Prisoner James GEARY: mugshots and rap sheet 1865-1896

Mugshots of locally born Tasmanian prisoner James Geary (1844-1897?) from 1874-1893
Left:     Photographed by Thomas Nevin, 20th February 1874 at the Police Office, Hobart Gaol
Centre: Photographed by Constable John Nevin, at the Hobart Gaol on 12th November 1889
Right:   Photographed by [unknown] at Police Office, Hobart on 25th April 1893

The 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),

1865: Horse stealing (4 yrs)
1868: Cattle stealing (6 yrs)
1869: Neglecting work (7 days Solitary)
1870: Absconding (12 months)
1874: Horse stealing (6 yrs)
1879: Stealing from a person (6 months)
1880: Larceny as a bailee (6 months)
1882: Larceny (3 months)
1882: Horse stealing (6 yrs)
1893: Larceny as a baillie (6 months)
1894: Disturbing the peace (48 hours)
1894: ditto (28 days)
1895: False pretences (3 months)
1895: Drunk & Dis(48 hours)
1895: Indecent behaviour (14 days)
1896: Idle & Dis (2 months)
1896: ditto (3 months)
1896: Disturbing peace (3 days)
1896: Obscene language (14 days)

James Geary, Page 665 :GD63/1/1

State Library of Tasmania
Item Number: GD63/1/1 View this record online
Description: (Book No. 2).
Copy Number: Z1537
Series: • GD63 PRISONERS RECORD BOOKS. 01 Jan 1890 31 Dec 1962

The first mugshot 1874 by T. J. Nevin
This is one of Thomas J. Nevin's finely produced albumen prints of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s for the Colonial government, typical of his commercial studio practice.

National Library of Australia
James Gearey [sic], native, taken at Port Arthur, 1874,
Incription on reverse “149” , Pictorial: P1029/16,
NEVIN, Thomas J. 1842-1923, photographer


James Geary absconded from the Hobart Commissariat Stores, police gazette notice of 22nd April 1870. He was serving a sentence of 6 yrs for cattle-stealing, tried 7th July 1868, Hobart.

James Geary was arrested by Sub-Inspector Dorsett, 20 May 1870. Thomas Nevin often accompanied Sub-Inspector Dorsett as assistant bailiff, a service he continued through to 1886.

Geary was photographed by Nevin on being discharged from the Police Office on 20th February 1874.

But Geary reoffended. Warrant for his arrest issued on 6th November 1874

Geary was arrested again on 13th November, 1874, Supt Propsting etc

Geary was arraigned and photographed again by Nevin at the Hobart Supreme Court on 1st December, 1874.

James Geary served a short sentence of less than two years at the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on the 1 August 1868: he was "transferred to the House of Correction for Males Hobart Town to complete his sentence" on 28 March 1870, per this record signed James Boyd Civil Commandant. He was photographed in the last weeks of incarceration at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin prior to discharge in February 1874.

Source: TAHO Ref: CON94-1-1_00204_L
Description: Conduct register - Port Arthur
Further Description:
Start Date: 01 Jan 1868
End Date: 31 Dec 1869

The 1874 photograph of James Geary, aged 30 yrs, taken by Thomas Nevin is a finely produced albumen print exhibiting the commercial portraiture techniques typical of Nevin's work for police in this decade.

Hobart Gaol 1889: Larceny
However, when James Geary was arrested again for larceny in 1889, aged 45 yrs, his mugshot taken at the Hobart Gaol was less than appealing, and more consistent with the rough and ready values of prisoner identification photographs produced everywhere by 1900, including the full-face gaze. This mugshot, pasted to his criminal sheet, was taken by Thomas Nevin's brother Constable John Nevin, at the Hobart Gaol on 12th November 1889 when Geary was transferred there from the police office at Deloraine, northern Tasmania.

Ref: TAHO GD6719
James Geary p. 137

Police Office, Hobart 1893
Convicted and incarcerated for a series of minor offences at the Police Office, Hobart, James Geary was photographed in 1893 at 49yrs old, looking rather healthier in this mugshot than in 1889. He married 44 year old widow Jane Saunders in 1894, his occupation listed as a 48 yr old labourer and bachelor. However, he may have died of heart disease one year after his last conviction, at Black Brush, Brighton, north of Hobart, in the house of John Samson. An inquest was held on 4th January, 1897, but the registration of his death on 2nd January at Black Brush gave his age as 43 yrs old rather than 49yrs, possibly because the date of his birth, as written on the record, states "not known". The Tasmanian police gazette published this same man's age as 40yrs old when the notice of the inquest was published on January 29th, 1897 (p. 18).

Even as late as 1893, the photographer at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart, where this photograph was taken, was still printing prisoner mugshots in the oval mount used by Thomas Nevin for his 1870s cartes-de-visite of prisoners at the Mayor's Court, MPO and Hobart Gaol.

Tasmanian police gazette listed this man's age as 40yrs old when the notice of the inquest was published on January 29th, 1897 (p. 18), and not 43yrs old which was listed at the inquest. If the same man, he was actually 49 yrs old,

James Geary Page 665:GD63/1/1

State Library of Tasmania
Item Number: GD63/1/1 View this record online
Description: (Book No. 2).
Series: • GD63 PRISONERS RECORD BOOKS. 01 Jan 1890 31 Dec 1962

James Geary death 1897

James Geary inquest

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.