T. J. Nevin's Royal Arms studio stamp


Royal Arms insignia atop Treasury building Hobart
Photo © KLW NFC 2011 Arr

Commercial photographers in Tasmania in the 1870s and 1880s were extended two basic but very different types of government support, and these differences are evident in the designs of their studio stamps. Henry Hall Baily, for example, used a stamp signifying patronage by the Governor of Tasmania. He photographed notable citizens, visiting VIPs and official functions, often with the express intention of submitting his photographs to national and international exhibitions. In other words, H. H. Baily was never contracted under tender to work for the Colonial government, merely rewarded for special commissions by the Governor. His stamp from the mid 1880s was printed with the words "Under the Patronage of His Excellency Sir G. C. Strahan", and the initials "K.C.M.G" beneath.

Thomas J. Nevin, by contrast, was issued with a stamp which contained the design of the Supreme Court seal and the Prisons Department publications banner because he served the Colonial government as a contracted photographer on a regular basis in Supreme Court sittings. From 1868, he was receiving commission for his work with the Lands and Survey Department and from 1872 for his photographic documentation of prisoners, and by 1873, he was contracted on a permanent basis, eventually joining the civil service full-time in 1876. He continued working with police in Hobart's courts and prisons until 1886. This is one of many extant examples of T. J. Nevin’s government contractor stamp with the Royal Arms insignia which he was required to display on the versos of at least one photograph per batch supplied on commission to the Lands and Survey Department and the Municipal Police Office, Hobart City Council, between 1865 and 1876

All government contractors used the Royal Arms insignia. Naval contractor J. Callaghan proudly displayed it as his business credentials above his butchery shop entrance.

Photograph – J Callaghan’s Butcher’s shop, Morrison Street, Hobart
Description: 1 photographic print
ADRI: NS1013-1-1075
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

Just as the butcher J. Callaghan displayed his government contract credentials above his shop entrance, Thomas J. Nevin would have displayed a similar sign at his studio in Elizabeth Street.

The studio stamp on the verso of Nevin's photograph of prisoner William Smith's portrait (below), held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, carries the government's official Royal Arms insignia with lion and unicorn rampant. Unlike other types of studio stamps which Nevin used between 1867 and 1884, this particular version carries the middle initial "J" for James in his name: "T. J. Nevin". The same stamp appears on the versos of T. J. Nevin's police photographs of convicts William Smith and James Mullins held at the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

Convict William Smith per Gilmore (3), transported 20th August, 1843.
Photo by T. J. Nevin, 1874, held at the QVMAG, Launceston.

Convict William Smith per Gilmore (3),
Photo by T.J. Nevin 1875, recto and verso

Mitchell Library NSW (PXB 274)
Photos © KLW NFC 2009 Arr

Above: Both these photographs of prisoners, James Mullins on left and William Smith on right, bear Nevin’s contractor stamp with the Hobart Supreme Court Royal Arms insignia.
Mitchell Library NSW (PXB 274)
Photos © KLW NFC 2009-14 Arr

Under instructions from the Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, Thomas Nevin worked with Frederick Stops, Clerk to the Attorney-General to photograph men at trial in the Supreme Court and Hobart Gaol by 1872, and the inmates from the Port Arthur penitentiary on their transfer to the Hobart Gaol in 1873. Government printer James Barnard designed this stamp for Nevin and registered it at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office in February 1872 when Nevin's commission as police and prisons photographer was underwritten by contract to the Colonial Government.

The Tasmanian Prison Act 1868 with the Royal Arms insignia:
Consolidation and Amendation of the Tasmanian Prison Act 1868, printed by James Barnard.
Source: eHeritage database, State library of Tasmania

Photographer Henry Hall Baily, a close associate of Thomas Nevin, used a variation of the Royal Arms insignia on his studio stamp with the words, "Under the Patronage of His Excellency Sir G. C. Strahan", and the initials "K.C.M.G" beneath.

Sir George C. STRAHAN, Governor Major, KCMG 7, held the office between December 1881 and 28th October 1886, which indicates that Baily assumed the Governor's patronage no earlier than 1881. Baily's earlier studio stamps ca. 1870s on the verso of portraits taken at his Elizabeth Street studio - which was directly opposite Nevin's City Photographic Establishment - lack the Royal Arms insignia.

H.H. Baily stamp, ca 1881-86 (TMAG 1995).

Commercial photographer Alfred Winter (1837-1911) was fond of fashionable society and grand landscapes. He held a commission with the Land and Works Department from 1876, but retained full independence as a commercial photographer at his studio in Elizabeth St. Hobart. His usual stamp from the late 1870s into the 1880s carried the wording“By Appointment to His Excellency The Governor”.  This studio portrait of Anne Delaware was taken in 1884.

Photo recto and verso courtesy of John McCullagh
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2007

Australia's first MUGSHOTS


Below each image held at the National Library of Australia is their catalogue batch edit which gives the false impression that all these "convict portraits" were taken because these men were transported convicts per se (i.e before cessation in 1853), and that they might have been photographed as a one-off amateur portfolio by a prison official at the Port Arthur prison in 1874, which they were not. Any reference to the Port Arthur prison official A. H. Boyd on the NLA catalogue records is an error, a PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION with no basis in fact. The men in these images were photographed in the 1870s-1880s because they were repeatedly sentenced as habitual offenders whose mugshots were taken on arrest, trial, arraignment, incarceration and/or discharge by government contractor, police and prisons photographer T. J. Nevin at the Supreme Court and adjoining Hobart Gaol with his brother Constable John Nevin, and at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall when appearing at The Mayor's Court. The Nevin brothers photographed more than 2000 prisoners, the bulk now lost or destroyed. These extant mugshots were the random estrays salvaged - and reproduced in many instances- for sale at Beattie's local convictaria museum in Hobart and at interstate exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success in the early 1900s. The mugshots were selected on the basis of the prisoner's notoriety from the Supreme Court trial registers (Rough Calendar), the Habitual Criminals Registers (Gaol Photo Books), warrant forms, and police gazettes records of the 1870s-1880s. The earliest taken on government contract by T. J. Nevin date from 1872. The police records sourced here are from the weekly police gazettes which were called (until 1884) Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1885. J. Barnard, Gov't Printer.