Friday, September 18, 2009

Apprentices: The Good, The Bad and The Careless


Above: the Elwick Racecourse photo, "stolen" by Alfred Winter's apprentice Frank Miller 1877.

Courtesy State Library of Tasmania
Title: Grand Stand Elwick
In:Self album No. 13
Publisher:Hobart, Tas. :[s.n.], 1878
Description:1 photographic print : sepia toned ; 11 x 16 cm.
Format: [picture]. Photograph
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
Notes: Exact measurements 102 x 155 mm
Lower left hand corner: A. Winter photo, Hobart Town.

Commercial photographer Alfred Winter (1837-1911) was fond of fashionable society and grand landscapes. On Saturdays and Sundays he would travel to beauty spots with his apprentice, Frank Miller, who had a prison record, and who ended up in Detective Connor's custody for the appropriation of Winter's photographs, valued at 6 shillings:

Alfred Winter's apprentice arrested for appropriation of goods
The Mercury 19 October 1877

Undoubtedly, this was a copycat theft of the very serious theft by Joshua Anson from his employer Henry Hall Baily earlier in the same year, 1877 (see below, and this article here).

One of the photographs in question was the one above, of the Elwick Racecourse.

The case of theft was dismissed by the judge because there was no positive evidence that Alfred Winter had lost any photographic views that had not been gifts to his apprentice. With the exception of Mr Needham at the Government Printing Office where the apprentice had taken some of Winter's landscapes - Alfred Winter held a commission with the Land and Works Department, hence his stamp in later years "By Appointment to His Excellency The Governor" - no other witness deposed in Winter's favour, despite claims that the apprentice had obliterated his employer's mark from the versos. In the months following, The Mercury reported continual harassment of Winter as he walked about the streets of Hobart by gangs of boys who knew of the charge.

The case against Winter's apprentice was dismissed
The Mercury, 25 October 1877

Click on images for readable version


Thomas Nevin's young apprentice William Ross was 15 years old when he was arrested in Glenorchy for driving a vehicle without lights and incarcerated for seven (7) days:

William Ross was discharged 26 April 1873
Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police

This apprentice had no previous conviction, he was "free" and Tasmanian born, yet his carelessness in driving (a horse and buggy?) one night without carriage lights earned him a criminal record. This photograph bearing Nevin's government stamp is possibly a portrait of his young apprentice William Ross (wearing Nevin's suit!).

A selection of Nevin's commercial and government studio stamps 1865-1880

Thomas Nevin had also served an apprenticeship with photographers Alfred Bock and Samuel Clifford from 1862-1865. From Alfred Bock he learnt studio portraiture and hand-tinting techniques. From Samuel Clifford, whose friendship endured for the next 30 years, he learnt stereography. On Alfred Bock's insolvency and departure for Victoria, Thomas Nevin formed a partnership with Robert Smith at Bock's former studio, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, operating with the business name Nevin & Smith under the same studio name, The City Photographic Establishment. When the partnership with Robert Smith was dissolved in early 1868, Thomas Nevin took on apprentices, notably his younger brother Jack (William John) who maintained their studio in New Town into the 1880s, and who acted as his brother's assistant at the Hobart Gaol during the commission Thomas Nevin held for the photographic documentation of prisoner records, eventually becoming the principal photographer there from ca. 1880.

By 1872, less than a year after his marriage to Elizabeth Rachel Day and the birth of their first child, daughter May Florence, Thomas Nevin and his young family resided at 138 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, next door to the studio. Between the studio and the residence at 140 Elizabeth Street was the glass house with a residence attached, listed in The Hobart Town Gazette of 1872 with the address 138-and-a-half - 138½ Elizabeth Street, and tenanted by Nevin's young apprentice William Ross. The glass house was built by Alfred Bock and Nevin in the 1860s, and was eventually sold to photographer Stephen Spurling elder at the end of 1874 while Nevin concentrated on working in situ with the police. Spurling auctioned it when declared bankrupt one year later in November 1875:

Stephen Spurling elder, bankrupt, sale of photographer's glass houseThe Mercury 29 November 1875

As Nevin's work with the Municipal Police Office at the Town Hall, with the New Town Territorial Police, and with the Sheriff at the Hobart Gaol became the primary focus of his photographic activities in 1874 and 1875, the Nevins prepared for a move to the Town Hall, where Nevin would continue as Office Keeper for the City Corporation, and take up tenancy as the Town Hall Keeper. The property incorporating the studio, the residence, and the glasshouse area tenanted by Nevin, his family and his apprentice William Ross was advertised for sale. Its owner, Abraham Biggs, resided in Victoria.

Until recently, the site of the glasshouse was just a laneway between 138 and 140 Elizabeth St.

138  and 140 (laneway) Elizabeth St. Hobart, in 2005. Former studios of Alfred Bock (1857-1865) and Thomas Nevin (1865-1876) Photo KLW NFC Collection 2005.

138 and 140 and 138½, the laneway, Elizabeth St. Hobart, in 2005. Former studios of Alfred Bock (1857-1865) and Thomas Nevin (1865-1876).

Photo KLW NFC Collection 2005.

138 Elizabeth St, Hobart, in 2007. Dwelling and shop of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin 1872-6. Photo copyright KLW NFC 2007

138 Elizabeth St, Hobart, in 2007. Dwelling, studio and shop of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin 1865-76.

Photo copyright KLW NFC 2007.

The laneway between 138 and 140 Elizabeth St, which used to be Alfred Bock's glasshouse

The laneway is now spanned by a new glass-fronted office building (2008).
Photos KLW NFC 2005-2009 ARR

For Sale: the studio and residence(s) at 140 Elizabeth St, Hobart
The Mercury, 16 December 1874


The most infamous of photographers' apprentices in 1870s Hobart was Joshua Anson. He stole cameras, photographic equipment, mounts, chemicals and albums from his employer Henry Hall Baily over five years between 1872 and 1877. He ordered the importation of glass negatives and mounts from London and Paris on Baily's account and without Baily's consent. He also reprinted albums by Samuel Clifford as his own work. The value placed on the goods far exceeded the court valuation of 180 pounds. Chief Justice Francis Smith informed the jury that theft on this scale warranted a sentence of 14 years. The Law Digest (1897) recorded the event with the normative 14 year sentence, and the refusal of bail. Anson was sentenced to just two years because he was young, 22 years old at the time of the trial in June 1877, and pleaded to be kept apart from the others prisoners on incarceration because he felt he was above them. Further details of the case are here on this site.

Digest of cases decided in Tasmania, 1856-1896 (1897)
Author: Hore, Leslie Fraser Standish, 1870-;
Southern Law society of Tasmania,
Hobart; Tasmania. Supreme Court
Subject: Law reports, digests, etc
Publisher: Hobart, Tasmania, Cox & co., printers
Year: 1897

The Launceston Examiner reported another theft by Joshua Anson on 30 May, 1896.

HOBART, Friday
At the City Court to-day Joshua Anson, photographer, was charged with having robbed Charles Perkins of £32 12s5d. Accused, who was not represented by counsel, stated he had had two epileptic fits since he was arrested, and his head was not now clear. He asked for a remand. After the evidence of the prosecution had been taken, the accused was remanded till Tuesday.
Beautiful spring-like weather is prevailing.

"Tea and sugar Tommy" Chapman