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

Prisoner Philip BURTON

This is one of two extant duplicate photographs in carte-de-visite format produced by Thomas Nevin from his original glass negative taken of prisoner Philip Burton in September 1873. This cdv was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, acquired from John Watt Beattie’s estate in the 1930s. When the QVMAG typed out a list of their collection in the 1990s, it was numbered as “131” and shown as missing from their collection, along with 126 more (one hundred and twenty-seven in total missing from a list of 199). It was returned – not to the QVMAG but to the TMAG – after being exhibited at the Port Arthur heritage site in 1983. The recto number was applied by the QVMAG, but the verso number “290” was applied ca. 1915 when exhibited and offered for sale by John Watt Beattie at his museum in Hobart. … More Prisoner Philip BURTON

Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

This carte-de-visite of William Kellow, one of the extant hundreds of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s and printed in an oval mount, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. It was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with another three hundred or more 1870s mugshots taken at the Hobart Gaol by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin which were acquired by the QVMAG as part of the bequest from the estate of John Watt Beattie in the 1930s. When this cdv, along with 55 more now at the TMAG, were removed from Beattie’s collection and taken down to Port Arthur for an exhibition in 1983, it was not returned to the QVMAG. It was deposited instead at the TMAG . The QVMAG list (2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held at the QVMAG when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. This carte-de-visite of William KELLOW is one of those listed as missing, number 143. … More Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

Miscarriage of justice: the case of John MAYNE 1874

Thirty-three year old John Mayne was a Member of the Table Cape Road Trust when he was wrongfully convicted for rape in January 1874. A sentence of death was recorded which was remitted to 15 years. He was released 10 months later, in December 1874 after protracted protests in the press and several juror capitulations, the same jurors who had initially returned a verdict of guilty after two hours’ deliberation at the trial (13 January 1874), a case strongly defended by John Mayne’s barrister R. Byron Miller. Thomas Nevin photographed John Mayne on arrival at the Hobart Gaol from the Supreme Court, Launceston, in February 1874 before Mayne was sent to the Port Arthur prison, from where he was discharged as “Free.” The release was effected by barrister R. Byron Miller and Attorney-General W. R. Giblin, two key members of the legal fraternity along with John Woodcock Graves jnr, whose endorsement of Thomas J. Nevin as government contractor for the provision of prisoner identification photographs was effected in 1872 and extended through to the late 1880s. Thomas Nevin also provided portraits of these lawyers, including members of their respective families. … More Miscarriage of justice: the case of John MAYNE 1874

Prisoner William RYAN wholesale forger at the TMAG

The Press described William Ryan as “respectably attired” in September 1870 at his appearance in court on charges of forgery. They also reported that he was someone who showed deep emotions when given sentence, and someone even prone to dissembling, fakery and over-acting. Care for his personal appearance was not attentuated by a prison sentence, it seems. When Thomas J. Nevin photographed Ryan for police and prison records at the Hobart Gaol during Ryan’s six years of incarceration, the resulting photograph showed a clean shaven, nicely groomed and neatly dressed man in a prisoner’s uniform, someone with a quiet and self-contained demeanour all round. … More Prisoner William RYAN wholesale forger at the TMAG

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 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 Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

One of Thomas Jeffries’ distinguishing physical features was the sixth finger on his right hand which earned him the ironic moniker of “five-fingered Tom”. Mugshots showing hands was a feature of police photographs of prisoners in some jurisdictions such as New Zealand around this date, but not until the late 1880s in single mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners, when the frontal gaze had also become the standard pose, thought not consistent until the 1890s where the two-shot system of full frontal and profile photographs was introduced (after Bertillon). For example, in these two photographs of Francis Shearan taken by Nevin at the Hobart: the 1877 booking shot shows the hands and the full frontal gaze, but the shot taken on sentencing and incarceration betrays the classic 1870s studio portraiture technique typical of Nevin’s commercial practice. … More Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

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

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

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

Poster boys 1991 of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s

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 Poster boys 1991 of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s

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

The Australian People: six prisoner cdv’s by T. J. Nevin

The six cartes-de-visite of Tasmanian convicts in oval mounts published in The Australian People (J. Jupp, ed, 2001) were reproduced from the National Library of Australia’s (Pictorial) collection of Thomas J. Nevin’s convict portraits . Some are dated 1874 on the verso, with the inscription “Taken at Port Arthur, 1874”, which now appears to be touristic spin rather than fact, written decades later in a cataloguist’s hand probably by Edward Searle while working at John Watt Beattie’s convictaria museum and studio in Hobart between 1911-1915. The majority of extant prisoner photographs in public collections – more than 300 – were taken by Thomas J. Nevin (and his brother Constable John Nevin) at the Supreme Court and Hobart Gaol on the occasion of the prisoner’s incarceration and discharge between 1871-1884. … More The Australian People: six prisoner cdv’s by T. J. Nevin