Convict photographs by T. J. Nevin at the Art Gallery NSW Centenary Exhibition 1976

Photographs of Tasmanian “convicts” –  i.e. prisoner mugshots – taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s were exhibited at the Centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne in 1976. The Exhibition Catalogue was written by Daniel Thomas Senior Curator and Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW. The Tasmanian contributor was antiquarian Geoffrey Stilwell, a Trustee of the Centenary Celebrations of the Art Gallery of NSW and Special Collections curator of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania. … More Convict photographs by T. J. Nevin at the Art Gallery NSW Centenary Exhibition 1976

Serious money: Captain Edward Goldsmith and shipowner Robert Brooks

The long term success of Robert Brooks’ shipping and pastoral investments depended heavily on the trust he placed in his agents at colonial ports, and on his delegation of all responsibility to his ships’ masters. “Freight payable in the colony” appeared frequently on his cargo manifests. Between 1834 and 1836 he purchased eight vessels, all second-hand. Between 1844 and 1846, his shipping purchases included the Parrock Hall, the Victor, the Kinnear, the Angelina, the North Briton, the Eagle, the William Wilson, and most important of all, the Rattler, built and bought specifically for Captain Edward Goldsmith (Broeze, p. 150, Table 8.6). … More Serious money: Captain Edward Goldsmith and shipowner Robert Brooks

Prisoners George NEAL (aka Neill) and George NEAL

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

Prisoners William SEWELL and Ralph NEILL 1867-1874

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

Prisoner Philip BURTON

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

Rogues Gallery: National Library of Australia collection

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

Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

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

Donation of Nevin graphica from private collector to the NLA

We are delighted to announce that a private collector and American resident has generously donated to the National Library of Australia, Canberra, a total of 45 photographs of Port Arthur convicts taken by Thomas J. Nevin, including the photograph of John Gregson, 1874 (pictured), together with original records, prison logs, prison ephemera and realia, and letters written to Thomas J. Nevin from the adiministration regarding his government commissions at both the Port Arthur penitentiary and Hobart Gaol, Tasmania during the 1870s-1880s. The donation was bequeathed from a large collection of 19th and early 20th century Pacifica, the bulk of which will remain in the United States. … More Donation of Nevin graphica from private collector to the NLA

Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith and prisoner George FISHER

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

Prisoner Richard COPPING and Hobart Gaol executions

Police photographer Thomas J. Nevin took this vignette of Richard Copping for prison records at the Hobart Gaol when Copping was remanded at the Supreme Court on 23rd July 1878. Copping was executed at the Hobart Gaol on 21st October 1878 for the murder of Susannah Stacey. Copping’s medical defence, Dr Benjafield, who sought clemency for the 19 yr old youth and was mindful of public discontent with the continuance of capital punishment, asserted Copping had softening of the brain. Dr Turnley disagreed, declared the youth sane, and the execution went ahead. Turnley’s post-mortem found no disease located in Copping’s brain. … More Prisoner Richard COPPING and Hobart Gaol executions

Julia Clark must face up to academic fraud

Julia Clark must face charges of academic fraud sooner or later. She has thrown essays and articles in the face of librarians and museum workers since 2007, assuring them that her belief in the existence of a photographer attribution to Mr A. H. Boyd was hypothetically possible and so should be shared by them. So what proof has she found during the last ten years? This photograph of a prison building, which we documented at length on these blogs in 2009-2010 is all she has found in eight years since she first set her game in play. On the lower margin is a pencilled inscription in a modern hand scribbled onto an enlargement of a stereoscopic landscape view of the Port Arthur prison, taken in 1873 by Samuel Clifford and Thomas Nevin, reproduced by the Anson Brothers photographers in an album published in 1889, held at the State Library of NSW. The inscription is a fake, put there in 1984 at the instigation of Chris Long, the originator of the myth that A. H. Boyd was THE photographer of these Tasmanian prisoner mugshots instead of Nevin, the real photographer (or any other real photographer, for that matter, in Nevin’s cohort). … More Julia Clark must face up to academic fraud

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

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

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

Prisoner Henry SINGLETON aka Harry the Tinker who pinches books

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

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

Carnal knowledge of children: convictions 1860s-1880s

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

Prisoner John NORMAN or MORRISON

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

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

Convict portraits by Thomas J. Nevin at the National Library of Australia

In June 2005, the National Library of Australia had digitised just 25 photographs of their collection of 84 prisoner identification cartes-de-visite of Tasmanian prisoners, titled “Convict portraits, Port Arhur,1874”, with the long-standing and correct attribution to commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin. … More Convict portraits by Thomas J. Nevin at the National Library of Australia

The fruitless search of wadsley-1

This letter to the Editor is cited by someone called “wadsley-1” to justify a massive deception, to “prove” a lie about the Port Arthur accountant and commandant A.H. Boyd, who was known and despised as a bully and free-loader in his own lifetime, but never known as a photographer. So why has the National Library assigned his name to their collection of Tasmanian prisoner mugshots, a collection of 84 photographs originally and correctly attributed to Thomas J. Nevin? Personality politics, no more and no less. … More The fruitless search of wadsley-1

“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

Captain Henry James Day of the 99th Regiment

Captain Henry James Day (1804-1882), first cousin of Thomas Nevin’s father-in-law, master mariner Captain James Day, was Guard Captain of the 3rd detachment of 99th Regiment of Foot on board the convict transport Candahar when it arrived in Hobart in 1842 with 60 troops under his command, and 249 male convicts. Also on board were a “lady and four children”, several soldiers’ families and government stores. The Candahar was a 4 gun barque of 642 tons built in Shields in 1840, class A1 which departed Spithead, England on the 2nd April 1842, docking in Van Dieman’s Land on the 21st July 1842. Captain Day’s arrival was noted in the Hobart Town Courier. The regiment was stationed at the Anglesea Barracks, Hobart. … More Captain Henry James Day of the 99th Regiment

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

Edwin Barnard at the NLA with Nevin’s convict photographs

The interviewee Edwin Barnard in this ABC news report poses here as an expert on the Tasmanian convicts photographs taken and produced by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. NEVIN in the 1870s. Original duplicates of these same mugshots held at the NLA which were made by Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin for the police are held in other public institutions (TMAG, QVMAG, AOT, State Library of Tas, SLNSW) and private collections. … More Edwin Barnard at the NLA with Nevin’s convict photographs

A missing or unidentified mugshot: prisoner Alfred HARRINGTON

The research we have provided on these weblogs since 2003 about the police work of professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin in Tasmania during the 1870s and the mugshots he produced has stimulated and inspired a global reading public. If you are curious enough to pursue your own detective work regarding the prisoner’s identity in this handful of the few remaining mugshots yet to be documented (see below), take advice from researcher Peter Doyle. In his latest publication of mugshots from the NSW Justice and Police Museum , Crooks Like Us (2009), Doyle states that the police gazettes were the first he consulted and the most reliable source of information (p.312). The equivalent Tasmanian police gazettes are available as searchable CDs (from Gould’s) and are also online at the Archives Office of Tasmania (although not as easily searchable). … More A missing or unidentified mugshot: prisoner Alfred HARRINGTON

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

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

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

Edward Searle (1887-1955) was a Tasmanian photographer who worked with John Watt Beattie between 1911-15 at Beattie’s studio in Elizabeth St. Hobart, opposite the small Wellington Bridge which provided access across the open Hobart Rivulet The National Library of Australia holds an album titled Tasmanian Views, catalogued in Searle’s name and dated  ca. 1915. The album contains … More Prisoners Chas ROSETTA, Wm LEE and Wm MEAGHER 1870s

Cavanagh, Henry

NLA Catalogue full record (as at April 17, 2009) Henry Cavanagh at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1874 [picture] Title Henry Cavanagh at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1874 [picture] Date 1874. Extent 1 albumen print : sepia toned; 10.5 x 6.5 cm. Context Part of Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874 [picture] Series * Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874. … More Cavanagh, Henry

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

Mismatched records : The Bulletin 1978

None of these convicts’ records, therefore, match the prisoner photographed by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in January 1874. This young felon was Charles Brown, born in Tasmania, his alias was “William Forster” and he was 22 years old when he was photographed. He is unusual for the fact that he surrendered himself to the police at the Hobart Gaol on January 9th, 1874. … More Mismatched records : The Bulletin 1978

Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

This 1870s police identification photograph of local offender Thomas Jeffries may have been wrongly transcribed verso in the 1920s with the name “Henry Jeffries”, or the National Library’s cataloguist has made the mistake of recording “Henry” instead of “Thomas” as the prisoner’s first name when the photograph was accessioned. The photograph does not appear on the NLA’s list of “Convict Portraits, Port Arthur 1874” published in 1985 under Thomas J. Nevin’s name as the photographer, so it was either discovered there at the Library or acquired by the NLA at a later date. Nor does the name “Thomas Jeffries” or “Henry Jeffries” appear on the list of prisoners sent to Port Arthur from the Hobart Gaol in the 1870s and returned again in 1873-1874 to the Hobart Gaol at Parliament’s request. No other prisoner appears in the police gazette notices by the name of “Henry Jeffries” for the decades 1860s-1880s, so the name “Henry” is incorrect. This prisoner is not to be confused with Mark Jeffrey who was photographed by Nevin in 1877 at the Hobart Gaol.
More Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom