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

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

Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

This carte-de-visite of William Kellow, one of the extant hundreds of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s and printed in an oval mount, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. It was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with another three hundred or more 1870s mugshots taken at the Hobart Gaol by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin which were acquired by the QVMAG as part of the bequest from the estate of John Watt Beattie in the 1930s. When this cdv, along with 55 more now at the TMAG, were removed from Beattie’s collection and taken down to Port Arthur for an exhibition in 1983, it was not returned to the QVMAG. It was deposited instead at the TMAG . The QVMAG list (2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held at the QVMAG when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. This carte-de-visite of William KELLOW is one of those listed as missing, number 143. … More Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

One example of excessive damage to the original glass plate is evident in this print taken from the negative of Nevin’s only sitting with prisoner Peter Killeen in the week preceding the 20th January, 1875, when Killeen was discharged from the Hobart Gaol. He was given a life sentence for assault and robbery in 1856, and when discharged in 1875 with a ticket-of-leave, he was 64 yrs old. He subsequently re-offended, was sentenced to a further 6 weeks and discharged again on 29 September 1875. Peter Killeen offended again within six months of discharge. He was given a sentence of seven (7) years for larceny at the Supreme Court Hobart on 8th March, 1876, sent to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on 6th April, 1876, and transferred back to the Hobart Gaol on 17th April, 1877. Peter Killeen died from senile decay, aged 76 yrs, as a Prisoner of the Crown at the Hobart Gaol on 27th June, 1889. See originals of these records here.

The only image, whether extant as duplicates of the carte-de-visite or negative prints surviving from Peter Killeen’s criminal sentences is the one taken by Thomas Nevin at his single sitting with the prisoner in January 1875. The scratched condition of the glass plate by the time of Killeen’s death in 1889 at the Hobart Gaol is evidence of repeated use, the print showing even more wear and tear than the other 39 prints used by Beattie for the line-up of 40 on his three panels created in 1915. … More Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

In 1915, commercial photographer, convictaria collector and private museum operator John Watt Beattie held government commissions to boost the tourism industry with photographs of Tasmania’s two key attractions: wilderness landscapes and convict heritage. When Beattie reprinted these mugshots taken by Nevin of prisoners who were incarcerated in the 1870s – sentencing, incarceration and discharge being the only reason the police required their photograph – he labelled them with the word not common to British Edwardian usage – “convicts” – to resonate with the narratives and cliches of Tasmania’s/Van Diemen’s Land penal history prior to 1853, thereby deliberately suppressing the very ordinary reality that these men were prisoners who had been sentenced in the 1870s and 1880s. Not only were they officially designated as “prisoners” for the police, by 1871 they were the responsibility of the colonial government of Tasmania, not the British government. Yet, by 1916, when Beattie had salvaged dozens of Thomas Nevin’s original glass plate negatives and mounted cartes-de-visite of prisoners from the Hobart Gaol’s photographers’ room above the women’s laundry before it was demolished, he was reprinting them as commercial studio portraits on postcards, some even as cartes-de-visite, and some as uncut prints, labelling them “Imperial convicts” who were “photographed at Port Arthur”, none of which was historically factual. … More Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

Rogues Gallery: the QVMAG collection

These police mugshots taken by police and commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s-80s at the Port Arthur prison, the Hobart Gaol (assisted by his brother Constable John Nevin) and the Hobart Municipal Police Office (Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall) are held in the John Watt Beattie Collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania. Most are Nevin’s originals and duplicates produced in vignette carte-de-visite format; some were reproduced from Nevin’s glass negatives by Beattie for sale and exhibition in Hobart at his museum and in Sydney at the Royal Hotel in conjunction with convictaria from the prison hulk Success (1916). An exhibition of these photographs by T. J. Nevin was held at the QVMAG in 1977. … More Rogues Gallery: the QVMAG collection

Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

How cheap was “cheap”? Three years previously, when Thomas Nevin was assistant in Alfred Bock’s studio at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart before Bock’s departure and Nevin &Smith acquiring the business, he would have taken exception to the word “cheap” directed at Alfred Bock’s practice. The dispute about the ownership and copyright of the sennotype process between Henry Frith and Alfred Bock in 1864-1865 embittered both to the point of deciding to quit Tasmania. Frith’s rates for carte-de-visite portraits were expensive, two for 10/-, and his disdain for “cheap trash palmed off on the public as cheap photography” was loudly proclaimed in this advertisement in the Mercury of 6th April 1864. … More Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

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

Disambiguation: two prisoners called William SMITH

Why does this carte of Smith bear T. J. Nevin’s studio stamp? The question has been asked by photo historians with little consideration to the realities of government tender. It is not a commercial stamp but one signifying the photographer’s status as a government contractor. This prisoner cdv was one of several chosen by Thomas Nevin to access his commission, register copyright on behalf of the colonial government, and renew his contract under the terms of the tender. Only one was required per batch of 100, the verso stamp used to identify the photographer’s joint copyright under contract. The registration lasted 14 years from the second year of registration (1872-1874 to 1886). … More Disambiguation: two prisoners called William SMITH

Prisoner Charles GARFITT and the QVMAG

Charles Garfitt’s photograph was reproduced in duplicate by Nevin from his original negative taken at the Supreme Court sittings and Oyer sessions , per government regulations (up to 25 were required in NSW). This one may be a loose duplicate, but it is unlikely to ever have existed without being pasted to Garfitt’s prison record, whether in a regional police office, or at the Hobart Gaol and the Office of Police, Hobart Town Hall. It was removed and transcribed with “Port Arthur” and “1874” in order to attract tourists to the Port Arthur site itself in the 1890s, and to John Watt Beattie’s convictaria museum in Hobart in particular in the early 1900s. … More Prisoner Charles GARFITT and the QVMAG

Prisoner Nathan HUNT 1870s-1890s

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

“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

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

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

Samuel Page’s Royal Mail coach

Samuel Page held the government contracts for the Royal Mail coach deliveries between Hobart and Launceston, and contracted Nevin for photographic advertisements of his coachline. Samuel Page lived at Belle Vue, New Town, a villa with stables, paddocks and gardens. He transported prisoners under government contract from regional stations and courts to be “received” at H.M. Gaol, Hobart, accompanied by constables. … More Samuel Page’s Royal Mail coach

Poster boys 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 1870s

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

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

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

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

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

Prisoner James JONES alias Brocklehurst, known as Spider

Two extant carte-de-visite duplicates from T. J. Nevin’s original negative taken of prisoner James Jones at the Hobart Gaol in late February 1875 on Jones’ discharge, are extant in public collections, viz. the National Library of Australia, and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, each with different numbering on the front mount. This prisoner, James Jones aka Brocklehurst, known by the moniker “Spider” is not to be confused with the prisoner Elijah Elton who used the alias “John Jones” and was known by the moniker “Jack Flash”, an error which has appeared on the NLA catalogue notes. … More Prisoner James JONES alias Brocklehurst, known as Spider

Prisoner George LEATHLEY

Extant examples of Thomas J. Nevin’s photographs taken in the 1870s of Tasmanian prisoners – or “convicts” which is the archaic term used in Tasmanian tourism discourse up to the present – number more than 300 in Australian public collections. These two different photographs of prisoner George Leathley are typical of his application of commercial studio portraiture. They were taken by Thomas J. Nevin between Leathley’s conviction for murder in 1866 and Leathley’s discharge with a ticket of leave in 1876. During those years, the earlier photograph, No. 14, was the first, taken in 1872 and reprinted in 1874, entered into the Hobart Gaol photo book as No. 226, pasted again onto Leathley’s criminal record sheet. The photograph with the recto No. 89, might evince an older George Leathley, taken in 1876 on his discharge. His original conviction in 1866 was death, commuted to life in prison. … More Prisoner George LEATHLEY

Prisoner Henry SINGLETON aka Richard PINCHES

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 Richard PINCHES

Prisoner William WALKER

William Walker was photographed at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall by Thomas Nevin on discharge, 22 July 1874, having served 7 yrs of a 10 year sentence. But William Walker was convicted again 23 October, 1875, sentenced to 6 months for larceny, and incarcerated at the Hobart Gaol. His age was listed as 68 yrs;  his occupation as “painter”. … More Prisoner William WALKER