“Hair inclined to be curley”: prisoner Henry SMITH aka Clabby aka Cooper

PRISONER MUGSHOTS 1870s and 1890s

Prisoner Henry CLABBY
Prisoner Henry CLABBY alias Cooper, 22 yrs old, and locally born (“native”) in Tasmania was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol for the Municipal Police Office Hobart, between 4th-24th January 1874. This photograph of Henry Clabby was originally held at the QVMAG, numbered “142” on recto and transcribed verso in 1915 for display at convictarian John Watt Beattie’s Port Arthur Museum, located in Hobart. It is now held at the TMAG Ref: Q15600. More than sixty photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s of Tasmanian prisoners – or “convicts” as they are labelled in tourism discourse – are held at The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. See 56 copies from the TMAG Collection, acquired by this weblog in 2015. Unlike the majority of those prisoner mugshots mounted as cdvs from the QVMAG and TMAG collections which show verso evidence of having been pasted to paper or cardboard and then removed, this cdv of Henry Clabby is clean apart from the curator’s number recto “142”, suggesting it was reprinted in recent times, or even composed entirely as a new artefact for exhibition in the late 20th century.

Prisoner Henry CLABBY alias Cooper,
TMAG Ref: Q15600.
Photographer: T. J. Nevin 1874

Verso: Prisoner Henry CLABBY alias Cooper,
TMAG Ref: Q15600.
Photographer: T. J. Nevin 1874

Police Gazette Records, 1871-1873

Henry Clabby was sentenced to three months at the Hobart Gaol on 30th November 1871 for larceny. He was 17 years old. He was discharged at Hobart in the week ending 6th March 1872.

Henry Clabby, notice of conviction while incarcerated at the Hobart Gaol, March 1872

Henry Clabby’s conviction for larceny extended to six months, 30 March 1872

Henry Clabby was discharged on 9th October 1872.

Henry Cooper or Clabby was convicted again for larceny on 3 February 1873, sentenced to 6 months, now 19 years old, and discharged from Hobart on 20 August 1873.

Henry Cooper alias Clabby, conviction now extended to 12 months on 6 September 1873. Note that with each year he seems to gain an inch in height.

Henry Clabby at the Port Arthur Prison
From 30th January 1874 to 19th March 1875:

Henry Clabby’s criminal convictions began with larceny in 1871 when he was 17 years old, a crime he continued to commit over the next two years, serving sentences of three months to twelve months at the Hobart Gaol. On 4 September 1873 he was sentenced to 12 months for larceny, followed by a month in the cells at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Municipal Police, Hobart Town Hall for disobeying orders on 4th January 1874, when he was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin. Incarceration at the Hobart Gaol once more for larceny and assaulting a warden earned him a sentence of 12 months on 24th January 1874 with imprisonment at Port Arthur. He was one of the youngest prisoners sent down to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on 30th January 1874 against the wishes of the newly incumbent Commandant, Dr. Coverdale who had voiced discontent in petitions to Parliament in July 1873 concerning young males being locked up with older, hardened criminals, demands echoed by the public for the immediate closure of the Port Arthur prison. Three incidents at Port Arthur delayed his transfer back to the Hobart Gaol, recommended on 17th March 1874 for discharge (records below) if conduct was good. Clabby was transferred back to the House of Correction Hobart (i.e. the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St.) on 19th March 1875.

TAHO Ref: CON94-1-2_00039-40
Description:Conduct register – Port Arthur
Start Date:01 Aug 1873
End Date:30 Sep 1876

Henry Smith alias Clabby alias Cooper 1894
Henry Cooper or Clabby was using Clabby as an alias by 1880 when he was convicted of assault on 22 June, served three months, and discharged on 22 September 1880. He was now 27 years old, according to this notice.

Henry Cooper or Clabby discharged from Launceston on 22 September 1880.
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police, J. Barnard Gov’t printer

Henry Clabby was known as Henry Cooper by 1880 when he was convicted at the Police Office Launceston of assault on 22 June and discharged on 22 September 1880. Between June 1880 and November 1881 he was convicted five times for assault and obscene language, imprisoned for no longer than three months. A decade passed without convictions, it seems, until 1893 when the police identified him as Henry Smith, formerly known by the alias Henry Clabby or Cooper and charged him at the Police Office, East Devonport (north west Tasmania) for being idle and disorderly, sentenced again to three months. A year later he was charged with using obscene and abusive language, serving another three months. According to the police gazette notice of September 1880, Henry Smith aka Clabby was 27 yrs on discharge, but when his Hobart Gaol record (below) was notated in 1893, his age was given as 38 yrs old, i.e. born ca.1853-1855. He was therefore not much older than forty (40) when this photo (below), attached to his rap sheet was taken either on admission in July 1893 or at discharge in November 1894. Compare the two photographs of this prisoner, the first as a 19 year old when Thomas Nevin photographed him, and this prison mugshot taken in 1893 when Clabby or Cooper or Henry Smith as he now was known. His receding hairline apparently did not hide the fact that his “hair inclined to be curley“, according to the photographer’s remark (column on right).

Henry Smith, formerly known as Henry Clabby or Cooper
Prison photo taken 1893-4, attached to rap sheet below.
Archives Office Tasmania

Henry Smith, formerly known as Henry Clabby or Cooper
Rap sheet 1880-1894
Remarks: “Hair inclined to be curley
Hobart Gaol Register GD63-1-1P215

Archives Office Tasmania
Description: (Book No. 2).
Start Date: 01 Jan 1892
End Date: 31 Dec 1894
Series: GD63 PRISONERS RECORD BOOKS. 01 Jan 1890 31 Dec 1962
View online: http://stors.tas.gov.au/GD63-1

Frame-Up at the TMAG
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery constructed four wooden-framed collages under glass from their collection of Thomas Nevin’s prisoner mugshots for an exhibition titled Mirror with a Memory held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, in 2000.

Names as they appear on the back of the wooden frame:
Top, from left to right: James Rogers, Henry Clabley [sic], George Leathley
Bottom, from left to right: Ephraim Booth, William Price, Robert West

Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014

Henry Clabby’s image was placed top row, centre in this frame. However, for reasons best described as blind-sided, the TMAG staff who chose these mugshots sent the four frames to Canberra, five cdvs in the first, six per frame in the other three, with labels on the back of each wooden frame stating quite clearly that the photographs were attributed to A. H. Boyd, the much despised Commandant of the Port Arthur prison who was not a photographer by any definition of the term, nor an engineer despite any pretension on his part and especially despite the social pretensions of his descendants who began circulating the photographer attribution as a rumour in the 1980s to compensate no doubt for Boyd’s vile reputation. Read the full story here in this post: Prisoner Henry CLABBY and the TMAG frame-up.

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