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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Slabtown: 1864

Slabtown: 1864

December 1864. "Slabtown. Hampton, Virginia." One of two views of Hampton's slave refugee camps built during the Civil War. The dooryards and various blurry figures moving about in this broken glass negative afford a rare glimpse of life in the mid-19th century. Photographer unknown. View full size.

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The Cummings and their window

I also wonder who had the fancy establishment with the upscale window and that sign. They must have been a business to want the name so prominently, but were they catering to these folks or those who left when their homes were destroyed with the war? The chimneys in that part of town appear to be the ones in the article that were from older buildings, while the one in the foreground looks fresh made from homemade bricks. My guess is Cummings managed to survive the war and their business may have survived as well. Otherwise, people would have taken down the sign and used it for scrap wood.


Some of these buildings bring to mind the expression "They're too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash."

Slabtown history

After Major General Benjamin F. Butler accepted three runaway slaves seeking their freedom under the declaration that they were "contraband of war," two contraband camps were established in Hampton to accommodate the influx of refugees. One was constructed out the entrance to Fort Monroe in Camp Hamilton and became known as Slabtown and another, the Grand Contraband, was established amid Hampton's ruins. The name Slabtown refers to the odds and ends of construction material used to build shanties adjacent to standing chimneys.
-- Hampton Visitors Bureau


I think I see a rooster! Or a hen. Under the blurry laundry on the line next to a little hut or shack or whatever.

Thank you for these

Thank you for these particular set of photos; they are fascinating, like stepping into the past. It must have been a windy day as the laundry on lines is moving, but not the pair of long johns on the fence. What do you suppose the fancy establishment with the sign "S Cumming" was?

There it yet waves.

A blurry vision of the 1864 edition of the Star-Spangled Banner, just below the line of the horizon at the far left-hand side of the photograph.

Path View

The concept of a street or a lane seems lost here; more like a maze of houses, yards, gardens. I'd like to see GPS handle this! "Open fence. Close fence, to keep in chickens. Go past shed. Cross the garden."

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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