Thursday, June 28, 2007

At Lady Franklin's Museum, Kangaroo Valley

Group on the steps of Lady Franklin's Museum, Ancanthe, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart.
Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1868
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.34

Verso: Group on the steps of the Lady Franklin Museum, Ancanthe, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart.
Stereograph by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1868
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.34

Another print from Nevin's negative is held in Special Collections, University of Tasmania Library.

Group at the Lady Franklin Museum Kangaroo Valley (Tas)
Stereograph c.a. 1871 by Thomas J. Nevin
Royal Society ePrints University of Tasmania No. 18-9

This scan of the same photograph from a book publication by Dan Sprod answers the description of a Thomas Nevin stereograph of a group at the Franklin Museum, Ancanthe (known later as Lady Franklin’s Museum), Kangaroo Valley, listed in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collections. The Nevin farm and orchards adjoined the museum which housed a library and natural specimens in the 1850s when Thomas Nevin’s father John Nevin built their cottage further up the hill. Close by were the schoolhouse and Wesleyan Chapel.

TMAG Catalogue (text database):
Ref: Q1994.56.34
ITEM NAME: Photograph:
MEDIUM: sepia salt paper stereoscope,
MAKER: T Nevin [Artist];
TITLE: 'Lady Franklin's Museum, Kangaroo Valley'
DATE: 1870c
DESCRIPTION : Group of people at Lady Franklin's Museum, Kangaroo Valley
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: On back in pencil: Mrs A Pedder / and in different hand Lady Franklin's Museum/ KangarooValley and in different hand again best picture.

Scanned from:
Victorian and Edwardian Hobart from old photographs / [compiled by] Dan Sprod.
Publisher: St. Ives, N.S.W. : John Ferguson, 1977.
Description: 1 vol.
ISBN: 0909134065 :
Notes: Hobart. Social life, 1850-1910. Illustrations (ANB/PRECIS SIN 0152382)
Subjects: Hobart (Tas.)--History--Pictorial works.
Hobart (Tas.)--Social life and customs--Pictorial works.
Other Authors: Sprod, Dan, 1924-, comp.
Bib ID: 2222496

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Harrisson Collection: three studio stamps

Private collector and professional photographer Geoff Harrisson kindly forwarded these six scans of studio portraits by Thomas J . Nevin, each bearing verso a different inscription or stamp.

Scans © The Private Collection of C. G. Harrisson 2006. ARR.

These are three examples of the seven studio stamps and inscriptions used by Thomas Nevin between ca. 1867 and 1876. Other examples can be found on the mounts and versos of stereographs and cartes held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the State Library of NSW, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the State Library of Victoria, and the National Library New Zealand, in addition to private collections.

"Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town" is a hand-written inscription that appears on several studio portraits in private and public collections. More examples are held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and in the private collection of John McCullagh. Thomas Nevin and Samuel Clifford were close friends and business partners from the 1860s until Samuel Clifford's death in 1890. The Mercury reported on their tour around Tasmania and arrival in the town of Bothwell in a long account of a Templars meeting, published on 26 September, 1874. They printed each other's stereographs in the 1860s. Clifford acquired Nevin's commercial negatives in 1876.

"T. J. Nevin, Photographic Artist, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town" includes the middle initial "J" (James) and the Royal Arms insignia of lion and unicorn rampant used by the Police Office, the Prisons Department and Supreme Court of the Tasmanian Government. The stamp was designed by the government printer James Barnard for use on the versos of Nevin's nominal trade samples of prisoner identification photographs submitted for tender under contract as prisons and police photographer while still operating as a commercial photographer, dating from early 1873 to 1876. Once Nevin joined the Municipal Police Office and City Corporation at the Hobart Town Hall as a full time civil servant, the use of this stamp was unnecessary.

"T. Nevin, late A. Bock, City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town" is a variation and elaboration of Alfred Bock's stamp whose studio and stock Nevin acquired in 1867. It also appears on studio portraits taken between 1868 and 1876.

Seated woman at the distinctive studio table, with tinted flowers
Verso stamped "T.Nevin late A. Bock"

Seated man with boater, possibly taken on Regatta Day.
Verso stamped with the official Royal Arms insignia and "T. J. Nevin Photographic Artist"

Teenage girl standing, holding a green and red tinted sprig (of holly), possibly taken at Christmas.
Verso inscribed "Clifford  & Nevin, Hobart Town"

Many thanks to Geoff Harrisson
© The Private Collection of C. G. Harrisson 2006. ARR.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rocking Stone Parties on kunanyi/Mount Wellington

The Rocking Stone on Mount Wellington was an essential landmark for visitors to Hobart, Tasmania. The mountain was known locally in the mid 19th century as the "Hero" (1865, A Lady's Trip to Tasmania, see transcript below). Today it is also known by the Aboriginal word "kunanyi".

Thomas J. Nevin submitted this stereograph in the Wellington Park Exhibition of 1870.

Group at the Rocking Stone, kunanyi/Mt. Wellington.
Stereograph on buff mount
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.4.
Exhibited at the Wellington Park Exhibition 1870.

This is one of fifty or more stereographs by Thomas J. Nevin held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.  The same image is attributed to Thomas Nevin but was catalogued differently in the TMAG's database in 2006, viz:

Ref: Q16826.4
ITEM NAME: photograph:
MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope,
MAKER: T Nevin ? [Artist];
TITLE: 'A Party at the Rocking Stone, Mount Wellington'
DATE: 1870s
DESCRIPTION : A group of people at the Rocking Stone on Mt. Wellington. Consists of 4 men and three women.The two women sitting on the ground in front of the rock appear to be sisters

The "sisters" noted by the cataloguist here were probably the daughters of Captain Day - Elizabeth Rachel Day who married Thomas Nevin in 1871, and her sister Mary Sophia Day who married Hector Axup in 1878. Another group was photographed by Nevin's friend and partner Samuel Clifford a few years earlier:

The Rocking Stone
Publication Information:ca. 1860.
Physical description:1 stereoscopic pair of photographs : sepia toned ; 8 x 8 cm. each, on mount 9 x 18 cm.
Series:Views in Tasmania
Format:photograph image (online)
Notes: Label on verso reads: Views in Tasmania. Curiosities of Mount Wellington. S. Clifford, photographer, Hobart Town ; inscribed below label in ink: The Rocking Stone.
Title inscribed in ink on centre of verso ; no. 115 inscribed in ink lower left of verso.
Date and accession number in pencil upper right corner of verso.
Exact size 74 x 73 mm. each, on mount 86 x 175 mm.
Citation: Digitised item from: W.L. Crowther Library, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

The tall man with the stick on the viewer's left  was possibly Mr. Woods who lived half way up kunanyi/Mount Wellington at the Springs with his wife, son and daughter, and acted as a guide for visitors to the mountain. They provided food and water as well, according to the visitor's account below:
The old man & woman who reside at the hut supply visitors with implements and cook what provender they may take with them for which 1/- per head is generally presented to them. We arrived there at 1/2 past eight & were glad to sit down to an excellent breakfast of cold lamb and coffee. We also enjoyed a draught of the cold crystal water from the murmuring spring....
This visitor to Tasmania from NSW in 1865 recounted her walk up kunanyi/Mount Wellington in a diary in which she had pasted photographs by Samuel Clifford, now held at the State Library of NSW:


A Lady's Trip to Tasmania by M. Swyny
On the 10th of January I ascended Mount Wellington with a small party of friends, 2 ladies and 4 gentlemen. We set of at 6 in the morning & drove to the foot of the mountain. The sky was clear & the bright sun-shine & fresh breeze invigorated us all on our toilsome ascent. The path is narrow & very steep, it is said the slope is at an angle of 45 degrees. It is covered with loose flat stones as

[page 21]

if flags had been broken up and thrown pell-mell over it; in some places it was not improved by being very sloppy. Our progress was slow as we required to stop frequently to take breath & to rest, and like Mr David Price in Ingoldsby "we paused and looked down on the valley below". The Captain of the party pushed forward to the hut at a place called the Springs to have breakfast prepared for us. The water flows down the mountain to the city. It is conveyed by a channel cut in the earth (about three feet wide). The old man & woman who reside at the hut supply visitors with implements and cook what provender they may take with them for which 1/- per head is generally presented to them. We arrived there at 1/2 past eight & were glad to sit down to an excellent breakfast of cold lamb and coffee. We also enjoyed a draught of the cold crystal water from the murmuring spring. At a little before ten we again sett off staff in

[page 22]

in hand for the top of the mount. At first a little level ground was our path but soon the steep and rugged way obliged us to rest; but the prospect repaid our toil for at each succeeding halt some new beauties were revealed to our view. The last ascent is more steep than the rest and is locally known by an expressive but inelegant nickname. Here we rested about 10 minutes & listened to a very beautiful echo. Some children were coming up the path singing one of the Christy's songs, and for a moment the last notes were repeated with much clearness. One of our party called out "Wellington" which was distinctly repeated once & some words answered twice. Our next exploit was to cross the "Ploughed Field"; a very odd name for a mass of confusion. It consists of large stones but to clear head and firm foot they do not present any great difficulty and we all agreed

[page 23]

that we would much rather traverse them than climb the last hill. We again rested when we had crossed this chaos & then pushed on over rugged ground with stones of all sizes and shapes from 6 or 8 feet in height to those of as many inches, interspersed with tufts of stunted, withered, grass and some bright flowers, which were but a few as the spring time was past. After more than a mile's walk we reached the Pinnacle at 10 minutes past twelve. This is the most elevated point of the mount and a sort of casing of wood has been placed round the rough stones, up which we climbed & sat on the top & beheld one of the most lovely prospects in the world. There was neither mist nor cloud to overshadow the panorama of a hundred miles. To the left were dark mountains and Adamson's Peak capped with snow. The Huon river like a blue ribbon winding its way though

[page 24]

the dark trees. The Ocean and the entrance to the Derwent were clearly visible as well as Bruin Island and Dentrecasteaux Channel . All the windings of the Derwent with its many white beaches & its sapphire waters from Storm Bay to New Norfolk were laid out before us like a beautiful picture. The city of Hobart was at our feet the streets and buildings well defined & the reservoirs looking like small blue lakes. The Public Gardens could be seen marked out like a plan. Having refreshed ourselves with a slight repast we had brought with us we descended gathering ferns and flowers on our way and reached the Hut about 4 o'clock . We made an excellent tea after which we sat outside the door taking a good rest before we attacked the last stage of our journey. The Captain of the party wrote our names in the book & when the old man heard that one of us was from N.S.Wales he began to ask

[page 25]

some questions about a family he had been coachman to some 37 years ago asking how Master Robert and Master George were regardless of the lapse of time which had made the young men he had left grey headed fathers. We passed down the path at a more rapid rate than we had ascended but still found our long staves very useful to steady us. When we reached the foot we went along a new road that is being made to the Huon and obtained several fossils from the cutting. We were delighted to see the carriage and drove home unconscious of the flowers we had all wreathed around our hats. A warm bath concluded the day & ten o'clock found us sleeping. It is not considered safe to ascend the mountain without a little brandy as sometimes a faintness comes over those who are not very strong & they would not be able to proceed without the aid of a stimulant. There

[page 26]

is only one habitation and that not far up the mountain. Last year an invalid Doctor from India went up with a party of gentlemen. He was too much fatigued after reaching the summit of the last hill to proceed any further. His friends left him to rest while they went on to the Pinnacle. When they returned they were dismayed to find the Doctor had left his resting place. They searched that evening in vain but returned in the morning to find him dead. He was sitting upright against a rock not very far from where they had left him. The event created a great sensation. In his pocket were found the portrait and letters of a lady to whom he was to have been married. "Truth is strange, stranger than fiction". There is a great extent of ground on the top of the mountain where people often have been lost for a time. Lately some land marks have been placed as

[page 27]

guides in the confusion. Some long poles have been set up to shew the track over the Ploughed Field & small stones piled one on another at short intervals direct the way to the Pinnacle.

State Library of NSW
Call Number: MLMSS 588
1865-1866; 'A Lady's Trip to Tasmania', being an account of a holiday trip, Dec. 1865 to Jan. 1866. Author unknown, presumed a member of the Swyny family. The account includes copies of photographs of Hobart by Samuel Clifford (Call No.: MLMSS 588/item 1)

Thomas Nevin on kunanyi/Mount Wellington
These stereographs taken by Thomas J. Nevin, late 1860s, on and around the summit of kunanyi/Mount Wellington are sourced from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (2015).

Snow on kunanyi/Mt Wellington "Plough Field"
Stereograph on buff mount 
Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.16. Verso below.

A group at the Beacon Light, kunanyi/Mt. Wellington
Stereograph on buff mount 
Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: 1994.56.29. Verso below.

A large party sitting atop the Beacon Light, kunanyi/Mt. Wellington
Stereograph on buff mount 
Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: Q16826.7. Verso below.

A group at the Rocking Stone, kunanyi/Mt. Wellington. 
Stereograph on buff mount 
Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.4. Verso below.

Three men sitting on boulders, kunanyi/Mt. Wellington
Stereograph on buff mount 
Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: Q16826.32. Verso below.

Ferns covered in snow, kunanyi/Mt. Wellington
Stereograph on buff mount 
Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: Q16826.31.1. Verso below.

[Above] A selection of stereographs taken by Thomas J. Nevin, late 1860s, on and around the summit of kunanyi/Mount Wellington. From the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection 2015

Samuel Clifford: footsore on Mt Wellington 1865
Thomas Nevin's close friend and colleague Samuel Clifford made a photographic excursion to the Falls (Springs) half way up kunanyi/Mount Wellington on February 9th, 1865, and regretted he had not worn the appropriate foot wear. This is his note left in the Visitors' book:

Visitors Book: kunanyi/Mount Wellington
Item Number: NS4160/1/1
Description: Vistors Book
Further Description:
Start Date: 04 Dec 1860
End Date: 31 Oct 1865
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

February 9th
S. Clifford          Hobart Town
G. Wittington     Port Arthur
H. Ballantyne     Hobart Town
Visited the Falls on a Photographic Excursion, consider our trip amply repaid by the splendid scenery but regret the Gentlemen in the preceding pages [did not leave his address =  struck through] who made the journey to the Falls and back again in 2½ hours did not leave address that we might have obtained the name of his Boot maker. -
This is place where the guide to the mountain Mr. Woods and his family resided and where the visitors to the Falls signed the Visitor's Book, photographed by Samuel Clifford on this visit or later, reprinted with the date  ca. 1873. A photograph of Samuel Clifford on kunanyi/Mt. Wellington also survives, taken by another photographer, probably Nevin.

Archives Office Tasmania
Huts at the Springs on kunanyi/Mt Wellington [ca. 1873]
Physical description: 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 11 x 19 cm.
Notes: Title inscribed in ink below image ; date noted in pencil at lower right of image on album page ; item number noted in ink at centre left of image on album page.
Exact size 105 x 184 mm. "Tasmanian scenes" also known as "Clifford album 1".

kunanyi/Mount Wellington with the Derwent Entertainment Centre foreground, taken from the River Derwent. Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2015 ARR.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thomas Nevin's funeral notice 1923

Thomas Nevin's funeral notice appeared in The Mercury 12th March 1923. This record also omits the middle initial "J" in his name which appeared on his government contractor stamp enclosed by the Royal Arms insignia. He was buried at the Cornelian Bay cemetery, now called the Southern Regional Cemetery Trust

The cemetery records show these details:
Southern Regional Cemetery Trust
Brief Record Details
First names : Thomas
Surname : NEVIN
Age : 80
Date of death :
Service type : Burial
Service date : 12-Mar-1923
Last residence : HOBART
Grave location -
Cemetery : Cornelian Bay
Area or denomination : Church of England
Section : DD
Site number : Number 277,

Thomas James Nevin (1842-1923) was buried with the rank of "photographer", address given, Elizabeth St. Hobart, Tasmania.

Hobart Public Cemetery
No. 3422 (Schedule C.)
Answers to be written opposite to the following Questions at the time of giving Orders
1. What denomination? Ch of England and
2. Name of deceased? Thomas Nevin
3. Late Residence of deceased? Photographer
4. Rank of deceased? Elizabeth St
5. Age of deceased? 80 years ...months...days
6. Where born? Ireland
7. Minister to officiate? Rev Summers[?]
8. Day of funeral/ 12th March 23
9. What Hour? 9.30 o'clock am
10. No. of Grave on plan issued? No. 277 Compartment DD
11. If a public grave?
12. If a private grave, what width? Yes feet
13. " " length? 8 x 4 feet
14. What depth?
15. If first or second interment? ...feet
16. Nature of disease, or supposed cause of death? ....
CLARK BROS [stamp]
Signature of William Clark
Representative or Undertaker
Order received this ... day of ... 19
at ... o'clock
£. s. d
Interment in Public Grave ...
Land for Private Grave, 8ft x 4 ft 5: 4: 0
Sinking 6½ feet, or re-opening .. 1: 15: 0
Label .....: 2: 6
Certificate of Right of Burial ... : 12 6
Permission to erect Monument : 10 0
£6: 4: 0

Photographer Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1876
Photographed in the city studio standing next to his big box table top stereoscope viewer.
Copyright © The Private Collection of Denis Shelverton 2007 ARR.

Click here for key chronology 1842-1923

Marcel Safier Collection

This Thomas Nevin studio portrait of a woman with umbrella and bag, ca. 1871, gives a clear view of his studio decor at that time - the lozenge-patterned carpet, the low easy chair covered with a shiny material, the table with griffin-shaped legs, and the wall hanging. Thomas Nevin did not include the middle initial "J" in his stamp on the verso of these earlier 1870s cartes; "T.J. Nevin" was printed on  his later studio stamps bearing the Royal Arms government insignia from late 1872 by the government printer James Barnard.

Scans courtesy © The Private Collection of Marcel Safier 2005 ARR.

NOTES Courtesy of owner Marcel Safier:

Subject: (woman with bag and umbrella) not known.
Provenance: "It came in an album I bought from a Tasmanian dealer at a Sydney collector's fair in 2001. The pencil numbering on the rear is my own cataloguing system." 
Size: "The mount is 64mm x 102mm ... It very closely resembles the mounts used by Bock previously."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Alfred Bock's stock-in-trade

Alfred Bock (b.1835 -d. 1920) inherited his father Thomas Bock's daguerreotype establishment at 22 Campbell Street Hobart Town in April 1855 and announced his own photographic business.

Advertisements: Alfred Bock at Campbell Street
Source: Colonial Times, 5th April 1855

By July 1855 he had moved to Elliston's premises at 78 Liverpool Street, formerly occupied by the photographers Duryea and McDonald where he built a "Crystal Palace" studio and purchased photographic equipment from Ross of London. Financial difficulties ensued, and Bock moved several times.

Alfred Bock's studio stamp 1860s
From © The Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2005-2007 ARR.

In 1857 Alfred Bock was at 18 Macquarie Street. But on 6th February, 1858, he was insolvent. Later that year, Bock re-established himself at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town - a business he called The City Photographic Establishment - and stayed there until 1865 when he was again declared insolvent. Thomas Nevin acquired Bock's studio lease, glass house, and stock-in- trade at the auction which was held on the studio premises, August 2, 1865 by Bock's assignee John Milward:
Stock-in-Trade of a Photographer, comprising - Instruments, Chemicals, Background, accessories, chairs, tables, pedestals, vases, and many other necessary articles for taking photographic portraits etc .... A large and exceedingly well furnished glass house, 22 feet by 8 feet with dark room attached .... A few choice oil paintings in gilt frames, show cases, and photographs and a small collection of books.
Source: Joan Kerr (ed) Dictionary of Australian Artists ... to 1870 (MUP, 1992, p.68)

Thomas Nevin acquired the dwelling at 138 Elizabeth St and the lease of the studio at 140 Elizabeth Street Hobart from Abraham Biggs (Victoria), and retained the business name when he took over The City Photographic Establishment from Bock in 1865.

Alfred Bock's design for his own studio stamp was used by Thomas Nevin for commercial studio portraits with some minor alterations and additions into the mid-1870s:

Verso of T. J. Nevin's portrait of the Hon. W.R. Giblin 1872-1876.  
Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: NS1013/1971

Thomas Nevin probably acquired Bock's photographic equipment, "instruments" and chemicals along with the transfer of the lease. Some of the portraits listed at the auction may be those now held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery of Sarah and Thomas Crouch. Some of the larger items, such as the carpet, the table with griffin-shaped legs, the low chair covered with a shiny material, the curtain, and the painted backdrop of river valley and mountain, can be seen in Nevin's carte-de-visite of an unidentified woman in hat, with handbag and umbrella, which bears his studio name and address on verso (Marcel Safier Collection). These items of furniture were most likely included in the sale of Bock's stock-in-trade.

T. Nevin studio portrait of woman with umbrella
From © The Safier Collection 2005-2007 ARR.

The same backdrop can be seen on the (viewer's) right in a full length studio portrait of Bishop Willson, dated at ca. 1865 and attributed to Charles A. Woolley by the TMAG. It is visible also in an unattributed photograph of Hugh Munro Hull, coroner and Clerk of the House, Tasmanian Parliament.

Charles A. Woolley attributed, Bishop Willson TMAG Collection

With his brother Constable John Nevin, Thomas maintained his photographic studio at New Town where he first began his professional career in 1864. On marriage in July 1871, Thomas moved his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin (nee Day) into the premises at 138 Elizabeth Street next door to the studio. Their first two children were born there: May Florence Elizabeth in 1872, and Thomas James jnr (Sonny) in 1874. By February 1872, Thomas Nevin was working both as a commercial photographer and as government contractor with the Lands and Survey Department and the Municipal Police Office, Hobart City Corporation at the Hobart Town Hall.

In January 1876 the Nevins took up residence at the Hobart Town Hall, the location of the Municipal Police Office and Public Library where Thomas Nevin had been appointed Office and Hall Keeper. His photographic activities now centred on the provision of criminal identification photographs for the Municipal Police Office. He maintained his other studio at New Town, and the studio at 140 Elizabeth Street was retained by a Mr Edward Slide (Hobart Town Gazette 1876). The lease notice appeared in the Mercury on January 8th, 1876:
Thomas Nevin's premises to let
Thomas Nevin's former premises in Upper Elizabeth Street , Hobart town to let.
Source: Mercury 08/01/1876 Page(s): 1, column 7.


Thomas Nevin's studio, Elizabeth St. Hobart.
Stereograph by T. J. Nevin late 1860s.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

G.T. Stilwell's letter to Mrs Shelverton 1977

Preparations began in early 1977 for the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery's exhibition of Thomas J. Nevin's convict photographs conventionally dated 1874 which were (re)discovered among the John Watt Beattie holdings acquired by the QVMAG shortly before Beattie's death in 1930.

Geoff Stilwell

Above: Geoffrey Stilwell
Special Collections Librarian
State Library of Tasmania
Mercury photo

The late Geoffrey Stilwell , curator of Special Collections at the State Library of Tasmania, collected biographical data on Thomas J. Nevin from a diverse range of sources, including information from Mrs Jean Shelverton, a grand-daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin. Mrs Shelverton's mother Mary Ann who was known as Minnie to living descendants, was the second daughter and fifth child (to survive), born to photographer Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin on November 9th, 1884, in Hobart, Tasmania.

GT Stilwell letter 1977

Above: G.T. Stilwell's letter to Mrs Shelverton, 25 February 1977
Click on image for large readable version


Dear Mrs Shelverton

Miss Beatrice Kelly suggested I write to you. I understand from her that you are a descendant of Thomas J. Nevin the photographer who succeeded to Alfred Bock's practice in the late 1860s. The Queen Victoria Museum has a large number of photographs by Nevin of the convicts at Port Arthur taken in the early 'seventies. They are soon to display these and are keen to have biographical information about the photographer. I wonder if you could tell me anything about him such as where he was born and when, when he came to Australia, did he come straight to Tasmania, had he any previous photographic training, where and when and to whom he was married and when and where he died. I am sorry to ask so many questions but there is now a great interest in our early photographers and it is important these details be recorded.

Yours sincerely,
(G.T.S.) initials
G.T. Stilwell

Mrs Shelverton provided information in answer to these questions from documents passed down from Nevin's estate to her mother. However, there were many more documents and photographs from Nevin's estate still lying untouched in trunks, shoe boxes and garages belonging to the descendants of Nevin's other five children who were not aware of the forthcoming exhibition when the State Library began their research in 1977. And there were many more examples of Thomas J. Nevin's "convict portraits" and other photographic work held in public institutions which were yet to be catalogued at the TMAG, AOT, SLTas, SLVic, NLA, Mitchell Library SLNSW etc, apart from private collections.

A summary document was then prepared by the State Library of Tasmania, using information from shipping records held at the Archives office of Tasmania (MB2/98) and Mrs Shelverton's information. The information was not correct in the detail of Nevin's date of death (1923, Southern Regional Cemetery burial records).

Courtesy State Library of Tasmania
G.T. Stilwell files

The handwritten insertion of Thomas Nevin's middle initial "J" (James) appears on this document because the verso of the convict cartes held at the QVMAG are stamped with Nevin's government stamp signifying his joint copyright under tender. The stamp included his vocational designation "T.J. Nevin Photographic Artist" and the Royal Arms insignia, a stamp he was using by February 1873 . Confusion about Nevin the photographer and his son by the same name has arisen in the course of the last thirty years. Thomas and Elizabeth's second child and first-born son, Thomas James Nevin (1874-1948) was born in 1874, the same date which was coincidentally transcribed across the versos of many of Nevin's convict photographs by archivists in the early 1900s. Known as "Sonny" to the family, Thomas J. Nevin jnr did not become a photographer. He was listed as a bootmaker on the 1905 electoral rolls, lived in California with his wife Gertrude Tennyson Bates in the 1920s, and joined the Salvation Army in Hobart sometime in the 1940s.

Nevin photo of convict Smith QVMAG

In April 1977, Geoffrey Stilwell conveyed the biographical information per Mrs Shelverton to the curator of Nevin's convict photographs exhibition at the QVMAG, John McPhee, in this letter:

Above:Letter to John McPhee, curator, QVMAG, 4 April, 1977.
Courtesy State Library of Tasmania


Dear Mr McPhee,

At last I have some biographical details about Thomas Nevin though I am afraid these are somewhat late for your exhibition. These were mainly supplied by his granddaughter Mrs Shelverton.

Thomas Nevin was born on 28 August 1842 near Belfast, Northern Ireland (Mrs S[helverton]). He was the son of Private John Nevin and Mary his wife whom he accompanied on the convict ship Fairlie which arrived at Hobart Town in July 1852. John who was one of the guards of this vessel was also accompanied by his other children Mary A. and Rebecca both under fourteen and Will[iam] J under a year old (MB2/98).

The following marriage notice appeared in the Mercury of 14 July 1871.

NEVIN-DAY – On Wednesday, 12th July, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, by the Rev. J. Hutchison [sic], Thomas, eldest son of Mr. J. Nevin, of Kangaroo Valley, to Elizabeth Rachael, eldest daughter of Captain Day, of Hobart Town.

Kangaroo Valley is now know as Lenah Valley. From about 1876 to 1880 he lived at the Town Hall, Hobart as caretaker. Two of his four sons were born at the Town Hall residence. He had in addition two daughters one of whom was Mrs Shelverton’s mother.*

According to Mrs Shelverton he died about 1922, she is not sure of the date, and was buried at Cornelian Bay. The tombstone has now fallen over.

Yours sincerely,
[signed] G.T. STILWELL
Librarian, Special Collections
This was only the beginning of G.T. Stilwell's research. Later in 1977, two more grand daughters of Thomas Nevin (daughters of his youngest son Albert) visited the exhibition at the QVMAG in Launceston. In 1978, a great grand daughter interviewed G.T. Stilwell at length, providing him with more information including details about photographic items by the firm Nevin & Smith held in family collections. This greatly respected specialist of Tasmanian colonial collections, G.T. Stilwell, had never any doubt about his conviction of Nevin's attribution as the photographer of the convict cartes held at the QVMAG, duplicates of which are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the National Library of Australia, a conviction he later published with Professor Joan Kerr in 1992.

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Updated May 2010

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Clifford & Nevin's cartes: tints versus daubs

The bright touch of colour highlighting the girl's posy or sprig of holly on a sepia toned carte is a common attribute of Thomas Nevin's early portraits of private citizens. Another two portraits with the same red and green sprig show a young man named William Maguire in one (held at the TMAG and State Library of Tasmania)  and in another of a baby stamped verso with Nevin's Royal Arms insiginia (Private Collection of Lucy Bachelor). The verso of this carte of a teenage girl bears the handwritten inscription of "Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town."

Hand coloured carte-de-visite, full length of teenage girl
Clifford and Nevin, ca late 1860s
Copyright © The Private Collection of G.T. Harrisson 2006

Verso of above: Scans courtesy G.T. Harrisson 2006. ARR
Another portrait bearing the same Clifford & Nevin inscription (below) appears on the verso of the heavily tinted carte of a young man standing next to a chair:

Scans courtesy © The Private Collection of John and Robyn McCullagh 2005 ARR

A third cdv bearing the inscription "Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town" is held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. The handwriting, which may well be Thomas Nevin's or Samuel Clifford's, varies slightly from carte to carte.

This example of the handwritten inscription appears on the verso of a carte depicting two men (below) held at the QVMAG and reprinted in Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (TMAG, 1995, page 34). The writer/editor assumed that the subjects in the image were the photographers Samuel Clifford and Thomas Nevin because of the handwritten inscription of their names on the verso, but several cartes with the same inscription are extant, including the one from the McCullagh Collection of the young man with left hand on a kitchen chair. Neither man in this photograph is Nevin or Clifford. The red and violet colouring is abundant, and not the work of either photographer.

Clifford and Nevin Hobart Town signed verso, QVMAG Collection
These two images may seem to differ in provenance but not in the strange red blobs arranged in vertical lines leading straight from the bottom of the frame and up the carpet, defying conventional perspective. Both probably originated from the same family in northern Tasmania, both daubed by the same person. This one of the two men was purchased by The QVMAG in 1978. The cdv of the young man with his hand on a kitchen chair belongs to a northern Tasmanian private collector.

None of the men pictured is Thomas Nevin or his brother Jack Nevin or his father John Nevin. None of these cartes was ever held in Nevin Family Collections, and none was coloured in this way by Nevin or any of his family. The cdv of the two men was recently exhibited at the QVMAG and published in the catalogue The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania (John McPhee 2007).

Page 63, cdv of two men with Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town handwritten on verso,
exhibited at the QVMAG, The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania,
November 2007-March 2008.

Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

Page 62 - the text accompanying the photograph in the exhibition catalogue
The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania
(McPhee, QVMAG 2007).

The first paragraph in the accompanying text gives no factual information. The identities of the men may be unknown, but the tall man standing in the carte on the left closely resembles an officer at Port Arthur and member of the officers' cricket team, photographed by Alfred Bock ca 1860 when Thomas Nevin was serving his apprenticeship with Bock. If so, Nevin's association with Samuel Clifford would also date to the early sixties, and place him with Clifford at Port Arthur ca. 1865 or earlier. Several stereographs of the buildings there are dated to ca 1865 with Clifford's attribution (SLTas). Nevin's skills in stereographic production were certainly learnt from Clifford rather than from Bock.

The third paragraph too assumes the relationship with Samuel Clifford was brief and transitory and dated at 1870, which was not the case. When Thomas Nevin advertised his retirement from commercial photography (to take up his appointment as a civil servant whose duties included rendering photographic services at the Town Hall and Police Office) in The Mercury 17th January, 1876, Samuel Clifford announced in the same advertisement that he had acquired Nevin's negatives and would reprint them on request. Clifford had not ceased practice in 1873, therefore, as most commentators have assumed, and many extant prints with Samuel Clifford's stamp or attribution are likely to be reprints from Nevin's negatives. When Clifford sold his stock to the Anson brothers in 1878, they reprinted the negatives of both Nevin and Clifford, and those same negatives were reprinted again when John Watt Beattie acquired the Anson brothers studio in 1892.

Above: Samuel Clifford's advertisement in The Mercury. January 17th 1876, advising he had acquired Nevin's negatives.

The second paragraph assumes the colouring to be the work of the studio colourist, which was not the case. The colouring was done after the purchase of the carte by a family, probably by a child, and not by either photographer's studio. What has happened here is the inclusion of this carte into a category devised by the exhibition curator called The Photographer's Studio (p.54 of the catalogue), where all other items in the category are deemed to have been coloured before sale. By such means and comparisons the commentary on this one photograph attributed to Clifford and Nevin (p.63) would like to suggest - and not without derision- the childish daubs to be the amateurish work of the junior partner Nevin. The museum's accession records would have shown McPhee that the colouring in this photograph, as in the others listed here which have the same strange daubs, all share provenance from a northern Tasmania family, not related to the photographers, who purchased and then coloured them. This scenario, it seems, never occurred to the exhibitors.

"Tea and sugar Tommy" Chapman