Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom


Prisoner Thomas Jeffries (wrongly labelled as Henry Jeffries in 1915)
Photographed by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol 15 October 1873
Photos taken at the NLA on 16 December 2016
Copyright © KLW NFC 2016 ARR

Verso: Prisoner Thomas Jeffries (wrongly labelled as Henry Jeffries in 1915)
Photographed by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart gaol 15 October 1873
Photos taken at the NLA on 16 December 2016
Copyright © KLW NFC 2016 ARR

NLA Catalogue (incorrect information)
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.; Gunson Collection file 203/7/54.; Title from inscription on verso.; Inscription: “299 ; Henry {incorrect – Thomas} Jeffries, native, taken at Port Arthur, 1874”–In ink on verso.

Two outlaws called Thomas Jeffries
The 1870s police identification photograph (above) of locally-born offender Thomas Jeffries may have been wrongly transcribed verso in the early 1900s with the name “Henry Jeffries” when sent from John Watt Beattie’s “Port Arthur Museum” located at 51 Murray St. Hobart to Sydney for travelling exhibitions associated with the fake convict hulk Success. This cdv of a Tasmanian prisoner, together with dozens of others transcribed verso with “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” are estrays from early 1900s exhibitions on the theme of penal heritage which were intended to lure the intercolonial tourist to visit the ruins of the former prison at Port Arthur, 60 kms south of Hobart.

The photograph does not appear on the NLA’s list of “Convict Portraits, Port Arthur 1874 published in 1985 under Thomas J. Nevin’s name as the photographer, so it was either discovered or acquired by the NLA at a later date. Nor does the name “Thomas Jeffries” or the name “Henry Jeffries” appear on the list of prisoners sent to Port Arthur from the Hobart Gaol in the 1870s and returned again in 1873-1874 to the Hobart Gaol at Parliament’s request. No other prisoner appears in the police gazette notices by the name of “Henry Jeffries” for the decades 1860s-1880s, so the name “Henry” is incorrect. This prisoner is not to be confused with Mark Jeffrey who was photographed by Nevin in 1877 at the Hobart Gaol.

However, there was another prisoner, a well-known bushranger by the name of Thomas Jeffries who stood trial for the murder of an infant and was hanged in 1826, and whose sketch by Thomas Bock taken in the dock” (Dunbar, QVMAG catalogue 1991:25) is held at the State Library of NSW. The physical similarities between the 1826 sketch of Thomas Jeffries and the 1870s photograph of Thomas Jeffries suggest that the latter might have been the former’s grandson, especially as the prisoner photographed in the 1870s was a local, i.e. born in Tasmania ca. 1845, (1873-28=1845) if he was considered by police to be 28 years old in 1873 and 32 years old in 1878, and not an offender transported prior to 1853, the year in which transportation to the colony ceased.

State Library of NSW
Image no: a933021h
f.18 Thomas Jeffries: on Trial for the Murder of / Mr Tibbs’ Infant. 20.9 x 15.2 cm.
Thomas Bock – Sketches of Tasmanian Bushrangers, ca. 1823 – 1843
DL PX 5 Sir William Dixson bequest, 1952

Police Registers and Gazettes
The Tasmanian Police Gazettes, published weekly, which began to document in detail all crimes, warrants, arraignments, convictions, returns of inmate numbers, and discharges from the mid 1860s, are clearly the most comprehensive source of an offender’s criminal career. Tasmanian Prison Registers in bound form of criminal record sheets to which the prisoner’s mugshot was pasted have not survived in public archives from the decade of the 1870s (it would appear, up to this point, at least), but those bound registers extant from the late 1880s onwards with photographs included which are held at the Archives Office Tasmania (TAHO) have indeed survived and give a clear idea of the meticulous systematic documentation undertaken by the Colonial government’s administration.

Smaller registers from 1870s, however, do survive, which document prisoners’ sentences in the Hobart and Launceston Sessional and Supreme Courts, particularly those which record men sent to the Port Arthur prison after the processing of their warrant and photograph at the Hobart Gaol and Police Office. Those photographs were reproduced in duplicate (four or more) with at least one pasted to the prisoner’s criminal record sheet. Most of these 1870s extant photographs are now loose; they were either removed in the 1900s from the sheets for archiving, and the sheets destroyed, or they are duplicates produced by the original photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s or by a later copyist such as J. W. Beattie ca.1900 .

Online at TAHO is one such register, the CONDUCT Register – Port Arthur (CON94-1-2) for the years 1873-1876. This register not only lists many of the names of prisoners as those whose photographs have survived from the 1870s, it also documents in detail the daily earnings of the prisoner while incarcerated at Port Arthur. Most important are the Hobart Police Office’s annotations from warrants with the prisoner’s dates of arrival and departure from Port Arthur, plus further sentences dealt out in the Hobart courts for crimes committed into the 1880s and concommitant sentences at the Hobart Gaol. Several of these men were sent to Port Arthur at the end of 1874, a year after the departure of the non-photographer Commandant A. H. Boyd (Dec. 1873), whom some would wish to believe photographed them there (eg the corruptible Marg Burn at the NLA for their collection 2007). This is a clear indication that this register was maintained conjointly by the police administration in Hobart and clerks at Port Arthur from 1873 and beyond the date of closure of Port Arthur in 1877. The red ink on these records, according to journalist Marcus Clarke, author of For the Term of His Natural Life (1874) was added at the Hobart Police Office where he viewed them on request:

When at Hobart Town I had asked an official of position to allow me to see the records, and – in consideration of the Peacock – he was obliging enough to do so. There I found set down, in various handwritings, the history of some strange lives… and glancing down the list, spotted with red ink for floggings, like a well printed prayer-book …

Source: Marcus Clarke, THE SKETCHER. (1873, August 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 5. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

The photographs of many of these prisoners on the list are held at the National Library of Australia as loose items. When first accessioned by the NLA, the photographs were housed in a large leather-bound album, similar to a conventional 19th century family album (1962/1985 and personally witnessed for this weblog in 2000). None were pasted to criminal record sheets, and no accompanying register was recorded. Donated as estrays from exhibitions, sourced originally from a defunct government department (by Dr Neil Gunson in 1964), and viewed already as aesthetic rather than vernacular artefacts, these mugshots in their original context would have accompanied this particular register, (CON94-1-2)

Jeffries, Thomas – Native – Folio 11
Entered on second page of Index of –
Item: CON94-1-2

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON94-1-2
Series Number: CON94
Start Date: 01 Jan 1868
End Date: 30 Sep 1876

Thomas Jeffries’ brief stint at Port Arthur
Sentenced to 8 years in Launceston on September 1, 1873 for horse stealing, Thomas Jeffries was received at the Hobart Gaol on 15 October 1873 where government contractor T. J. Nevin photographed him in prison clothing. Two months later he was sent to the Port Arthur prison 60kms south of Hobart, arriving on Christmas Day, 25 December 1873. Transcribed from a memo from Det. Sergeant A. Jones at the Municipal Police Office in Hobart was this warning:

Vide this man’s warrant:
Memo:Thos Jeffries has expressed the intention of absconding the first favorable opportunity.
Det. A. Jones 15.9.73
Mr C.D.C Propsting

Thomas Jeffries stayed eight months at Port Arthur. He was returned to the Hobart Gaol on 12 October 1874. The Civil Commandant (Dr Coverdale) noted this in the register:

Removed to Gaol for Males Hobart Town per schooner Harriet this day to complete his sentence.
Civil Commandant 12 October 1874

Second page:  Vide this man’s warrant:
Memo:Thos Jeffries has expressed the intention of absconding the first favorable opportunity.
Det. A. Jones 15.9.73
Mr C.D.C Propsting

Folio 11, Port Arthur Conduct Record of Thomas Jeffries, (CON94-1-2 at TAHO)

The mugshot of Thomas Jeffries appears to fit the police description stated in the warrant for Thomas Jeffries, in terms of age at least, if not for the beard and whiskers, so this is not a booking shot taken on arraignment in Launceston, but rather taken by the government contractor, commercial photographer T. J. Nevin, on being received at the Hobart Gaol where prisoners were routinely shaved, bathed and dressed in prison clothing on arrival. This photograph was NOT taken at Port Arthur, despite the title devised by the cataloguist at the NLA from the cdv’s verso inscription, nor was it taken by the reviled commandant A. H. Boyd. These ahistoric furphies continue to be promulgated by “interpretationists” at the Port Arthur Historic Site theme park who would wish to inveigle their visitors in the same way that Beattie et al deceived visitors to his museum in the 1900s in the name of tourism.

After sentencing at Launceston in September 1873, Thomas Jeffries was held at the Hobart Gaol for nearly two months, from mid October 1873 to Christmas Day 1873. He would have been photographed again on discharge, per police requirements and regulations, in 1878.

Known as five-fingered Tom, having a sixth finger on the side of right hand

Warrant for Thomas Jeffries issued on 23 May 1873, per police gazette.

Thomas Jeffries, aged 28 yrs, was arraigned at the Recorder’s Court, Launceston, on 1 September 1873, for horse stealing, sentenced to 8 years, and transferred to the Hobart Goal in mid October. He spent 8 months at Port Arthur only, from Christmas Day 1873 and was returned to the gaol in Hobart in October 1874 where he remained until the residue of his sentence was remitted on 23 September 1878. On discharge, he was 32 yrs old, and “free”.

One of Thomas Jeffries’ distinguishing physical features was the fifth finger or sixth digit on his right hand which earned him the moniker of “five-fingered Tom“. Mugshots showing hands was a feature of police photographs of prisoners in some jurisdictions such as New Zealand around this date, but not until the late 1880s in single mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners, when the frontal gaze had also become the standard pose, thought not consistent until the 1890s where the two-shot system of full frontal and profile photographs was introduced (after Bertillon). For example, in these two photographs of Francis Shearan taken by Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, the 1877 booking shot shows the hands and the full frontal gaze, but the shot taken on sentencing and incarceration betrays the classic 1870s studio portraiture technique typical of Nevin’s commercial practice.

Two prison photographs of the same man, Francis Shearan (or Shearin, police records show spelling variations and aliases): left is the booking photograph 1877, right is the sentencing shot, 8 years for murder, taken in July 1878. The photographs of Francis Shearan are documented verso with the inscriptions:
Booking shot; “Francis Sheran ‘North Briton’ Murderer of Lawrence Fallon 1877”
Sentencing shot: ” Francis Shearan Murder 8 years 23-7-78“.

State Library of NSW
Nevin, T. J.
Photos of convicts

All photography copyright © KLW NFC 2009 – 2013 ARR.

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