Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Prisoner Thomas OWENS with headrest

HEADREST
SUPREME COURT CONVICTION

This carte-de-visite prisoner identification photograph of Thomas Owens is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It was originally held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, donated from government estrays in the 1930s as part of the Beattie collection of convictaria where it was archived on recto with the number "49". It was removed for exhibition at the Port Arthur Historic Site in 1983, and returned to the TMAG rather than to the QVMAG.  See the QVMAG list here.



Prisoner OWENS, Thomas
TMAG Ref: Q15575
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin



Verso:Prisoner OWENS, Thomas
TMAG Ref: Q15575
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin


Thomas Owens was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol sometime between Owen's transfer from the Launceston Supreme Court in 1870 with a sentence of 4 yrs for housebreaking, and his discharge in the last week of September 1873. Several duplicates were printed from Nevin's original glass plate at the Hobart Gaol: the photocopy of another duplicate (below), printed from the same negative, is held at the Archives Office of Tasmania with a different set of recto inscriptions. The verso transcription "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" on the TMAG item (above) was written on the versos of hundreds more of these 1870s prisoner photographs in the early 1900s by Beattie's Studio for exhibition and sale in Hobart and Sydney.



Archives Office of Tasmania
Reference PH30/1/4113
Thomas Owens, convict per Gilmore. Photo taken by Thomas Nevin
Date: 1874 circa

This is another print of Nevin's glass negative of prisoner Thomas Owens which is held at the Archives Office of Tasmania.The headrest is clearly visible in this print as well. The details of the subject's pose, direction of gaze, and clothing, as well as the technical details of camera distance and vignette frame, are similar to the rest of the batch of prisoner identification photographs taken by government contractor T. J. Nevin. It was taken at the Hobart Gaol, most likely in the fortnight prior to Owen's discharge in 1873, and not at Port Arthur in 1874. The verso transcription "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" was written on the versos of hundreds of these 1870s prisoner photographs in the early 1900s by Beattie's Studio for exhibitions and sale in Hobart and Sydney.

Unlike the cdv held at the TMAG , this paper print held at the Archives Office does not carry a number written on the mount just below the photo, which is an indication that it was not reprinted in the 1900s by John Watt Beattie nor reprinted by the Archives Office of Tasmania or the QVMAG. It may have been the original pasted to the prisoner's record sheet held at the Hobart Gaol, and removed decades later by someone attempting to identify an ancestor. This print bears the name "Howard White" and "Trans (ported? illegible) 1832" which supposedly indicates the prisoner's name and the date he was transported to Van Diemen's Land. The handwritten inscriptions on recto could have been written any time from when the photograph was removed from the prisoner's criminal sheet up until the mid to late 20th century.

POLICE RECORDS
The AOT's record of the name of this prisoner for this image is "Thomas Owens" and not "Howard White". The police record for Owens on discharge indicates yet another alias, Michael Foxley. The man pictured here is likely to be the prisoner by the name of Thomas Owens per Gilmore 1who was discharged between 27th September and October 1st, 1873, aged 62 years. As was standard judicial practice, Nevin registered his photo of Owens for the Hobart Supreme Court and included a further duplicate in the Town Hall Municipal Police Photo Books on the prisoner's discharge from the Hobart Gaol. When he was discharged, Owens returned to Launceston where he died a few months later of heart disease, on 21 February 1874.



But by the 21st February, 1874, Owens was dead; he had died of heart disease, aged 64 years.



Inquest on the death of Thomas Owens at Launceston, 21 Feb 1874.

Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1875. J. Barnard Gov't Printer.