Good reading for The Kid 1921 : Tasmanian police gazettes

THOMAS NEVIN and William Graves

Pictured: Jackie Coogan as the Kid finds something amusing in the Police Gazette …

Jackie Coogan as Charlie Chaplin’s co-star in The Kid (1921) finds something amusing in the Police Gazette.
The Kid Motion Picture © MCMXXI Charles Chaplin
Snapshot from DVD Warner Bros 2009

In 1884, the Colonial Government of Tasmania changed the name of its weekly police gazette to Tasmania Police Gazette for Police Information Only. The cover of each issue prior to 1884 was headed Tasmania Reports of Crime For Police Information (and the alternative – Information for Police) which was published by the government printer James Barnard dating back to its first appearance in 1861 (see Archive Office Tasmania POL709): from this in 1874,

1874: Cover: VOL. XIII Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police Information

  • to this in 1884 – Tasmania Police Gazette For Police Information Only.

1884: Cover: VOL XXIII Tasmania Police Gazette for Police Information Only

Between those years, the names of photographer Thomas J. Nevin, his brother Constable John Nevin, and their father John Nevin (snr) appeared several times; Thomas as the photographer of prisoners, his brother Constable John Nevin as an arresting constable and witness at inquests, and their father John Nevin snr as a victim of burglary. No photographer working in Tasmania other than Thomas Nevin was listed as assisting police in arrests in these years (Thomas Nevin was also assistant bailiff to detectives well into the 1880s), but several local photographers were accused or convicted of crimes as serious as larceny (e.g. Joshua Anson and Frank Miller), as unfortunate as bankruptcy (eg. Cherry, Spurling, and Riise), as mysterious as sudden death, probably from photochemicals (e.g. Haldene Cotsworth) and as inconsequential as drunkeness (e.g. Henry Anson). Some listings pertaining to photographers were notices about their disappearance in other jurisdictions but thought to be in Tasmania, and yet other listings related the cunning of impostors pretending to be photographers, usually con artists sought for theft.

The gazettes would have been commonplace in the Nevin family household, a ready source of amusement for the children, and a key source of information of scheduled Supreme Court sittings and Oyer sessions requiring Thomas Nevin’s attendance and services in providing identification photographs of prisoners on incarceration and discharge.

In this notice from page 78 of the 21st May 1875 issue of the Tasmanian police gazette, Thomas Nevin is listed assisting police with the arrest of William Graves. See this article, and the possible “Special Photograph” which Thomas Nevin took of a man answering Graves’ description. The term “Special Photograph” was used by the NSW police to describe casual photographs taken of offenders prior to their official mugshot, a superb collection of which was published in Peter Doyle’s Crooks Like Us (2009). In the same issue (21 May 1875) and on the same page are the names of several other prisoners whom Nevin photographed, and whose photographs are still extant (Elijah ELTON alias John Jones, alias Jack Flash; Samuel or George ROBINSON; and Henry Fitzpatrick – see cdvs below).

Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police 21 May 1875 p. 78.
Arrest of William Graves “assisted by Thomas Nevin

Prisoner Elijah ELTON per Emily 1842, aliases John Jones and Flash Jack
Photographed by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol 24 November 1874
NLA Catalogue: nla.obj-142917611

This prisoner was transported as Elisha NELMES on the Emily 1 in 1842. Prison and police administrators used the name Elijah ELTON up to his death in 1883 on official records, and recorded as well his other aliases John Jones, Thomas Turner, and the moniker Flash Jack.

The current incorrect catalogue notes at the NLA (as at 2013) further compound the error of the identity of the prisoner in this photograph with another alias, that of a different prisoner James Jones whose alias was Brocklehurst, viz:

Title John Jones, per Wm. [William] Jardine 2, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Date 1874.
Extent 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm. on mount 10.5 x 6.3 cm.
Context Part of Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Series Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Biography Also known as James Brocklehurst, see NLA 06/117.
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Gunson Collection file 203/7/54.
Title from inscription on reverse.
Inscription: title and “104”–In ink on reverse.

This misinformation also appears in the National Library of Australia’s publication of their Tasmanian “convict portraits” titled Exiled, The Port Arthur Convict Photographs (NLA 2011). It has misled descendants of the successful businessman Henry JONES who established the IXL jam factory in Hobart, to believe that this mugshot shows Henry Jones’ father John Jones. The prisoner in this mugshot is not John JONES, clerk, 30 yrs old, who married Emma MATHERSON, 25 yrs old, on 8 September 1853 at Hobart (Archives Office Tasmania NAME_INDEXES:847686), the only plausible ancestor of the IXL founder Henry Jones. This prisoner was Elisha Nelmes, officially recorded by police as Elijah Elton.


Vide Crime Report of 11th July 1873, page 118, 25th July, 1873, page 122 and 5th September 1873, page 146.
John Jones, alias Flash Jack, is identical with Elijah Elton, vide Crime Report 1st November, 1872, page 179,and 20th November, 1874, page 189, now undergoing sentence in H.M. Gaol, Hobart Town.Warrants have been lodged against him at the gaol by Mr. Superintendent Griffith, of the Richmond Municipal Police, by whom and Sub-Inspector Harvey,of the Glamorgan Municipal Police, he has been identified.

Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime (Police Gazette) 14 May 1875.

The photograph of Elijah ELTON was taken by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol on November 20th 1874 when John Jones was incarcerated for burglary. In May 1875 it was forwarded to regional police who – as the notice states – correctly identified him from his photograph and issued the further warrants, even while Elijah Elton was still in the gaol serving sentences for previous crimes.

The mugshot of the other “JONES” – James JONES or William JONES, also known as Spider,alias James BROCKLEHURST was also taken at the Hobart Gaol by T. J. Nevin on 3 March 1875 when James Jones was discharged. This duplicate from Nevin’s negative is held at the National Library of Australia, incorrectly catalogued from the inscription on verso with the date “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” which was written by archivists in early 20th century for convictaria exhibitions at the QVMAG, Launceston,Tasmania, and the Royal Hotel, Sydney, NSW, in conjunction with the fake convict ship Success.

NLA Ref: PIC P1029/27a
LOC Album 935/nla.obj-142917516 (incorrect information)
James Jones, per Theresa, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture] 1874.
1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm. on mount 10.5 x 6.3 cm.

Police record for James JONES or William Jones alias Brocklehurst, photographed by T. J. Nevin on the prisoner’s discharge 3 March 1875.
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime (Police Gazette)

Below: mugshots by T. J. Nevin of John Fitzpatrick (NLA) and George Robinson (QVMAG):

Mugshots by T. J. Nevin
Left: John Fitzpatrick (NLA collection)
Right: George Robinson (QVMAG collection)

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