A remarkable New Town studio stamp: Thomas Nevin+s

Untitled, and held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, this example by Thomas Nevin of a popular and much photographed vista of the Queen’s Orphan School and St John’s Church, New Town Tasmania, could be titled “Long shadow with guard at the entrance to St John’s Avenue, New Town“. Its uniqueness as an artefact is the very rare studio stamp on the verso.This is the only extant example (to date) of Thomas Nevin’s earliest photography which bears the design with the wording “Thomas Nevins New Town Tasmania” set against a ribbon in three flat loops, enfolding a flowering plant, and printed in bright blue ink. Nevin was barely out of his teens, still a bachelor, and living with his parents in the house built by his father John Nevin next to the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley (New Town, Hobart, Tasmania.) … More A remarkable New Town studio stamp: Thomas Nevin+s

The firm of Nevin & Smith stamps and label 1867-1868

Robert Smith and Thomas Nevin established the firm of Nevin & Smith soon after Thomas Nevin acquired the stock, studio and glass house of Alfred Bock at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town in 1865. The partnership was brief, lasting less than two years. It was dissolved by Nevin’s family solicitor, the Hon. W. R. Giblin, in February 1868. Two studio stamps and one label have survived from their brief partnership.

Robert Smith may have operated a studio prior to his partnership with Nevin, as Mrs Esther Mather referred briefly to the “coloured ones from Smith’s” in a letter to her step-son, dated October 1865. On Robert Smith’s departure to Victoria, where he took up farming and politics, Thomas Nevin pasted the verso of a few more photographs with the label bearing their name, but with Smith’s name struck through, and the word “Late”added. … More The firm of Nevin & Smith stamps and label 1867-1868

The concertina player 1860s

This untitled stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin, taken ca. 1868 of a group of 19 people sitting by a stream, including a woman holding a concertina, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Ref: Q1994.56.31. Photographed together with its blank verso on 10th November, 2014 at the TMAG (by this weblog), the stereo is one of a series, some bearing Nevin’s New Town stamp, some blank, originally attributed and sequenced by Specialist Collections librarian G. T. Stilwell at the State Library and Archives Office of Tasmania in the 1970s while preparing an exhibition of Nevin’s portraits of convicts (at the QVMAG with John McPhee 1977). … More The concertina player 1860s

Marcus Clarke and Thomas Nevin at the Old Bell Hotel 1870

Given that Thomas Nevin was partial to a drink, inebriation being the chief reason he was dismissed by the Police Committee from his position of Town Hall keeper in December 1880, the Old Bell Hotel was the closest public bar to his studio during the 1870s. Thomas Nevin was still alive in 1920 (d. 1923) when the hotel, known as the Old Bell, was delicensed, so he may have contributed to this story that Marcus Clarke drank there while writing his famous novel, published in 1870 after a visit to the derelict prison at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. … More Marcus Clarke and Thomas Nevin at the Old Bell Hotel 1870

The Trial of Joshua ANSON 1877

Joshua Anson did not take the two photographs of himself that were pasted to his criminal sheet, the first (on left) in 1877 when he was 23 yrs old, and the second (on right) in 1897 when he was 43 yrs old, nor did he photograph any of the other prisoners for gaol records while serving time at the Hobart Gaol. His abhorrence of the company of convicts was extreme, as his statement testifies. His 1877 prisoner mugshot was taken by Constable John Nevin in situ, and unmounted. Thomas Nevin may have printed another for the Municipal Police Office Registry at the Town Hall, Macquaries St. Hobart where he was the Hall and Office Keeper, but it is yet to be identified among the Tasmanian prisoner cdvs held in public collections. Joshua Anson was certainly the beneficiary of Thomas Nevin’s stock and commercial negatives when Samuel Clifford acquired them in 1876 and then sold them on to Joshua Anson and his brother Henry Anson in 1878. The Anson brothers reprinted Clifford & Nevin’s Port Arthur stereoscopes for their highly commercial album, published in 1890 as Port Arthur Past and Present without due acknowledgement to either Nevin or Clifford. … More The Trial of Joshua ANSON 1877

The Anson Bros photograph of ex-convict James CRONIN

This is the only extant image of former convict James Cronin (1824-1885). It was taken by the Anson brothers, photographers, as a portrait in their studios in the 1880s, i.e. it was therefore a privately commissioned portrait, and this is evident from both the street clothes and the pose of the sitter. It is not a police photograph, ie. a mugshot pasted to a criminal record sheet, unlike those taken by Thomas J. Nevin for the express use of police authorities, because James Cronin was not an habitual offender, at least, he was never convicted and sentenced under his own name in the decades 1860s-1880s or up to his death in 1885 at the Cascades Hospital for the Insane, Hobart. The Tasmanian Police Gazettes of those decades registered no offence for James Cronin, nor even an inquest when he died of pulmonary apoplexy on July 16, 1885. … More The Anson Bros photograph of ex-convict James CRONIN

Testimonial to Captain Edward Goldsmith 1849

-Upon receiving the cup, Capt. Goldsmith remarked that he would retain the token until death ; and, with reference to some observations made by Mr. Carter, intimated it was not improbable he should next year, by settling in Van Diemen’s Land with Mrs. Goldsmith, become a fellow-colonist.

-The goblet, which was manufactured by Mr. C. Jones, of Liverpool-street, bears the following inscription:-“Presented to Captain Goldsmith, of the ship Rattler, as a slight testimonial for having introduced many rare and valuable plants into Van Diemen’s Land. January, 1849.” The body has a surrounding circlet of vine leaves in relief. The inscription occupies the place of quarterings in a shield supported the emu and kangaroo in bas relief, surmounting a riband scroll with the Tasmanian motto-” Sic fortis Hobartia crevit.” The foot has a richly chased border of fruit and flowers. In the manufacture of this cup, for the first time in this colony, the inside has undergone the process of gilding. … More Testimonial to Captain Edward Goldsmith 1849

John Nevin snr and the Genge family

The Electoral Rolls and Valuation Rolls for the district of Glenorchy, Tasmania show John Nevin occupying the school house, Wesleyan chapel and dwelling at Kangaroo Valley from at least 1854 up to 1887, the year of his death. In 1875, he applied to the Education Board to establish a night school for adult males. His first wife, Mary Ann Nevin nee Dickson, mother of his three surviving children, died the same year. John Nevin’s second wife Martha Genge became step mother to his two surviving children in 1879 – his sons photographer Thomas James Nevin and Constable John (William John aka Jack Nevin). Their only surviving sister Mary Ann who had married John Carr, son of the late Captain James Carr, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on May 12, 1877, died shortly after childbirth aged 34 yrs on July 27, 1879 at her residence, Sandridge, Victoria. The child, a daughter named Mary Ann Carr survived and was taken back to Hobart to live with her grandfather John Nevin snr. … More John Nevin snr and the Genge family

Queen’s Brian May & Elena Vidal on T.R. Williams’ stereography 1850s

T.R. Williams’ stereographs taken of scenes in an English village in the 1850s (“Scenes in Our Village”) have been reproduced by Brian May and Elena Vidal in a superb publication, “A Village Lost and Found” . The book comes in a slip case that includes a stereoscopic viewer invented by Brian May “which makes the magic happen”. … More Queen’s Brian May & Elena Vidal on T.R. Williams’ stereography 1850s

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holdings

This Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery notice about their photographic collections appeared in November 2006. It is now September 2010, and the promised website with viewable databases of their vast photographic holdings is still not up and running. The TMAG holds a sizable collection of rare works by Thomas J. Nevin, including 1860s stereographs, studio portraits of private clientele, and mugshots of “convicts” taken in the 1870s. … More Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holdings

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

The Photographer’s wife at the studio

In 1944, the French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) published a short story called The Photographer’s Wife (La Dame du Photographe 1944), in which Mme Armand, the wife of the photographer – he who is referred to by their neighbour as “little old Big Eyes” – attempts suicide, some might think for an adulterous liaison, while she herself explains the reason as an unbearably trivial life. The drug she self-administers is not named, but at the moment when old Big Eyes raises the alarm, his hands are “all covered with hyposulphite” from a broken bottle in the studio. Hyposulphite was used in daguerreotype, ambrotype and collodion photography, one of several photochemicals including arsenic and cyanide with ready appeal to a self-poisoner. Elizabeth Rachel Day’s life as the wife of photographer Thomas J. Nevin in colonial Tasmania was very different from Colette’s literary portrait. However, from her marriage in 1871 until her husband’s residential appointment at the Hobart Town Hall in 1876, she lived and slept above a veritable factory of poisonous chemicals stored and used in her husband’s studio, a double-windowed building and glasshouse with the business name of The City Photographic Establishment, located at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart. … More The Photographer’s wife at the studio

The Excelsior Coal Mine at New Town 1874

Mr Nevin, photographer, Elizabeth-street, appears in this advertisement as an agent able to take orders for the delivery of coal from the Excelsior Coal Mine which was located on Mr Ebenezer Sims property at Kangaroo Bottom (Kangaroo Valley New Town), in close proximity to the home of Nevin’s parents. This coal was for domestic use but may have been included in the coal specimens which were exported to the Royal Colonial Institute, accompanied by James Boyd on board the Ethel in 1874. … More The Excelsior Coal Mine at New Town 1874

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

Three significant prisoner photographs by T. J. Nevin, 1870s

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. T … More Three significant prisoner photographs by T. J. Nevin, 1870s

Ferns, convicts, and Charles Darwin

In some of the dampest ravines, tree- ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.

The summit of the mountain is broad and flat, and is composed of huge angular masses of naked greenstone. Its elevation is 3100 feet above the level of the sea. The day was splendidly clear, and we enjoyed a most extensive view; to the north, the country appeared a mass of wooded mountains, of about the same height with that on which we were standing, and with an equally tame outline: to the south the broken land and water, forming many intricate bays, was mapped with clearness before us. After staying some hours on the summit, we found a better way to descend, but did not reach the Beagle till eight o’clock, after a severe day’s work. (Feb. 6, 1836: pp 486-7) … More Ferns, convicts, and Charles Darwin

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

At least forty more unmounted photographs of prisoners taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s which were collated by John Watt Beattie in three panels ca. 1915 are held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with seventy or so cdvs in oval mounts, the remainder of part of more than three hundred in oval mounts which were originally bequeathed  from the estate of convictaria collector and government photographer John Watt Beattie to the QVMAG in the 1930s. When several dozen mounted and unmounted cdvs were removed from Beattie’s original collection at the QVMAG and taken down to the Port Arthur prison heritage site for an exhibition as part of the Port Arthur Conservation Project in 1983, they were not returned to the QVMAG. They were deposited instead at the TMAG . Given the scratches, crossed out inscriptions and general damage, the glass negative from which this print was made would have been used extensively to reprint the prisoner’s photograph for prison records as each offense and charge was recorded. The print, unmounted such as this one, would have been pasted to his rap sheet, and more would have been reprinted from the original glass plate several times over the prisoner’s long criminal career. Examples of both types of prisoner mugshots – mounted and unmounted – attached to prisoners’ rap sheets are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania in prison photo books. … More From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

Thomas Nevin’s  stereography

The TMAG holds fifty or more prisoner or convict photographs taken by Thomas Nevin for the Municipal Police Office and Hobart Gaol, and another sixty or so of his cartes-de-visite and stereographs, called ‘stereoscopes’ in the former catalogue entries. His photographs of convicts held at the TMAG were wrongly attributed to A.H. Boyd, a result of the confusion generated by researcher Chris Long, which appeared in the TMAG’s publication, Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995:36). … More Thomas Nevin’s  stereography

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 Bewley TUCK can speak for himself

Read this article by Carolyn Strange in which she points to the fictionalisation of the past as the dominant modality of museological practice at the Port Arthur Historic Site. Convict Bewley Tuck’s fictive “voice-over” tale stands in for a new “interpretative” identity between museum and tourist. Thomas Nevin’s photograph of Tuck (ca. 1870), however, is not a construct but an artefact of the convict’s reality as both convict and photographer experienced it. A documentary original photograph is not the same thing at all as a contemporary “interpretation” of it. As one visitor remarked to Strange on leaving the display, “I prefer the real thing.” … More Prisoner Bewley TUCK can speak for himself

Photographers Thomas Nevin and Robert Smith, Hobart Tasmania, 1867-1868

Robert Smith may have operated a studio prior to his partnership with Nevin, as Mrs Esther Mather referred briefly to the “coloured ones from Smith’s” in a letter to her step-son, dated October 1865. On Robert Smith’s departure to Goulburn, NSW, where he opened a small photographic studio before taking  up farming and politics, Thomas Nevin pasted the verso of a few more photographs with the label bearing their name, but with Smith’s name struck through, and the word “Late”added. … More Photographers Thomas Nevin and Robert Smith, Hobart Tasmania, 1867-1868

Nevin & Smith tinted vignette of Elizabeth Rachel Day 1868

Less than a dozen portraits and stereographs have survived in public and private collections of the work conducted by Robert Smith (n.d.) and Thomas J. Nevin while operating the firm with the name business name “NEVIN & SMITH” at the former studio of Alfred Bock, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart (Tasmania) from ca. 1867 to February 1868 when the partnership was dissolved. This rare hand-tinted portrait was taken by Thomas J. Nevin of his fiancée Elizabeth Rachel Day (1847-1914) while in partnership with Robert Smith ca. 1868. … More Nevin & Smith tinted vignette of Elizabeth Rachel Day 1868

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery databases

This Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery notice about their photographic collections appeared in November 2006. It is now September 2010, and the promised website with viewable databases of their vast photographic holdings is still not up and running. The TMAG holds a sizable collection of rare works by Thomas J. Nevin, including photographs of convicts taken in the 1870s, stereographs and studio portraits. … More Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery databases

Two histories, two inscriptions: Tasmanian prisoners 1874

Thomas Nevin would have carried at least two copies on his person of the prisoner’s photograph, one loose and one pasted to the prisoner’s record sheet, in the event of attempted escape in transit. Other copies remained at the Office of Inspector of Police, Town Hall, Hobart. Dr Coverdale, the Surgeon-Commandant at Port Arthur who had replaced A.H. Boyd by January 1874 deemed this procedure sufficient for security as a dozen or so prisoners were evacuated every week back to Hobart by schooner as soon as he assumed office. Clearly, Dr Coverdale’s predecessor A. H. Boyd had nothing to do with this photograph of Job Smith, nor indeed with any other of these 1870s prisoner mugshots for the simple and very obvious facts that (a) Boyd was not a photographer and no photographs in any genre supposedly taken by him have been found extant nor ever will be found unless they have been faked, as for example, the image of the Port Arthur prison printed by the Anson Bros in 1889 (Kerr, Stilwell 1992); and (b) the commission awarded to Thomas Nevin to photograph prisoners was given in 1872 by the Attorney-General W. R. Giblin after the visit by senior prison official and politicians from Victoria to the Port Arthur prison. Just one image, reprinted many times, of Job Smith aka William Campbell is extant. Thomas Nevin photographed him once and once only, although at least three duplicates and copies are currently extant in State and National collections. … More Two histories, two inscriptions: Tasmanian prisoners 1874

Alfred Bock & Thomas Nevin at Port Arthur 1860s

PERSONAL: – Mr Alfred Bock, writing from Auburn, Victoria, intimates that he is not dead, neither is he “the late Mr. Bock”, as stated in a note under a picture of the late Mr Boyd in a recent copy of “The Tasmanian Mail.” He adds:- “I suppose by the ‘late Mr. Bock’ it means to refer to my father, but he never took a photograph in his life. The picture was actually taken by me on the occasion of my visiting Port Arthur at the request on the officers of the station for the purpose of painting a portrait of Mr Boyd for presentation to that gentleman; I think about 1863 or 1864; I am not quite sure as to the year. I should be glad if you could make the correction, especially as some of my friends have been inquiring about my decease.
More Alfred Bock & Thomas Nevin at Port Arthur 1860s

How misattribution can persist

Isobel Crombie’s book, Body Culture: Max Dupain, Photography and Australian Culture, 1919-1939, published by the National Gallery of Victoria (2004) includes this original photograph of a Tasmanian prisoner taken by government contractor and professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin, dated 1874, with misattribution to the Port Arthur Commandant A. H .Boyd on page 39. In a discussion which lies outside the dates of the book’s title, Isobel Crombie attributes this carte-de-visite of convict Henry Smith per Rodney 2 to A. H. Boyd, an accountant promoted through nepotism to the position of Commandant of the Port Arthur prison site, a position he held until forced to resign in December 1873. A. H. Boyd had no reputation in his lifetime as a photographer, and no works in any genre by him are extant. … More How misattribution can persist

The Kangaroo Valley house & New Town stereographs ca. 1868

“AUGUSTA (Co. Buckingham) is a postal village and residential suburb of Hobart Town, in the police district of Hobart, and electoral district of Glenorchy. It is situate on the main road from Hobart Town to Launceston, about 2 miles from the former place, and on the New Town Rivulet, which empties itself in to the Derwent, near Risdon. A portion of Mount Wellington overlooks the district. There are no mills or manufactories in Augusta at present, except a pottery. The surrounding district is agricultural to a large extent. There are several coal seams in the district; two or three are being worked, and produce very good domestic fuel. The communication with Hobart Town is by ‘busses and other conveyances which run hourly. The city of Hobart Town adjoins Augusta N.W. There is one hotel in the village, the Harvest Home. The surrounding country is undulating and hilly. The population numbers about 300 persons. There are places of worship as follows: Church of England, Church of Rome, and Wesleyan Church…” … More The Kangaroo Valley house & New Town stereographs ca. 1868

Hobart Town from Lime Kiln Hill

Clifford & Nevin appears as a handwritten inscription on the versos of several studio portraits in public and private collections, but their collaboration was principally in stereography, especially in the late 1860s. Several stereographs held at the State Library of Tasmania, collated in “The Clifford Album”, whether unattributed or which bear Clifford’s stamp may be original photographs by Nevin produced during their partnership.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holds a sizeable collection of Thomas Nevin’s stereographs dating from 1868. Nevin exhibited at the Wellington Park Exhibition in 1868, and at the Hobart Town Hall Bazaar in 1872. This stereograph titled Hobart from Lime Kiln Hill looking down Harrington Street carries his New Town studio stamp on verso, taken in the mid to late 1860s. … More Hobart Town from Lime Kiln Hill

State Library of Tasmania’s  “Unknown”

This stereograph is listed at the State Library of Tasmania as unattributed – “Creator: Unknown” with the title “House in Newtown”. It is dated to 1870, although the majority of Thomas J. Nevin’s early stereographs were produced from his New Town studio in the mid to late 1860s. By 1868 he was principally operating from his city studio at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, although he maintained the New Town studio concurrently with his civil service during the years 1876-1880 at the Hobart Town Hall and police work in the courts until the birth of his last child in 1888. … More State Library of Tasmania’s  “Unknown”

The New Town studio stereographs

The New Town stereographs include views of farms, schools, churches, houses, and mines at nearby Kangaroo Valley where the Nevin family resided, and portraits of groups, including visitors to the Lady Franklin Museum, Nevin family members and friends. The collection of Nevin’s stereographs held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery mostly date from 1868 to the early 1870s. … More The New Town studio stereographs