How to read the records: prisoner Peter MOONEY

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).

More How to read the records: prisoner Peter MOONEY

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

Habitual offender Edward WALLACE at Hobart Gaol

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 photographed by T. J. NEVIN on 6th February 1874

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

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

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

Constable W. J. Nevin at inquest 1882

Jack Nevin was his elder brother’s assistant at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street during Thomas’ commissions as police photographer in prisons and police courts. He helped maintain one of their photographic studios in New Town, assisting in the production of stereographs and studio portraits on cartes-de-visite intermittently from the 1860s. He was employed at the Hobart Gaol under the supervision of the keeper Ringrose Atkins from 1874, and became a Constable on salary at the male prison at Cascades and H.M. Prison, Hobart in 1875, serving until his untimely death at age 39 in 1891. … More Constable W. J. Nevin at inquest 1882

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

Poster boys 1991 of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s

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 Poster boys 1991 of Tasmanian prisoners 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

T.J. Nevin’s prisoner mugshots,  Mitchell Library NSW

THOMAS NEVIN’S ELEVEN The Mitchell Library at the State Library of NSW has catalogued eleven prisoner photographs so far which were taken by Thomas Nevin and his younger brother Jack Nevin at the Hobart Gaol between 1875 and 1884. All of these men were habitual offenders with long criminal records who spent as much if … More T.J. Nevin’s prisoner mugshots,  Mitchell Library NSW

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

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

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

“In a New Light”: NLA Exhibition with Boyd misattribution

In November 2000,the National Library of Australia reproduced 22 carte-de-visite vignettes from their holdings of 78 [84] of Thomas Nevin’s Tasmanian prisoner ID photographs, for the purpose of mounting an exhibition called IN A NEW LIGHT: A Love of Order. The exhibition in summary form is still online. Above: In A New Light: A Love … More “In a New Light”: NLA Exhibition with Boyd misattribution

Three significant prisoner  cartes by T. J. Nevin

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. The photograph above of Williamson was taken by Thomas Nevin on Williamson’s discharge from the Hobart Gaol on 8th December 1877 or even earlier. The parchment itself, however, may date to 1867 or even earlier, and the photograph pasted to it a decade later. … More Three significant prisoner  cartes by T. J. Nevin

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

NEVIN’S GLASS NEGATIVES 1870s PRISONER BEWLEY TUCK or JOHN TUCK? Black and white print from Thomas Nevin’s glass negative taken of prisoner Bewley Tuck, No. 68 From the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online until 2006) Of the three hundred and fifty (350) or so extant photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin … More From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

Younger brother Constable John (Jack) NEVIN (1851-1891)

Jack Nevin looks very relaxed and very savvy about the process of being photographed. His gaze is direct and very keen, his clothes suitable for everyday work in a foul place such as a prison. His salaried positions were primarily in administration, with a career path and ranking similar to the Keeper’s. Older brother Thomas Nevin had been a Keeper too of a public institution, at the Hobart Town Hall between 1876-1880; a special constable during the Chiniquy Riots of 1879; Office Keeper for the Hobart City Corporation; and assistant bailiff in the courts during the 1880s. Constable John Nevin’s presence at the Hobart Gaol points to a close family involvement by both Nevin brothers with prisoner documentation – visual and written. … More Younger brother Constable John (Jack) NEVIN (1851-1891)

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