Lost and found: one day in 1866 and the scientific racism which followed

In August 1866 at his Hobart studio, 42 Macquarie Street, photographer Charles A. Woolley (1834-1922) would ask of his three sitters, Truganini, William Lanney and Bessy Clark, to bear with him while he rearranged their clothing, repositioned the studio decor, swapped their seating, and gave instructions as to sightlines. This short session, perhaps no more than an hour, resulted in a series consisting of at least four full-length portraits of the trio as a group, each slightly different in configuration and composition. The earliest example to survive from this session, an original carte-de-visite produced by Charles A. Woolley before 1869, has surfaced in the family collections of Woolley’s young contemporary, Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923). … More Lost and found: one day in 1866 and the scientific racism which followed

Reproductions of Charles A. Woolley’s portrait of Tasmanian Aborigines 1860s-1915

This carte-de-visite print of Charles Woolley’s original photograph of three Tasmanian Aborigines – Truganini (seated on left), William Lanne (centre, standing) and Bessy Clarke (on right), taken in 1866, was reprinted by another photographer’s studio, possibly Thomas Nevin’s, before Truganini’s death in 1876. The owner of the cdv print after purchase attempted hand-colouring of the drape and carpet with crimson. Similar inept hand-colouring was applied to a series of cdvs bearing Nevin’s name inscribed as “Clifford & Nevin” or his studio stamp with provenance in the north of Tasmania (QVMAG, Launceston; McCullagh Private Collection, etc). The provenance of this particular print is from the private collection of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s grandchildren. The word “living” on the printed label, verso of this print, which appears to have been pasted over the back of the original cdv and probably bearing the stamp of another photographic studio, uses the present tense to indicate that Truganini was still alive in April 1869, while Bessy Clarke had died, 12th February 1867, and William Lanne had died, 3rd March 1869, thereby dating the first reprint of this photograph to April 1869 but not necessarily any subsequent prints which could have been produced in every decade until the early 1920s in the name of tourism, especially by John Watt Beattie, when this particular trio was heralded to represent the “Last Aborigines of Tasmania”. … More Reproductions of Charles A. Woolley’s portrait of Tasmanian Aborigines 1860s-1915

Captain Hector Axup and the French lady of Green Island, 1888

“Green Island … is a remarkable island in more ways than one. Formerly a rabbit warren and mutton bird rookery (which perhaps accounts for its rich soil), it has gained a well-earned notoriety under the able management of the present proprietress (of whom more anon) for its extraordinary sheep-fattening properties. Yet this seemed an apparent paradox, for until a comparatively recent date not a blade of grass was visible, although it always bore the palm for the fattest sheep. Many interested in sheep farming paid it a visit for the purpose of solving the mystery. Upon questioning the lady above referred to (who by the way is French, and a devout Roman Catholic) as to what the animals fed on she replied, with the proverbial French gesture, that ‘God was good to give her sheep the instinct and feet which enabled them to dig for their food.’ They certainly thrive remarkably well upon whatever they dig up. One time she only kept a limited number, about 400, and these were all pets. To each of them she gave a French name; and each answered to it when called. About eight years since, one memorable morning, she was almost as much astounded as Robinson Crusoe at the ‘naked footprint’ to observe a narrow ridge of green grass close to the water’s edge, which has gradually extended until now it covers the whole of the island, embracing several varieties, but chiefly barley grass. This enabled her to augment the number to a thousand, all in excellent condition, and considered by a good authority to be a very large number per acre. However, the pets are a thing of the past, and I presume the great increase in numbers has exhausted the good lady’s stock of French names. But to return to the proprietress, whose career has rendered her not the least interesting feature of the island domain. The widow of a captain and owner of a smart bark which years ago traded between Australia and Mauritius, she was at one time well known in several of the seaport towns of Australia. Her stately figure rendered her conspicuous, and she was invariably accompanied with a pure bred Spanish poodle, and a black servant. From a life of almost oriental ease, she was left through the death of her husband to face the stern realities of the battle of life. She settled on what was then a barren and lonely isle, where with an adopted daughter, and no external aid, these two lone women commenced their hermit mode of existence. It would require the pen of a Dickens to do justice to the indomitable pluck and perseverance they displayed, and the massive stonewall fences which traverse the island in various directions are silent, yet speaking monuments of their untiring industry….” … More Captain Hector Axup and the French lady of Green Island, 1888

Thomas Nevin and Alfred Barrett Biggs 1872-1876

Posing with an upturned riding crop or cane in his right hand, his left hand resting on the chair where someone decorously placed a book and top hat as signifiers of class and literacy, Alfred Barrett Biggs appears anything but relaxed at the point of capture, despite the casual stance with right leg bent at the knee crossing the left. Although his gaze fell slightly to the left of where Thomas Nevin stood while composing the shot, the exchanges of dialogue between the two men at that point would not explain why Alfred’s eyes fairly burn, they are so bright. Very light or pale blue eyes can cause this sort of look and pin pricks or black dots were sometimes used by studio assistants to accentuate or even animate the client’s eyes when they do appear too pale. Even though Alfred’s eyes do not appear exceedingly light in later portraits taken in the 1880s and 1890s (see Addenda 3 below), his pupils were darkened in this portrait with black ink, and because the alignment of each black dot is slightly askew, Alfred appears somewhat overwrought and anguished. … More Thomas Nevin and Alfred Barrett Biggs 1872-1876

Thomas Nevin, Sam Clifford and the Flying Squadron at Hobart, January 1870

“The Flying Squadron arrived at Hobart Town on Sunday 2nd January. The Squadron consists of H.M.S. Liverpool, 30 gun steam, frigate, 2,056 tons; -H.M.S. Endymion, 21-gun steam frigate, 2,480 tons; H.M.S Scylla, 10-gun steam- corvette 1,467 tons; H.M.S. Liffey, 30-gun steam frigate, 2,654 tons; H.M.S. Barrosa, 17-gun steam corvette, 1,700 tons; H.M.S. Pheobe, 30-gun steam frigate, 2,800 tons. Large numbers of spectators assembled in various spots to watch the little fleet coming up the harbour under full sail. His Excellency the Governor and suite paid a visit to Rear-Admiral Hornby on board the Liverpool. During the stay of the Squadron, the vessels were thrown open for public inspection and thousands of persons availed themselves of the opportunity. The Liverpool was of course the ship which attracted the greatest number of visitors. The officers had a gay time of it during their eight days stay. They were entertained by the Governor to several dinner parties, to a grand ball at Government House, to a lawn party at the same place, followed by an old colonists’ ball, a regatta, a cricket match, in which both the Governor and Admiral Hornby took part, concerts theatrical entertainments, a picnic at Fern Tree Gully, &c., so that time did not by any means hang heavily on their hands, and they must have left the “tight little island” with the impression that they had a jolly time of it, and had been exceedingly well treated….” … More Thomas Nevin, Sam Clifford and the Flying Squadron at Hobart, January 1870

A distinguished forelock: Henry Dresser Atkinson on board the “City of Hobart” 1872

This stereograph by Thomas Nevin foregrounds an unidentified young woman, who may have been one of event organiser John Woodcock Graves’ four young daughters – Mimi (b. 1862), Mathinna (Matte b. 1859) Trucaninni (Truca b. 1864), the latter two both given Tasmanian Aboriginal names – or even fourteen year old Jean Porthouse Graves (b. 1858) who collected these photographs of the trip by Thomas Nevin for her album (see her portraits by Nevin below). This young woman with a steady gaze and fully rounded face, however, was possibly in her late teens. As she is sitting next to Henry Dresser Atkinson (1841–1921), she may have been his fiancee Sarah-Ann Ward (b. 1841 Launceston). Their son  Henry Bruné Dresser, born  on 17th  March 1874 at Gordon, Tasmania, was nursed – so legend goes – by Tasmanian Aboriginal  woman Trugernanner (Truganini) (1812–1876). Henry Dresser Atkinson’s first appointment on arrival from England was the Channel mission at Oyster Cove where Truganini’s group had been relocated to her traditional territory. … More A distinguished forelock: Henry Dresser Atkinson on board the “City of Hobart” 1872

Captain Goldsmith, three bloodstock fillies and a larboard collision

The Rattler, Captain Goldsmith, arrived on Saturday, after an average passage of 110 days, having left on the 26th August. She consequently brings no additional items of intelligence, but several intermediate papers. Capt. Goldsmith has on board three very fine blood fillies purchased by Mr. John Lord, from the stock of the Duke of Richmond. The fillies are three years old, and have arrived in first rate condition, sufficiently evidencing the care and attention which have been paid to them on the passage. One was purchased for Mr. James Lord, and the other two for Mr. John Lord’s own stud. They will prove valuable additions to our stock, the Duke of Richmond’s stock comprising the best blood of England. Captain Goldsmith, to whom the colony is much indebted for many choice plants and flowers, has brought out with him seven cases of plants this voyage, all of which are in good order. On coming up the river, the Rattler got into collision with the Derwent, and had her larboard quarter gallery carried away. The Rattler was hove too waiting for the Pilot to come on board, and the Derwent coming down with a fair wind came rather too close, for the purpose of speaking her, and struck her on the larboard gallery, carrying it away. — Advertiser. … More Captain Goldsmith, three bloodstock fillies and a larboard collision

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

Constable John Nevin at Trucanini’s funeral 1876

Constable John Nevin (1852-1891), brother of photographer Thomas J. Nevin, joined the civil service as an 18 year old in 1870 and was stationed at the Cascades Gaol and Reformatory until transferred to the Hobart Gaol in 1877. He was on duty at the burial of Trucanini regarded in that era as the “last Tasmanian Aboriginal”, on 10th-11th May 1876 at the Cascades cemetery. Located on a patch of ground -“a vacant spot opposite the Cascades” as the press described it (South Australian Register 12 May 1876) – that patch is now identified as No. 2, Nevin Street . … More Constable John Nevin at Trucanini’s funeral 1876