Weekly Returns, the police forms 1880s: no more ships’ names please

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

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

Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

This camera was used by the (as yet) unidentified photographer at the Hobart Gaol from the 1890s. Prior to the 1890s, prisoners were photographed by Constable John Nevin who was resident at the Gaol until his death from typhoid fever in 1891, working with his brother, commercial photographer and civil servant Thomas J. Nevin who attended the gaol and Supreme Court sessions on a weekly roster. They used two rooms above the women’s laundry as a studio. The cameras they used were wet plate, multi-lens cameras such as the 1860s American Scovill (possibly Peck) style wet-plate camera with four Darlot No.4 lenses, a Simon Wing ‘Repeating’ camera, or a stereoscopic, sliding box type, wet plate (wood, brass & glass), by Ottewill & Co, lenses manufactured by A Ross, London, England, 1860 – 1870. … More Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

Prisoner James GEARY: mugshots and rap sheet 1865-1896

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

Prisoner Mark JEFFREY, a Port Arthur flagellator

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

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

Mugshots removed: prisoner William FORD 1886

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

Two mugshots of Hugh COHEN or Cowen/Cowan 1878

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

Prisoner mugshots by Constable John Nevin to 1890

Most prisoner photographs taken in the 1880s in Tasmania required the subject to face the camera, and in some instances, show the backs of the hands clearly. The full frontal gaze marked the transitional phase between Thomas Nevin’s early to mid-1870s commercial cartes-de-visite and the 1880s prisoner photographs, taken more often than not at the Hobart Gaol by his brother John Nevin. No full profile photographs, in addition to the single full frontal shot, were taken until the late 1890s when the methods of Bertillon took hold … More Prisoner mugshots by Constable John Nevin to 1890

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

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

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

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

The Nevin farm burglariously entered 1881

During the night of the 16th instant the dwelling of John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley, was burglariously entered, and the following articles stolen there-from: – 2 white shirts, one much worn; 2 Scotch twill shirts, one has a patch of different material across the shoulder, the other broken at the elbow; 1 old flannel shirt, stained in front; 1 white pillow-slip; 2 jars of raspberry jam; 2 lbs. soap; 2 lbs. bacon; the property of and shirts identifiable by John Nevin. … More The Nevin farm burglariously entered 1881

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 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 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