Police photograph (mounted cdv) of prisoner Cornelius Gleeson
Taken by T. J. Nevin, December 1873, Hobart Gaol
TMAG Collection Ref: Q15602.1
Verso: Prisoner Cornelius Gleeson
Taken by T. J. Nevin, December 1873, Hobart Gaol
TMAG Collection Ref: Q15602.1
Unlike many of these prisoner mugshots held in public collections, this one of Cornelius Gleeson has no information transcribed verso of the ship on which he was transported to Tasmania, although the police gazette notices of his various arrests and discharges document it as the Lady Montagu (arrived VDL 9 December 1852).The other phrase added to this, and to hundreds of other versos of these 1870s photographs in public collections, is "Taken at Port Arthur 1874". It is an error which does not reflect the criminal history of the prisoner on the date, place and occasion for which the photograph was taken. Cornelius Gleeson was photographed on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol in the last week of December 1873 by Thomas J. Nevin on commission, and photographed again on release from an eight year sentence, remitted to six in 1879.
This carte-de-visite of Cornelius Gleeson in an oval mount is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. It was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with another three hundred or more 1870s mugshots taken at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin which were acquired by the QVMAG as part of the bequest from the estate of John Watt Beattie in the 1930s. When it was removed from Beattie's collection and taken down to Port Arthur for an exhibition in 1983, it was not returned to the QVMAG. It was deposited instead at the TMAG along with dozens more which were removed from Beattie's original bequest.
This three page list (acquired here in 2005) from the QVMAG lists a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held at the QVMAG when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005: those missing are numbered but show no information about the name, ship, etc, of the prisoner, merely the number which someone had writtten on the rectos, perhaps in the 1950s when some were stamped with the QVMAG aaccession date of 1958. We have pencilled in on the right hand side of each page the numbered mugshots missing from the list, totalling 127. The cdv of Cornelius Gleeson, numbered "149" on the front of his mugshot at the TMAG item is missing from the QVMAG list (2005) and holdings because it was returned to the TMAG and not the QVMAG:
Page 1 of 3 of the list of 1870s prisoner mugshots originally held in the Beattie collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The missing numbers in the sequence from 1 to 199 indicate that the mugshots were dispersed to Port Arthur (1983) and elsewhere and never returned. The total missing is 127. Fifty or more of those missing were subsequently deposited at the TMAG and each of those shows evidence on the versos of having been pasted to paper.
Page 2 of 3 of the list of 1870s prisoner mugshots originally held in the Beattie collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The missing numbers in the sequence from 1 to 199 indicate that the mugshots were dispersed to Port Arthur (1983) and elsewhere and never returned. The total missing is 127. Fifty or more of those missing were subsequently deposited at the TMAG and each of those shows evidence on the versos of having been pasted to paper.
Page 3 of 3 of the list of 1870s prisoner mugshots originally held in the Beattie collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The missing numbers in the sequence from 1 to 199 indicate that the mugshots were dispersed to Port Arthur (1983) and elsewhere and never returned. The total missing is 127. Fifty or more of those missing were subsequently deposited at the TMAG and each of those shows evidence on the versos of having been pasted to paper.
The verso of this carte-de-visite of prisoner Cornelius Gleeson shows the original photographic buff-coloured card in a small area at top left, but otherwise it bears remnants of the paper to which it had been pasted in the 1870s, i.e. the Hobart Gaol criminal record sheet that originally recorded the prisoner's offenses along with his photograph prepared on incarceration after Supreme Court sentencing. The transcription of another number verso was added along with the prisoner's name and the phrase "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" once the commercial possibilities of these mugshots became the motivation for saving them. In the souvenir shop where ithey were offered for sale to tourists, they were probably positioned in a display next to new reprints of Marcus Clarke's novel of the horrors of the Port Arthur prison, For the Term of His Natural Life, published in 1874. The tourist in the mid 1920s was enticed with an even more realistic penal heritage experience if he or she travelled to Port Arthur to watch the film of the book in production (1929). So it was imperative that the photograph as souvenir carried the appropriate resonances - "convict" rather than prisoner, "Port Arthur 1874" rather than Hobart Gaol 1873 and later.
In 1915, commercial photographer, convictaria collector and private museum operator John Watt Beattie held government commissions to boost the tourism industry with photographs of Tasmania's two key attractions: wilderness landscapes and convict heritage. When Beattie removed and reprinted hunfreds of these mugshots taken by Nevin of prisoners who were incarcerated in the 1870s - sentencing, incarceration and discharge being the only reason the police required their photograph - he labelled them with the word less favoured in British Edwardian usage - "convicts" - to resonate with the narratives and cliches of Tasmania's/Van Diemen's Land penal history prior to 1853, thereby deliberately suppressing the very ordinary reality that these men were prisoners who had been sentenced in the 1870s and 1880s. Not only were they officially designated by police as "prisoners" , by 1871 they were the responsibility of the colonial government of Tasmania, not the British government. Yet, by 1916, when Beattie had salvaged dozens of Thomas Nevin's original glass plate negatives and mounted cartes-de-visite of prisoners from the Hobart Gaol's photographers' room above the women's laundry before it was demolished, he was reprinting them as commercial studio portraits on postcards, some even as cartes-de-visite, and some as uncut prints, labelling them "Imperial convicts" who were "photographed at Port Arthur", none of which was historically factual.
Beattie, with his assistant Edward Searle ca. 1915 reprinted the image of prisoner Cornelius Gleeson from Nevin's original glass negative, and pasted the unmounted paper print to a dark grey photograph album leaf, placing it bottom line, last on viewer's right. Together with thirty-nine (39) more reprints from these Hobart Gaol glass plates of 1870s, Beattie displayed all 40 as three panels or frames at his "Port Arthur Museum" in Murray St. Hobart. These three frames, containing forty (40) prints in total (14+14+12) were listed for sale in Beattie's catalogue for 1916:
69. Three Frames containing 40 photographs taken at Port Arthur, showing types of Imperial Prisoners there.To spur the tourist's fascination enough to buy a carte of a "convict", and in the interests of government revenue, to encourage the tourist to take the trip down to Port Arthur 60 kms away on the Tasman Peninsula to see for themselves the horrors of Tasmania's penal heritage, Beattie wrote the wording "Types of Imperial Convicts" and "Photographed at Port Arthur" above the prints on each of the three panels. Typologies created by lining up men in this manner catered to contemporary beliefs in an identity that could be discerned through eugenics, photometry, and phrenology. This means of distancing the past was to the middle-class Edwardian - whether to Beattie himself as a late comer to Tasmania from Britain (1880s) or to the tourist visiting his museum - the most comforting of all acceptable historical narratives of geographic and familial displacement from - and present patriotic allegiance to - the British Empire during its greatest need, the Great War of 1914-1918 . "Imperial" was the word applied to everything, from soldiers leaving as volunteers to join the Australian Imperial Forces, to cookware produced for the home. .
Cornelius Gleeson, bottom row, last on viewer's right
Fourteen reprints of 1870s Tasmania prisoners
Original negatives by T. J. Nevin 1870s
Reprints by J. W. Beattie ca. 1915
QVMAG Collection: Ref : 1983_p_0163-0176
Cornelius Gleeson, b&w print from Beattie's reprint from Nevin's negative
QVMAG Collection Ref: 1985 p 0176
The carte-de-visite by Nevin of Cornelius Gleeson (1873) is now held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, while the sepia paper print (1915) by Beattie of Gleeson is held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The mounted carte belonged originally to Beattie's collection, acquired by the QVMAG from Beattie's estate after his death in 1930, but it and many more like it were removed by a QVMAG staff employee and displayed at an Exhibition held at the Port Arthur prison heritage site in 1983. Instead of returning the cartes to their rightful place back in Beattie's collection at the QVMAG, at least fifty were deposited at the TMAG, probably by the same person who removed them. The integrity of this collection as a whole, as vernacular documentation of very early police and forensic photography undertaken in Australia, has been violated many times over. Such has been the fate of many of these mugshots taken for police by Nevin in the 1870s-1880s: removed from the prisoners' rap sheets, reprinted by Beattie et al, sold as souvenirs at heritage sites, exhibited as ethnological artefacts on the walls of museums, dispersed piecemeal to various state and national collections, claimed as aesthetic portraits by art-trained photohistorians, and deliberately misattributed in the process by 20th century seekers of ancestors wishing to have the photographer rather than the convict in their family. The three panels or frames prepared for sale by Beattie and Searle in 1915-1916 were exhibited in 2000 at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Beattie was credited with the reprints of the 40 mugshots, but instead of Nevin receiving his long-standing and correct accreditation as the original photographer of these prisoners on commissions with the Hobart Municipal and Territorial Police in the 1870s-80s, someone desirous of fabricating a photographic artist out the mire of their ancestor's vicious past, attributed to the photographs to none other than the very unartistic and much reviled Commandant of Port Arthur, A. H. Boyd (Long 1995; Reeder 1995).
POLICE RECORDS for Cornelius GLEESON
Cornelius Gleeson was discharged on 26 June 1872,at the Hobart Gaol from a 6 months sentence, residue remitted, charged with being on premises for an unlawful purpose.
Cornelius Gleeson was discharged on 8 October 1873 at the Hobart Gaol, from a 6 month sentence for being on premises for an unlawful purpose.
Cornelius Gleeson was sentenced to 6 moths, hard labour
Mercury, 9 April 1873
When Cornelius Gleeson was sentenced to 8 years for burglary nine months later, his accomplice was Michael Dwyer who was also photographed by Thomas J. Nevin for police and prison records at the same session. Michael Dwyer's cdv is held at the QVMAG, numbered "150" against his name, Gleeson's is numbered "149" but his name is missing because his mugshot was taken from the QVMAG in 1983 and not returned. The sepia print of Dwyer from Nevin's original negative, appears on the second of the three panels devised as typologies by Beattie in 1915, viz top row, third from left.
Prisoner Michael Dwyer, Gleeson's accomplice 1873
Phootograph by Thomas J. Nevin, Hobart Gaol December 1873
QVMAG Collection Ref: 1985 p 0082
Calendar: Criminal sessions
Cornelius Gleeson and Michael Dwyer burglary,
Mercury 1 Dec 1873
"Vicious misapplication of his abilities"
His Honor, in passing sentence, alluded to the capacity displayed by Gleeson, not only in defence, but throughout the trial generally, and pointed out the vicious misapplication of his abilities. His Honor read over a long and horrible list of previous crimes which had been recorded against the prisoners, and sentenced Gleeson to eight years imprisonment, and Dwyer to ten years.
Source: LAW INTELLIGENCE. (1873, December 4). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 30, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8915389
Cornelius Gleeson was sentenced to eight years at the Hobart Supreme Court on 2 December 1873 for burglary and larceny. He was discharged 4 June 1879, residue of sentence remitted. On his release, he requested the assistance of the Victorian and Tasmanian police in locating his brothers, per this advertisement:
John and Stephen Gleeson, missing brothers of Cornelius Gleeson, 25 June 1879.
Cornelius Gleeson was arrested on 22 October 1880 for the theft of 6 cotton sheets, the property of Margaret Murphy.
Cornelius Gleeson was arraigned in the Supreme Court Hobart on 14 December 1880 and acquitted.
*Source: Tasmania Reports of Crimes Information for Police, J. Barnard, Gov't Printer.