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

Aliases, Copies, and Misattribution

Cataloguists, librarians, archivists, students, photo historians and others in public service have made a real mess of storing and recording the accession history, numbering, and data collation on these Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photos: obliteration, reinvention, fads, guesses, fashions, and personal agendas have managed to obliterate valuable data and thus the traces of facts from their past. … More Aliases, Copies, and Misattribution

A first-class faithful Likeness, February 1873

Personal friendships, mutual business support and Lodge affiliations ensured priority and preference, and in Thomas Nevin’s case, his family solicitor, Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, and his Loyal United Brothers membership played a key role in the offer to provide the Municipal and Territorial Police, and the Prisons Department with identification photographs of convicted criminals. “A first-class faithful likeness” is exactly what the police wanted of the prisoner and ex-convict population. … More A first-class faithful Likeness, February 1873

Tricks of the prison limner and sitter 1866

“The credit which has been denied to photography on the score of art capacity must be conceded to its literal fidelity in rendering facts. That it is not imaginative, that it cannot modify or omit details from its presentments, becomes, in many cases, its cardinal virtue. If it nothing extenuate, it sets down naught in malice, and when it enters the witness-box, its evidence leaves little room for doubt. Hence it has taken an important place as an auxiliary to the administration of justice, both in civil and criminal cases. In multiplying indisputable fac-similes of important documents, in indicating pictorially the relative positions of disputed territory, its use is obvious. But it is in its aid to the discovery of identity in persons charged with crime that its legal use is most important …” … More Tricks of the prison limner and sitter 1866

Thos. Jas. Nevin sr, John Perkins jr, and W.R. Giblin

On or about the 1st December 1874, Thomas J. Nevin pledged his support in the upcoming Hobart Municipal Council elections for Alderman candidate John Perkins Junior Esq. The Mercury newspaper customarily printed these formal pledges as a discursive solicitation by the supporters, and then provided a lengthy list of their names every week until the close of the election. … More Thos. Jas. Nevin sr, John Perkins jr, and W.R. Giblin

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

19th century prison photography: Tasmania 1872

When Thomas Nevin sat down to read the Mercury on the morning of 24th October 1872 and turned to an article reprinted from the London papers on “the valuable working of the Prevention of Crimes Act, or as it is better known, the Habitual Criminals Act” of 1871, he was more than aware of the use of photography by police. He had already taken photographs of prisoners at the Hobart Gaol at the behest of his solicitor and mentor since 1868, Attorney-General William Robert GIBLIN. … More 19th century prison photography: Tasmania 1872

Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame

Between 1876 and 1884, transitional years in the history of 19th century prison photography, changes took place in the way Jack and Thomas Nevin posed the prisoner and and printed the final carte-de-visite. The technology changed too. Lenses after 1875 enabled a closer or larger image of the face. The prisoner was also posed closer to the camera in a full frontal position facing the photographer, and although the oval vignette was still the preferred format for printing, square frames were also used. The formalised front and profile pair of portraits using the methods of Bertillonage did not appear in Tasmanian prison photography until the late 1890s, by which time both Nevin brothers had ceased professional photography. … More Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame

Two histories, one execution: Job SMITH & Emanuel BLORE

Job Smith aka Wm Campbell was photographed by Thomas Nevin either when Smith was one of sixty prisoners who had transferred back to the Hobart Gaol from Port Arthur before July 1873 (see W.R. Giblin’s and the Inspector of Police report of convicts tabled in the Parliament on July 17th, 1873), or just before Smith as William Campbell was returned to Port Arthur on May 8th, 1874 to complete his 8 year sentence, accompanied by Thomas Nevin in his role as police agent and photographer. Both were listed as passengers on the schooner Harriet’s way bill. … More Two histories, one execution: Job SMITH & Emanuel BLORE

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

The QVMAG convict photos exhibition 1977

Most of these prisoner ID photographs were acquired by the QVMAG in 1927, as part of photographer John Watt Beattie’s (1859-1930) collection from his estate and convictaria museum in Hobart. Beattie’s sources in turn were the police gazettes and prisoner registers held at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office, where Nevin worked full-time 1876-1880, and from the Sheriff’s Office and Supreme Court at the Hobart Gaol where his brother Constable John Nevin was his assistant. Beattie had ready access as official government photographer ca. 1900s to these documents. … More The QVMAG convict photos exhibition 1977

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

The three identical mugshots featured here are duplicates mounted in carte-de-visite format produced on government contract by commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin from his single negative, taken at a single sitting with prisoner Alfred Malden or Maldon either on Malden’s transfer from the Port Arthur prison, 60 kms south of Hobart to the Hobart House of Corrections, Campbell St. between July 1873 and January 1874, or on his discharge from the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, in February 1874. Thomas J. Nevin produced and printed many hundreds of these studio cartes-de-visite prisoner identification photographs in oval mounts – with six or so duplicates – for police use in Hobart from the early 1870s. In a nutshell, recent arrivals from Melbourne, American seamen Maldon and Wilson were operating a pickpocket scam outside a theatre in Launceston when Wilson was caught by police. His fellow countryman Alfred Maldon confronted them, demanding they let Wilson go, then shot one of the constables called Eddie in the face. In the course of the long report of 29 April, 1871, the spelling of the shooter’s name changes from Maldon to Malden. The “American-ness” of the crime – shooting at police – was noted as “rare in British communities”. Alfred Maldon was tried at the Supreme Court, Launceston on 1st June 1871, sentenced to ten years, and discharged from Hobart Town in the week ending 25 February 1874, less than three years later on condition he leave the colony. His excuse for the shooting was that he was drunk, and because of a previous head injury caused by being struck by lightning, he was incapable of knowing what he was doing, a claim which amounted to a not-guilty plea, according to the trial judge. … More Prisoner Alfred MALDON or MALDEN 1874

Key dates in Thomas Nevin’s life

From the early 1860s Thomas Nevin operated a photographic studio at New Town with the business name of “Thomas Nevins”, i.e. the “s” signifying the possessive, as in “the studio of Thomas Nevin”. By 1865 he was assistant to photographer Alfred Bock whose residence and studio he leased from A. Biggs at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town on Alfred Bock’s departure for Victoria in 1867 (Hobart Town Gazettes 1870s). Nevin maintained the business name of the studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. With partner Robert Smith, they formed the firm Nevin & Smith, producing stereographic views and hand-tinted studio portraits (TMAG and Private Collections). The firm Nevin & Smith was commissioned to take an album of portraits of Tasmanian children in 1868 to be presented to the Duke of Edinburgh (State Library of Victoria Collection). However, the partnership was short-lived. Robert Smith moved to Goulburn, NSW and the firm known as Nevin & Smith was dissolved on 22nd February 1868, undersigned by Thomas Nevin’s solicitor, later Attorney-General, W.R. Giblin. Thomas Nevin continued with the business name, the City Photographic Establishment at the same address, and exhibited photographs of Melville St under snow (1868) and A Party at the Rocking Stone Mt Wellington (1870) at the Wellington Park Exhibitions (TMAG Collection). He also exhibited stereoscopic views, prize cards and cartes-de-visite at the Tasmanian Poultry Society’s annual exhibition at the Town Hall in August 1869 and the Town Hall Bazaar on 1st April, 1870 (Mercury Friday 1 Apr 1870 Page 2 ). For his work as the firm of Nevin & Smith, he was granted a colonial Royal Warrant, and for his work with the Lands and Survey Department of the colonial government, he was granted another colonial Royal warrant by authority. By 1870 Nevin was providing photographs of mining and reservoir works at the Huon and Cascades on government commission, as well as providing group portraits and landscapes for tourists to the Lady Franklin Museum and and John Franklin’s Tree at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart. … More Key dates in Thomas Nevin’s life

Three significant prisoner photographs by T. J. Nevin, 1870s

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, holds a number of similar criminal record sheets with ID cartes attached, though the QVMAG has yet to digitise them online. The Tasmanian Archives and Heritage office (State Library of Tasmania) holds registers of prisoner photographs attached to the criminal record sheet with later dates of 1890 and 1892. This document, however, is held on display at the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site, Hobart. It is a complete prison record on parchment of Allan Matthew Williamson, per the ship Maria Somes (2) , from his arrival in Van Diemen’s Land in 1850 right up to his death in 1893. Williamson’s photograph was pasted onto the parchment at the centre of the document, which was folded back on each side, rotated, and used for documenting Williamson’s criminal career for more than forty years. T … More Three significant prisoner photographs by T. J. Nevin, 1870s

About those photographic glasses 1873 …

A. H. Boyd had no reputation in his own lifetime as a photographer, none subsequently, and no works by him are extant, yet he suddenly entered photo history as an “artist” in 1995 due largely to a sentence in a children’s fictional tale, and a cargo list. Thomas J. Nevin, well-known within his lifetime as a contractual commercial photographer, civil servant, and special constable with the Municipal and Territorial Police, and with a sizeable legacy dating from the 1860s held in State, National and private collections, was effectively dismissed as a “copyist” by Chris Long. Authoritative commentators who were aware of the problem ensured Chris Long was named as someone in error on this matter when Nevin’s biographical details were published in 1992 ( Willis, Kerr, Stilwell, Neville, etc). … More About those photographic glasses 1873 …

Working with police and prisoners

The last document (to date) of Thomas Nevin’s direct involvement with government legislation pertaining to police administration was signed as a resolution on the occasion of a bill to be introduced in the House of Assembly to effectively centralise the various municipal and territorial forces. The meeting he attended and its resolutions, which was chaired by His Worship the Mayor Alderman Crouch, was reported in The Mercury, 19 July 1888. Thomas Nevin’s recorded comment was:

“Mr. Thos Nevin was under the impression that the police should be under stricter supervision.” … More Working with police and prisoners

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

At least forty more unmounted photographs of prisoners taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s which were collated by John Watt Beattie in three panels ca. 1915 are held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with seventy or so cdvs in oval mounts, the remainder of part of more than three hundred in oval mounts which were originally bequeathed  from the estate of convictaria collector and government photographer John Watt Beattie to the QVMAG in the 1930s. When several dozen mounted and unmounted cdvs were removed from Beattie’s original collection at the QVMAG and taken down to the Port Arthur prison heritage site for an exhibition as part of the Port Arthur Conservation Project in 1983, they were not returned to the QVMAG. They were deposited instead at the TMAG . Given the scratches, crossed out inscriptions and general damage, the glass negative from which this print was made would have been used extensively to reprint the prisoner’s photograph for prison records as each offense and charge was recorded. The print, unmounted such as this one, would have been pasted to his rap sheet, and more would have been reprinted from the original glass plate several times over the prisoner’s long criminal career. Examples of both types of prisoner mugshots – mounted and unmounted – attached to prisoners’ rap sheets are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania in prison photo books. … More From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

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

Prisoner William HAYES

William Hayes’ prison ID photograph was among the first taken by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart House of Corrections when William Hayes was discharged from a 2 year sentence for indecent assault in the week ending 24 April 1872.

The same image in these two cartes was printed at different times from Nevin’s original glass negative. In the top carte, Hayes’ image was straightened, eliminating the lean to the right in the carte below. Haye’s petty minor offences between 1873-1875 after release from the Hobart Gaol  were tried in Launceston, where the reprint of his ID photograph was sent in 1874. … More Prisoner William HAYES

Prisoner William HARRISON 1873

William Harrison as Taylor, was tried at the Recorder’s Court Launceston and charged on 26 May 1870 with uttering a forged cheque on his own confession. He was sentenced to four years. He may have served time at the Port Arthur prison although his name was not listed among the 109 prisoners on short term who were tabled in Parliament to be returned to the Hobart Gaol by July 1873. William Harrison was discharged from Hobart and photographed by Thomas J. Nevin on 27 August 1873. … More Prisoner William HARRISON 1873

Prisoner Job SMITH aka Wm Campbell 1875

From the cell to the gallows, Smith betrayed no physical emotion, his step being steady, and his demeanour apparently composed. On arriving at the drop ,the Under-Sheriff asked the unfortunate man if he had anything to say. Smith replied, ” I am not guilty ; I am an innocent man.”The Under-Sheriff then read the following written statement : -” I was born at Bristol on the 23rd of November, 1819, and was a Protestant all my life. Became a Roman Catholic upon receiving sentence of death. I have left with my [spiritual] director a statement, which, in his discretion, I request him to publish wholly or in part.” … More Prisoner Job SMITH aka Wm Campbell 1875

Prisoner Michael GILMORE and the NLA

Michael Gilmore was a career criminal, or so it seems His convictions included burglary, larceny, indecency, idle and disorderly, feloniously wounding etc. He was in and out of prison on a regular basis from 1869. In October 1874 Thomas Nevin photographed him at the Hobart Gaol. These records include his convictions and discharges from 1874 to 1885. His aliases were Terence or Michael Moore. … More Prisoner Michael GILMORE and the NLA

Prisoner John WILLIAMS

NLA Catalogue (incorrect information) nla.pic-an24612797 PIC P1029/63 LOC Album 935 John Williams, per Ld. [i.e. Lady] Montagu F.S., P.O. Latrobe, 13.3.84, larceny, 12 months, age 59 [picture] 1884. 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.7 x 5.6 cm. POLICE RECORDS John Williams as Lintle as Moses Bentley with prior convictions in 1869 was … More Prisoner John WILLIAMS

Prisoner Elijah ELTON aka John Jones and ‘Flash Jack’

The prisoner whose identity was established by police as Elijah ELTON had many aliases. He was transported in 1842 as Elisha NELMES per Emily 1. He was sought on warrant with the aliases Thomas TURNER and John JONES. He was incarcerated and discharged as Elijah ELTON from 1865-1879. The birth of his daughter Mary Elisha to Sarah Ann Brown formerly Clark was registered with his full name as father in 1862 (see Addendum below). But when he died of cancer of the tongue on 31st May 1883 (at 64 yrs old) his death was registered at the New Town Pauper Establishment with the name Elisha NELMES, the alias by which he was originally known when transported to VDL back in 1842 (Archives Office Tasmania RGD35-1-10P111) .His nickname was Flash Jack. He was not known to police over the two decades of his criminal career by the name of BROCKLEHURST – see this photograph and police records for James Jones aka Spider. This alias and this moniker were used by an entirely different prisoner called James JONES. … More Prisoner Elijah ELTON aka John Jones and ‘Flash Jack’

Prisoner John GREGSON

The Gregsons were discharged 27th January, 1875, and were photographed again by Nevin in the preceeding week. They were not photographed at Port Arthur before January 9th, 1874. They escaped from the Domain in Hobart on that date and were photographed on arrest one month later by Nevin when they were received at the Hobart Gaol. These two brothers re-offended on a regular basis every few months right up to 1879, and were photographed once again in 1878 at the Supreme Court, Hobart by Nevin. … More Prisoner John GREGSON

Prisoner John EDDINGTON

This prisoner identification photograph of John Eddington was taken at the Hobart Gaol by Constable John Nevin and Thomas Nevin in March 1883 when Eddington was arraigned and sentenced to two years for assault and robbery. The National Library of Australia’s catalogue note is incorrect. It was not taken in 1874, when Eddington would have been no older than an eleven year child, and it was not taken at the Port Arthur prison which finally closed in 1877. … More Prisoner John EDDINGTON

Prisoner John DORAN

Just one mugshot of habitual offender John Doran per the convict transport Asiatic is extant, and in very poor condition. It is held at the National Library of Australia, taken by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in the last week of December 1875 prior to John Doran’s discharge on 5th January 1876. John Doran is not to be confused with another prisoner with the name of Albert or Alfred Doran per Blenheim who was also active during these years. His prisoner identification photograph taken by Nevin is extant in public collections in various formats (QVMAG). … More Prisoner John DORAN

Prisoner James JONES alias Brocklehurst, known as Spider

Three duplicates or copies are extant in public collections from T. J. Nevin’s original negative taken of prisoner James Jones alias James Brocklehurst at the Hobart Gaol in late February 1875 on Jones’ discharge. This prisoner James Jones aka James Brocklehurst, known by the moniker “Spider” is not to be confused with the prisoner Elijah Elton, transported as Elisha Nelmes, who used the alias “John Jones” and was known by the moniker “Flash Jack”, an error which has appeared on the National Library of Australia catalogue entry … More Prisoner James JONES alias Brocklehurst, known as Spider

Prisoner James FOLEY

Government contractor Thomas J. Nevin photographed prisoner James Foley in one sitting, on the prisoner’s discharge in October 1874 from the Hobart Gaol. This cdv is the mounted original taken in 1874 by Nevin, donated to the NLA in the 1960s as part of the Gunson collection of government estrays.

More Prisoner James FOLEY

Prisoner George ORMISTON

Two different carte-de-visite photographs of a convict identified as George Ormiston are held at the National Library of Australia. Both photographs were taken by T.J. Nevin at different times for different offences for different occasions. The one featuring Ormiston with a moustache was taken first, in 1876, the second minus the moustache and with a haricut was taken later, in 1884. George Ormiston was photographed by Nevin – as were all other prisoners on discharge – when he was issued with a Freedom Certificate (FC) at the Hobart Municipal Police Office in 1876. However, Ormiston was a repeat offender – the reason why all these police photographs were taken – and he was photographed again in 1884 while incarcerated on arraignment and transferred from the Launceston Supreme Court to the Hobart Gaol, as were all offenders with sentences of 3 months and longer. … More Prisoner George ORMISTON