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
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
The younger prisoner, also known as George Neal, was 33 years old when he was photographed by Constable John Nevin on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol, sentenced for three years on 11th December 1888 for embezzlement. He was therefore born in 1855, in Hobart, and if the birth record below is his, on the 31st August just months before George Neal senior was imprisoned for ten years, in December 1855. If this was George Neal snr’s son, his height here was recorded as 5 feet 8½ inches tall, while his father – if it was George Neal – was recorded in 1876 as 5 feet 3 inches, and in 1879 as 5 feet 2½ inches tall. There’s nothing unusual in this intergenerational height difference, whether in families with two generations or more of offenders, or in families of free settlers, in 19th century Tasmania up to the present day, despite common misconceptions and contrary expectations (see Maxwell-Stewart below). … More Prisoners George NEAL (aka Neill) and George NEAL
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
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
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
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
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
Of the many dozens of stereographs taken by Thomas J. Nevin in the late 1860s which are held in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collections, this particular one was chosen for display at The Photograph and Australia exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, 21 March – 8 June 2015. … More Nevin’s photographs at the Art Gallery NSW exhibition 2015
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
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
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
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
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
Within a week of being reinstated, Blakeney was intent on compromising Nevin. He had most likely coerced the other two constables, Oakes and Priest, to invent the story that “the ghost” had appeared in Nevin’s company, since their witness accounts were not consistent. Nevin denied having seen anyone dressed in a white sheet. Blakeney’s demotion was the result of intoxication, and he was intent on making Nevin suffer the same fate when he sought out Nevin on the night of the arrest. … More Constable Blakeney’s revenge on Thomas Nevin 1880
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
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
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
This later photograph of Nathan Hunt taken by Constable John Nevin was printed in the earlier format of an oval framed carte-de-visite vignette typical of his brother Thomas’ commercial technique of printing his 1870s mugshots for the Municipal Police Office and Hobart Gaol. This photograph is only the third mugshot to surface of a Tasmanian prisoner wearing a prison issue cap; the earlier mugshots taken by Thomas Nevin of prisoners James Mullins and William Smith at the Hobart Gaol in 1875 show both men wearing the “black leathern cap” manufactured by prisoners at Port Arthur in 1873. The prison issue woollen cap also made by prisoners at Port Arthur in 1873 is shown here, worn by Nathan Hunt in this later mugshot dated 1890. … More Prisoner Nathan HUNT 1870s-1890s
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
This young locally-born (“native”) 19 year old John Morrison or John Norman was photographed on being received at the Hobart Gaol on February 16, 1884 by Constable John Nevin. The National Library has included the photograph among the collection of the earlier 1874 convict photographs taken by Thomas J. Nevin, and retained the prison location as Port Arthur despite the simple fact that in 1874 the prisoner would have been only 9 years old, and clearly he is not a child in his photograph. As for the place of imprisonment, he could not have been imprisoned to serve his 12 month sentence at the Port Arthur prison because it was well and truly closed by 1877, and by 1884 it was in ruins. … More Prisoner John NORMAN or MORRISON
A selection of portrait photos from the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage collection of early Tasmanian gaol records (1860-1902) posted to Flickr. See the earlier article on this blog about the photograph of Hugh Cohen. … More Tasmanian prisoner records from TAHO at Flickr
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
James Geary arrested by Sub-Inspector Dorsett, 20 May 1870. Thomas Nevin often accompanied Sub-Inspector Dorsett as assistant bailiff, a service he continued through to 1886. Geary was photographed by Nevin on being discharged from the Police Office with FS on 20th February 1874. … More Prisoner James GEARY: mugshots and rap sheet 1865-1896
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
This photograph – a standard 1870s carte-de-visite prisoner identification photograph produced by Thomas J. Nevin – has escaped the attention of photo-historians of the 1870s Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photographs, the so-called “Port Arthur convict portraits 1874” labelled and catalogued as such in Australian national collections, viz. the National Library of Australia, Canberra, and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. It belongs to the same series of fine albumen prints of prisoners taken by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin for the Hobart Gaol and Hobart Municipal Police authorities from 1872- 1880. … More Prisoner Robert aka James OGDEN, photographed by Nevin 1875
DISAMBIGUATION: Three James Day names
Right at the outset we stress that this James Day was not a relative of photographer Thomas Nevin’s wife Elizabeth Rachel Day, nor was he related to her father by the name of Captain James Day, master mariner, who was born on 6 June 1806 in Yorkshire and died in Hobart on 17 November 1882, nor to Captain James Day’s first cousin, Captain Henry James Day of the 99th Regiment, guard captain of the Candahar 1842.
However, while researching the name “James Day”, the Old Bailey trial records and the transportation records of another “James Day” surfaced, a Londoner aged 52yrs old, who was transported for seven years to VDL on board the ship Sarah in 1836. Not many men of his advanced years were transported. These are his records and his story up to his death in 1863. … More Disambiguation: James Day 52 yrs old and transported to VDL 1836
“.. known as Morgan the Poet. Sings in public-houses.” James Morgan was arrested on the 16th August 1872 for assault; notice of the arrest was printed in the police gazette on 23 August 1872. In 1872 he was listed as 50 years old. … More Prisoner James MORGAN alias Morgan the Poet who sings in pubs
Too often the 300 or so extant 19th century photographs of Tasmanian prisoners taken by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the decade 1870-1880 are circulated within academic discourse as realistic representations of “Port Arthur convicts”, the term used in public library and museum catalogues, and by historians who fail to interrogate the term as a systemic cultural belief about Tasmania. But the vast majority of these photographs show men in their forties, fifties and sixties, not the youths they were when they were transported and incarcerated at Port Arthur prior to July 1853, the date when transportation ceased to the penal colony. So these photographs cannot function as images in any synedochal sense either within discourse about an historic era of “transportation”, or of “Port Arthur” as its contextual genesis and genius loci.
Commercial photographer T.J. Nevin took these photographs as mugshots of men, recidivists who had offended locally and repeatedly, for the Municipal Police and Gaol authorities in Hobart between 1872 and 1880. By 1900, the 1870s mugshots had been removed from the original registers by the government photographer and commercial entrepreneur of convictaria, John Watt Beattie. The photographs initially had been arranged by the prisoner’s discharge date, a common administrative practice which survived into the 1930s. However, the 1870s discharge registers have not survived intact. Late registers do survive, in which the prisoner’s mugshot is accompanied by his criminal record and discharge notice. These are now held at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (Ref: POL708).
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
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
Edward Wallace aka Timothy Donovan was a transported felon, arriving in Hobart from Dublin on board the Blenheim (2), on February 2nd, 1849. He became an habitual offender. His photograph is held at the Mitchell Library Sydney, SLNSW, in a box of nine cartes-de-visite of prisoners taken by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol. The collection was bequeathed by David Scott Mitchell to the State Library of NSW ca 1907 (PXB 274). The Mitchell Library has catalogued all these nine photographs with the date “1878”; however, two of the photographs were taken by Nevin in 1875 (those of Mullins and Smith), and this one, of Edward Wallace was more likely to have been taken by Nevin in 1872 or early 1873, when Wallace was re-arrested for absconding from the Hobart Gaol. … More Habitual offender Edward WALLACE at Hobart Gaol
Thomas FRANCIS was discharged from Port Arthur, per the first notice in the police gazette dated 4th February, 1874. Note that no physical details were recorded on 4th February 1874 because he had not re-offended and photographed on discharge perregulations . A second notice appeared in the police gazette one week later, dated 6th February 1874, which included his age – 62 yrs, height – 5’5" – colour of hair – "brown" and distinguishing marks, eg. bullet mark on left leg, bayonet mark on thumb, scar on chin. These details were written and recorded when Thomas J. NEVIN photographed Thomas FRANCIS on that date – 6th February 1874 – at the Office of Inspector of Police, Hobart Town Hall. … More Thomas FRANCIS was photographed by T. J. NEVIN on 6th February 1874
In 1884, the Colonial Government of Tasmania changed the name of its weekly police gazette from Tasmania Reports of Crime For Police Information (and the alternative – Information for Police) which was published by the government printer James Barnard dating back to its first appearance in 1861 … More Good reading for The Kid 1921 : police gazettes
“… 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
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
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