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Convict photographs by T. J. Nevin at the Art Gallery NSW Centenary Exhibition 1976

AGNSW 1976 Centenary Exhibition
T. J. NEVIN 1870s photographs of Tasmanian prisoners
G. T. STILWELL State Library of Tasmania





Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2013

Photographs of Tasmanian "convicts" - i.e. prisoner mugshots - taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s were exhibited at the Centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne in 1976. The Exhibition Catalogue was written by Daniel Thomas,  Senior Curator and Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW. The Tasmanian contributor was antiquarian Geoffrey Stilwell, a Trustee of the Centenary Celebrations of the Art Gallery of NSW and Special Collections curator of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania.



Ian North, artist, Archibald finalist 2005
Title: Daniel Thomas at home, Northern Tasmania
Art Gallery NSW: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/prizes/archibald/2005/28102/

Daniel Thomas AM, Emeritus Director Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, retired in 1990 and now lives in Tasmania. From 1958 he was the curator in charge of Australian art, and later chief curator, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. From 1978 to 1984 he was the inaugural head of Australian art at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
From: ART MUSEUMS IN AUSTRALIA: A PERSONAL RETROSPECT by Daniel Thomas 2011

The Centenary Exhibition Catalogue 1976
These photos were taken at the National Library of Australia, 8th June 2017. The Exhibition Catalogue Australian art in the 1870's / by Daniel Thomas - N 709.94 T455  is available through Trove.  Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2017



Cover: Australian Art in the 1870s



Title page: "Australian art in the 1870s by Daniel Thomas. An exhibition to mark the centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney: 25 June-2 August 1976; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne: 28 October-21 November 1976"



Page 27: list of three photography exhibits by T. J. Nevin Nos. 116-118

TRANSCRIPT
T. J. Nevin active 1870s
Tasmanian convicts (1874)
116. William Turner, Transported Lord Goderich (Boy's ship), 1811-1841.
117. Nathan Hunt, Transported Elphinstone (Boys), 28.7.1842, Larceny
118. Thomas Harrison, Idle and disorderly.
Three photographs, carte-de-visite size 10.5 x 6.5 cm, 4½ x 2½ in, each inscribed (on back) as above, and printed T. J. Nevin, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town. From a set of over 40 convict portraits made in 1874.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania



Page 41: Entry for T. J. NEVIN,



Paragraph on T. J. Nevin and his photographs of "still-living transported convicts", p. 41 of the Exhibition Catalogue for Australian art in the 1870s : an exhibition to mark the centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney by Daniel Thomas 1976.

TRANSCRIPT
T. J. NEVIN
A Hobart photographer who in 1874 made a set of over 40 photographs of still-living transported convicts. They are included as an example of the strong interest in Australian history which is characteristic of the 1870s. These small photographs are also examples of the standard "Carte-de-visite" size used for almost all portraits in the 185s and 1860s, but going out of favour after 1870 for the larger "Cabinet" size , 4½ x 6½ inches. After 1875 "Panels". 8½ x 6½  inches also became common for family groups. Carte-de-visite and Cabinets of royalty, actresses, bishops, convicts and other celebrities were widely available and were collected in albums as well as portraits of one's own family.
The Mugshots
Working on government contract and as full-time civil servant, Thomas J. Nevin photographed many hundreds of Tasmanian prisoners - or "convicts" as they termed in art history and heritage tourism discourse - between 1872 and 1886, and not just the set of forty (40) indicated in this brief Exhibition Catalogue note dated 1976. The author(s) were referring to the set of 40 prints from Nevin's glass negatives of prisoners arranged in three panels held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. See this article - Thomas J. Nevin's glass plates of prisoners 1870s.







Forty prints of 1870s Tasmania prisoners in three panels
Original prints of negatives by T. J. Nevin 1870s
Reprints by J. W. Beattie ca. 1915
QVMAG Collection: Ref : 1983_p_0163-0176

The originals of these forty (40) individual prints of Tasmanian prisoners, photographed at the Hobart Gaol by the commissioned photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s, were intended to be pasted to the criminal record sheet of each prisoner. It was customary to photograph a person before conviction and after it, and again on discharge, by order of the Tasmanian Attorney-General from 1872 onwards, and since the men whom Nevin photographed were repeat and habitual offenders, the same glass negative was used again and again. The plates were handled repeatedly to produce duplicates for distribution to regional prisons and police stations, and for the many administrative copies required by the central Municipal Police Office at the Town Hall, the Supreme Court and the Hobart Gaol.

The forty individuals whose police photographs from the 1870s were lined up in this manner and pasted to dark green cardboard were all chosen by convictaria collector John Watt Beattie in 1915 because they were repeat offenders convicted of serious crimes who had been arraigned in Supreme Court sessions in the 1870s and incarcerated at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St. Beattie chose them because he wanted to sell their images to tourists at his convictaria museum located in Murray St. Hobart, and to include them in intercolonial exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship the Success. He falsely touted these men as representative of the pre-1853 convict transportation era, hence the labelling on each of these panels, “Types of Imperial Convicts” and "Photographed at Port Arthur", when the reality was far less fascinating. By the 1870s, these men were common criminals and “prisoners”, not "convicts" and they were photographed on sentencing at the Supreme Court Hobart and Hobart Gaol, a judicial process funded and administered by the Colonial government, not the British government.

Although the Exhibition Catalogue assumes it was Thomas Nevin in the 1874 who "made a set of over 40 photographs of still-living transported convicts", it was Beattie & Searle who collated the original prints which they removed from the prisoner rap sheets  in the early 1900s and created these panels from Nevin's original first-captures on glass negatives of the 1870s. None of the forty prisoners featured in each of these three panels, however, was exhibited. Just three photographs from the QVMAG collections were selected for the Centenary Exhibition of the Art Gallery of NSW in 1876.

These three black and white copies (below) were made at the QVMAG in 1985 from Nevin's original sepia prints, and placed online in the early 2000s. The original 1870s prints of these black and white copies were exhibited at the AGNSW in 1976 (listed on page 27 in the Exhibition Catalogue). The curator chose these three photographs possibly because the full frontal pose and the frank stare captured more of the prisoner's "personality" than the conventional pose where the sitter's sightlines were deflected either left or right, the pose typical of Nevin's commercial studio practice and evident in the more than 200 (two hundred) prisoner cdvs held in the Beattie collection at the QVMAG. Not that the frontal frontal pose was uncommon in Nevin's practice: these two cartes-visite of young women, for example, are equally compelling for their full frontal stare at the camera and photographer.






On left and verso below left: 
Plain oval mount, head and shoulders to below waist cdv: A teenage girl [unidentified] with ringlets, wearing a dark dress with wide stripes banded in white and white cuffs, holding a hand coloured posy of flowers tinted yellow. Her gaze is direct to camera. The verso of this cdv bears Nevin's most common commercial studio stamp "T. Nevin late A. Bock" etc and dates to ca. 1871-1874. Courtesy of © The Liam Peters Collection 2010. All rights reserved.

On right and verso below right: 
Head and shoulders cdv on plain oval mount : A young woman [unidentified] with a chin dimple, wearing an elaborately frilled bodice, brooch on a ribbon wound round her neck and chain to the waist, hair curled in layers across the top of head, her stare dramatic, solemn and strongly directed at the photographer/camera. Studio portrait by Thomas J. Nevin ca, 1870-1875. Verso with the handwritten inscription in Samuel Clifford's orthography: "Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town". The original was taken by Thomas Nevin before 1876, and reprinted by Samuel Clifford until 1878, per his advertisement in The Mercury, 17th January 1876:
Mr T. J. Nevin's friends may depend that I will endeavour to satisfy them with any prints they may require from his negatives.
S. CLIFFORD
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
TMAG Ref: Q1984.294

In addition, the three prints of prisoners exhibited at the Centenary of the AGNSW in 1976 were possibly chosen because they had escaped the rebranding on the versos with the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" for Beattie's tourism trade of the 1900s and for the 1938 QVMAG exhibition which commemorated his death and bequest to the people of Launceston. A year after the 1976 AGNSW Centenary Exhibition, in 1977, many more of these "convict portraits" by T. J. Nevin from the Beattie collection were exhibited at the QVMAG, curated by John McPhee.

Prisoner William TURNER



Prisoner William TURNER
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985: P: 90 or 1985_p_0090
Catalogue No. 116. William Turner, Transported Lord Goderich (Boy's ship), 18/11/1841.



Verso: Prisoner William TURNER
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985: P: 90 or 1985_p_0090
Catalogue No. 116William Turner, Transported Lord Goderich (Boy's ship), (18/11/1841).
See more here of this collection held at the QVMAG
Read more about prisoner William Turner in this post here

Prisoner Nathan HUNT



Prisoner Nathan HUNT
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985_p_0073
Catalogue No. 117. Nathan Hunt, Transported Elphinstone (Boys), 28.7.1842, Larceny 9-1-79



Verso: Prisoner Nathan HUNT
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985_p_0073
Catalogue No. 117. Nathan Hunt, Transported Elphinstone (Boys), 28.7.1842, Larceny 9 -1-79
Read more about this prisoner Nathan Hunt here in this article.

Prisoner Thomas HARRISON



Prisoner Thomas Harrison
QVMAG:1985_P_0113
Catalogue No. 118. Thomas Harrison, Idle and disorderly. P.O. Sorell 3 months Jany 1875



Verso: Prisoner Thomas Harrison
QVMAG:1985_P_0113
Catalogue No. 118Thomas Harrison, Idle and disorderly. P.O. Sorell Jany 1875
Read more about prisoner Thomas Harrison here in this article

Collector and Trustee G. T. Stilwell



G.T. Stilwell (1931-2000)
Special Collections librarian and Allport Museum curator
State Library of Tasmania
Mercury photo 1990 (?)

The National Library of Australia's online catalogue notes for Daniel Thomas' AGNSW Centenary Exhibition Catalogue do not include the names of the individual artists whose works were shown in 1976. The State Library of Tasmania, however, lists T. J. Nevin's name along with other Tasmanian artists in their catalogue notes for the publication Australian art in the 1870s - available via  Linc. The State Library of Tasmania's online entry also mentions which items came from G. T. Stilwell's private collection, viz:
Title: Australian art in the 1870s : an exhibition to mark the centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney / by Daniel Thomas.
Author/Creator: Thomas, Daniel, 1931- author.
Publication: Sydney : Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, [1976]
Physical description: 60 pages : illustrations ; 19 x 18cm.
Provenance: From the collection of Geoffrey Thomas Stilwell. Item IDs 146035183 & 146035233
Notes: "Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney: 25 June-2 August 1976; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne: 28 October-21 November 1976" --Title page.
Contains 12 illustrations out of the 143 listed in the exhibition catalogue.
Includes bibliography, index and short artist biographies.
Partial contents: Includes Tasmanian artists or works on Tasmania: Robert Beauchamp -- Robert Dowling -- J. Haughton Forrest -- Henry Grant Lloyd -- Louisa Meredith -- T. J. Nevin -- W. C. Piguenit -- John Skinner Prout -- James Scurry -- Eugen von GuĂ©rard -- Frederick Woodhouse.
ISBN: 0724010564 (paperback)
Subjects:
Art, Australian -- Exhibitions.
Art, Modern -- 18th century -- Exhibitions
Art, Modern -- 19th century -- Exhibitions.
Art, Australian -- 18th century -- Exhibitions
Art, Australian -- 19th century -- Exhibitions.
Artists -- Australia -- Exhibitions.
Artists -- Tasmania -- Exhibitions.
Tasmania -- Pictorial works.
Exhibition catalogs -- Tasmania.
Exhibition catalogs.
Other Authors/Creators: Stilwell, Geoffrey Thomas, 1931-2000, former owner.
Contains : Dowling, Robert Hawker, 1827-1886. Unequally yoked.
Contains : Piguenit, W. C. (William Charles), 1836-1914. Mount Wellington from New Town Bay.
National Gallery of Victoria.
Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Record ID: SD_ILS:1216315
 Researchers are indebted to the late G.T. Stilwell for his creation of the Stilwell Index during his service at the State Library of Tasmania. G.T. Stilwell also published a short biography of Thomas Nevin with J. S. Kerr outlining the Town Hall dismissal and the misattribution by Chris Long of Nevin's convict portraiture to A.H. Boyd in The Dictionary of Australian Artists: painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870, edited by Joan Kerr. (Melbourne: Oxford University Press 1992).



Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2010

Entry for Thomas J. Nevin, pp 568-9
The Dictionary of Australian artists : painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870, edited by Joan Kerr.
Publisher: Melbourne : Oxford University Press, 1992.
Description: xxii, 889 p. : ill., facsims., ports. ; 27 cm.

Joan Kerr and Geoffrey Stilwell's entry on page 568 of The Dictionary of Australian Artists: painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870 dismisses the claim made by Chris Long in the mid 1980s, published in 1995, that A.H. Boyd was the photographer of the cdvs known as the Port Arthur convict cartes, 1874, or that he was a photographer at all. They state:

Some of the seventy cartes-de-visite identification photographs of Port Arthur convicts taken in the 1870s (QVMAG) at about the time the settlement was closed (1876) have been attributed to Nevin because they carry his studio stamp. He possibly held the government contract for this sort of criminal recording work, although Long believes that he was merely a printer or copyist and suggests that the most probable photographer was the commandant A.H. Boyd. However, professional photographers were employed to take identification photographs in Australian prisons from the beginning of the 1870s (see Charles Nettleton) and while a collection of standard portrait photographs and hand-coloured cartes-de-visite undoubtedly by Nevin is in the Archives Office of Tasmania no photographs by Boyd are known.
Information: J.S. Kerr, G.T. Stilwell
Read more in these posts:

The G. T. Stilwell Private Collection Auction 2015
This oil on canvas of a native bird with mountain berries and native flora with  Mount Wellington in the background was painted by Florence Williams ca. 1873. It was estimated to sell for $6,000 - $10,000. The price realized, including buyer's premium, was $93,000.



Description: Florence Williams. (British / Australia 1833 – 1915)
A native bird with mountain berries and native flora, backed by Mount Wellington oil on canvas
Signed with initials FW
Original gilt frame, the image 59.8 x 45.2cm.
Florence Williams was born in the UK and exhibited at the Royal Academy. Williams moved to Australia in 1863 and lived in New Town, Tasmania from 1873 – 1875, during which this work would have been painted.
Provenance: W.N. Hurst Hobart,
The Sale of Michael Sharland. 1987. Michael Sharland (Tasmanian. 1899 – 1987) wrote as “Peregrine” for the Sydney Morning Herald and Hobart Mercury. Sharland was a passionate environmentalist for the built and natural environment, author and ornithologist. He was the author of nine volumes concerning Tasmanian bird and wildlife, as well as the definitive “A Guide to the Birds of Tasmania” and the architectural classic “Stones of a Century”. He was Superintendent of Scenic Reserves from 1947 and The Scenery Preservation Board (later formed as Parks and Wildlife Service).
Lot closed - Price Realized incl. BP:$93,000
ESTIMATE:  $6,000 - $10,000

Auction notes sources;
  • Moss Green Auctions:  http://www.mossgreen.com.au/m/lot-details/index/catalog/177/lot/74181/Florence-Williams-British-Australia-1833-ndash-1915
  • ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-13/tasmanian-art-curators-private-collection-open-for-viewing/6939272

RELATED POSTS main weblog

Prisoner William TURNER 1841-1879

T. J. NEVIN MUGSHOT of William Turner
EXHIBITIONS 1976 and 1977



Prisoner William TURNER
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985: P: 90 or 1985_p_0090
Photographer: T. J. Nevin
Taken at the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office, Hobart, 1878-9
Exhibited at the Centenary of the Art Gallery NSW, Sydney, 1976

This black and white copy of William Turner's prisoner identification mugshot was made at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1985 from Thomas Nevin's original sepia print, and placed online at the QVMAG in the early 2000s. The original 1870s print of the b&w copy was exhibited at the AGNSW in 1976 (listed on page 27 in the Exhibition Catalogue). The curator chose this one (and another two photographs) possibly because the full frontal pose and the frank stare captured more of the prisoner's "personality" than the conventional pose where the sitter's sightlines were deflected either left or right, the pose typical of Nevin's commercial studio practice and evident in the more than 200 (two hundred) prisoner cdvs held in the Beattie collection at the QVMAG. In addition, this print was possibly chosen because it had escaped the rebranding on the versos with the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" for Beattie's tourism trade of the 1900s and for the 1938 QVMAG exhibition which commemorated his death and bequest to the people of Launceston. A year after the 1976 AGNSW Centenary Exhibition, in 1977, many more of these "convict portraits" by T. J. Nevin from the Beattie collection were exhibited at the QVMAG, curated by John McPhee.



Verso: Prisoner William TURNER
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985: P: 90 or 1985_p_0090
Photographer: T. J. Nevin
Taken at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart, 1878
Exhibited at the Centenary of the Art Gallery NSW, Sydney, 1976
See the Exhibition Catalogue here in this post

Police Records
These records are sourced from the weekly police gazettes, Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police, J. Barnard, Gov't printer.

1859: Turner's shooting with intent to kill a Constable



Source:The Hobart Town Daily Mercury (Tas. : 1858 - 1860) Thu 3 Nov 1859 Page 2 POLICE COURT.

TRANSCRIPT
Remanded.-William Turner, Henry Townsend, and Thomas Morgan were brought up on remand, charged with feloniously shooting, at Swanton, Constable Wells, with intent to kill and murder him.
Upon the application of Mr. Sub - Inspector Weale the prisoners were further remanded until to-morrow (this day) when the evidence against them will be adduced.

1873: Turner discharged from H. M. Gaol with FP



Prisoner William Turner from Bristol. sentenced to 10 years for housebreaking and stealing was transported to VDL per the Lord Goderich, arriving on 18 November 1841 as an 18 year old. He was then sentenced at the Hobart Supreme Court on 6th December 1859 to life imprisonment for "shooting with intent etc". He was received at the Municipal Police Office, Town Hall from the Port Arthur prison and discharged in the week ending 4th June 1873, Free with Pardon (abbreviated as FP in the police gazette record above).

1878: Turner convicted of larceny from a tin mining site
William Turner may have committed further offences using aliases between his discharge in 1873 and his conviction in 1878 , as his name does not appear against any further convictions in the Tasmanian police gazettes until 1878. While working as a sawyer in the Scottsdale and Ringarooma area of northern Tasmania in 1878, Turner was convicted for the theft of a calico tent and fly from the Briseis Tin Mining Company, Cascade River.



Page 152, Tasmania Reports of Crime. 20 September 1878.
William Turner was suspected of theft of a calico tent and fly.



Above: Two notices published in the Tasmanian police gazettes issues of 6th and 20th September 1878 concerning thefts of four meershaum pipes and a calico tent and fly by William Turner.



Above: William Turner, conviction of larceny published 26 October 1878
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police, Gov't printer.

During the week of 26th October 1878, William Turner, sawyer, 57 years old, 5ft 8½ inches tall, and Free by Servitude (FS) was convicted of larceny and sentenced to 6 months. His prior conviction - a life sentence in 1859 for shooting with intent from which he was discharged free with a pardon in 1873 - was not recorded. On incarceration at the Hobart Gaol in October 1878 and discharge from the Mayor's Court at the Hobart Town Hall in March 1879, T. J. Nevin photographed William Turner in full frontal pose for police and prison records.

Exhibitions 1976 & 1977
An archivist in the early 1900s, using the police gazette record, inscribed on the verso "FS" below the prisoner's name, William Turner, and the ship, Lord Goderich. A more recent inscription in a different hand - (Boys Ship) referring to the Lord Goderich and the date of his arrival in VDL (18/11/1841) - was probably added for the 1976 Centenary Exhibition of the Art Gallery of NSW and/or the 1977 QVMAG Exhibition of more than seventy "convict portraits" - i.e. mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s by Thomas J. Nevin - curated by John McPhee.



Verso: Prisoner William TURNER
QVMAG Ref: QVM 1985: P: 90 or 1985_p_0090
Photographer: T. J. Nevin
Taken at the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office, Hobart, 1878-9
Exhibited at the Centenary of the Art Gallery NSW, Sydney, 1976
See the Exhibition Catalogue here in this post



Page 27 of the AGNSW Catalogue: list of three photography exhibits by T. J. Nevin Nos. 116-118

TRANSCRIPT
T. J. Nevin active 1870s
Tasmanian convicts (1874)
116. William Turner, Transported Lord Goderich (Boy's ship), 1811-1841.
117. Nathan Hunt, Transported Elphinstone (Boys), 28.7.1842, Larceny
118. Thomas Harrison, Idle and disorderly.
Three photographs, carte-de-visite size 10.5 x 6.5 cm, 4½ x 2½ in, each inscribed (on back) as above, and printed T. J. Nevin, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town. From a set of over 40 convict portraits made in 1874.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania



Paragraph on T. J. Nevin and his photographs of "still-living transported convicts", p. 41 of the Exhibition Catalogue for Australian art in the 1870s : an exhibition to mark the centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney by Daniel Thomas 1976.

TRANSCRIPT
T. J. NEVIN
A Hobart photographer who in 1874 made a set of over 40 photographs of still-living transported convicts. They are included as an example of the strong interest in Australian history which is characteristic of the 1870s. These small photographs are also examples of the standard "Carte-de-visite" size used for almost all portraits in the 185s and 1860s, but going out of favour after 1870 for the larger "Cabinet" size , 4½ x 6½ inches. After 1875 "Panels". 8½ x 6½ inches also became common for family groups. Carte-de-visite and Cabinets of royalty, actresses, bishops, convicts and other celebrities were widely available and were collected in albums as well as portraits of one's own family.



The QVMAG Exhibition 1977: "The work of T. J. Nevin..."
Source: the Mercury, March 3rd, 1977

TRANSCRIPT
Convict photos at Launceston
Historic photographs showing convicts at Port Arthur in 1874 will be exhibited at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Launceston from tomorrow to May 2.
The work of T. J. Nevin, the photos are being shown at Launceston for the first time.
Many of the men shown in the pictures had been transported to Port Arthur as young boys 40 years earlier.
The curator of fine art at the museum, Mr. John McPhee, said yesterday that the photos had "a quality far beyond that of records".
"Just once rascally, occasionally noble always pathetic, these photographs are among the most moving and powerful images of the human condition," he said.
Transportation Records for William TURNER 1841
Archives Office of Tasmania Linc
Name: Turner, William
Record Type: Convicts
Departure date: 14 Jul 1841
Departure port: Portsmouth
Ship: Lord Goderich
Voyage number: 183
Index number: 71924
Record ID:NAME_INDEXES: 1441965



Source: Archives Office of Tasmania CON33 -1-14

William Turner, sentenced to 10 years for housebreaking and stealing was transported to VDL per the Lord Goderich, arriving on 18 November 1841 as an 18 year old. This record gives more detail about further offences until 1853.

RELATED POSTS main weblog


Prisoner mugshots by Constable John Nevin

Constable William John Nevin (1851-1891), younger brother of professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin, died suddenly of typhoid fever on 17th June, 1891. The earliest date on record of his service with the police is 1875 when he was stationed at the Cascades Prison for Males, Hobart. His service continued at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, as "Gaol Messenger", a rank which covered his duties as photographer, until his untimely death while still in service, aged 39 yrs old. The registrar of his death gave his age as 43 yrs old; however, his burial records at Cornelian Bay Cemetery on 19th June 1891 listed his death at 39 yrs, i.e. born 1851, and this date is consistent with the Fairlie sick lists shipping records which recorded that he was a babe in arms, less than 9 months old, when he arrived in Hobart on 3rd July 1852 with his settler parents, John and Mary Nevin, and his three older siblings Thomas, Rebecca Jane, and Mary Ann.



Constable John (W. J.) Nevin ca. 1880.
Photo taken by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR. Watermarked.



The Electoral Roll of the Electoral District of North Hobart, year commencing 11th April, 1884:
NEVIN, William John
Place of Abode: H.M. Gaol
Nature of qualification: Salary
Particulars of Qualification: H.M. Government



Archives Office Tasmania
RGD 35/13
Death of John Nevin, Goal Messenger, of Typhoid Fever
17th June 1891

PRISONER IDENTIFICATION PHOTOGRAPHS from 1876-1891
Older brother, commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin was commissioned by the family solicitor W.R. Giblin, later Attorney-General and Premier from 1872 to 1876 to provide the colonial government of Tasmania with photographs of prisoners while he was still operating from his commercial studios in Elizabeth St and New Town, Hobart. And from 1876 to 1880, when employed in full-time civil service as Office and Hall keeper of the Hobart Town Hall, his photographic services for police continued at the Hobart Gaol with the Municipal Police Office and at the Mayor's Court, housed within the Town Hall. Thomas Nevin was assisted by his younger brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in producing photographic records of prisoners until ca. 1886, his last record (to date) of service to police as assistant bailiff.

During the early to mid-1870s, Thomas Nevin deployed the conventional techniques of 19th century commercial studio portraiture in matters of posing, photographing and printing the final official prisoner identification photograph (mugshot) as mounted carte-de-visite portraits. The prisoner was usually posed with his upper torso turned 45 degrees from the photographer, with sightlines deflected to the edge of the oval mount, and backgrounded by a plain backcloth. The majority of Nevin’s prisoner photographs taken between 1872-75 evince his use of this commercial technique, for example:



State Library of NSW
James Ogden, photographed by T.J. Nevin 23 September 1875
Call Number DL PX 158



National Library of Australia
John F. Morris, photographed by T.J. Nevin 25th April 1875
nla.pic-an24612762 PIC P1029/36 LOC Album 935

THE FULL FRONTAL GAZE
Most prisoner photographs taken in the 1880s in Tasmania required the subject to face the camera, and in some instances, show the backs of the hands clearly. The full frontal gaze marked the transitional phase between Thomas Nevin's early to mid-1870s commercial mounted carte-de-visite portraits and the 1880s prisoner photographs, taken more often than not at the Hobart Gaol by his brother John Nevin.  No full profile photographs, in addition to the single full frontal shot, were taken until the late 1890s when the methods of Bertillon took hold.



Roland Hill, 23 yrs old, 20th February 1890.
Ref: TAHO GD 6719, p. 148. Gaol Register from the Sheriff's Office Hobart.

Remarkably, this prisoner identification photograph dated 1890 was printed in the commercial oval mount format, its sole difference from the earlier prisoner portraits taken by Thomas Nevin being the full frontal gaze of the prisoner. This photograph is not an old one, reprinted from an earlier photograph of the 1870s. It was taken of Roland Hill, 23 years old, a clerk and a first offender, sentenced to two years for larceny, and taken on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol by Constable John Nevin when Roland was transferred from Launceston.



Roland Hill, 23 yrs old, 20th February 1890.
Ref: TAHO GD 6719, detail mugshot from criminal sheet p. 148

OVERLAY PRINTS
Many of the photographs in this register GD 6719 dating to 1890 were reprinted from an earlier photograph of the prisoner, some quite visibly showing the original oval mount under the second printing within an oblong mount with rounded corners.



This photograph of Charles Dawson was taken by Constable John Nevin on 11 December 1888 at the Hobart Gaol adjacent to the Supreme Court where Dawson was sentenced to 4 years for uttering a forged cheque. The print from the negative was framed initially in an oval mount , and reprinted within an oblong mount, as an overlay, for reasons best known to the printers, whether at the gaol itself in Campbell Street or at the Municipal Police Office, Town Hall in Macquarie Street, or even at the government printing office and registrar in Davey Street. The duties of Constable John Nevin by 1888 was both photographer and gaol messenger. He would have conveyed copies of these prisoner photographs and criminal record sheets back and forth to any of these three authorities.



Charles Dawson, 33 yrs old, 11 December 1888.
Ref: TAHO GD 6719, detail mugshot printed with oblong overlay p. 101

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Weekly Returns, the police forms 1880s: no more ships' names please

FAKE CONVICTISM
POLICE IDENTIFICATION RECORDS



"The amazing result of the forgetting process was that by the late 1920s and 1930s, the general population did not know that anyone, or hardly anyone, was descended from convicts - even though most of them were themselves." p. 167, Tasmania's Convicts, Alison Alexander (2010)
The proposition in the statement (quoted above) from Tasmania's Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society by Alison Alexander (2010) - viz. that by the 1920s most of the general population of Tasmania was descended from convicts transported before cessation in 1853 - is an anxiety-ridden throw-away line which underscores the lingering markers of present-day social status in a population with less racial and immigrant diversity than any other Australian state.

Exclusive by trying to be inclusive, it is a statement to be taken neither conclusively nor literally. For one thing, it does not apply to the descendants of photographer Thomas J. Nevin, who arrived at Hobart with his parents and siblings in July 1852 as free settlers with no record of convictions. Descendants and in-laws of this same family number many hundreds across the world, including the authors of this weblog and its living and deceased contributors. Thomas J. Nevin's relationship to the cohort of those Tasmanian prisoners (or "convicts" as they are conventionally designated in penal heritage tourism discourse) incarcerated during his years as a professional photographer, was one of association, not inheritance. And he did not shoot Aborigines, that other present-day Tasmanian anxiety; he shot only prisoners - with a camera. By foregrounding his perspective and circumstances, his photographs of prisoners, government officials, landscapes, and private clientele are best served and serve best the long view of history if they are once and for all disentangled from the claustrophobic loop of Chinese whispers which pose as "interpretation" by the convictism-obsessed current cohort of self-promoting hacks.



"One place where people's ex-convict status was sometimes noted was various government and municipal records - though never in so many words. Instead, the ship the ex-convict had been transported on was written beside the name, or initial, such as 'F.S.' (free by servitude) or 'F.C.' (free to colony) - in code, so only those in the know understood. In the 1890s the Brighton police still noted the names of people's convict ships, in which they might have arrived half a century earlier" .(p.165, Alison Alexander, 2010, Tasmania's Convicts)
The term "convicts" is conventionally used by commentators whose focus is on transportation to the colony of Van Diemen's Land prior to cessation in 1853; however, the term is applied to subjects of the 300 plus extant carte-de-visite and negative prints of the 1870s in public collections of "convicts". Those photographs are not artefacts of the transportation era. They are police mugshots of prisoners taken in the 1870s by commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin on contract for the Colonial government and for the Hobart City Corporation's municipal and territorial police forces who requested and used them in the course of daily surveillance and prosecution.

Hundreds of these extant carte-de-visite prisoner identification photographs bear an inscription verso with the prisoner's name and the ship on which he was transported, details which were not written on these versos at the time of photographic capture by the photographer Thomas Nevin nor transcribed there by the Attorney-General's law clerk Frederick Stops in the 1870s when the photographs and duplicates were exclusively the property of the police and prison authorities. They were transcribed - and in many instances reprinted - by convictarian and government photographer John Watt Beattie in the 1890s-1920s despite the fact that the Police and Municipal Authorities had expressed a real reluctance by 1880 to carrying this information forward in police records (see letters between the Mayor, the Inspector of Police and the Supt of Police below).Beattie with his assistant Edward Searle catalogued these photographs for sale at Beattie's "Port Arthur Museum" located in Hobart, and included them in interstate travelling exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success. On Beattie's death in 1930, most but not all of these mugshots of prisoners were donated to the Launceston City Council and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, but a few were acquired in Sydney by David Scott Mitchell and donated to the State Library of NSW in 1907. Estrays from these sources and from a defunct government department were donated in the 1960s to the National Library of Australia by Dr N. Gunson (NLA Dan Sprod MS 8429). Further dissemination took place in 1983 when fifty or more of these 1870s mugshots were removed from Beattie's bequest at the QVMAG, Launceston, and taken down to the Tasman Peninsula for display at the Port Arthur prison theme park, south of Hobart, and were not returned to the QVMAG. They were deposited instead at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart with another fake attribution - this time creating the identity of the photographer of these extant mugshots as none other than the much reviled prison commandant and non-photographer, A. H. Boyd, based on nothing more substantial than wishful thinking- a whimsical rumour which sought to inflate the heritage importance of Port Arthur at the expense of the curatorial expertise of the QVMAG exhibitors in 1977 who showcased T. J. Nevin's work as the photographer.

So whoever wrote the inscriptions on the back of the 1870s prisoner mugshots in the early 1900s not only ensured that the fakery conjured in the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" was seeded in the Edwardian tourist's imagination during the first decade of the 20th century, they also ensured that name of the ship on which the re-offender had arrived before 1853 was indelibly recorded and remembered. The 1910s inscriber's sources were the weekly Tasmanian Police Gazettes records of Returns detailing arraignments, convictions, discharges etc; the Port Arthur conduct indents; and the Hobart Gaol registers of arrivals and departures. The ship's name, in other words, was a key marker of a person's identity, past and future, recaptured again and again despite the efforts of the police administration in the 1880s to omit it from Returns of Prisoners forms.

The Returns 1866: Imperial Funds



This notice published on the 4th January 1867 in the police gazette was issued by the Convict Department when transported prisoners and the gaols housing them were still funded by the Imperial Government of Great Britain. After 1871, prisons were funded by the colonial government.

TRANSCRIPT
The Inspector of Police directs the attention of the several Officers concerned to the following Notice from the Convict Department: -
CONVICT DEPARTMENT
Comptroller-General's Office, 27th December, 1866.
The several Watch-house Keepers, Gaolers, and others are requested to furnish Returns to this Office, as early as possible after the 31st instant, of the number and condition of Inmates in the Establishment under their charge and borne on Imperial Funds on that date.
W. NAIRN, Comptroller-General
The Returns 1874: the form and the gazette record



Return of all Persons convicted for Trial in the Municipality of ...
TAHO Ref: Item Number: AF104/1/1
Description: Police Correspondence
Start Date: 01 Jan 1874
End Date: 31 Dec 1951
Taken at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office 2014
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014

TRANSCRIPT
"This Return to be furnished by First Mail each Week
Return of all Persons convicted for Trial in the Municipality of ... during the Week ending the ... day of ... 188...
The Inspector of Police, Hobart Town ... Superintendent of Police
N. B. This Form not to to include convictions under 31 Vict. No. 12, which must be given separately."



Detail from (above) of the form. The columns required to be filled include Name, Ship, Civil Condition, Offence, Sentence or Committal, Native Place, Trade, Age, Height, Hair, Prior ...

All these details were then transcribed and printed in the Tasmanian police gazettes, published weekly from the 1860s and titled Tasmania Information for Police, J. Barnard, Government Printer. The same layout requiring details of the prisoner's ship of arrival, height, hair colour, marks etc was still in use into the 1880s. By 1888, this information was largely complimentary rather than central for two reasons: one photograph and sometimes two were always pasted onto the criminal record sheet of the prisoner, where details of age, hair colour etc were listed. Secondly, the name of the prisoner's ship, if transported up to the year of cessation, 1853, was of little significance, as the population of those men transported before 1853 had dwindled.

More by convention than necessity, however, the name of the ship bringing men who arrived in Tasmania from elsewhere who were without a recorded transported history and who were charged with offences from 1860s onwards was also usually recorded. A typical example is the arrival and incarceration of New Yorker Alfred Malden or Maldon, the spelling of his name depending on whether the Police Office recorded his name in the Returns (Malden) or the Prison Clerk recorded his name in the Conduct Records (Maldon). Malden arrived in the colony of Tasmania per the Tamer [sic - Tamar],an intercolonial vessel, in January 1871. The transcriber of the verso of the two identical cdv prints of Alfred Malden or Maldon held at the National Libary of Australia used both sources decades later, in the 1920s, hence the two spellings of Malden's surname on these versos. Within months of arriving in Tasmania, Malden was convicted on 1st June 1871 of shooting with intent, and prior to discharge in February 1874 when he was released on condition he was never to return to Tasmania, he was photographed once and once only by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin.



THE RETURN FORM
As recorded by the police gazette, 25 February 1874:
Malden, Alfred, per ship Tamar, tried at the Supreme Court Launceston on 1st June 1871, for the offence of shooting with intent &, sentenced to 10 years, native place New York, age 39, height 5 ft 10 inches, hair light brown, free to colony, two moles on left cheek (centre).
Source:Tasmania Reports of Crime, Information for Police 1865-1885(James Barnard, Government Printer)



For Convictaria Exhibitions in 1915: the SHIP's NAME was inscribed on the versos of the original 1870s cdv's. Versos of below: Two images, cdv in oval mount and duplicate of prisoner Alfred Malden/Maldon. Photographed by T. J. Nevin, Hobart, February 1874.
Photo taken at the National Library of Australia, 6 Feb 2015
Photos copyright KLW NFC 2015 ARR



For Convictaria Exhibitions in 1915: the SHIP's NAME was inscribed on the versos of the original 1870s cdv's.Two images, cdv in oval mount and its duplicate of prisoner Alfred Malden/Maldon
Photographed by T. J. Nevin, Hobart, February 1874
Photo taken at the National Library of Australia, 6 Feb 2015
Photos copyright KLW NFC 2015 ARR

From glass negative to print
Given the scratches, crossed out inscriptions and general damage, the glass negative from which this print was made would have been used extensively to reprint the prisoner's photograph for prison records as each offence and charge was recorded. The print, unmounted such as this one of prisoner Peter Killeen, would have been pasted to the prisoner's rap sheet, and more would have been reprinted from the original glass plate several times over the prisoner's long criminal career. Examples of both types of prisoner mugshots - mounted and unmounted - attached to prisoners' rap sheets are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania in the Hobart Gaol Photo Books.



Original rap sheet print from the negative taken by T. J. Nevin 1875
Mounted on one of three panels of 40 mugshots by J. W. Beattie ca. 1915
QVMAG Collection: Ref : 1983_p_0163-0176

Read more in this post:Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

Decades later, when the same prints were rescued from the photographer's room above the laundry at the Hobart Gaol, and then removed from the prisoners' rap sheets, reproduced, exhibited and sold in the name of tourism (by John Watt Beattie et al in the early 1900s), the fictionalisation of the past became the dominant modality wherever dark tourism was likely to attract visitors, be it the Port Arthur prison site where the movie of Marcus Clarke's novel For the Term of His Natural Life (1874) was in production by 1927 featuring silent screen stars George Fisher and Eva Novak , or in travelling exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success at Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney in 1916. This is one example of three panels of photographs of 1870s prisoners primed for exhibition by Beattie in 1915, subsequently acquired by the QVMAG through Beattie's bequest.



The print of Peter Killeen is third from right, bottom row.
Original prints of negatives by T. J. Nevin 1870s
Reprints by J. W. Beattie ca. 1915
QVMAG Collection: Ref : 1983_p_0163-0176

The glass plates themselves seem to have been disappeared altogether. They might have been shipped to Sydney, NSW, in March 1915 for the exhibition held at the Royal Hotel, Sydney to be displayed - reprinted and even offered for sale - as Port Arthur relics, alongside relics and documents associated with the fake convict hulk, Success. One newspaper report of the exhibition (CONVICT RELICS. 1915, March 13. Preston Leader) clearly stated that the exhibitors - and this would have included John Watt Beattie as the Tasmanian contributor - collated original parchment records with duplicates, and also photographed original documents when duplicates were not available. Amongst the one ton of Port Arthur relics were dozens of original 1870s mugshots taken by Nevin and still attached to the prisoner's rap sheet; many more were removed for re-photographing in various formats as Beattie prepared for this exhibition. The association of Marcus Clarke with these photographic records for the exhibitors was de rigeur by 1915; the notes for his serial fiction about a Port Arthur escapee, His Natural Life, were displayed along with reprinted editions of his 1874 novel, For the Term of His Natural Life.

The advent of digitisation ensured a further intense surge of interest as these Tasmanian prisoner mugshots went online at museums and libraries.On the ground at Port Arthur by the 1990s, a new "interpretative" identity arose between museum and tourist as momentum increased in the quest for World Heritage status. To succeed, PAHSMA's ambitions - when it came to making use of Nevin's photographs of incarcerated prisoners from the 1870s - depended primarily on the public's acquiescence to the bias in the heritage site's "stories" about their commandant A.H. Boyd. The photographs as they exist for others beyond the push of aggressive protectionist policy, on the other hand, can be appreciated simply as artefacts, as snapshots in effect of the prisoner's reality as both prisoner and photographer experienced it. A documentary original photograph is not the same thing at all as a contemporary "interpretation" of it, and visitors viewing the photographs in commercially exploitative contexts may well express a preference for the naked artefact instead of the prison theme park's confections that subjugate their experiences when they visit a venue such as Port Arthur or view the compromised collection at the National Library of Australia, especially when viewing a photograph of their ancestor.



Verso of cdv from T. J. Nevin's original negative, 1875, of Peter Killeen
INSCRIPTION: "Peter Killeen, per M.A. Watson (Taken at Port Arthur 1874)"
QVMAG . Ref: 1985_P_0174



On left from the QVMAG (Tasmania):
Peter Killeen, recto number "180"
INSCRIPTION Verso : "Peter Killeen, per M.A. Watson (Taken at Port Arthur 1874)"
QVMAG . Ref: 1985_P_0174

On right from the NLA (Canberra):
Peter Killern [sic], per M.A. Watson, taken at Port Arthur, 1874
Title from inscription on reverse.
Inscription: title and “221”–In ink on reverse.
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Gunson Collection file 203/​7/​54. http:/​/​nla.gov.au/​nla.pic-vn4270051.

1880: ship's name on inquest returns
The Tasmanian Police Department informed their staff that the only way of identifying elderly paupers on death and at inquests was through the name of the ship on which they arrived in Tasmania. Paupers in public institutions were still identified by their ship's names, and for the purposes of the Coroner at Inquests, the ship's name of the deceased was still vital to correct identification. However, by the 1900s, the majority of prisoners held at the central prison, the Hobart Gaol, were listed as "native-born", meaning they were born locally in Tasmania, so the SHIP category on the RETURNS form had become meaningless.



INQUEST RETURNS
To render these Returns more complete, it is desirable, if the deceased has been a prisoner, to insert in the first column the name of the ship in which such person arrived in the Colony.
Tasmania Reports of Crime
For Police Information Only
Friday, March 26, 1880
Source:Tasmania Reports of Crime, Information for Police 1865-1885 (James Barnard, Government Printer)

Paupers were still a concern for the Coroner. In this return the ship's name is still a key.



Complaints and Correspondence
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.

CIRCULAR REFORMS
These letters were exchanged between the Mayor, William Henry Burgess; the Superintendent of Police, Frederick Pedder; and the Inspector of Police at H. M. Gaol, John Swan the younger. They were photographed for this weblog at the Tasmanian Heritage and Archives Office in 2014.



TAHO Item Number: AF104/1/1
Description: Police Correspondence
Start Date: 01 Jan 1874
End Date: 31 Dec 1951
Taken at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office 2014
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014

TRANSCRIPT
CIRCULAR
29th Feb 1880
Re: Police Weekly Returns
Circular
The Inspector of Police presents his compliments to His Worship the Mayor of Hobart Town and will feel obliged by his causing him to be regularly furnished with a weekly report of persons convicted or committed for trial in the Municipality of Hobart Town,. also by supplying the same information for the months of January and February
Office of
Inspector of Police
29.2.80
Rec. 3/3/80 HW [Henry Wilkinson]



TRANSCRIPT
Copy
Town Clerk's Office
29th March 1880
Sir
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your circular of the 27th ultimo, in which you apply for a Weekly Report to be regularly furnished of persons convicted or committed for Trial within this Municipality.
In reply I beg to state that having given the subject mature consideration, I find that the compilation of these Returns would so considerably increase the work of the Police Department, that I regret to say, I see no prospect of its being carried out, in the face of the difficulties presenting themselves.
A large proportion of cases are heard and determined at the Police Office, in which the parties thereto are unknown to the Police, and it appears to me that the inquiries to -
[addressed to] John Swan Esq
Inspector of Police
[cont... next image]



[... cont from previous image]

TRANSCRIPT
to be made of many of them, for the required information for filling in the Printed Forms would be inappropriate and unsuitable, to the altered condition of present circumstances.
I would remind you that, a Weekly Return is already furnished to you of all persons convicted under the Petty Offences Act 21 V 12, which consist of simple Larceny, Embezzlement, Receiving Stolen Property etc, Obtaining Property by false pretences.
After consideration I think you will see that the amount of work involved by these Returns is such, that they cannot be furnished by the Department, although I am most happy to supply at all times everything within my power
I have the honor to be
Sir
Your obedient servant
M.H. Burgess
/signed/
Mayor



TRANSCRIPT
Office of Supt Police
Hobart Town
March 13th 1880
The Right Worshipful The Mayor
Sir
To furnish the particulars required to complete the Return asked for by the Inspector of Police would considerably increase the work of this department and cannot be done, again there are a large number of cases heard and disposed of at the Police Court in which the parties thereto are unknown to the Police and it would appear to be out of place to enquire their Ship, to take their height, and make enquiry as to their associations etc. A weekly Return is already furnished to the Inspector of Police of all persons convicted under the Petty Offences Act 21 Vic No 12, which consist [?] of
Simple Larceny
Embezzlement
Receiving Stolen Property etc
Pawning Property etc
Obtaining property by false pretences etc
I most respectfully submit that the Return now asked for by The Inspector [cont ...next image] cannot possibly be furnished by this Department.
I am Sir
Your Obt Servt
Fr Pedder
Supt Police



[... cont from previous image]

TRANSCRIPT
cannot possibly be furnished by this Department.
I am Sir
Your Obt Servt
Fr Pedder
Supt Police



[on right]

TRANSCRIPT
Transmitted to the Sup: of Police with blank printed Forms - he will be pleased to attend to it now and in future -
To be returned (By Order)
Henry Wikinson
Town Clerk
3/3/80
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania
Item Number: AF104/1/1
Description: Police Correspondence
Start Date: 01 Jan 1874
End Date: 31 Dec 1951
Taken at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office 2014
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Photo insensitive
So in a sense, as this correspondence between the Mayor, the Inspector of Police, and the Superintendent of Police would suggest, the reluctance to include the name of the prisoner's ship etc on the Returns was due to several factors apart from lack of time to investigate original records. The ignorance of a younger generation of staff with no background knowledge of the cohort of transported re-offenders was one reason, another was their questioning the social value of that information. Alison Alexander has termed this process as simply "forgetting".



Many publications about Tasmania's convict heritage which include photographs of prisoners never fail to treat the photograph as a transparent visual record of a man transported from Britain to the Port Arthur prison in Van Diemen's Land, despite the fact that prior to the cessation of transportation in 1853 no transported convict was ever photographed on arrival, and that the men in these 1870s photographs were recidivists, habitual offenders and common criminals by the time they were photographed at the Hobart Gaol by T. J. Nevin. Such publications trot out the usual stereotypical markers of convictism: the name of the prisoner, always designated "convict", the date he was transported to Australia, the gaol always as Port Arthur, and the name of the ship on which he arrived, rather than the local crime for which he received a sentence at the Hobart Supreme Court and a mugshot on incarceration and discharge by T. J. Nevin between 1872 and 1880. Alison Alexander's inclusion of a few photographs of "convicts" in the publication Tasmania's Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society (2010) turns her profiteering of the stereotype back onto the photographer and prisoner: under the photograph of Thomas Harrison - captioned as "An unidentified convict at Port Arthur in the 1870s " - she deflects responsibility for her use of the stereotype on the photographer and prisoner as creators of " the stereotype of the 'criminal look'. " In similar manner, Robert Hughes' massive publication The Fatal Shore (1987)included the same prisoner on a page featuring eight "products of the system". For more discussion on this photograph of Thomas Harrison, see this article posted here.

As for the other two photographs on this page in Alexander's Tasmania's Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society (2010), the caption describing prisoner John Funt  - "still a convict at Port Arthur in the 1870s" - is misleading: John Funt was transported on the Hydrabad in 1850, served seven years, and was freed in 1862 until he was sentenced to 10 years in 1867 for robbery. T. J. Nevin took the one and only extant photograph of John Funt on the prisoner's discharge from the Hobart Gaol in 1875. The caption beneath the full length cabinet photograph of William Thompson, the third image on this page in Alexander (2010) - " ... dressed in his Port Arthur outfit in the 1870s" - is also misleading. Convictaria collector John Watt Beattie took this studio photograph in 1900 of Thompson who was a tourist guide at Port Arthur decades later than the misleading mention of the date "1870s". Ultimately, the authors' omission of the identity of the photographers and their working contexts in each instance is both ahistoric and indifferent to facts, whether for Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol and Town Hall MPO supplying the police and prison authorities with 1870s mugshots of prisoners Thomas Harrison and John Funt, or for collector and commercial photographer John Watt Beattie at his convictaria museum and studio in Hobart staging this 1900s postcard of William Thompson for the tourist trade.



"Your Obt Servt Fr Pedder Supt Police"
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2014

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Australia's first MUGSHOTS

PLEASE NOTE: 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 solely 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 produced over a thousand originals and duplicates of Tasmanian prisoners, the bulk now lost or destroyed. The three hundred 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.

Supreme Court convictions