In the 19th Century, they were some of the most notorious names in Australia, feared and revered in equal measure.
So when criminals such as Ned Kelly, ‘Captain Moonlite’ and Daniel ‘Mad Dan’ Morgan were eventually executed for their crimes, it was big news.
But without TV stations and modern-day technology, members of the public would travel to see the dead bodies for themselves, hoping to steal a lock of hair or piece of clothing as a keepsake.
Artists could carve out a living from drawing pictures of the deceased or creating plaster ‘death masks’, while photographers captured shots of the prisoners’ last moments.
Now a collection of these bizarre and macabre mementoes have gone on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
True crime: Bushranger Daniel ‘Mad Dan’ Morgan, who was wanted for theft and murder, pictured after he was shot during a hold-up at Peechelba station, near Wangaratta, Victoria, in April 1865
‘Sideshow Alley’ reveals the various ways in which artists, photographers and entrepreneurs have used Australian convicts and criminals to turn a profit.
Canny publishers made a quick buck trading in salacious prints and penny dreadfuls, which were loosely based on true stories, while waxwork proprietors turned violence, scandal and misfortune into a lucrative art form with bizarre plaster masks of dead criminals.
It also take a look at the public’s insatiable appetite for belongings and images of dangerous rogues, murderers and thieves, with a morbid pastime a trip to the morgue.
Among the assortment of ghoulish objects is infamous Edward ‘Ned Kelly’s ‘death mask’ – a plaster mould of his face taken shortly after he was executed by hanging in 1880.
The oldest sibling of an Irish convict and Australian mother, Ned was just 16 when he was first arrested and sent to prison for three years.
After his release, Ned continued his life of crime and was later outlawed for robberies and attempted murder along with his brother Dan and two associates, Joe Bryne and Steve Hart.
Notorious: Bushranger Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly (pictured left in 1873), was executed by hanging in November 1880 following years on the run. After Kelly’s death, Max Kreitmayer made a plaster mould of his head (right)
Partners in crime: Outlaw Joe Byrne, who was wanted in connection with the murders of three police officers and bank robberies with the Kelly brothers, is pictured hanging from a pulley outside Benalla police station in Victoria the morning after he was killed during a gun battle with police in 1880
The four were eventually trapped at the Jones Hotel in Glenrowan, Victoria, where Byrne, Steve and Dan Kelly were all killed in a shoot-out with police.
The following morning on June 29, 1880, Byrne’s body was hung on a pulley outside Benalla Police Station so photographers could take pictures of the corpse.
These unsettling images, which show children casually standing near the body, also feature in the exhibition.
Ned Kelly was later tried, convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging in November that year.
Another notorious criminal to appear in ‘Sideshow Alley’ is bushranger Daniel ‘Mad Dan’ Morgan who was wanted for highway robberies and murder.
During his years on the run, Morgan acquired a reputation for cruelty, resulting in his nickname ‘Mad Dan’.
Dublin-born pickpocket and burglar John Donohoe, who was believed to be responsible for numerous outrages, murders and robberies, was shot dead by police in September 1830. Soon after, surveyor-general Thomas Mitchell drew this sketch of his body during an inquest
Morbid: Crowds are shown at La Morgue in Paris where members of the public could go to view unidentified bodies in the 19th Century. In Australia, 8000 people are said to have gone to a Melbourne morgue to view an unidentified female body found in a trunk fished out of the Yarra in 1898
So when he was ambushed and shot during a hold-up at Peechelba station, near Wangaratta, Victoria, in early April 1865, scores of people went to witness his slow demise.
A detective at the scene reportedly had to put a stop to the theft of Morgan’s hair by members of the public who wanted a souvenir.
During his slow death, Morgan’s body was photographed, with the grisly image now part of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition.
Other criminals featured include the leader of the Wantabadgery gang of bushrangers Andrew George Scott, aka ‘Captain Moonlite’, and his right-hand man James Nesbitt. Both met untimely ends due to their chosen career path.
Dublin-born pickpocket and burglar John Donohoe, who went on to become the subject of ballads and plays, also appears in sketches drawn soon after he was shot to death in 1930.
But not every criminal met a grisly end. Irish pickpocket George Barrington changed his errant ways after being deported to Sydney in 1790 and ironically became a police constable and upstanding member of society before his death in 1804.
Not everyone met a grisly end: Irish pickpocket George Barrington, who was deported to Sydney in 1790, changed his ways after arriving in Australia and ironically became a police constable before his death in 1804
The ‘Sideshow Alley‘ exhibition runs at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra until February 28, 2016.