Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

During their brief partnership ca. 1866-1868, Tasmanian photographers Thomas J. Nevin and Robert Smith advertised a service on the back of their stereographs with the wording Views of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!. Commercial studios routinely supplied photographic prints of family head stones, grave sites and sepulchral monuments and some, in addition, provided a low cost copy from an impression of a faded and barely legible tombstone epitaph, thereby retaining the original typography.

Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
TMAG REF: Q16826.9

How cheap was “cheap“? Three years previously, when Thomas Nevin was assistant in Alfred Bock’s studio at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart before Bock’s departure and Nevin &Smith acquiring the business, he would have taken exception to the word “cheap” directed at Alfred Bock’s practice. The dispute about the ownership and copyright of the sennotype process between Henry Frith and Alfred Bock in 1864-1865 embittered both to the point of deciding to quit Tasmania. Frith’s rates for carte-de-visite portraits were expensive, two for 10/-, and his disdain for “cheap trash palmed off on the public as cheap photography” was loudly proclaimed in this advertisement in the Mercury of 6th April 1864:

Henry Frith advertisement
Advertising. (1864, April 6). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from

One year later, Frith had ceased publishing his rates. The very public dispute had affected all photographic businesses in Hobart, with Alfred Bock and George Cherry forced to advertise great or extraordinary reductions in prices, both charging identical rates for cdv portraits: 1/- each for a carte-de-visite portrait, or 10s.6d. per dozen, vignettes a little more expensive at 7s.6d per half-dozen:


Opposite Mr. Mather’s, 94, Liverpool street;
Card Portraits, 10s. 6d. per’ dozen ; 6s. the haft-dozen. Vignettes, 12s. 6d, per dozen
7s. 6d the half-dozen. 31o

Card Portraits, 10s. 6d. per dozen; 6s. the  half dozen.
Vignettes, 12s. 6d. per dozen ; 7s. 6d. the half dozen. tc

Advertising. (1865, October 16). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from

Another photographer in the north of Tasmania advertised a similar service in tombstones in 1867. Peter Laurie Reid‘s terms, by contrast, were far from cheap: three carte-de-visite portraits for 7s 6d, compared with Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin’s sale of the same for six at 6s, and 7s 6d for vignettes at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart.

LONDON PORTRAIT GALLERY. MESSRS. REID & CO., Portrait and Landscape Photographers, Having erected a splendid Gallery, are now prepared to supply card portraits equal to the best London or Melbourne photographs. One trial is solicited. Three card de visite portraits for 7s 6d, or £1 per dozen. Families taken for a moderate sum. Patronised by the Governor. Album portraits of His Excellency Col. Gore . Browne and Mrs. Gore Browne now ready. Portraits taken from locket to life size. Oil paintings anod large pictures of all kinds copied and reduced to card size. Old portraits of every description copied and improved. Messrs. R. and Co have on hand one of the largest and choicest collections of Tasmanian views in the colony, from all parts of the island (views of the Hon. R. Q. Kermode’s new mansion-just added to their stock). Houses, monuments, tombstones, drawing rooms, &c. photographed. Visitors to Launceston are invited to call at the London Portrait Gallery, St. John street, nearly opposite the Theatre. Feb. 21. [UNDER the Patronage of His Excellency Colonel Gore Browne, C.B.

Advertising. (1867, March 5). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), p. 1., from

Even thirty years later, John Watt Beatie charged significantly less, just 10/- per one dozen of small cdvs, half the cost advertised by P. L. Reid and Co., and for the entire album of The Governors of Tasmania (1895),  Beattie charged only £2/2/- which included this photograph of Colonel Gore Browne, C.B., possibly the one advertised and taken by Messrs Reid & Co. in 1867:

Colonel Gore Browne, C.B. (1807-1887)
Title: The governors of Tasmania : from 1804 to 1896 / photographed by J. W. Beattie, 52 Elizabeth Street, Hobart
Creator: Beattie, J. W. (John Watt), 1859-1930, photographer, publisher
Publication: Hobart : J.W. Beattie, [c1896]
Description: 1 album (17 hinged boards, 15 albumen photographs ) : card, gelatin silver photographic prints ; photographs 205 x 153 mm. in album 29 x 26 cm. + 1 loose sheet
Binding: Half bound in green leather, gold bands on spine, gold lettering, patterned endpapers
Format: Album, Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001142927771
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

The Nevin and Swan families
Thomas Nevin worked from his New Town studio in the early 1860s (and again after 1880). He photographed many local scenes and vistas from the St John’s Church, the Cemetery and the Orphan schools grounds. His sister Mary Ann Nevin enjoyed the public support of amateur photographer and naturalist Morton Allport when she applied for permission to establish a school in nearby Kangaroo Valley in 1865. This stereograph was taken at the Swan family vault at the St Johns Cemetery, New Town and attributed to Morton Allport at the State Library,but it may have been taken or copied by Thomas Nevin, given his advertisement “Tombstones copied” etc.

Title: St John’s Cemetery, New Town, Swan vault
Publisher: Hobart : M. Allport, [1860]
Description: 1 photographic print : stereograph : b&w ; 96 x 172 mm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001126252238
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

The Swan family vault was substantial for two reasons: the patriarch John Swan snr was a wealthy retailer who established Swan’s Stores, Elizabeth Street, Hobart.  By the 1830s it was the premier store for clothing, millinery, fabrics, household furniture and upholstery. Premature deaths in the family was another. Mary Swan senior gave birth to fourteen children, including nine daughters. Two daughters, Harriet (1826–1853) and Julia (1834–1853) both died in 1853 of childbirth complications and scarlet fever respectively.

Mrs John Swan senior, Mary Anne (née Cameron 1800– 1869)
ADRI: AUTAS001125883785
Mr John Swan senior (1796–1858)
ADRI: AUTAS001125883801
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

National Portrait Gallery of Australia
Left:Portrait of Harriet Swan, c 1840
by attributed to Thomas Bock and Unknown
watercolour on ivory (17.5 x 20.0 cm)
Right: Portrait of Julia Swan, c 1840
by attributed to Thomas Bock and Unknown
watercolour on ivory (16.4 x 20.0 cm)

Another daughter, Katherine, married Thomas Daniel Chapman (1815-1884), merchant and politician in 1843. And yet another daughter, Maria Nairn nee Swan, married William Edward Nairn (1812-1869) who had arrived at Hobart in February 1837 on board the Fairlie with Franklin’s party. W. E. Nairn was assistant comptroller of the Convict Department in 1843. He had charge of the prisoners in Tasmania and Norfolk Island, was departmental registrar in 1855-56 and comptroller-general of convictsin 1859-68. He was also Sheriff of Hobart in 1857-68. One of the Swan family’s sons, John Swan the younger, was Inspector of Police by 1875 when he endorsed Thomas Nevin’s commission to photograph prisoners at the Hobart Gaol, and Sheriff of Hobart in the 1880s when he signed the death warrants for James Sutherland and Henry Stock (SLNSW Mitchell Library C203.). John Swan, Inspector of Police, signed off these discharges for prisoners from H. M Gaols in the week ending 17th February 1875, published in the police gazette, Tasmania Information for Police.Thomas Nevin’s photograph of prisoner James McNally was taken on discharge from Hobart Town in the preceding fortnight.

Tasmanian prisoner James McNally
Photo by Thomas J. Nevin taken at Hobart, February 1875
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Collection
Ref: Q1985 P0168

1. John Swan Sheriff 1884: warrant for execution of prisoner Henry Stock. Mitchell Library SLNSW.
2. John Swan, Sheriff, Hobart, signed the death warrant for Henry Stock 1884
From Death Warrants V.D.L. Tasmania Supreme Court. Mitchell Library C203.
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009

A rather spooky, over-edited photograph of a young John Swan the younger, Inspector of Police and Sheriff of Hobart, was reprinted in 1895 by John Watt Beatie in his album Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania. As with the majority of photographs in the Beattie album of parliamentarians, this one was touched up from an 1870s photograph, taken by an earlier (and unacknowledged) photographer.

Title: John Swan [the yr = younger]
In: In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 114
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19–]
ADRI: AUTAS001136191392
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Maria Nairn
On the death of her husband in 1869, John Swan’s sister Maria Nairn nee Swan leased an acre of land to Thomas Nevin’s father, John Nevin, adjacent to Lady Franklin’s Museum at Kangaroo Valley where he had built a cottage on land held by the Wesleyan Trustees. He taught evening class to adult males at the school house, shown as his occupancy in the Hobart Gazette notices. The Wesleyan Chapel was used for family weddings and funerals etc. John Nevin used the land leased from Maria Nairn to cultivate orchards and make fruit jams which he exported to the Victorian colony.

Property values, Hobart Town Gazette 26 November 1872.

  • John Nevin, school house and dwelling, Kangaroo Valley, garden leased from Maria Nairn
  • Maria Nairn, Cottage ornee and garden, Stephen St New Town
  • Maria Nairn occupier, Executors of the late Mrs. Swan [snr], J.C and A. Swan, paddock, part of Beaulieu, New Town

This stereograph taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1866 (verso has his usual New Town stamp) may be a view from the Swan family property, Beaulieu, looking across to the former Methodist church on New Town Road (at the junction of Pedder St). However, given the height at which it was taken, Nevin may have captured the scene from the tower of the large (pink-coloured) building now the Divisional Headquarters of the Salvation Army at 4 Bay Road New Town, called Brightside, which was the residence of another key figure in Thomas Nevin’s life, Police Superintendent Richard Propsting of the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall.

Vista of New Town, Hobart, Tasmania looking east
Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, New Town ca. 1866 
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014
TMAG Collection Ref: Q1994.56.28

Title: In the church yard at New Town [St John’s Cemetery]
Publisher: Hobart : M. Allport, [1860]
ADRI: AUTAS001126252253
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

This stereograph (below) of the tombstone of Stuart Jackson Dandridge who died of “low fever” aged 31 yrs, on 16 June, 1861, is unattributed and dated to ca. 1870. Dandridge  was a member of the Second Rifles, Southern Tasmanian Volunteers. In the distance on the right is the three storey house which was the residence in Davey St. until 1855 of Thomas Nevin’s wife’s uncle, Captain Edward Goldsmith.

Title:[St. David’s Cemetery]
Publisher:[ca. 1870]
Description:1 stereoscopic pair of photographs : sepia toned ; 9 x 18 cm. (mount)
ADRI: AUTAS001125299511
Source: W.L. Crowther Library

RELATED POSTS main weblog