Prisoner James ROGERS forges into the leap year 1868

Lavington George Roope deposed : I am a clerk of the Bank Of Australasia, in Hobart Town. The note produced is a £1 note of our bank which has been altered to a £5 note. In the right hand corner the figure 1 has been erased and the word “Five” has been written in. One of the numbers has also been erased in two places. The O and part of the N in the body of the note have been erased, and an F and an I have been substituted. The letter S has been added to the word pound. The word ” at” has been erased in the body of the note. The words one pound in the left hand bottom corner of the note have been erased, and the words five pounds have been written in in old English letters. In the genuine £5 notes these words are in old English letters. The letters O and part of the N printed in green across the note have been erased, and the letters F and I have been substituted, making the word ” Five”. I can trace the erasures in most places but not distinctly in the large letters. … More Prisoner James ROGERS forges into the leap year 1868

Prisoners George NEAL (aka Neill) and George NEAL

The younger prisoner, also known as George Neal, was 33 years old when he was photographed by Constable John Nevin on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol, sentenced for three years on 11th December 1888 for embezzlement. He was therefore born in 1855, in Hobart, and if the birth record below is his, on the 31st August just months before George Neal senior was imprisoned for ten years, in December 1855. If this was George Neal snr’s son, his height here was recorded as 5 feet 8½ inches tall, while his father – if it was George Neal – was recorded in 1876 as 5 feet 3 inches, and in 1879 as 5 feet 2½ inches tall. There’s nothing unusual in this intergenerational height difference, whether in families with two generations or more of offenders, or in families of free settlers, in 19th century Tasmania up to the present day, despite common misconceptions and contrary expectations (see Maxwell-Stewart below). … More Prisoners George NEAL (aka Neill) and George NEAL

Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

How cheap was “cheap”? Three years previously, when Thomas Nevin was assistant in Alfred Bock’s studio at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart before Bock’s departure and Nevin &Smith acquiring the business, he would have taken exception to the word “cheap” directed at Alfred Bock’s practice. The dispute about the ownership and copyright of the sennotype process between Henry Frith and Alfred Bock in 1864-1865 embittered both to the point of deciding to quit Tasmania. Frith’s rates for carte-de-visite portraits were expensive, two for 10/-, and his disdain for “cheap trash palmed off on the public as cheap photography” was loudly proclaimed in this advertisement in the Mercury of 6th April 1864. … More Tombstones copied, Terms: – Cheap!

Captain Henry James Day of the 99th Regiment

Captain Henry James Day (1804-1882), first cousin of Thomas Nevin’s father-in-law, master mariner Captain James Day, was Guard Captain of the 3rd detachment of 99th Regiment of Foot on board the convict transport Candahar when it arrived in Hobart in 1842 with 60 troops under his command, and 249 male convicts. Also on board were a “lady and four children”, several soldiers’ families and government stores. The Candahar was a 4 gun barque of 642 tons built in Shields in 1840, class A1 which departed Spithead, England on the 2nd April 1842, docking in Van Dieman’s Land on the 21st July 1842. Captain Day’s arrival was noted in the Hobart Town Courier. The regiment was stationed at the Anglesea Barracks, Hobart. … More Captain Henry James Day of the 99th Regiment

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

Edwin Barnard at the NLA with Nevin’s convict photographs

The interviewee Edwin Barnard in this ABC news report poses here as an expert on the Tasmanian convicts photographs taken and produced by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. NEVIN in the 1870s. Original duplicates of these same mugshots held at the NLA which were made by Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin for the police are held in other public institutions (TMAG, QVMAG, AOT, State Library of Tas, SLNSW) and private collections. … More Edwin Barnard at the NLA with Nevin’s convict photographs

Thomas FRANCIS was photographed by T. J. NEVIN on 6th February 1874

Thomas FRANCIS was discharged from Port Arthur, per the first notice in the police gazette dated 4th February, 1874. Note that no physical details were recorded on 4th February 1874 because he had not re-offended and photographed on discharge perregulations . A second notice appeared in the police gazette one week later, dated 6th February 1874, which included his age – 62 yrs, height – 5’5" – colour of hair – "brown" and distinguishing marks, eg. bullet mark on left leg, bayonet mark on thumb, scar on chin. These details were written and recorded when Thomas J. NEVIN photographed Thomas FRANCIS on that date – 6th February 1874 – at the Office of Inspector of Police, Hobart Town Hall. … More Thomas FRANCIS was photographed by T. J. NEVIN on 6th February 1874

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

Convict cartes by Thomas Nevin at the new NPG Canberra

Currently displayed in the A and S Liangis Gallery are six identification carte-de-visite photographs of Tasmanian convicts borrowed from the National Library of Australia with the correct attribution to the commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923) , and incorrect attribution to A. H. Boyd who was not a photographer, was not known as a photographer in his lifetime, and has no extant works in any public or private collection. … More Convict cartes by Thomas Nevin at the new NPG Canberra

Babette Smith on Australia’s Birthstain

The sources of the Archives Office information, photograph originals and copies were –

1. the materials donated from the Port Arthur kiosk (see extract above for details),
2. the collections of photographs taken by Nevin donated by the Allport Law firm as the Pretyman Collection,
3. the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, where many more prisoner cartes were located amongst the Beattie Collection’s convict memorabilia, and exhibited there in 1977. … More Babette Smith on Australia’s Birthstain

Laterality: the poses in Nevin’s portraits

The National Library of Australia holds a collection of carte-de-visite photographs of Tasmanian convicts, taken originally by professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s-1880s of men at trial in  the Supreme Court and adjoining Hobart Gaol, and of men released with conditions at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office. Of the eighty-two (82) images … More Laterality: the poses in Nevin’s portraits

The PARKHURST prisoners & anthropometry

Tourists to Tasmania in the early 1900s were encouraged to disagree with this sort of thinking put forward in newspapers by Dr Goring. With the intense promotion of Tasmania’s penal heritage in the early 1900s, due largely to the release of the film based on Marcus Clarke’s 1874 novel, For The Term of His Natural Life (1908, 22 minutes), many Tasmanian prisoner ID photographs taken by Thomas Nevin on government contract to police and prison authorities in the 1870s were reprinted by John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle for sale as tourist tokens in Beattie’s convictaria museum in the 1900s, called The Port Arthur Museum, although it was located in Hobart and not at Port Arthur. … More The PARKHURST prisoners & anthropometry

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

Thomas Nevin’s hand-coloured mugshots

By the MAYOR: … It was not true that between the hours of 10 and 11 o’clock on Thursday night, Constables Oakes and Priest took witness home in a state of intoxication. Witness had a photographic apparatus and chemicals in his possession. He had not made any ornaments of different colours for any one lately. He was not at any time on Thursday night under the influence of liquor. He did not think it was right to leave the Town Hall for so many hours as he had. He considered, however, that when he heard the constables’ whistle he was justified in going to render them assistance… … More Thomas Nevin’s hand-coloured mugshots

Mirror with a Memory Exhibition, National  Portrait Gallery 2000

A new National Portrait Gallery of Australia is under construction in Canberra. No doubt the new spaces will display photographic portraits of convicts transported to Australia, as part of the country’s rich history of migration. How will the National Portrait Gallery handle issues of attribution? Will the contradictions of the exhibition Mirror with a Memory … More Mirror with a Memory Exhibition, National  Portrait Gallery 2000

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

Prisoner Wm FORSTER aka BROWN: The Bulletin, May 16, 1978

The article below appeared in The Bulletin, a weekly Australian magazine on May 16, 1978. The journalist’s name was not recorded. It was published a year after the initial exhibition of the Tasmanian convict portraits by Thomas Nevin, held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1977. The article detailed the criminal career … More Prisoner Wm FORSTER aka BROWN: The Bulletin, May 16, 1978

NLA ‘native’ convict 1874 with no attribution

Henry Cavanagh was sent to Port Arthur in December 1873. His name does not appear in the House of Assembly Journals, Nominal Return of Prisoners sent to Port Arthur since its transfer to Colonial Governmentin 1871, tabled in Parliament on 11th June, 1873. He was discharged before that date, on the 14th June 1872 after sentencing of one month in Hobart, and arraigned in Launceston nine months later, on the 3rd September 1873. He was received at the Hobart Gaol, sentenced to 6 years, and photographed there on 17th September 1873 by T. J. Nevin. He was a ‘native’, i.e. a locally-born prisoner, and too young to be a transportee among the thousands who arrived before 1853 when transportation ended to Tasmania. … More NLA ‘native’ convict 1874 with no attribution

The QVMAG, the NLA, Chris Long and A.H. Boyd

The Queen Victoria and Albert Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, seemed so intent on abrogating the name of Thomas J. Nevin as photographer from any association with its holdings of the “Port Arthur convicts” photographs which were exhibited there in 1977 as Nevin’s work that in a letter to a Nevin descendant date 17th November 2005, the technical officer showed considerable confusion and made contradictory and incorrect statements. … More The QVMAG, the NLA, Chris Long and A.H. Boyd

The journey from Hobart to Port Arthur 1873-4

The notice below was published in Walch’s Tasmanian Almanac in 1873, at a time when the Port Arthur prison site on the Tasman Peninsula, 60 kms from Hobart, was still in operation. The traveller from Hobart faced a frequently interrupted, long and uncomfortable journey, alternating between road and sea transport and an overnight hotel stay. … More The journey from Hobart to Port Arthur 1873-4

Convict Carte No. 1: George WHITE aka NUTT

The database image with verso at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery: note that the verso is inscribed with the conventional date of Nevin’s photographic registration (1874), the alias, and the ship on which Nutt was originally transported before 1853, but the transcription which appears on many other versos of convicts’ cartes – “Taken at Port Arthur” – is absent. Nevin may have photographed Nutt at Port Arthur between 23rd February and 8th May 1874; the former date being another sentence for Nutt for breaking the cell while trying to escape, the latter being one of the dates on which Nevin attended Port Arthur on police business. He was absent from Hobart when his father-in-law Captain James Day registered the birth of Thomas James Nevin jnr in May 1874. … More Convict Carte No. 1: George WHITE aka NUTT

Robert Hughes “The Fatal Shore” with mugshots by T. J. Nevin

One of those convict images – last on lower right – is of Thomas Harrison. It is the same image which was printed on the postcard to advertise the exhibition of the T. J. Nevin convict photos at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1977, curated by John McPhee. Of the more than 100 photographs of Tasmanian prisoners which were exhibited from the QVMAG collection taken by Nevin, why the curator McPhee and the authors of Nevin’s biographical entry Stilwell and Kerr (1922) made the choice of the photograph of Harrison is strange, since it is not typical of the majority of his prisoner photographs which demonstrate the same technical approach used in his vignetted commercial studio portraits of clients, patrons and family members. Possibly Harrison was chosen because of his defiant stare and tattered clothes, signifiers of desperation and social deviance. … More Robert Hughes “The Fatal Shore” with mugshots by T. J. Nevin

NLA holdings of Thomas J. Nevin’s convict portraits

The National Library of Australia has a long history of attribution to commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin for their holdings of 84 Tasmanian “Convict portraits 1874”. Information has been archived in these areas:

The Digital Collection displays 82 images (of 84) online;
The Pictorial Catalogue lists additional names and information; and
The Photographers’ Files include accession details, correspondence, and worksheets.
The Picture Australia site has so far harvested 157 convict photographs from the NLA Collection and the Archives Office of Tasmania with Nevin’s attribution. … More NLA holdings of Thomas J. Nevin’s convict portraits