Prisoner Richard PHILLIPS 1874

When Thomas J. Nevin photographed this prisoner Richard Phillips in July 1874 at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall, on the occasion of the prisoner’s discharge from a two year sentence for housebreaking and larceny, he was confronted with a problem: the prisoner Richard Phillips was blind. The resultant photograph shows a man who is straining to make out the figure of Nevin the photographer standing next to the camera just a metre or so in front of him, his brows and eyelids squeezed tight to the point of nearly blocking out all light. … More Prisoner Richard PHILLIPS 1874

Exhibition 2019: T. J. NEVIN’s mugshot of prisoner James BLANCHFIELD 1875

The large wall poster (on right) at the exhibition titled “Photographs of Australian and British Convicts” which opened at the Hobart Penitentiary (the former Hobart Gaol and House of Corrections, Campbell St.) in July 2019 features the mugshot of James Blanchfield taken by Thomas Nevin in 1875, together with a jolly japes biography of the prisoner, finishing with the sentence:

“…at the age of fifty he found himself sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and was packed off to Port Arthur where this photograph was taken.”

Actually, no: as the police gazette states, James Blanchfield was 48 years old on release in 1875, not 50 years old on sentence in 1873, and he spent less than two months at the Port Arthur prison, from 21st February 1873 to 20th April 1873. He served just twenty-six months of a three year sentence, not a five year sentence when he was discharged in April 1875. Additionally, he was photographed, not at the Port Arthur prison as claimed by the exhibition poster but at the Hobart Gaol, the very same site where Thomas Nevin’s photograph of him taken for police in 1875 now looms over visitors to the current exhibition, exactly 144 years later. … More Exhibition 2019: T. J. NEVIN’s mugshot of prisoner James BLANCHFIELD 1875

Prisoner John NOWLAN alias DOWLING 1870-1876

This prisoner stated that he arrived free in Tasmania as a sailor on the Bangalore with the name John Dowling, but he might have arrived as a convict with the name John Nowlan on the transport London in March 1851. Shipping documents testifying to his arrival on the Bangalore at any port and under any circumstance unfortunately, if true, are not extant. He was sentenced to five years in March 1870 for indecent assault as John Dowling. He was photographed as John Dowling by T. J. Nevin on release from the House of Corrections, Hobart in December 1874, and convicted again in February 1875 for larceny. A year later, in February 1876 he was convicted at the Supreme Court, Hobart, for rape of a girl between 10-11 yrs old, this time as John Nowlan, alias John Dowling. The sentence for rape was death, commuted to life imprisonment. John Nowlan alias John Dowling was sent to the Port Arthur prison on 25th February 1876 and transferred back to the House of Corrections, Hobart Gaol, Campbell St. on 17th April 1877. A prisoner who called himself John Dowling died at the New Town Charitable Institution, Hobart in 1906 of senilis. … More Prisoner John NOWLAN alias DOWLING 1870-1876

Prisoner James ROGERS forges into the leap year 1868

Lavington George Roope deposed : I am a clerk of the Bank Of Australasia, in Hobart Town. The note produced is a £1 note of our bank which has been altered to a £5 note. In the right hand corner the figure 1 has been erased and the word “Five” has been written in. One of the numbers has also been erased in two places. The O and part of the N in the body of the note have been erased, and an F and an I have been substituted. The letter S has been added to the word pound. The word ” at” has been erased in the body of the note. The words one pound in the left hand bottom corner of the note have been erased, and the words five pounds have been written in in old English letters. In the genuine £5 notes these words are in old English letters. The letters O and part of the N printed in green across the note have been erased, and the letters F and I have been substituted, making the word ” Five”. I can trace the erasures in most places but not distinctly in the large letters. … More Prisoner James ROGERS forges into the leap year 1868

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 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

Prisoner John POPE 1881

The verso gives no indication of the name of the prisoner, but from the inscribed details, this prisoner fits the physical description of John Pope, the ship on which he arrived in Tasmania, the sentence served of 2 years, and discharged free with conditions (FC). This photograph was not reprinted by John Watt Beattie from Nevin’s original negative, or from Nevin’s duplicates of his own cdv produced for gaol records from his single sitting with the prisoner. Its verso shows it was removed from paper, probably the prisoner’s criminal record sheet. Many of the later Hobart Gaol records books dating from the mid 1880s retain the prisoner’s mugshot(s) intact (held at the Archives Office Tasmania), but the earlier 1870s mugshots have survived mostly only as loose duplicates, so this loose carte is unusual in that respect. This photograph’s late date of production, 1881-83, is possibly one reason it appears to be an original prisoner identification photograph by Nevin, typical of his commercial posing and printing in an oval cdv mount. … More Prisoner John POPE 1881

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

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

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

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

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

Mugshots removed: prisoner William FORD 1886

William Ford, prisoner, booking photographs taken on 27 July 1886 when he was “disposed of by the Supreme Court”. On the left, a semi profile photograph without hat, unframed; on the right, torso facing front, gaze deflected down and to left, wearing hat, framed as an oval carte-de-visite. Photographed at the Hobart Gaol by Constable John Nevin, produced by Thomas J. Nevin for the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. Both photographs were taken and printed within the conventions of 1870s commercial studio portraiture, typical of Nevin’s earlier mugshots of Tasmanian convicts. … More Mugshots removed: prisoner William FORD 1886

Two mugshots of Hugh COHEN or Cowen/Cowan 1878

These two images of Tasmanian prisoner Hugh Cohen (or Cowan/Cowen) differ slightly in details of his scarf arrangement and shirt collar. The two photographs as captures were taken at different sittings only a short time apart by Thomas J. Nevin, although printed in different formats. The negative and carte-de-visite (on left) was taken and printed by Nevin at the Hobart Gaol on the prisoner’s arrival from the Supreme Court Launceston in early April 1878, when Cohen’s sentence of death by hanging was passed and was still current. The second negative was taken and printed in the oblong format in late April 1878 when Cohen’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. … More Two mugshots of Hugh COHEN or Cowen/Cowan 1878

Prisoner mugshots by Constable John Nevin to 1890

Most prisoner photographs taken in the 1880s in Tasmania required the subject to face the camera, and in some instances, show the backs of the hands clearly. The full frontal gaze marked the transitional phase between Thomas Nevin’s early to mid-1870s commercial cartes-de-visite and the 1880s prisoner photographs, taken more often than not at the Hobart Gaol by his brother John Nevin. No full profile photographs, in addition to the single full frontal shot, were taken until the late 1890s when the methods of Bertillon took hold … More Prisoner mugshots by Constable John Nevin to 1890

Mugshots removed; prisoner Thomas RILEY or Ryley/Reilly

Thomas Rielly/Ryley/Riley was photographed by Nevin on the prisoner’s discharge, February 12, 1875. Thomas Riley’s mugshot is missing from the original goal record now held at Tasmanian Archives and Heritage, Ref: GD 6719. It was removed and sent to the National Library of Australia, at an unknown date and by an unknown person. This sort of defacement of original prison records, and the subsequent acquisition of this and the rest of the Tasmanian prisoner mugshots held at the NLA, has contributed to their staff’s recently professed ignorance of both their “convicts” photographs’ provenance and photographer attribution. Instead, isolated as artistic artefacts within their collection they are loosely titled “Port Arthur convicts 1874” despite widely variant dates of capture, and co-opted to the fictions promulgated by opportunistic individuals taking advantage of the absence of context. … More Mugshots removed; prisoner Thomas RILEY or Ryley/Reilly

“Securing a proper likeness”: Tasmania, NSW and Victoria from 1871

Professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin was commissioned by his family solicitor, the Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, to photograph prisoners for the Colonial Government of Tasmania as early as 1871, the year the government of NSW authorised the Inspector of Prisons, Harold McClean, to commence the photographing of all prisoners convicted in the NSW Superior Courts. … More “Securing a proper likeness”: Tasmania, NSW and Victoria from 1871

Prisoner George WILLIS and Tasmanian prison records 1872-1880

George Willis, aged 48 yrs, and originally transported in 1838, was convicted in the Supreme Court at Hobart on 10th September 1872, sentenced to six years for larceny, sent to the Port Arthur prison, and then relocated to the Hobart Gaol in October 1873 where he was photographed by T. J. Nevin on incarceration. … More Prisoner George WILLIS and Tasmanian prison records 1872-1880

Prisoner John SULLIVAN, cook and thief 1875

Although catalogued as a “portrait” of a “Port Arthur convict”, it is simply a mugshot – one of thousands taken for the Municipal Police Office at the Hobart Gaol, the Supreme Court and MPO by professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin between 1872 and 1886. He took this photograph at the Hobart Gaol when John Sullivan was tried in the Supreme Court Hobart on 18th August 1875 on a charge of larceny and sentenced to incarceration at the Hobart Gaol for a period of twelve (12) months, … More Prisoner John SULLIVAN, cook and thief 1875

Tasmanian crime statistics 1866-1875

Further refining the time span when photography was introduced as a means of police surveillance, from 1871 to 1875, the total number of persons convicted in the Superior Courts totalled three hundred and forty-three (343). This last group was photographed by Nevin from the start of his commission as a commercial photographer under government contract. Most of the photographs he took of males in this last group, between 1871 and 1875, survive in public collections today for TWO principal reasons … … More Tasmanian crime statistics 1866-1875

From Thomas Bock to Thomas Nevin: Supreme Court prisoner portraits

“… portraits of prisoners taken in the dock …” THOMAS BOCK Police artists worked in the Supreme Court of Tasmania from as early as 1824. An album of portraits of “prisoners taken in the dock” (Dunbar, QVMAG catalogue 1991:25) by Thomas Bock, the father of Thomas Nevin’s mentor Alfred Bock, was on sale at the … More From Thomas Bock to Thomas Nevin: Supreme Court prisoner portraits

The Supreme Court mugshots taken by T. J. Nevin from 1871 onwards

Who were they? They were T.J. Nevin’s sitters for police records, mostly “Supreme Court men” photographed on committal for trial at the Supreme Court adjoining the Hobart Gaol when they were isolated in silence for a month after sentencing. If sentenced for a long term at the Supreme Court Launceston, they were photographed, bathed, shaved and dressed on being received in Hobart. These procedures, past and present, were reported at length by a visitor to the Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court in The Mercury, 8th July 1882 … … More The Supreme Court mugshots taken by T. J. Nevin from 1871 onwards

Prisoners Wm MEAGHER, Wm LEE and Chas ROSETTA 1870s

William Meaghers was transported to NSW in 1838 on board the Bengal Merchant. Originally from Dublin, he was court martialled in Quebec, Lower Canada on 26 September 1836. In Paramatta, NSW, he was sentenced to 14 years for housebreaking on 10 December 1842 and transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on board the Sir J. Byng, arriving on 23 September 1843. He was married with two children. No date of birth appears on his arrival record, however, police records show he was 56 yrs old in 1871, so he was born ca. 1815, and was ca 59 years old in 1874 when Nevin photographed him. The NLA misattribution to Searle and the date of photographic capture catalogued as 1915 would mean that the prisoner William Meaghers, born in 1815, had to be a 100 year old man; clearly, the prisoner was photographed in his fifties on the occasion of his release, in 1874. … More Prisoners Wm MEAGHER, Wm LEE and Chas ROSETTA 1870s

Prisoner Samuel PAUL

Samuel Paul was probably photographed twice, first on his incarceration at the Hobart Gaol as soon as Thomas J. Nevin began the systematic documentation of prisoners in 1871, and again by Nevin at the Hobart Gaol on the prisoner’s release, 20 March 1878. The original verso has a transcription added at some time in the 1900s by archivists with the error in time and date of photographic capture. … More Prisoner Samuel PAUL

Prisoners Chas ROSETTA, Wm LEE and Wm MEAGHER 1870s

By 1892, when John Watt Beattie was commissioned by the Tasmanian government to promote the tourism industry through photography, he had ready access to prison documents held at the Sheriff”s Office, Hobart Gaol (Campbell St.). Pasted to a single album leaf in Searle’s album are three unmounted prisoner mugshots of William Meagher, Charles Rosetta and William Lee, Tasmanian prisoners – termed “convicts” in tourism discourse – originally photographed by Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s for gaol records. These three photographs of Meagher, Rosetta and Lee bear traces around the edges of the blue paper from which they were removed. … More Prisoners Chas ROSETTA, Wm LEE and Wm MEAGHER 1870s

Prisoner Henry CAVANAGH

Henry Cavanagh was sent to Port Arthur in December 1873. His name does not appear in the House of Assembly Journals, Nominal Return of Prisoners sent to Port Arthur since its transfer to Colonial Government in 1871, tabled in Parliament on 11th June, 1873. He was discharged before that date, on the 14th June 1872 after sentencing of one month in Hobart, and arraigned in Launceston nine months later, on the 3rd September 1873. He was received at the Hobart Gaol, sentenced to 6 years, and photographed there on 17th September 1873 by T. J. Nevin. … More Prisoner Henry CAVANAGH

Prisoner Alfred MALDON or MALDEN 1874

These two images are identical, i.e. duplicates produced by photographer Thomas J. Nevin from his single negative, taken at a single sitting with prisoner Alfred Malden on discharge, Hobart, February 1874. Thomas Nevin produced and printed many hundreds of these studio cartes-de-visite in oval mounts – with six or so duplicates – for police use in Hobart from the early 1870s. Alfred Malden was a New Yorker. His visit to Launceston Tasmania prior to his arrest in 1871 may have been to see his nephew Alfred, named in his honour, born to James and Eliza Maldon, Launceston, 9th January 1869 (Tasmanian Names Index RGD33/1/47 no 2125). … More Prisoner Alfred MALDON or MALDEN 1874

Prisoner Walter JOHNSTONE aka Henry BRAMALL or TAYLOR

Henry Taylor was tried at the Supreme Court Hobart on 4th July 1871, along with John Appleby, one of the first photographs of prisoners taken by T.J. Nevin at the Supreme Court Hobart. The photograph of Taylor aka Bramall or Johnston was hand coloured by Nevin’s studio and placed in his shop window to assist the public in recognition and recapture of the prisoner when he absconded on February 6, 1874 from a gang at the Cascade factory. … More Prisoner Walter JOHNSTONE aka Henry BRAMALL or TAYLOR