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Convict Love Tokens – Joseph Smyth’s Copper Heart

Convict Love Tokens - Joseph Smyth's Copper Heart - Joy of Museums

Convict Love Tokens – Joseph Smyth’s Copper Heart

“Joseph Smyth’s Copper Heart” is a ‘Convict Love Token’ which is a coin engraved by a convict with details and messages of affection. This example is an etched copper George III halfpenny, with the words:

 “Joseph Smyth / CAST FOR DEATH / 4 July 1817 / Aged 33.”

on the reverse side are the words:

“Mary Ann Smyth / aged 27.”

Smoothing and engraving a coin with a message of affection was one of the few ways a convict could leave a memento behind with loved ones before being transported. These small tokens are also known as ‘leaden hearts’. They record personal and emotional messages from convicts to loved ones.

The tokens often include the names of the convict and their loved one’s name and popular phrases or rhymes. They were frequently engraved around the time of conviction for a prisoner’s loved one. The tokens were engraved or stippled, by making marks with a series of small pinpricks.

Government Records show that Joseph Smyth was tried for burglary in 1817 and sentenced to death. That was when he created this ‘Love Token’. Later his sentence was commuted to ‘Transportation for Life’ to the colony of New South Wales. Smyth was a brickmaker by trade, and on arrival to Sydney in 1915, we may have been involved in building Hyde Park Barracks and later he may have also lived in the barracks.

Government Records also show that his wife was convicted under a similar sentence and was also transported to New South Wales. The records record her name as Maria Smith. The spelling of Smith was interchangeable with Smyth.

Did the Mary mention in the ‘Love Token’ commit a crime to be transported and reunited with Joseph?

Convict Love Tokens – Joseph Smyth’s Copper Heart

  • Title:              Convict Love Tokens – Joseph Smyth’s Copper Heart
  • Date:               1817
  • Medium:        copper George III halfpenny
  • Museum:        Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney

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Photo Credit: JOM