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

A glaring fraud: Joseph James COOPER aka the “Artful Dodger” 1875-1889

Fashions in prison uniforms at the Hobart Gaol in the 1870’s varied according to the class of criminal, his trade or job, and the season. Thomas J. Nevin photographed prisoners William Smith and James Mullins at the Hobart Gaol in July 1875 wearing the grey uniform and leathern caps for police records. A visitor to the gaol in July 1882 noted the grey jacket and leather caps of the old hands, and the yellow and black uniforms worn by prisoners working in gangs at large in the community. The prisoner in these three photographs, Joseph James Cooper, wore three different uniforms on the three different occasions while under sentence: in 1875 for burglary; in 1879 for forgery and uttering; and in 1889 for arson. … More A glaring fraud: Joseph James COOPER aka the “Artful Dodger” 1875-1889

The Glenorchy Landslip 1872

Thomas Nevin was married and a first-time father by June 4th, 1872 when heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroyed houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. He was living at his city studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart with his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day and their new-born daughter May (Mary Florence) who was born just a fortnight earlier on the 19th May 1872 (she died to the day exactly 83 yrs later, on 4th June 1955). That Tuesday night of the great flood in Glenorchy, photographic stock at Nevin’s old studio in nearby New Town was probably saturated by the heavy rain, if water damage on some of his extant photographs taken a few months earlier in January 1872 at Adventure Bay, is any indication. But his anxieties would have been far greater concerning his parents living in the cottage his father had built at Kangaroo Valley on land above the Lady Franklin Museum, in the northern foothills of Mount Wellington. … More The Glenorchy Landslip 1872

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

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

Nevin Street and the Cascades Prison for Males

The 1935 Hobart Walkers Club map (detail above) shows two very distinct routes to the southeast which John Nevin might have chosen in the 1870s on his journey from the family farm at Kangaroo Valley, situated next to the Lady Franklin Museum where Thomas and John’s father John Nevin snr had built their cottage. Whether on foot or horseback, the first and longer route he could have taken was along Kangaroo Valley road, alternatively titled Lenah Valley Road by 1922, to the waterhole and the cabin named by the Old Hobartians (alumni of Hobart High School) as their own by 1935. He would then veer south on the path to the New Town Falls, crossing Brushy Creek until arriving at the edge of a very steep ravine . Once there, he would join the McRobies track until arriving at the Hobart Rivulet, passing below the Cascades Brewery. The track, much wider at that point, passed by the cemetery, and ended directly opposite the Cascades Prison… … More Nevin Street and the Cascades Prison for Males

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

Prisoner John SULLIVAN, cook and thief 1875

Although catalogued as a “portrait” of a “Port Arthur convict”, it is simply a mugshot – one of thousands taken for the Municipal Police Office at the Hobart Gaol, the Supreme Court and MPO by professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin between 1872 and 1886. He took this photograph at the Hobart Gaol when John Sullivan was tried in the Supreme Court Hobart on 18th August 1875 on a charge of larceny and sentenced to incarceration at the Hobart Gaol for a period of twelve (12) months, … More Prisoner John SULLIVAN, cook and thief 1875

Habitual offender Edward WALLACE at Hobart Gaol

Edward Wallace aka Timothy Donovan was a transported felon, arriving in Hobart from Dublin on board the Blenheim (2), on February 2nd, 1849. He became an habitual offender. His photograph is held at the Mitchell Library Sydney, SLNSW, in a box of nine cartes-de-visite of prisoners taken by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol. The collection was bequeathed by David Scott Mitchell to the State Library of NSW ca 1907 (PXB 274). The Mitchell Library has catalogued all these nine photographs with the date “1878”; however, two of the photographs were taken by Nevin in 1875 (those of Mullins and Smith), and this one, of Edward Wallace was more likely to have been taken by Nevin in 1872 or early 1873, when Wallace was re-arrested for absconding from the Hobart Gaol. … More Habitual offender Edward WALLACE at Hobart Gaol

Tasmanian crime statistics 1866-1875

Further refining the time span when photography was introduced as a means of police surveillance, from 1871 to 1875, the total number of persons convicted in the Superior Courts totalled three hundred and forty-three (343). This last group was photographed by Nevin from the start of his commission as a commercial photographer under government contract. Most of the photographs he took of males in this last group, between 1871 and 1875, survive in public collections today for TWO principal reasons … … More Tasmanian crime statistics 1866-1875

Constable W. J. Nevin at inquest 1882

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

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

Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame

Between 1876 and 1884, transitional years in the history of 19th century prison photography, changes took place in the way Jack and Thomas Nevin posed the prisoner and and printed the final carte-de-visite. The technology changed too. Lenses after 1875 enabled a closer or larger image of the face. The prisoner was also posed closer to the camera in a full frontal position facing the photographer, and although the oval vignette was still the preferred format for printing, square frames were also used. The formalised front and profile pair of portraits using the methods of Bertillonage did not appear in Tasmanian prison photography until the late 1890s, by which time both Nevin brothers had ceased professional photography. … More Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame

Nevin’s photos of prisoners SUTHERLAND and STOCK with death warrant

“To the SHERIFF of Tasmania and to the Keeper of her Majesty’s Gaol at Hobarton jointly and severally.
Whereas at a Session of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery of the Supreme Court of Tasmania holden at Hobart in Tasmania aforesaid on Tuesday the fifteenth day of May James Sutherland was convicted before the [blank] of the murder of William Wilson and thereupon for that Offence received Sentence to be hanged by the neck until he should be dead – NOW IT IS ORDERED that execution of the said Sentence be accordingly made and done upon the said James Sutherland on Monday the fourth day of June at the Usual Hour and Place of Execution and that his body when dead be buried privately by the Sheriff –
Given under my Hand and Seal at – Hobart in Tasmania aforesaid this twenty third day of May in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighty three.
Francis Smith [JP initial, Justice of Peace]” … More Nevin’s photos of prisoners SUTHERLAND and STOCK with death warrant

Jack Nevin, the other photographer

Constable John (William John aka Jack) Nevin was the younger brother of Tasmanian photographer Thomas J. Nevin and his assistant at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street during his brother’s commission as police photographer in prisons. They jointly maintained one of their photographic studios in New Town until the mid 1880s. Constable John Nevin was employed on salary at the Cascades Prison for Males and the Hobart Gaol under the supervision of the keeper Ringrose Atkins from 1874 until his untimely death aged 39 yrs from typhoid fever in 1891. … More Jack Nevin, the other photographer

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

Key dates in Thomas Nevin’s life

From the early 1860s Thomas Nevin operated a photographic studio at New Town with the business name of “Thomas Nevins”. By 1865 he was apprenticed to photographer Alfred Bock whose residence and studio he leased from A. Biggs at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town on Alfred Bock’s departure for Victoria in 1867 (Hobart Town Gazettes 1870s). Nevin maintained the business name of the studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. With partner Robert Smith, they formed the firm Nevin & Smith, producing stereographic views and hand-tinted studio portraits (TMAG and Private Collections). The firm Nevin & Smith was commissioned to take an album of Tasmanian children in 1868 to be presented to the Duke of Edinburgh (State Library of Victoria Collection). The firm of Nevin & Smith was dissolved on 22nd February 1868, undersigned by Thomas Nevin’s solicitor, later Attorney-General, W.R. Giblin. Thomas Nevin exhibited photographs of Melville St under snow (1868) and A Party at the Rocking Stone Mt Wellington (1870) at the Wellington Park Exhibitions (TMAG Collection). He also exhibited stereoscopic views and cartes at the Town Hall Bazaar on 1st April, 1870 (Mercury). For his work as the firm of Nevin & Smith, he was granted a colonial Royal Warrant, and for his work with the Lands and Survey Department of the colonial government, he was granted another colonial Royal warrant by authority. By 1870 Nevin was providing photographs of mining and reservoir works at the Huon and Cascades on government commission, as well as providing group portraits and landscapes for groups of tourists to Lady Franklin’s Museum and Kangaroo Valley. … More Key dates in Thomas Nevin’s life

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

Working with police and prisoners

The last document (to date) of Thomas Nevin’s direct involvement with government legislation pertaining to police administration was signed as a resolution on the occasion of a bill to be introduced in the House of Assembly to effectively centralise the various municipal and territorial forces. The meeting he attended and its resolutions, which was chaired by His Worship the Mayor Alderman Crouch, was reported in The Mercury, 19 July 1888. Thomas Nevin’s recorded comment was:

“Mr. Thos Nevin was under the impression that the police should be under stricter supervision.” … More Working with police and prisoners

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

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

Prisoner George FISHER and Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith

Chief Justice Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith (1819–1909) of the Supreme Court Hobart was administrator of the colony of Tasmania in 1874 and most interested in the uses of judicial and forensic photography which he had witnessed on a visit to Victoria in 1872 (TRE1/1/363 1154). He was photographed by the Hobart City Corporation’s commissioned photographer Thomas Nevin in the 1870s in an unusually informal pose, his expression one of vindication while examining a carte-de-visite photograph of a prisoner held in his right hand. Sir Francis Smith’s professional interest in the uses of judicial photography to increase surveillance and reduce crime was more than justified when he became the victim of burglary himself at his home by absconder and recidivist George Fisher in 1877. … More Prisoner George FISHER and Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith

Melville Street from the Hobart Gaol 140 years ago

This stereograph, and others taken at the same time and place of the Prisoners Barracks (see below) are held at the State Library of Tasmania, and although unattributed, they were most likely taken by Thomas Nevin working with Alfred Bock between 1863-1866 at their studio, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart. The Nevin brothers’ association with the Hon. W. R. Giblin and the Hobart Gaol continued throughout the 1870s and 1880s while Nevin was contracted to the Municipal Police Office as prisons photographer, both as a commercial photographer on tender, and as a full-time civil servant. His principal studio, The City Photographic Establishment, was located one block away, close to the corner of Melville and Elizabeth Streets directly to the west. … More Melville Street from the Hobart Gaol 140 years ago

Prisoner portraits taken at trial and discharge 1870s

INTENDED PURPOSE

An examination of the criminal history of the individual prisoners whose photographs survive indicates that each photograph was selected, even salvaged by archivists because each man had been committed and sentenced at the Tasmanian Supreme Court for a lengthy term. If sentenced at the Supreme Court in Launceston, he was transferred to the Hobart Gaol where he was bathed, shaved, photographed and isolated for one month in silence after being received, along with those already sentenced in criminal sittings of the Hobart Supreme Court . … More Prisoner portraits taken at trial and discharge 1870s