the AOT copy.

AOT: PH30/1/3222
Caption by AOT: Possibly George White alias Nutt convict transported per Fairlie 1852
Photo taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin 1874

Archives Office of Tasmania photographic database:
Title: George White
Subject: convicts, people, portraits
Locality: not identified
Date: 1874

Archives Office of Tasmania Convicts’ names database:
Database number:81329 Name: White, George
Arrived: 03 Jul 1852 Fairlie
Departed: 11 Mar 1852 Plymouth
Transported as George Nutt

The AOT has used Nutt’s ship transportation record with details of his incarceration in 1870-71 at the Separate Model Prison Port Arthur where he was originally documented George White as Nut [sic]

White as Nutt in Separate Prison July 1870

White as Nutt Separate Prison April 1871 –

George White as Nutt,
Separate Model Prison 1870-1
Mitchell Library, SLNSW
Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

  • but the police documented his escape as Nutt alias White. According to information detailing the Parkhurst Boys at Convict Central, a 13 year old boy called George Nutt was convicted of larceny on 15th May 1848, sentenced for 7yrs and transported on the Fairlie departing Plymouth on March 2nd, 1852, arriving in Tasmania on July 3rd, 1852. The ship transportation record (above) confirms these details, although his age by 1852 was given as 19 yrs. He was listed as a tailor or shoemaker. George Nutt would have been born ca 1834 if aged 13 at the time of conviction in 1848, and would have been around 42 in late 1875. The photograph by Nevin shows a man of that age.


Nevin took the one surviving image of Nutt as a police photograph at the Hobart Gaol where Nutt was incarcerated after arrest in 1875. The vignette was printed from the glass negative, as a standard police identification carte of the period, and pasted to Nutt’s criminal record sheet. The number “1” on the mount may be Nevin’s numbering, or one used by the police, and there would have existed at least two more duplicates circulated to police, but more likely it has been numbered by museum archivists on accession. Another indication on this carte that it was the first photograph in an album copied as a series at the QVM in 1958 is the ink impress left by the square QVM stamp across George Nutt’s left cheek and collar from the verso of the second carte in the series in 1958 which was placed on top of it, that of convict carte No.2, Nevin’s vignette  of Wm Yeomans.

For this reason, the square stamp ink is visible in the AOT image, but not in the QVMAG image, although identical in all other respects, which points to multiple copies made by the QVMAG archivist (in Launceston) for circulation to the AOT office and in some cases, to the TMAG in 1987 (in Hobart). The original from which 20th century copies were made may be the one held at the QVMAG but not necessarily the only duplicate which was first made by Nevin from his glass negative and used in criminal registers.

For example, there are three extant copies of the photograph taken once and once only by Nevin of prisoner William Yeomans: one at the QVMAG, one at the AOT, both numbered “2” on the front, and a third which is held at the National Library of Australia with no numbering on the front, rather, it is numbered “57” on the verso, testifying to further copying from a single original glass negative either by Nevin for the prison authorities’ immediate use, or by later archivists again. The NLA copy of the Yeomans carte is an archival estray donated there by Dr Neil Gunson in 1962 and accessioned in Nevin’s name.

NLA Catalogue notes:
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.; Gunson Collection file 203/7/54.; Title from inscription on reverse.; Inscription: “No 57”–On reverse.

Photograph of convict William Yeomans by Nevin at the QVMAG and AOT.

The recto on Yeomans’ carte is numbered “2′ and its verso was most likely placed on top of the front of Nutt’s carte when the QVMAG archivist was in the process of copying them in 1958. The catalogue number for the job in 1958 was 1958:78:22, accompanied by the QVM stamp with more numbers.

The original transcription of the convict’s name and ship and the date 1874 was added much earlier, probably ca. 1900-1927, given the calligraphic style. The most recent inscriptions by archivists date from 1985; e.g. QVM1985:P69, and are in a childish hand. Again, there is NO statement on this verso that the photograph was taken at Port Arthur, the probable explanation being that these first few cartes were transcribed verso and copied by one person, and the remainder at a later date by another. The third prisoner carte in the series, that of Bewley Tuck, with the number “3” on recto, similarly lacks the statementTaken at Port Arthur“:

Cataloguists, librarians, archivists, students, photo historians and others in public service have made a real mess of storing and recording the accession history, numbering, and data collation on these Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photos: obliteration, reinvention, fads, guesses, fashions, and personal agendas have managed to obliterate valuable data and thus the traces of facts from their past.

George Nutt’s ID photograph is one example. It was one of more than 70 exhibited at the Queen Victoria and Museum Gallery in 1977, with correct attribution to Thomas Nevin from the Beattie collection. But by 1984 a researcher on a very tiny budget, Chris Long, who had the job of putting together an A-Z directory of Tasmanian photographers (published in 1995) for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart, indulged a speculation that photographic supplies supposedly sent to Port Arthur in August 1873 were used personally by the Civil Commandant to photograph the prison’s inmates (letter to Nevin descendants 1984, letter to the authors Davies and Stanbury, The Mechanical Eye 1985). The Civil Commandant from 1871 to December 1873 was A.H. Boyd, with no reputation in his lifetime as a photographer, no history of training or skills, and no extant works. No police or official documentation associates his name with prisoner photographic records and there has never surfaced any authentic evidence to support this “idea” or “belief”, but because of the self-referential world of art history, photo historians such as Ennis, Crombie and Reeder have credited Chris Long and used his “idea” as a possible attribution, extending to the present as a “likely” attribution by the sycophantic Clark who has influenced the NLA’s current revision of Nevin’s attribution. Under the influence of the QVMAG employee Elspeth Wishart,now at the TMAG and her former colleague at the TMAG, Julia Clark, the NLA has recently been co-opted  to apply the misattribution to Boyd of their 84 “convict portraits”, further effectively suppressing Nevin’s former sole attribution, for no reason other than to attempt to mask their collective foolishness in believing Chris Long’s idle speculations (1984,1995). Their doggedness is tantamount to professional fraud.

This simple fallacy of judgment by Long and his unquestioning cohort has misled commentators, and more significantly, librarians and museum cataloguists into suppressing Nevin’s attribution, foregrounding the name A.H. Boyd, ignoring the circumstances and contexts of police practices, and labelling the ID photos as “portraits” – aesthetic objects, in other words. Chris Long expressed regret at the confusion he caused (acknowledged 2005, email to these weblogs), but the misattribution in public institutions is still evident in their catalogues. George White aka Nutt’s carte has gone from this record:

Archives Office of Tasmania (and current at June 2010)
Carte no. 1
Title: George White
Subject: convicts, people, portraits Locality: not identified
Date: 1874  Possibly George White (alias Nutt) convict transported per Fairlie.

Photo taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin

and this original record at the QVMAG (prior to 1985)
Nevin, Thomas J. 1874
QVMAG carte no. 1
George White, alias Nutt

to this now at the QVMAG from 1985 (until 2009) when Elspeth Wishart re-catalogued all these convict photographs for an Exhibition purely because of Long’s idle and groundless hypothesis:

QVMAG from 1985-2009
Registration Number: QVM: 1985:P :0070
Type: carte de visite
Producer/Photographer: Boyd, Adolarious Humphrey
Content: Portrait of George White alias Nutt at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1874.

Notice that the data about ship, date of transportation, and former catalogue numbers are all gone, and the aesthetic term “portrait” has subsumed the documentary facts. When asked why the QVMAG had obliterated Nevin’s attribution, which was correctly assigned in 1977 by the same institution, the QVMAG, their reply was simply – “because of comments made by Chris Long, ” without so much as a backwards glance at their own curatorial history (letter from Community History Technical Officer – see this article: The QVMAG, Chris Long and A. H. Boyd.)


The QVMAG has now brought online most (but not all) of their database holdings of these convict photographs, with a revised catalogue entry for Nutt (below). The first cataloguing of these photographs by the QVM was in 1958, evidenced by the stamp on versos, and the second database dates from 1985. A new database collation needs to be performed, going back to the original cartes and glass negatives to include the criminal records sheets with cartes attached, mentioned by Nevin’s curator for the 1977 QVMAG exhibition, John McPhee, in correspondence with the Specialist Librarian G.T. Stilwell. Full color online images would also be appreciated; the current practice of displaying only  the b & w version is now a passe precaution.

Purely because of one idle comment by Chris Long that forced and foisted onto the Commandant A.H. Boyd an  association as the photographer of these “convict portraits” (i.e. police mugshots), the former employee at the QVMAG and now an historian at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Elspeth Wishart, has pushed onto the public the Boyd misattribution, both at the TMAG and per this entry online at the QVMAG website. A.H. Boyd has no entry in the mammoth publication, Dictionary of Australian Artists to 1870 (ed. Joan Kerr 1992), while Nevin does, complete with attribution as the photographer of these convict images (p.568), yet Boyd has an entry as THE photographer of these prisoner cartes in the DAA online version, probably because Wishart and Clark were actively involved as the contributors who authored the fatuously illogical comment -“not surprising given his job as penal officer“.

The entire misattribution problem has its genesis in a belief that a single sentence in an unpublished children’s fictional tale about a holiday at Port Arthur, written in 1930 by a niece of A.H. Boyd, E.M. Hall, called “The Young Explorer” (SLTAS) which does NOT mention Boyd by name NOR does it refer to the photographing of prisoners at the Port Arthur prison, can be taken as FACT (an artful wish from Wishart!). Elspeth Wishart and her former colleague at the TMAG, Julia Clark, are determined to promulgate the A.H. Boyd misattribution with appeals to impressionable staff at the National Library of Australia and other public institutions, not to mention the editors of academic journals (Clark, JACHS 2010) purely to mask their own gullibility in placing all their faith in Chris Long’s assumption that a single sentence from children’s fiction can function as historical fact. For further discussion on this issue see these articles:

Mitchell Library, SLNSW
Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR