DUPLICATES, COPIES and DISPERSAL of 1870s MUGSHOTS
PRISONER George Growsett’s THREAT of SUICIDE
George Growsett threatened suicide at trial in 1860 for armed robbery, protesting that he would rather be hanged than endure a lengthy sentence. A sentence of death was duly recorded, which he boastfully informed the court he wanted, but his sentence was commuted a few days later to 15 years in penal servitude. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, on discharge on September 5th, 1873. He must have committed further offences (to be included here later if found), since Nevin’s original photograph of 1873, numbered “79 ” in the Hobart Gaol Photo Book, was duplicated, numbered “264” for application to the prisoner’s rap sheet on sentencing for further offences.
The prisoner in a most insolent manner said he knew very well that the question was only a matter of form ; he had not been tried at all, and did not consider that he had had a fair trial. The witnesses had sworn what they liked, and he had not been defended by counsel ; in fact, he had been sold like a bullock in Smithfield Market ; he knew very well that His Honor had his sentence ready written before him, and that the whole thing was a matter of form. He knew very well that he should have a long sentence, but His Honor had better sentence him to be hanged, as he should never do a long sentence ; in fact, he could not do it whether he received it or not (Mercury 7 September 1860)
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery copy
When George Growsett was found guilty at trial of armed assault in 1860, the verdict recorded was “Death” – but he was not hanged. The sentence of “death” was commuted to 15 years of penal servitude. When he was discharged from the 15 year sentence in 1873, he was photographed by government contractor, photographer Thomas J. Nevin. Just one image of this man George Growsett is extant, duplicated several times, and copied.
Three copies from two duplicates are extant of the photograph made from Thomas J. Nevin’s original glass negative taken in the one and only sitting of prisoner George Growsett in September 1873 (No. 79) on discharge from a 15 yr sentence for armed robbery. The duplicate from Nevin’s original was reproduced again (No. 264) when George Growsett was committed for a further sentence (to be confirmed).
This copy held at the TMAG was originally held in a collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, acquired from convictarian John Watt Beattie’s estate in the 1930s as government records and gaol estrays. It was removed from the QVMAG (Launceston) by Elspeth Wishart in 1983 and taken down the Port Arthur historic site as part of an exhibition. For this purpose, for its removal to the exhibition it was numbered “179” – the number written directly below the oval image on the mount. At the close of the exhibition, this mugshot and another fifty (50) and more sourced from the QVMAG were not returned to the QVMAG, deposited instead at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart, thereby violating the integrity of Beattie’s Collection. These fifty and more police mugshots of the 1870s, taken by government contractor photographer Thomas J. Nevin, should have been returned to the QVMAG in 1983.
The QVMAG’s list of their collection of 1870s mugshots, acquired here in 2005, show that of the 200 listed in the original QVMAG collection in the 1980s, only 72 mugshots were in fact actually located there. More than 200 were originally acquired at the QVMAG, but were not listed in 1983. Not only were more than a hundred missing from Beattie’s original collection, it was in 1983 when Elspeth Wishart et al at the Port Arthur exhibition fabricated an altogether impossible photographer attribution to the prison’s commandant A. H. Boyd, despite clear recent and historical evidence that commercial photographer and government contractor Thomas J. Nevin was the commissioned photographer working from February 1872 to commence the photographing of prisoners at sentencing, incarceration and discharge. The misattribution to A. H. Boyd, a renowned bully and not a photographer by any definition of the term, was to pander to the fantasies of his descendants who were mindful of seeing their reviled ancestor come up from history smelling of roses. A. H. Boyd was dismissed for misogyny from the superintendent position at the Queen’s Orphan School in 1864, and forced to resign from the commandant position at Port Arthur in December 1873 under allegations of fraud, corruption and misappropriation of funds.
Thomas J. Nevin’s original glass negative was produced at the one and only sitting with prisoner George Growsett in September 1873. It was reproduced twice for application to Growsett’s prison criminal record sheet, now missing, as are all the early rap sheets from the mid 1870s from which these mugshots were removed. As on later rap sheets, the date of sentencing was written, along with the crime, the length of sentence, the date of discharge and the number of the photograph, which was recorded in the Hobart Gaol Photo Book. The extant photograph held at the National Library of Australia bears TWO numbers: the first, no. “79” was recorded when Nevin photographed Growsett on discharge from a 14 year sentence (September 1860) for armed robbery in September 1873. The second number “264” was recorded for another sentence (date and nature of crime to be confirmed).
Prisoner GROWSETT, George
Ex QVMAG Collection, now held at the TMAG Ref: Q15611
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
This copy was printed at a slight tilt, compared with the NLA and AOT copies which were straightened when printed.
Verso of cdv of prisoner GROWSETT, George
Inscription: “79 & 264 George Growsett per Ly Montague (Taken at Port Arthur 1874)”
Ex QVMAG Collection, now held at the TMAG Ref: Q15611
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
The National Library of Australia copy
The National Library of Australia catalogue entry is devised from the inscription on the verso of this photograph, but with the assumption that the information is correct, viz: “George Growsette, per Ly. [Lady] Montague, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]”. This photograph was not taken in 1874, it taken in early September 1873 at the Hobart Municipal Police Office, Town Hall, when Growsett was discharged, free in service with a ticket of leave.
George Growsette, per Ly. [Lady] Montague, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
National Library of Australia Call Number PIC Album 935 #P1029/22
The NLA copy bears two numbers on recto: “79 & 264” which indicate that the first, no. 79 was taken by Thomas J. Nevin in the week preceding September 5th 1873 when George Growsett was discharged (FS – free in service). The second, no. 264, was duplicated from the first, from Nevin’s original glass negative, when George Growsett was sentenced again (date and nature of crime to be confirmed).
The Archives Office Tasmania copy
A hard copy is held at the Archives Office of Tasmania, and recorded online. The hard copy was most likely reproduced for reasons to do with regional exhibitions, postcard issue, or local and family history publications.
Prisoner George Growsett:
AOT Ref: PH30/1/3258
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin 1873
Court and Police Records
George Growsett, from Hereford, was tried at Chelmsford Ass. (UK) on 5th March 1859. He was transported for arson, setting fire to a stack of wheat valued at £100 etc. He arrived at Hobart (Van Diemen’s Land – Tasmania) the 9th December 1852 on the Lady Montague. On arrival, he was 19 years old, his religion listed as Church of England, and was able to read and write. He was issued with a Ticket of Leave in 1853, but committed further offences. He was sentenced to 15 yrs for armed assault in 1860, and released again with a TOL on 18th August 1873, gazetted on 9th September 1873.
Record Type: Convicts
Departure date: 9 Aug 1852
Departure port: Plymouth
Ship: Lady Montagu
Voyage number: 356
Index number: 28764
Archives Office Tasmania
The deposition recorded on 3rd August, 1860, at Hobart Town stated that George Growsett was charged with armed robbery, death recorded. The sentence of death was commuted to 15yrs in penal servitude (P.S.) on Sept 20th 1860.
Deposition: George Growsett:
Source: Archives Office Tasmania
Tuesday 4th September 1860: Before the Chief Justice and jury, George Growsett was found guilty of assault with a pistol on John Shipley, stealing a watch and £4.
Source: Archives Office Tasmania
Page on right:
Thursday the 6th day of September 1860 The Court met this Day at 2pm. Before His Honor The Chief Justice
The following prisoners were placed at the bar and sentenced as opposite to their names.
Patrick Glynn To be kept in P.S. for 4 years
George Growsett Death recorded [commuted to 15 yrs penal servitude]
Martin Lydon To be Hanged
Source: Archives Office Tasmania
PRESS REPORTS 1860
The Hobart newspaper Mercury, on 7th September 1860 reported George Growsett’s death-wish statements at trial.
(AFTER SECOND TERM, 1860.) THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6.
BEFORE His Honor Sir Valentine Fleming, Knight, Chief Justice.
The Court sat by adjournment for the purpose of passing the sentences, and His Honor took his seat at two o’clock.
George Growsett convicted of robbery under arms.
On being asked if he had anything to say why judgement should not be passed upon him.
The prisoner in a most insolent manner said he knew very well that the question was only a matter of form ; he had not been tried at all, and did not consider that he had had a fair trial. The witnesses had sworn what they liked, and he had not been defended by counsel ; in fact, he had been sold like a bullock in Smithfield Market ; he knew very well that His Honor had his sentence ready written before him, and that the whole thing was a matter of form. He knew very well that he should have a long sentence, but His Honor had better sentence him to be hanged, as he should never do a long sentence ; in fact, he could not do it whether he received it or not.
His Honor said that during the progress of the trial he thought the prisoner was a very unwise and illiterate man, and if anything was needed to confirm that opinion, it was the address which he had just uttered. The prisoner said he had not had a fair trial, or, to use his own language, that he had been sold like a bullock. Now, His Honor thought that he had a most fair and impartial trial. (The prisoner—Well, then, I don’t,) His Honor begged that he might not be interrupted, That the prisoner was not defended by counsel was no fault of His Honor, nor of the Crown, but was entirely the prisoner’s own fault. His Honor found that he was originally transported to this colony for a very bad offence, namely, arson, for which he received a sentence of 14 years. (The prisoner said he had been punished for that.) He arrived here in 1852, and in the condition of a pass-holder, or, in other words, he arrived here in a condition of qualified freedom. His Honor well remembered that year, and if ever there was a period in the history of the colony when a man if inclined to lead an honest and industrious life, had every inducement held out to do so it was at that time, for the colony had been deprived of labor by the emigration to the gold fields, leaving open to persons in the same situation as the prisoner the means of gaining an honest livelihood. But the prisoner had not availed himself of those means, for in 1853 he was convicted of stealing a rather large sum of money (£25) received a sentence of seven years, and was sent to a penal settlement. Here he was guilty of absconding, insubordination, and other offences, but nevertheless he obtained a ticket-of-leave in 1853, and that was his present condition. The prisoner was a young man in the enjoyment of good health and physical strength and might easily have obtained an honest living, but what did he do ? His Honor here recapitulated the particulars of the prisoner’s offence, and continued :- Was it to be allowed that crimes of this kind were to be committed by lawless men ? Where, he asked, was the injustice of the trial ? Was Shipley not the witness of truth ? And had not the jury given every consideration to the case ? His Honor’s experience of juries showed him that they were always impartial and considerate, and that they had invariably a leaning towards mercy. And now the prisoner was so injudicious as to address the Court as he had done. He must have known that he was on his trial for life or death, and that by his crime he had forfeited that life by the laws of the colony. (Prisoner : So much the better). Notwithstanding that boastful expression it was not His Honor’s intention to pass upon the prisoner the extreme sentence of the law ; there was a point in the evidence of Mr. Shipley in the prisoner’s favor, of which he did not, perhaps, perceive the benefit, and that was the impression on Mr. Shipley’s mind that the prisoner did not intend to take life. His Honor would give the prisoner the benefit of this, and it would rest with the Executive to determine the duration of his punishment. (Prisoner : I would rather be hanged.) His Honor said there was only one sentence which under those circumstances, he could pass upon the prisoner, and that was to order sentence of of death to be recorded, and
Sentence of death was accordingly recorded.
Source: Mercury (Hobart, Tas), Friday 7 September 1860, page 3
The Launceston Examiner on Wednesday, 20th September 1860 reported on Page 2 that the “death recorded against George Growsett for robbery under arms has been commuted to fifteen years penal servitude.”
OFFENCES AT PORT ARTHUR.-From the Mercury we learn that two constables, named respectively Elliott and Rogers, have been dismissed for the offence of purchasing pigs and potatoes from two prisoners named respectively George Grossett and Moses Cochrane. The prisoners were also punished, Grossett being sent to an outstation, and Cochrane sentenced to 6 month’s hard labor.
Source: Launceston Examiner Tue 21 Feb 1871 Page 5 OUR MONTHLY SUMMARY.
This record of discharge from the Tasmanian Police Gazette, dated 5th September 1873, lists George Growsett twice; the first entry shows no personal information such as age, height and hair colouring, simply that he was received from the Port Arthur prison minus this information. The second entry shows his alias as Grossett, that he was 40yrs old, and that his height was 5 ft 8 ins., almost 3 inches taller than when his height was recorded as 5ft 5ins at 19yrs old on arrival, a mistake by the police gazette, possibly. He was received at Hobart from the Port Arthur prison and photographed at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall by Thomas J. Nevin on discharge from the Mayor’s Court with a ticket of leave.
George Growsett, discharged 5th September 1873
Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police J. Barnard Gov’t printer
Ticket of Leave
Fellow prisoner William Smith, transported on the Rodney 3 was granted a Ticket of Leave on the same day as George Growsett: his discharge was gazetted one week later, on 10th September 1873.
Recto and verso of photograph of prisoner Wm Smith per Gilmore (3)
Verso with T. J. Nevin’s government contractor stamp printed with the Royal Arms insignia.
Carte numbered “199” on recto
QVMAG Ref: 1985.p.131
Thomas J. Nevin’s two different prisoner identification photographs of William Smith per Rodney 3 taken in 1873 and again in 1875 both bear his government contractor stamp on verso. This one, taken in 1873, is held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania; the second, taken in 1875 is held in the Mitchell Collection, State Library of NSW. Read more about William Smith per Rodney 3 here.
George Growsett per Lady Montagu and William Smith per Gilmore 3 each issued with ticket of leave 12 September 1873.
Source:Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police J. Barnard Gov’t printer
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