A missing or unidentified mugshot: prisoner Alfred HARRINGTON

The research we have provided on these weblogs since 2003 about the police work of professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin in Tasmania during the 1870s and the mugshots he produced has stimulated and inspired a global reading public. If you are curious enough to pursue your own detective work regarding the prisoner’s identity in this handful of the few remaining mugshots yet to be documented (see below), take advice from researcher Peter Doyle. In his latest publication of mugshots from the NSW Justice and Police Museum , Crooks Like Us (2009), Doyle states that the police gazettes were the first he consulted and the most reliable source of information (p.312). The equivalent Tasmanian police gazettes are available as searchable CDs (from Gould’s) and are also online at the Archives Office of Tasmania (although not as easily searchable). These police records are by far the most reliable source of information about the 300 extant mugshots which are estrays of more than 3000 taken by Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin between 1871 and 1886.

Peter Doyle, Crooks Like Us (2009)
Photos copyright KLW NFC 2010 ARR.

Read more pages from in this slideshow: CROOKS LIKE US – click here

Was Alfred Harrington, convicted of manslaughter in 1870, ever photographed for police records, and if not, why not?

Alfred Harrington aged 30 yrs, was reported as absconding from Port Arthur and reported as arrested within the week: both reports were  published in the same issue of the police gazette Tasmania Reports of Crime on 13 March 1874.

Alfred Harrington was discharged on 21st  October 1874 with a FC, residue of sentence remitted. He had been sentenced at the Supreme Court Launceston on 20th October 1870 to 8 years for manslaughter,  transferred to the Hobart Gaol then to Port Arthur. But his name was not included in the list of prisoners sent to Port Arthur after 1870 and sent back again to the Hobart Gaol which was tabled in the Tasmanian parliament on 9th June 1873. Those men were all photographed by Nevin  at the Hobart Gaol either BEFORE they were sent to Port Arthur (from 1871, the transfer of prisons from Imperial to Colonial governance) or AFTER they returned to the city gaol in Hobart (from June 1873). And photographed again in many cases when they were discharged. Dozens of mugshots of men discharged in 1874 – as Harrington was on 21 October – survive in public collections, but Harrington’s is either missing, never existed, or survives as one of the several unidentified prints or cartes. He had no recorded alias in the police gazette notices, so the possibility of his mugshot existing but misnamed is unlikely.

Alfred Harrington’s wife was reported missing, 5 November 1875. The police gazette notice here states that he was still at Port Arthur, despite no further record of an offense from the date of his discharge in October 1874. It is probable therefore that no photograph exists because he never left Port Arthur. Only those prisoners who were sent to Port Arthur from 1871and were returned to the Hobart Gaol from June 1873 onwards were photographed – at the HOBART GAOL by Nevin and NOT at Port Arthur and NOT by its Commandant the non-photographer A.H.Boyd, despite circumstantial speculation by Chris Long and Warwick Reeder. By contrast, the mugshots of most of those men tabled as prisoners returning to the Hobart Gaol in June 1873 do survive in public collections. Harrington’s name is not among those on the list.

This is further evidence that NO PRISONER was photographed at Port Arthur, despite the handwritten inscription “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” by an archivist across the versos of many of Nevin’s original or duplicate cdvs originating from Beattie’s convictaria collection which was deposited at the QVMAG in 1927 and later dispersed piecemeal to other public collections (NLA, TMAG, AOT).


These photographs are reprints from Nevin’s 1870s negatives now held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston Tasmania.Unlike the final vignetted cartes which were pasted to the criminal’s record sheet, many of these prints bear no name. The collection as a whole was exhibited at the QVMAG in 1977 as the work of Thomas J.Nevin. All of the prisoners in the carte-de-visite photographs had been named by that date – some incorrectly – by archivists either for the 1934 exhibition in memory of John Watt Beattie and his convictaria collection, or by the curatorial staff there in 1958, in 1977, in 1985 and 1991 – dates which appear either on the verso of the cartes or in the accession sheets of public institutions which received Nevin’s originals, Nevin’s duplicates, or Beattie’s copies. The Archives Office of Tasmania holds similar images, some of which are originals and some which are copies, and some prisoners are listed there as unidentified although the same man is identified in the QVMAG collection. All men pictured in the mugshots held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra – and many picture the same men as those listed in the QVMAG collection – were identified (Foster is incorrectly identified) on accession in 1982, including the identity of the photographer T. J. Nevin, indicating clearly that the NLA received its collection from Tasmania.

Unknown or unidentified prisoners Tasmania 1870s
Photos by Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)
QVMAG Collection Launceston Tasmania

Although these prisoners are not identified at the QVMAG, their names appear on the same photograph, either unmounted or printed in an oval mount, held in other public collections, for example, there are more than fifty (50) held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and eighty-four (87) held at the National Library.

Unidentified prisoners, Archives Office of Tasmania

Unidentified at AOT, identified as Thomas Jackson at QVMAG.

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