Prisoner James GEARY: mugshots and rap sheet 1865-1896

Mugshots of locally born Tasmanian prisoner James Geary (1844-1897?) from 1874-1893
Left:     Photographed by Thomas Nevin, 20th February 1874 at the Police Office, Hobart Gaol
Centre: Photographed by Constable John Nevin, at the Hobart Gaol ca. 1877, reprinted 1889
Right:   Photographed by [unknown] at Police Office, Hobart on 25th April 1893

The Rap Sheet 1865-1896
James Geary was born in Hobart to Ellen and Stephen Geary, a labourer, on 12th March 1844. His career in convicted crime began with horse-stealing in 1865, at 20 yrs old. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin in 1874 on discharge from the Hobart Gaol when he was 30 yrs old. His next extant mugshot was taken by Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in 1877, now 33 yrs old. His last police photograph was taken (by unknown) at the Police Office, Hobart in 1893 when he was 49 yrs old. Date of death unknown, possibly 1897 (see below).

1865: Horse stealing (4 yrs)
1868: Cattle stealing (6 yrs)
1869: Neglecting work (7 days Solitary)
1870: Absconding (12 months)
1874: Horse stealing (6 yrs)
1879: Stealing from a person (6 months)
1880: Larceny as a bailee (6 months)
1882: Larceny (3 months)
1882: Horse stealing (6 yrs)
1893: Larceny as a baillie (6 months)
1894: Disturbing the peace (48 hours)
1894: ditto (28 days)
1895: False pretences (3 months)
1895: Drunk & Dis(48 hours)
1895: Indecent behaviour (14 days)
1896: Idle & Dis (2 months)
1896: ditto (3 months)
1896: Disturbing peace (3 days)
1896: Obscene language (14 days)

James Geary, Page 665 :GD63/1/1

State Library of Tasmania
Item Number: GD63/1/1 View this record online
Description: (Book No. 2).
Copy Number: Z1537
Series: • GD63 PRISONERS RECORD BOOKS. 01 Jan 1890 31 Dec 1962

The first mugshot 1874 by T. J. Nevin
This is one of Thomas J. Nevin’s finely produced albumen prints of Tasmanian prisoners taken on contract in the 1870s for the colonial government, typical of his commercial studio practice.

National Library of Australia
James Gearey [sic], native, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [incorrect information]
Incription on reverse “149” , Pictorial: P1029/16,
NEVIN, Thomas J. 1842-1923, photographer

Verso of mugshot taken by T. J. Nevin of James Geary 1874
Inscribed ca. 1900 for tourist exhibitions
Photo taken at the NLA 7th Feb. 2015
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint.

The note “Taken at Port Arthur, 1874” on the versos of hundreds of these 1870s police mugshots was written by John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle in the early 1900s for sale at Beattie’s “Port Arthur Museum” located in Hobart, and for inclusion in the travelling exhibition of convictaria on board the fake convict hulk Success to Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide.


James Geary absconded from the Hobart Commissariat Stores, police gazette notice of 22nd April 1870. He was serving a sentence of 6 yrs for cattle-stealing, tried 7th July 1868, Hobart.

James Geary was arrested by Sub-Inspector Dorsett, 20 May 1870. Thomas Nevin frequently accompanied Sub-Inspector Dorsett as assistant bailiff, a service he continued through to 1886.

James Geary was photographed by Thomas Nevin on being discharged from the Municipal Police Office, Town Hall, Hobart on 20th February 1874.

But James Geary reoffended. Warrant for his arrest issued on 6th November 1874

James Geary was arrested again on 13th November, 1874, Superintendent Propsting etc

James Geary was arraigned at the Hobart Supreme Court on 1st December, 1874. The first photograph taken on discharge by Thomas Nevin in February 1874 was retained as further offences were recorded on his rap sheet but in 1877 another photograph was taken at the Hobart Gaol.

Top of page, first entry:
James Geary, 31 yrs old, locally born (“native”) pleaded not guilty to stealing a horse and larceny at trial in the Supreme Court, Hobart. Found guilty on 1st November 1874 and imprisoned for 6 yrs.
Source: Archives Office Supreme Court Rough Calendar 1874: page 37.

James Geary served a short sentence of less than two years at the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on the 1 August 1868: he was “transferred to the House of Correction for Males Hobart Town to complete his sentence” on 28 March 1870, per this record signed James Boyd Civil Commandant. He was not photographed at Port Arthur. He was photographed in the last weeks of incarceration at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin prior to discharge in February 1874.

Source: TAHO Ref: CON94-1-1_00204_L
Description: Conduct register – Port Arthur
Further Description:
Start Date: 01 Jan 1868
End Date: 31 Dec 1869

The 1874 photograph of James Geary, aged 30 yrs, taken by contractor Thomas J Nevin is a finely produced albumen print exhibiting the commercial portraiture techniques typical of Nevin’s work for police in this decade.

The Missing Photo Book forms, 1870s
This form (below) was specifically designed to be included in the Police Office Photo Books. The basic information of the prisoner’s appearance and his/her latest offence accompanied the photograph.The government printer James Barnard used these photo books in the preparation of notices of prisoner movements when he published the weekly police gazettes during the 1870s. Each page was numbered at top right, and the wording “Date when Photograph was taken” printed prominently as the header just below it, indicating clearly that the purpose of this form was to be a photographic record. For some reason very few of these Photo Book pages carrying mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the late 1870s have survived. This full frontal photograph of James Geary was taken at the Hobart Gaol “about the year 1877“, probably by Thomas Nevin’s brother, Constable John Nevin.

Prisoner James Geary, No. 15
Date when photograph was taken – about the year 1877.
Archives Office of Tasmania

Hobart Gaol 1889: Larceny
When James Geary was arrested again for larceny in 1889, aged 45 yrs, the mugshot taken of him at the Hobart Gaol in 1877 was reprinted and pasted to this later rap sheet (the blue form). The rough and ready values of prisoner identification photographs produced everywhere by 1900, including the full-face frontal gaze, characterise this sort of mugshot.

Ref: TAHO GD6719
James Geary p. 137

Police Office, Hobart 1893
Convicted and incarcerated for a series of minor offences at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart, James Geary was photographed in 1893 at 49 yrs old, looking rather healthier in this mugshot (below) than in 1877. He married 44 year old widow Jane Saunders in 1894, his occupation listed as a 48 yr old labourer and bachelor. However, he may have died of heart disease one year after his last conviction, at Black Brush, Brighton, north of Hobart, in the house of John Samson. An inquest was held on 4th January, 1897, but the registration of his death on 2nd January at Black Brush gave his age as 43 yrs old rather than 49 yrs, possibly because the date of his birth, as written on the record, states “not known”. The Tasmanian police gazette published this same man’s age as 40 yrs old when the notice of the inquest was published on January 29th, 1897 (p. 18).

Even as late as 1893, the photographer at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart, where this photograph was taken, was still printing prisoner mugshots in the oval mount used by Thomas J. Nevin for his mid 1870s cartes-de-visite of prisoners at the Mayor’s Court, MPO and Hobart Gaol.

Tasmanian police gazette listed this man’s age as 40 yrs old when the notice of the inquest was published on January 29th, 1897 (p. 18), and not 43 yrs old which was listed at the inquest. If the same man, he was actually 49 yrs old,

James Geary Page 665:GD63/1/1

State Library of Tasmania
Item Number: GD63/1/1 View this record online
Description: (Book No. 2).
Series: • GD63 PRISONERS RECORD BOOKS. 01 Jan 1890 31 Dec 1962

James Geary death and inquest 1897

James Geary inquest 1897.