Prisoner John APPLEBY 1873

The inscription ‘Taken at Port Arthur 1874” is Beattie’s confabulation of facts in the name of tourism. Beattie prepared copies of these prisoner cdv’s for display in his collection of Tasmanian convictaria at his “Port Arthur Museum” located at 51 Murray St. Hobart (and not at Port Arthur) to coincide with the first of two early 20th century film adaptations (1908-9, 22 minutes – see theatre poster below; the second was filmed at Port Arthur in 1927) of Marcus Clarke’s popular fiction For The Term of His Natural Life which appeared as a serial in 1870 and in novel form in 1874. Hence the date “1874” and the place “Taken at Port Arthur” written on the verso of this cdv when the actual date and the actual place of photographic capture were respectively 1873 and the Hobart Gaol in Campbell Street. Beattie fabricated this fake history for several dozen original mugshots taken in the 1870s by government contractor T. J. Nevin because he was required under the terms of his own commission as government contractor (from ca. 1900) to market photographic imagery of Tasmania’s penal heritage to the intercolonial tourist. The loose cdv’s such as this one of prisoner John Appleby were prepared for sale and exhibition at Sydney’s Royal Hotel in 1915 to be displayed as Port Arthur relics, alongside relics and documents associated with the fake convict hulk Success which visited Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The collection of “convict portraits” held at the National Library of Australia Canberra and at the State Library of NSW in the Mitchell Collection are the estrays from these exhibitions. … More Prisoner John APPLEBY 1873

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

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

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

Blame it on Beattie: the Parliamentarians photograph

Amateur photo-historian Chris Long was among the first to be targeted by A. H. Boyd’s descendants in 1984 with only their hearsay offered as proof, and together with co-editor Gillian Winter, assumed that there would be extant photographs by A. H. Boyd, if indeed he had photographed prisoners. Strangely enough, they found none. Gillian Winter found mention of THREE photographs of parliamentarian George William Keach, his wife and daughter, with a Boyd attribution in the Archives Office Tasmania. But those photographs were missing from the original Allport Album when she listed its contents. Those photographs were taken by Sydney photographer Thomas H. Boyd, loosely collated originally with other carte-de-visite items taken of Allport family members and their friends by photographers in Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane, Rome and elsewhere … … More Blame it on Beattie: the Parliamentarians photograph

John Watt Beattie and the Nevin family legacy

The friendship between these two photographers, Thomas J. Nevin and John Watt Beattie extended back to 1887 on the death of Thomas Nevin’s father, John Nevin at the family house and farm adjacent to the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley (renamed Lenah Valley in 1922). It had long been a wish of John Nevin that the Franklin Museum be restored to its original purpose when first built on Jane Franklin’s land, named Ancanthe, as a library and botanical museum, but by 1887, it was little more than a storage shed for local orchardists and farmers. As a gesture towards reviving John Nevin’s wish, before his own death in 1930, John Watt Beattie approached the Hobart City Corporation with a proposal to house his vast convictaria collection in the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley (Lenah Valley) but the HCC declined. … More John Watt Beattie and the Nevin family legacy

Prisoner Robert aka James OGDEN, photographed by Nevin 1875

This photograph – a standard 1870s carte-de-visite prisoner identification photograph produced by Thomas J. Nevin – has escaped the attention of photo-historians of the 1870s Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photographs, the so-called “Convicts, Port Arthur 1874” labelled and catalogued as such in Australian national collections, viz. the National Library of Australia, Canberra, and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. It belongs to the same series of fine albumen prints of prisoners taken by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin for the Hobart Gaol and Hobart Municipal Police authorities from 1872- 1880. … More Prisoner Robert aka James OGDEN, photographed by Nevin 1875

Heads of the People exhibition  NPG Canberra 2000

These three frames of 40 photographs in total were included in the exhibition Heads of the People, held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, June to October, 2000, with a doubly erroneous attribution. Beattie’s name appears as the source, giving the impression that these are indeed HIS photographs, and that they were re-created by him “after” an earlier source, Adolarious Humphrey Boyd, the accountant and Commandant at the Port Arthur site from 1871-1873. Thomas J. Nevin was the original photographer of these 40 prints sourced from the QVMAG and exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2000. … More Heads of the People exhibition  NPG Canberra 2000

Mugshots removed: Edward Searle’s album 1915

The National Library of Australia holds an album titled Tasmanian Views, catalogued in Searle’s name and dated ca. 1915. The album contains a series of contemporary snapshots taken of the Searle family while visiting the Tasman Peninsula, Maria Island, Norfolk Island, and New Norfolk, possibly accompanying Beattie on his various and highly productive photographic excursions. The family photographs are mixed in no particular order with scenic postcards bearing Beattie’s trademark, views and portraits of Antarctic expeditions, and reprints of 1860s-1870s photographs representing Tasmania’s troubled convict and Aboriginal past, all of which Beattie and Searle supplied in quantity for the 1900s tourist market, The inclusion of many family photographs in this album suggests it was intended for private viewing rather than public display, put together by Searle for his family as a memento of his four years’ employment at Beattie’s studio. … More Mugshots removed: Edward Searle’s album 1915