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National Museum of Australia

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4

Convict love token from Ed Bowen, 1836

2008.0039.0311

Object information

What

Type

Collection

Dimensions

H 3mm x Dia 36mm

Material

Physical Description

A convict love token made up of a coin engraved on both sides with stippled text and designs. One side features a design of a glass and a bottle on a table with a plant in the centre, above the year '1836'. The other side features the text 'From / ed Bowen / to Marry / Remember / Forget me / not Sept 30 / 1836'. The token has a hole in it, pierced after the engraving was done.

Statement of Significance

The Timothy Millett collection comprises 307 convict love tokens dating from 1762 to 1856, and seven contemporary documents relating to the criminal justice system including: recommendations to commute the death sentences of Hester Sampson and Thomas Hayes to life transportation; a calendar of prisoners awaiting trial in the goals of Durham, Newcastle and Northumberland; a request to the Middlesex assizes for rewards to be paid; a printed copy of George Skene's last speech prior to execution; a printed broadside listing prisoners in Dorchester jail awaiting transportation; and a 60 page handwritten account of the life of Thomas Jones, who was transported twice and finally hanged at Winchester Prison in 1856.

Convict love tokens, typically made from smoothed-down coins and engraved or stippled with a message, derive from traditional sailors' farewells. The production of these 'leaden hearts' rose as criminal indictments increased in Britain, with the majority produced during the 1820s and 1830s. As mementos made by or for convicts facing transportation (or death) to leave behind for their loved ones, the tokens provide a poignant, personal insight into the transportation system.

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