The concertina player 1860s


Group including Mrs and Mrs George Case at Sir John Franklin’s Tree, Kangaroo Valley, Tasmania.
Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, ca.1867
Recto and verso: Scans from TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.31

 The concertina player 1870

Half of double image stereo, (TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.31)
Maker: T. Nevin , Concertina player with group of friends at New Town Creek ca. late 1860s.
Photos taken at the TMAG 10 Nov 2015 © KLW NFC Imprint 2014 -2015 ARR.

This untitled stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, taken ca. 1868 of a group of 19 people sitting by a stream, including a woman holding a concertina, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Ref: Q1994.56.31. Photographed together with its blank verso on 10th November, 2014 at the TMAG (by this weblog), the stereo is one of a series, some bearing Nevin’s New Town stamp, some blank, originally attributed and sequenced by Specialist Collections librarian G. T. Stilwell at the State Library and Archives Office of Tasmania in the 1970s while preparing an exhibition of Nevin’s portraits of convicts (at the QVMAG with John McPhee 1977).

A possible title for the stereograph  might be “Concertina player with group of friends at New Town Creek“. The location of the capture could be decided by the large tree with a notice nailed to it. Given the family association with the area around Ancanthe, Nevin most likely took this – and many other similar scenes in the series – at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley,Tasmania) where groups were regularly taken on a tour to see Lady Franklin’s Museum and offered photographs as a souvenir of their day out. In 1872, for example, Thomas Nevin chaperoned a group of day trippers to Adventure Bay. They were informed a few days later by Nevin’s notice in the Mercury (on 2nd February), that the photographs were ready for viewing (and buying).

Perhaps the tree was “Sir John Franklin’s Tree” located in the upper reaches of the New Town Rivulet at Ancanthe where “15 people had once sat down for lunch“. It was felled by the great storm which hit Hobart causing the landslide at Glenorchy in 1872, per this report (Location Plan New Town Rivulet, Archives Tas.)

Nevin photographed another concertina player accompanied by a wind instrument player in a group portrait at the Rocking Stone on top of Mount Wellington which he exhibited at the Wellington Park Exhibition, 1870.

Rocking Stone party Mt Wellington by T. Nevin 1870

Rocking Stone Party with musicians
Maker T. Nevin Hobart Town
Photographed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
Ref: Ref: Q1994.56.4 and Ref: Q16826.4
Photo © KLW NFC Imprint 2014 -2015 ARR

This stereograph of another group picnicking in the bush, also featuring a musical instrument, a banjo, was tentatively attributed to Thomas Nevin’s partner Samuel Clifford when offered for sale at the Hobart Book Fair 2011 by Douglas Stewart Fine Books, but on acquisition through donation to the National Library of Australia, the word “attributed” was dropped, creating yet another whimsical but questionable attribution to Clifford despite the lack of any photographer’s mark, studio stamp or impress.

Selected highlights from our display
Hobart • February 12 – 13, 2011
Catalogue link here

Clifford, Samuel, 1827-1890. NB: The NLA should include the word “ATTRIBUTED” but doesn’t.
A bush picnic with a banjo player, Tasmania, ca. 1860 [picture]
186-? 1 photograph : stereograph, albumen ; 7.2 x 15.5 cm on mount 8.3 x 17.2 cm.

Similar groups were photographed by Nevin at Lady Franklin’s Museum, although by the late 1860s, the building housed fruit and potatoes rather than items of natural history and the science library which Jane Franklin had intended it should when built in 1843.

Group at the Lady Franklin Museum Kangaroo Valley (Tas)
Stereograph c.a. 1871 by Thomas J. Nevin
Royal Society ePrints University of Tasmania No. 18-9

Kangaroo Valley was a convenient spot for Nevin as he was still a bachelor until 1871, and periodically resided with his two siblings and parents at the house his father John Nevin had built on land above the Museum in the mid 1850s. The Museum sat adjacent to the Wesleyan Chapel where John Nevin and his daughter Mary Ann Nevin taught school. Although Thomas Nevin had acquired a fully functioning commercial studio in the business district of Hobart Town by 1867 from his partner Alfred Bock, he always maintained a separate small commercial studio in the New Town area close to Ancanthe until the birth of his last child in 1888.

Concertina player detail

Detail of stereo by T. Nevin , Concertina player with group of friends at New Town Creek ca. 1868.

T. Nevin, concertina player 1870

T. Nevin, stereo of concertina player and group ca.1868 (TMAG
Ref: Q1994.56.31)
Photos © KLW NFC Imprint 2014 -2015 ARR.

Thomas Nevin photographed day-trippers, school children, farmers and their fields, the Museum, ferns with and without snow, rushing water and glistening rocks at Kangaroo Valley quite regularly while developing skills in outdoor stereography. Taken on a warm day, this group sat close to the edge of a stream, the man closest to the camera holding a cup about to dip it. The boy leaning against the tree also holds a cup, and a water can stands ready near the picnic basket. Nevin photographed his sister Mary Ann dipping a glass close to the same spot.

The Musicians and the Music
Nineteen people excluding the photographer are present in this image; twelve women and seven men, including two teenage boys and an elderly man. The women range from early 20s to middle age. However, it is the concertina player slightly right of centre who draws the eye. She is a young, attractive woman with bushy hair, seated next to the group of men. She may have been Mrs George Case (nee Grace Egerton) who sang to the accompaniment of her husband playing the concertina while touring Tasmania in concerts held at the Mechanics Institutes in Hobart and Launceston. Her husband George Case is possibly sitting just below her in a hat, arms resting on upbent knees. A full-length portrait of the couple taken by Alexander Fox & Co. ca, 1864 is held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, listed in the current exhibition Sideshow Alley, Infamy, the macabre & the portrait, (Saturday 5 December 2015 until Sunday 28 February 2016):

Mr and Mrs Case, 1864
by Alexander Fox and Co
carte de visite photograph on card (10.2 x 6.3 cm)
Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010
Accession number: 2010.39

Notices of the Case concerts appeared regularly in the press from 1865 to the early 1870s.
George Case and his concertina were not without criticism. In this letter to the editor of the South Australian Register (9 March 1865), he responded angrily to a poor review of the previous’ evening’s performance:

MR. CASE AND THE CONCERTINA. (1865, March 9). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 3. from


to the editor.
Sir— In your report of our entertainment last evening you have made some rather severe remarks upon the concertina and my performances on that instrument. In justice to myself I claim a short space in your valuable journal, to place before you and the public a few facts, which I think will prove that I am entitled to a better place in your estimation and theirs than is conveyed in your criticism.
I received my first instructions on the concertina, when only a boy, direct from the inventor (Professor Wheatstone), and was taken by him continually to the various conversaziones of the scientific world for the purpose of displaying its powers. At that time, and for some period afterwards, there were only two performers on this instrument. Signor Begondi and myself. Since then I have travelled all over England, Ireland, and Scotland with the celebrated Jullien, performing nightly fantasias on the concertina at his concerts never without an unanimous encore. I was engaged by Signor Costa as solo concertinist at Her Majesty s Theatre, accompanying Catherine Hayes with my concertina on the stage of that theatre, and for many years at most of the principal concerts in London. I have travelled through England with Sims Reeves, John Parry, Arabella Goddard, Miss Dolby, Anna Thillon, and other first-class artistes, and have been engaged to perform at the evening parties of the Duchess of Somerset, the Earl of Westmoreland, the Earl of Wilton, and a host of nobility I could name, including in my audiences the late Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess, Lord and Lady Palmerston, Lord John Russell, &c., &c.
My annual concert at Exeter Hall was one of the features of the day, being invariably attended by about 3,000 persons. Three-fourths of the music published for the concertina have emanated from my pen, and after receiving during 20 years nothing but flattering testimonials of my ability as a performer on the concertina, and being able to say without egotism that no one is better known as a concertinist than myself. I feel it is, to say the least of it, odd to find myself for the first time in my life told that I have still so much to learn before I can secure the approbation of your critical reporter. Apologizing for intruding so long on your space,

I am, Sir, &c. GEORGE CASE.

MR. CASE AND THE CONCERTINA. (1865, March 9). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 3. from

Rather different reviews appeared two years later while touring Tasmania. A rendering of the National Anthem at their final performance at the Town Hall (see last review below) elicited “a perfect storm“.

MR. AND MRS. GEORGE CASE. (1867, November 26). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), p. 5.from


MR. AND MRS. GEORGE CASE. The reappearance of Mr. and Mrs. Case at the Mechanics’ Institute last evening, after their visit to Hobart Town, was greeted by a large number of admirers, by whom both were cordially welcomed. The programme consisted of three parts, each of which had some new feature,and it is almost superfluous to any that the whole was rendered with admirable fidelity. The Spanish Dance with which the first part concluded was exceedingly pretty, and elicited prolonged applause. In Mrs. Case’s imitation of Sims Reeves she sang ” The Death of Nelson,” and an encore being demanded she gave ” Fair shines the Moon.” ‘A fantasia on the baritone concertina by Mr. Case was also encored. The entertainment concluded with an amusing comolioetta [?], entitled ” Married and Settled. or D.u’,lo [?] Dummy.” Before the curtain fell Mrs. Case thanked the audience for their patronage, and expressed a hope that there would be a full house on Thursday; and as she was about to retire a perfect shower of bouquets fell around her and nearly covered the stage.
On Thursday night these favorite artistes appear for the last time in Launceston, when they have kindly consented to give an entertainment in aid of the Free and Industrial School. On this occasion a real explanation will be given of the Protean Cabinet illusion, which has baffled the comprehension of so many hundreds. Tomorrow evening Mr. and Mrs. Case give a farewell performance at Longford ; at Evan dale on Wednesday evening; Westbury on Friday; ard Deloraine on Saturday.

Mr and Mrs George Case, Launceston Examiner, 30 November 1867
MR. AND MRS. GEORGE CASE. (1867, November 26). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), p. 5.  from

MR. AND MRS. CASE’S ENTERTAINMENT. (1867, November 14). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 2. from


Mr. and Mrs. George Case closed their season at tho Town Hall last evening, when there was again a crowded audience to witness their performances. The programme embraced a number of Mrs. Case’s best and most amusing characters, all of which, however, have been before noticed by us. The only especial feature of the evening was the duett on popular melodies, for violin and piano, by Mr. Case and Mr. F. A. Packer. The duett embraced several very popular melodies, and concluded with the National Anthem. It was beautifully played by both performers, and elicited a perfect storm of applause, and an unanimous encore, to which Messrs. Case and Packer replied by repeating a portion of it. Mr. Case’s solo on the barítone concertina was another item of the programme to which we have not previously called adequate attention. This instrument is far more rich in tone than the ordinary tenor, and its manipulation by Mr. Case was something wonderful. He played a fantasia on popular melodies which was very loudly applauded. At the conclusion of the entertaiinuout Mr, and Mrs. Caso thanked the public for their very liberal support which has been accorded to them during their stay. To-night they appear at Cavey’s Hotel, Brighton.

1860s Wheatstone concertina Ref: DP225644

If indeed the young woman holding the concertina in Nevin’s steregraph was Mrs George Case, the instrument was probably an English made Wheatstone concertina with square ends, and there may have been more musical instruments present – a violin or flute. On the lower left of the photograph in front of the group of women and next to the open picnic basket lies a bag possibly containing bagpipes. Then again, the young woman seated with the men may have taken the concertina from one of them nearby just to strike a pose, a not uncommon choice, as it happens –

RobStevensMusic: Concertina 621 × 750
Woman with concertina, daguerreotype ca. 1850 (source)

Source: Portrait Of A Young Lady And Her Concertina

1860s Ambrotype of man playing concertina

Added to the classic and comedic repertoire for the concertina were familiar tunes renamed after local personalities. This local tune was titled “Sir John Franklin near the North Pole” and written or assigned to Arctic explorer and governor of VDL, Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin.



ADRI: NS548-1-1
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania
Series: Copies of Manuscript Music, 1863 (NS548) page 25
Notes: Manuscript music presented to Robert Rollings of Forcett by Alexander Laing. Comprises Scottish folk tunes (e.g. by Nathanial Gow) and some music titled to local identities.

Noel Hill and his 1860s concertina
This is the sound of a Jeffries concertina made in the 1860s, played by Noel Hill in 1995.

At YouTube:

Also, watch Noel Hill, aged 14yrs, give a virtuoso performance in 1972. At YouTube: