Thomas Nevin’s photographs mounted on calico 1870s

Dozens of extant photographs by Thomas Nevin that carry no studio stamp on verso were deliberately kept blank because they were mounted on calico, and delivered by mail to the purchaser with the expectation that they would either be placed intact inside a wooden frame, to be hung on the wall; or indeed, removed from the calico to be placed on an album leaf. Thomas Nevin used calico mounts as a means of saving on costs when posting through the mail. Dozens of his extant photographs with blank versos held in public and private collections bear traces of removal from woven fabric or parchment. Handwritten inscriptions, in many instances, were added subsequently by the client, collector or archivist. … More Thomas Nevin’s photographs mounted on calico 1870s

Prisoner Daniel DAVIS 1883, 1892 and 1897

“ROBBERY WITH VIOLENCE
Richard Harris (20) and Daniel Davies [sic] (26), charged with having, at Moorina, on the 29th November, assaulted and robbed Ah Tung of £3 11s, pleaded not guilty. Mr. Miller appeared for the prisoners. Lee Kong was sworn as interpreter. Ah Tung deposed that he was proceeding from a store at Moorina to the Native Youth claim on the night of the 29th November, and was accosted by two men. He was afterwards garotted and robbed by them. After the robbery he picked up a piece of meat and some sugar which had been carried by the prisoners. James Alexander deposed to Harris informing him on the night of the 29th November, when the two prisoners were in witness’ hut, that they had robbed a Chinaman that night.” … More Prisoner Daniel DAVIS 1883, 1892 and 1897

Dan Sprod and Thomas Nevin’s photography in the 1970s

During the 1970s publishers John Ferguson of Sydney commissioned established authors to research and collect old photographs to be published as a series of books called “Victorian and Edwardian [insert name here of an Australian city, e.g. Sydney, Adelaide etc]  from old photographs”. Patsy Adam-Smith, for example, compiled the Melbourne edition, Victorian and Edwardian Melbourne from old photographs in 1979. Dan Sprod was commissioned by Ferguson publishers to compile the Hobart edition in 1976. The draft papers of his research for this book, published in 1977 as Victorian and Edwardian Hobart from old photographs , are held at the National Library Australia, Canberra, where he was Chief Librarian during the 1960s. The impetus behind this emergent interest in Australian 19th century and early 20th century photography was money. Old photographs and early cameras were commanding large prices at auctions. The Tasmanian Saturday Evening Mercury published this article – “Your old photos could be valuable” – on November 15th, 1975, listing the handsomely high prices fetched for old prints and photo equipment at Christies of London in the previous two years. Prints by Tasmanian photographers of the 1880s – Spurling, Anson and Beattie – were touted here as worthy collectables: … More Dan Sprod and Thomas Nevin’s photography in the 1970s

T. J. Nevin’s mugshot of John FINELLY taken at the Police Office Hobart March 1874

When captured, escapee John Finlay or Finelly was sentenced at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, to six months to be served once more at the Port Arthur prison. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall [P.O. Hobart] on 17th March 1874 as soon as the conviction was recorded. Finelly was received at Port Arthur on 29th March 1874. In December 1874 he was committed twice to spells of 24 hours and seven days in solitary confinement at Port Arthur for disobedience and insubordinate conduct respectively. He was transferred back to the House of Corrections for Males (the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street) on 17th April 1877 on the closure of the Port Arthur prison. John Finelly was discharged in January 1879 and returned to Launceston where he died on 8th March 1883. … More T. J. Nevin’s mugshot of John FINELLY taken at the Police Office Hobart March 1874

Prisoner John APPLEBY 1873

The inscription ‘Taken at Port Arthur 1874” is Beattie’s confabulation of facts in the name of tourism. Beattie prepared copies of these prisoner cdv’s for display in his collection of Tasmanian convictaria at his “Port Arthur Museum” located at 51 Murray St. Hobart (and not at Port Arthur) to coincide with the first of two early 20th century film adaptations (1908-9, 22 minutes – see theatre poster below; the second was filmed at Port Arthur in 1927) of Marcus Clarke’s popular fiction For The Term of His Natural Life which appeared as a serial in 1870 and in novel form in 1874. Hence the date “1874” and the place “Taken at Port Arthur” written on the verso of this cdv when the actual date and the actual place of photographic capture were respectively 1873 and the Hobart Gaol in Campbell Street. Beattie fabricated this fake history for several dozen original mugshots taken in the 1870s by government contractor T. J. Nevin because he was required under the terms of his own commission as government contractor (from ca. 1900) to market photographic imagery of Tasmania’s penal heritage to the intercolonial tourist. The loose cdv’s such as this one of prisoner John Appleby were prepared for sale and exhibition at Sydney’s Royal Hotel in 1915 to be displayed as Port Arthur relics, alongside relics and documents associated with the fake convict hulk Success which visited Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The collection of “convict portraits” held at the National Library of Australia Canberra and at the State Library of NSW in the Mitchell Collection are the estrays from these exhibitions. … More Prisoner John APPLEBY 1873

Prisoner William TURNER 1841-1879

This black and white copy of William Turner’s prisoner identification mugshot was made at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1985 from Thomas Nevin’s original sepia print, and placed online at the QVMAG in the early 2000s. The original 1870s print of the b&w copy was exhibited at the AGNSW in 1976 (listed on page 27 in the Exhibition Catalogue). The curator chose this one (and another two photographs) possibly because the full frontal pose and the frank stare captured more of the prisoner’s “personality” than the conventional pose where the sitter’s sightlines were deflected either left or right, the pose typical of Nevin’s commercial studio practice and evident in the more than 200 (two hundred) prisoner cdvs held in the Beattie collection at the QVMAG. In addition, this print was possibly chosen because it had escaped the rebranding on the versos with the inscription “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” for Beattie’s tourism trade of the 1900s and for the 1938 QVMAG exhibition which commemorated his death and bequest to the people of Launceston. A year after the 1976 AGNSW Centenary Exhibition, in 1977, many more of these “convict portraits” by T. J. Nevin from the Beattie collection were exhibited at the QVMAG, curated by John McPhee. … More Prisoner William TURNER 1841-1879

Weekly Returns, the police forms 1880s: no more ships’ names please

By 1880, officials at the Police Department were complaining about the extra work involved in listing the name of the prisoner’s ship on which he/she arrived in Tasmania, the height of the prisoner, and his or her associations etc on the Returns of Persons on Trial under the Petty Offences Act 21 Vic 12. Their reluctance to record this aspect of a prisoner’s past for cases tried at the Police Court was attributed to the time consumed while trying to resurrect the information from old records when the offenders were not known to the younger generation on staff. When the issue arose in correspondence (see below) between the Mayor and the Police Department in February and March 1880, photographer Thomas J. Nevin was both Hall Keeper and Office Keeper for the Mayor’s Court and the Municipal Police Office, each housed under the one roof at the Hobart Town Hall with cells in the basement. He too would have felt overworked in his position of supervising inebriated constables on night watch, of making sure the chimneys were swept, of preparing the Hall for exhibitions and concerts, of maintaining the grounds and watering the trees out front, and for keeping police photographic records taken by him at the MPO current with those taken at the Hobart Gaol, mostly with his brother Constable John Nevin. … More Weekly Returns, the police forms 1880s: no more ships’ names please

Prisoners William SEWELL and Ralph NEILL 1867-1874

Two soldiers of the 2nd battalion, H. M. 14th Regiment, William Sewell and Ralph Neill arrived at Hobart, Tasmania, in November 1866 from service in the New Zealand wars on board the military ship Siam. Within a year they were were charged with burglary of a hotel in Watchorn Street, and sentenced to 10 years at the Hobart Criminal Court. They served seven years, some of that time at the Port Arthur prison and were relocated to the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St. on 25th October 1873 when they were photographed by Thomas J. Nevin prior to release. They were discharged to freedom on 6th February 1874. … More Prisoners William SEWELL and Ralph NEILL 1867-1874

Prisoner Philip BURTON

This is one of two extant duplicate photographs in carte-de-visite format produced by Thomas Nevin from his original glass negative taken of prisoner Philip Burton in September 1873. This cdv was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, acquired from John Watt Beattie’s estate in the 1930s. When the QVMAG typed out a list of their collection in the 1990s, it was numbered as “131” and shown as missing from their collection, along with 126 more (one hundred and twenty-seven in total missing from a list of 199). It was returned – not to the QVMAG but to the TMAG – after being exhibited at the Port Arthur heritage site in 1983. The recto number was applied by the QVMAG, but the verso number “290” was applied ca. 1915 when exhibited and offered for sale by John Watt Beattie at his museum in Hobart. … More Prisoner Philip BURTON

A glaring fraud: Joseph James COOPER aka the “Artful Dodger” 1875-1889

Fashions in prison uniforms at the Hobart Gaol in the 1870’s varied according to the class of criminal, his trade or job, and the season. Thomas J. Nevin photographed prisoners William Smith and James Mullins at the Hobart Gaol in July 1875 wearing the grey uniform and leathern caps for police records. A visitor to the gaol in July 1882 noted the grey jacket and leather caps of the old hands, and the yellow and black uniforms worn by prisoners working in gangs at large in the community. The prisoner in these three photographs, Joseph James Cooper, wore three different uniforms on the three different occasions while under sentence: in 1875 for burglary; in 1879 for forgery and uttering; and in 1889 for arson. … More A glaring fraud: Joseph James COOPER aka the “Artful Dodger” 1875-1889

Sideshow Alley: Thomas Nevin at the NPG exhibition 2015

The National Portrait Gallery (Australia) at Canberra is currently displaying this wooden frame containing ten “convict portraits” under glass at the exhibition, Sideshow Alley: Infamy, the macabre and the portrait, 4th December 2015 – 28th February 2016. The National Library of Australia has repeatedly chosen the same set of photographs from their collection of 85 Tasmanian prisoners’ mugshots (catalogued as “convicts”) for loan to the National Portrait Gallery because they are clean examples of the professional photographer’s use of the albumen process. Other examples in the NLA’s collection are damaged and dirty, and some are unmounted, e.g. Searle’s album. Most of the NLA’s collection is online, yet the versos of these photographs, which can provide researchers with valuable information. have not been digitised. The NLA believes that the absence of a photographer’s studio stamp on the versos – of police mugshots no less – is reason enough to engage in puerile political games of re-attribution, despite historical documentation, expert curatorial validation, and the presence of T. J. Nevin’s government contract stamp on several of these mugshots held in other national collections. … More Sideshow Alley: Thomas Nevin at the NPG exhibition 2015

Prisoner James BRADY 1873-1874

James Brady was photographed at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin on two different occasions. Three extant images from those two sittings are held in three public collections, viz. the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the National Library of Australia. James Brady was a soldier of the 2/14 Regiment, 31 years old, when he arrived in Tasmania on board the Haversham in August 1867. He was branded with the letter “D” as a deserter and sentenced to 8 years for forgery and uttering in 1868. … More Prisoner James BRADY 1873-1874

Prisoner Henry CLABBY and the TMAG frame-up

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 at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, in 2000. 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 three of the four frames to Canberra, six per frame, 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.
More Prisoner Henry CLABBY and the TMAG frame-up

Rogues Gallery: National Library of Australia collection

This collection of police mugshots – originally taken at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St. Hobart and at the Mayor’s Court, Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall, by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin from 1872-1886 – was donated from government estrays in 1964. Full records with T. J. Nevin’s attribution are held at the NLA, Sprod Papers NLA MS 2320. The National Library of Australia has recently updated its digital software, yet the versos of these photographs, which can provide researchers with valuable information. have not been digitised. The NLA believes that the absence of a photographer’s studio stamp on the versos – of police mugshots no less – is reason enough to engage in puerile political games of re-attribution, despite expert curatorial validation, and Nevin’s government contract stamp on several of these mugshots held in other national collections. The versos of the majority of these photographs were incorrectly transcribed in 1915-1916 with the wording “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” to promote penal heritage tourism to Tasmania when they were sent as exhibits to the Royal Hotel, Sydney, in conjunction with an exhibition of convictaria from the fake transport ship, the Success. The majority of the 85 mugshots in the NLA collection consists of copies either duplicated from the originals – or missing from – the collections held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. … More Rogues Gallery: National Library of Australia collection

Thomas Nevin and Frederick Stops, right-hand man to the A-G

The verso of this photograph carries Thomas Nevin’s most common commercial studio stamp and the wording “This by W. J. T. Stops Esq.”which suggests that the photograph was presented to Frederick Stops by Nevin in 1868, perhaps as a gift to Emily Stops on the birth of their daughter, and was then passed down to his son W. J. T. Stops, who subsequently donated it to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery from the Stops estate or even from the University archives (Royal Society Collection) where more of Nevin’s photographs are held. It was then inscribed by an archivist on accession with the note – “This by W.J.T. Stops Esq” … More Thomas Nevin and Frederick Stops, right-hand man to the A-G

Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

This carte-de-visite of William Kellow, one of the extant hundreds of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s and printed in an oval mount, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. It was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with another three hundred or more 1870s mugshots taken at the Hobart Gaol by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin which were acquired by the QVMAG as part of the bequest from the estate of John Watt Beattie in the 1930s. When this cdv, along with 55 more now at the TMAG, were removed from Beattie’s collection and taken down to Port Arthur for an exhibition in 1983, it was not returned to the QVMAG. It was deposited instead at the TMAG . The QVMAG list (2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held at the QVMAG when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. This carte-de-visite of William KELLOW is one of those listed as missing, number 143. … More Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

Miscarriage of justice: the case of John MAYNE 1874

Thirty-three year old John Mayne was a Member of the Table Cape Road Trust when he was wrongfully convicted for rape in January 1874. A sentence of death was recorded which was remitted to 15 years. He was released 10 months later, in December 1874 after protracted protests in the press and several juror capitulations, the same jurors who had initially returned a verdict of guilty after two hours’ deliberation at the trial (13 January 1874), a case strongly defended by John Mayne’s barrister R. Byron Miller. Thomas Nevin photographed John Mayne on arrival at the Hobart Gaol from the Supreme Court, Launceston, in February 1874 before Mayne was sent to the Port Arthur prison, from where he was discharged as “Free.” The release was effected by barrister R. Byron Miller and Attorney-General W. R. Giblin, two key members of the legal fraternity along with John Woodcock Graves jnr, whose endorsement of Thomas J. Nevin as government contractor for the provision of prisoner identification photographs was effected in 1872 and extended through to the late 1880s. Thomas Nevin also provided portraits of these lawyers, including members of their respective families. … More Miscarriage of justice: the case of John MAYNE 1874

Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

One example of excessive damage to the original glass plate is evident in this print taken from the negative of Nevin’s only sitting with prisoner Peter Killeen in the week preceding the 20th January, 1875, when Killeen was discharged from the Hobart Gaol. He was given a life sentence for assault and robbery in 1856, and when discharged in 1875 with a ticket-of-leave, he was 64 yrs old. He subsequently re-offended, was sentenced to a further 6 weeks and discharged again on 29 September 1875. Peter Killeen offended again within six months of discharge. He was given a sentence of seven (7) years for larceny at the Supreme Court Hobart on 8th March, 1876, sent to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on 6th April, 1876, and transferred back to the Hobart Gaol on 17th April, 1877. Peter Killeen died from senile decay, aged 76 yrs, as a Prisoner of the Crown at the Hobart Gaol on 27th June, 1889. See originals of these records here.

The only image, whether extant as duplicates of the carte-de-visite or negative prints surviving from Peter Killeen’s criminal sentences is the one taken by Thomas Nevin at his single sitting with the prisoner in January 1875. The scratched condition of the glass plate by the time of Killeen’s death in 1889 at the Hobart Gaol is evidence of repeated use, the print showing even more wear and tear than the other 39 prints used by Beattie for the line-up of 40 on his three panels created in 1915. … More Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

The Glenorchy Landslip 1872

Thomas Nevin was married and a first-time father by June 4th, 1872 when heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroyed houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. He was living at his city studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart with his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day and their new-born daughter May (Mary Florence) who was born just a fortnight earlier on the 19th May 1872 (she died to the day exactly 83 yrs later, on 4th June 1955). That Tuesday night of the great flood in Glenorchy, photographic stock at Nevin’s old studio in nearby New Town was probably saturated by the heavy rain, if water damage on some of his extant photographs taken a few months earlier in January 1872 at Adventure Bay, is any indication. But his anxieties would have been far greater concerning his parents living in the cottage his father had built at Kangaroo Valley on land above the Lady Franklin Museum, in the northern foothills of Mount Wellington. … More The Glenorchy Landslip 1872

Prisoner William RYAN wholesale forger at the TMAG

The Press described William Ryan as “respectably attired” in September 1870 at his appearance in court on charges of forgery. They also reported that he was someone who showed deep emotions when given sentence, and someone even prone to dissembling, fakery and over-acting. Care for his personal appearance was not attentuated by a prison sentence, it seems. When Thomas J. Nevin photographed Ryan for police and prison records at the Hobart Gaol during Ryan’s six years of incarceration, the resulting photograph showed a clean shaven, nicely groomed and neatly dressed man in a prisoner’s uniform, someone with a quiet and self-contained demeanour all round. … More Prisoner William RYAN wholesale forger at the TMAG

Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

In 1915, commercial photographer, convictaria collector and private museum operator John Watt Beattie held government commissions to boost the tourism industry with photographs of Tasmania’s two key attractions: wilderness landscapes and convict heritage. When Beattie reprinted these mugshots taken by Nevin of prisoners who were incarcerated in the 1870s – sentencing, incarceration and discharge being the only reason the police required their photograph – he labelled them with the word not common to British Edwardian usage – “convicts” – to resonate with the narratives and cliches of Tasmania’s/Van Diemen’s Land penal history prior to 1853, thereby deliberately suppressing the very ordinary reality that these men were prisoners who had been sentenced in the 1870s and 1880s. Not only were they officially designated as “prisoners” for the police, by 1871 they were the responsibility of the colonial government of Tasmania, not the British government. Yet, by 1916, when Beattie had salvaged dozens of Thomas Nevin’s original glass plate negatives and mounted cartes-de-visite of prisoners from the Hobart Gaol’s photographers’ room above the women’s laundry before it was demolished, he was reprinting them as commercial studio portraits on postcards, some even as cartes-de-visite, and some as uncut prints, labelling them “Imperial convicts” who were “photographed at Port Arthur”, none of which was historically factual. … More Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

Rogues Gallery: the QVMAG collection

These police mugshots taken by police and commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s-80s at the Port Arthur prison, the Hobart Gaol (assisted by his brother Constable John Nevin) and the Hobart Municipal Police Office (Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall) are held in the John Watt Beattie Collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania. Most are Nevin’s originals and duplicates produced in vignette carte-de-visite format; some were reproduced from Nevin’s glass negatives by Beattie for sale and exhibition in Hobart at his museum and in Sydney at the Royal Hotel in conjunction with convictaria from the prison hulk Success (1916). An exhibition of these photographs by T. J. Nevin was held at the QVMAG in 1977. … More Rogues Gallery: the QVMAG collection

Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

This camera was used by the (as yet) unidentified photographer at the Hobart Gaol from the 1890s. Prior to the 1890s, prisoners were photographed by Constable John Nevin who was resident at the Gaol until his death from typhoid fever in 1891, working with his brother, commercial photographer and civil servant Thomas J. Nevin who attended the gaol and Supreme Court sessions on a weekly roster. They used two rooms above the women’s laundry as a studio. The cameras they used were wet plate, multi-lens cameras such as the 1860s American Scovill (possibly Peck) style wet-plate camera with four Darlot No.4 lenses, a Simon Wing ‘Repeating’ camera, or a stereoscopic, sliding box type, wet plate (wood, brass & glass), by Ottewill & Co, lenses manufactured by A Ross, London, England, 1860 – 1870. … More Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

Understandable, it seems, that a commercially produced photograph in 1860s-1870s Tasmania would show some sort of colouring to enhance its decorative or sentimental appeal, especially if the narrative suggested by the photograph was the civilizing of Tasmanian Aborigines who were thought to be near extinction by the last few decades of the 19th century, and that the photographic studio renowned for bold artistic experimentations with colouring was Friths on Murray Street, Hobart. Less understandable is the hand-tinting of photographs of prisoners – or “Convict Portraits” as they became known – taken expressly for police use as gaol records, unless, of course, the photographic studio engaged for the purpose of providing those mugshots was operated by Thomas J. Nevin, on Elizabeth Street, Hobart. … More Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith and prisoner George FISHER

Habitual criminal George Fisher was sentenced twice – in 1875 and 1877 – at the Supreme Court Hobart by Chief Justice Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith. These records are from the Supreme Court Calendars which were used by photographer Thomas J. Nevin as an indication of which prisoners needed to be photographed around the date of sentencing. A simple tick next to the prisoner’s name showed that a bill was issued and paid, and a photograph taken. … More Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith and prisoner George FISHER

Prisoner James GEARY: mugshots and 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 20yrs old. He was photographed by Thomas Nevin in 1874 at the Hobart Gaol when he was 30yrs old. His next extant mugshot was taken by Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in 1889 when he was registered as 45 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), … More Prisoner James GEARY: mugshots and rap sheet 1865-1896

Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

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. … More Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

A few drinks on Christmas Eve 1885 at New Town

William Curtis, aged 20 yrs old in 1873 was NOT the prisoner William Curtis aka John Curtis who was transported from Plymouth on the Anson in 1843, and who was re-convicted as John Curtis for manslaughter in 1856, sentenced to penal servitude for life. Thomas Nevin photographed John Curtis aka William Curtis, 62 years old, on discharge from the Hobart Gaol (and Police Office) in the week ending 10th February 1875. The inscription of the date “1874” and the name “William Curtis” on the verso of his photograph are both incorrect: Curtis was neither sent to Port Arthur nor returned to the Hobart Gaol from Port Arthur in the years 1873-4. … More A few drinks on Christmas Eve 1885 at New Town

Thomas Nevin at the New Town studio to 1888

Mindful of his growing family after his dismissal in 1880, the Hobart City Corporation retained Nevin’s services as police photographer and bailiff with the Municipal and Territorial Police Forces on the recommendation of Superintendent F. Pedder, Sub-Inspector J. Connor and the Nevin family solicitor, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin. Younger brother Constable John Nevin (Wm John or Jack), the Hobart Gaol messenger in Campbell St, was his assistant when Nevin was required at Oyer sessions at the adjoining Supreme Court sittings. Together they continued to produce prisoner mugshots typical of commercial studio portraiture until 1888 (see this article).

But by January 1881, on dismissal from the Town Hall residency, Thomas Nevin relocated his family to the house his father John Nevin had built at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley, Tasmania). He resumed commercial photography nearby from his New Town studio. When Elizabeth Rachel and Thomas Nevin’s second daughter and fifth child was born – Minnie (Mary Ann) Nevin – in November 1884 at New Town, her father declared his profession simply as “photographer” on her birth registration form. … More Thomas Nevin at the New Town studio to 1888

Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

One of Thomas Jeffries’ distinguishing physical features was the sixth finger on his right hand which earned him the ironic moniker of “five-fingered Tom”. Mugshots showing hands was a feature of police photographs of prisoners in some jurisdictions such as New Zealand around this date, but not until the late 1880s in single mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners, when the frontal gaze had also become the standard pose, thought not consistent until the 1890s where the two-shot system of full frontal and profile photographs was introduced (after Bertillon). For example, in these two photographs of Francis Shearan taken by Nevin at the Hobart: the 1877 booking shot shows the hands and the full frontal gaze, but the shot taken on sentencing and incarceration betrays the classic 1870s studio portraiture technique typical of Nevin’s commercial practice. … More Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

Prisoner Mark JEFFREY, a Port Arthur flagellator

Mark Jeffrey (1825-1894) was called the “Port Arthur flagellator” by James Hunt, the man he was arraigned for wilfully murdering in February 1872 at the Supreme Court, Hobart. The verdict returned by the jury at the trial was manslaughter and the sentence was life. Mark Jeffrey may have been photographed at the Hobart Gaol while awaiting his sentence at this trial. Many of these “Supreme Court men” were photographed there by Thomas J. Nevin as early as February 1872.

However, the only known or extant prisoner identification photograph of Mark Jeffrey was taken five years later by Thomas J. Nevin in the first few days of Jeffrey’s relocation to the Hobart Gaol from the Port Arthur prison site in 1877. It was taken in the usual circumstances of gaol admission – a booking shot of the prisoner in street clothing – and reproduced from the negative in carte-de-visite format for pasting to the prisoner’s criminal record sheet. Duplicates were retained for the central Municipal Police Office registers at the Hobart Town Hall, and others were circulated to regional police stations.

The booking shot (below) of Mark Jeffrey, dated to 1877, has survived as a print from Nevin’s negative. It was salvaged from the photographer’s room and Sheriff’s Office at the Hobart Gaol by John Watt Beattie ca. 1900 and reproduced for display in Beattie’s convictaria museum in Hobart. Dozens of these negative prints of notorious criminals were reproduced by Beattie, plus two hundred or more in standard cdv format, which have survived from the donation of his collection to the QVMAG Launceston in 1930. This copy is held at the State Library of Tasmania … More Prisoner Mark JEFFREY, a Port Arthur flagellator

The Albumen Process: examples by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1874

“I always prepare my albuminized paper with the pure white of eggs, which I believe to be preferable to all the cheaper compounds that have been substituted for it. Take any quantity of albumen with double the quantity of water, adding eight grains of chloride of ammonium to each ounce of the mixture. Whip up with a bunch of quills into a froth. The albumen will subside in an hour or two, then filter through a piece of fine linen cloth that has been previously slightly singed over a spirit lamp. Pour the albumen into a flat dish and float the paper for about three or four minutes, having previously folded back one of the corners of the sheet in order to keep it from coming into contact with the albumen. If the paper is pinned up by this unalbuminized corner, it will dry without the least streak or imperfection, but if the albumen conies into contact with the pin. a drip will begin which will end in innumerable streaks. By this precaution much paper may be saved…” … More The Albumen Process: examples by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1874

Prisoner Henry SINGLETON aka Harry the Tinker who pinches books

According to the Tasmanian police gazette of 23 March, 1871, Henry Singleton absconded from the prison at Port Arthur, 23 March 1871, with two transport ships to his two names – as Henry Singleton per Lord Wm Bentinck, and as his alias Richard Pinches, per Lady Kennaway 2, also known with the moniker Harry the Tinker.

Thomas Nevin photographed this prisoner at least twice, in 1873 and again in 1875. The questions posed by these two photographs centre on this man’s age and name at the time of transportation, his name and age when photographed in the 1870s, and his and his female companion’s literary tastes which warranted documentation when the police arrested him in a cave in May 1873 at Oatlands, Tasmania. … More Prisoner Henry SINGLETON aka Harry the Tinker who pinches books

Carnal knowledge of children: convictions 1860s-1880s

Photographer Thomas J. Nevin was exposed to the most pitiful of criminals if not to their actual crimes when he captured their portraits for police records in Tasmania from the 1870s to the 1880s. Sexual crimes against children were prosecuted without much consistency as to the punishment or length of sentence, despite clear legislation guidelines…. … More Carnal knowledge of children: convictions 1860s-1880s

Prisoner Charles GARFITT and the QVMAG

Charles Garfitt’s photograph was reproduced in duplicate by Nevin from his original negative taken at the Supreme Court sittings and Oyer sessions , per government regulations (up to 25 were required in NSW). This one may be a loose duplicate, but it is unlikely to ever have existed without being pasted to Garfitt’s prison record, whether in a regional police office, or at the Hobart Gaol and the Office of Police, Hobart Town Hall. It was removed and transcribed with “Port Arthur” and “1874” in order to attract tourists to the Port Arthur site itself in the 1890s, and to John Watt Beattie’s convictaria museum in Hobart in particular in the early 1900s. … More Prisoner Charles GARFITT and the QVMAG

John Watt Beattie and the Nevin family legacy

The friendship between these two photographers, Thomas J. Nevin and John Watt Beattie extended back to 1887 on the death of Thomas Nevin’s father, John Nevin at the family house and farm adjacent to the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley (renamed Lenah Valley in 1922). It had long been a wish of John Nevin that the Franklin Museum be restored to its original purpose when first built on Jane Franklin’s land, named Ancanthe, as a library and botanical museum, but by 1887, it was little more than a storage shed for local orchardists and farmers. As a gesture towards reviving John Nevin’s wish, before his own death in 1930, John Watt Beattie approached the Hobart City Corporation with a proposal to house his vast convictaria collection in the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley (Lenah Valley) but the HCC declined. … More John Watt Beattie and the Nevin family legacy