I’ve posted before about Suspicious Looking, the exhibition I curated a few years ago at the New Zealand Police Museum on 19th and early 20th century mug shots (see original post here), but after the mug shot of Daniel ‘Lohill’ went viral as the “ridiculously photogenic 19th century NZ criminal” meme, I thought it was worth another mention.
The internet is a funny place, where a petty antipodean criminal from a century ago can suddenly become a minor celebrity overnight. It started last week when Stuff NZ (an online news website operated by Fairfax Media) featured a brief article about the online exhibition, which prompted the mug shot of Daniel to begin trending on reddit and imgur. The photograph was actually mislabeled as Daniel ‘Lohill’ at the time it was taken in 1908; the real name of this handsome rogue is Daniel TOHILL, and he was convicted of theft in Napier, New Zealand and sentenced to 4 months hard labour on March 2, 1908.
Read on for more about Daniel Tohill’s background and crimes….
I planned to write a post to clarify Tohill’s real name and to give some additional background information on this fellow, but Lemuel Lyes on the fabulous History Geek blog beat me to the punch, so I only have a few things to add to his thorough account of Tohill’s crimes. (I also have to applaud Lemuel’s exceptional historical detective skills for managing to figure out that the photograph was mislabeled without having a copy of Daniel Tohill’s criminal record on hand!). Despite the claims of this amusing meme, Tohill was not actually arrested for stealing hearts. As Lemuel mentions, Daniel Tohill was charged with stealing a fur necklet and a bicycle, but was only convicted for the theft of the fur. His mug shot was taken because he had previous theft convictions: he was given a six month sentence for stealing from a railway shed while he was working as a railway porter in Waipawa in 1907, and was fined for stealing two ferrets in Christchurch in 1906.
Daniel Joseph Tohill was born to John & Sarah Ann Tohill in 1881 (and not 1883, as it states on his criminal record) in Ravensbourne, Dunedin. He was the third of EIGHTEEN children (his poor mother simply dropped dead at the age of 45 after running to catch a train…supposedly due to undiagnosed heart disease, but probably because she hadn’t slept in 20 years). In 1903, at the age of 22, he married 20 year old Frances Anna O’Kane in her hometown of Waitahuna. They had three children: a daughter named Frances Mary Veronica in 1904, another daughter named Iris in 1906, and a son Daniel Cyril in 1908. It seems rather funny that his seemingly short-lived crime spurt roughly coincided with the births of his children. Perhaps the family had fallen on hard times and he was doing what he had to do to provide for them…or maybe he saw jail as a welcome break from the stresses of dealing with three little children (in which case MAN UP, your mother had to deal with eighteen of you). The couple apparently weathered the storm though, eventually moving to Auckland by the end of the 1920s, and buying a house together on Tennessee Drive in Mangere in 1944. Daniel and Frances (Sr) both died in 1950, at the ages of 68 and 67, respectively.
My information was gleaned from Daniel Tohill’s criminal record in the mug shot books at the New Zealand Police Museum, New Zealand Births, Marriages and Deaths online, Archives New Zealand, and Papers Past.
I should also note that there was a second Daniel (McErlane) Tohill living in New Zealand at roughly the same time, who was not a criminal and shouldn’t be confused with the Daniel (Joseph) Tohill from the mug shot. Daniel (McErlane) Tohill was born in 1891, and lived in Alexandra, a small town in Central Otago, New Zealand. He married Kathleen Bertha McGinnis in 1925, served in the army during WWI, and worked in Alexandra as a presumably law-abiding laborer until his retirement.
Elsewhere on the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things:
- 19th century mug shots from New Zealand
- E.J. Bellocq and the Storyville prostitutes
- Those backward Victorians
- Three ridiculously interesting photographs
- Bizarre beauty contests
- Last meals of death row convicts