Hamilton (Luther) Photograph Collection PI/1994.0004

The Luther Hamilton Photograph Collection documents the life of a small southern town during the first half of the twentieth century through images of houses, stores, railroad stations, schools, sports teams, street scenes, parades, weddings, and more. A significant portion of the collection deals with agriculture, especially the farming and marketing of tomatoes and cabbage, and agrarian celebrations such as the annual Crystal Springs Tomato Festival.

The nearly 1,000 photographs were taken or collected by Luther Myles Hamilton, Sr., (1869-1944) of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and his son, Luther Myles Hamilton, Jr. (1912-1994). Much of the collection is formal portrait photography taken in the father's studio, and includes town leaders Augustus Lotterhos, "the Father of Crystal Springs," and Bryant Wesley Matthis, "the Cabbage King," as well as people of various ages and races.

One of the earliest prints documents a Flag Day Parade in Crystal Springs in 1901. Of special interest are photographs of an African American café and barber shop, church sanctuaries decorated for special religious observances (baptisms, confirmations, Christmas, and Easter), community events such as Tom Thumb weddings, and the rural customs and traditions of the American South prior to World War II. Later snapshots include Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1934, and scenes from the son's studies at Mississippi State College in Starkville during the late 1930s and 1940s.

Collection Description General & Tech Data Catalog Record

Biographical Information

Luther Myles Hamilton, Sr., was born in Dentville, Mississippi, on March 5, 1869, the son of Benjamin Franklin and Amanda Terry Hamilton of Copiah County. After the death of his father when he was eight, Luther worked in the Mississippi Cotton and Woolen Mills at Wesson, Mississippi. Around 1893 he moved to Winona, Mississippi, to study photography under his uncle, Sterling B. Terry, who operated the Terry Studio. In 1898, Hamilton relocated to Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and operated his own portrait studio out of a tent equipped with a portable darkroom. Hamilton owned the Hamilton Studio in Crystal Springs for forty-six years until his death May 5, 1944.

Hamilton was the official photographer for the Illinois Central Railroad in Copiah County, documenting accidents involving the railroad. Unable to afford a car, he was in the habit of walking many miles around town carrying a forty-pound camera case and tripod and often finding himself on the scene when newsworthy events occurred. Hamilton married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Davidson (1877-1960) of Milan, Tennessee, in February 1899, and they had four children: twin daughters Merle Davidson and Edythe Fortner, daughter Annie Hazel, and son Luther Myles, Jr.

Luther Myles Hamilton, Jr., was born August 19, 1912, the youngest child and only son of Luther Myles Hamilton, Sr., and Elizabeth Davidson Hamilton of Crystal Springs, Mississippi. While in school, he played in the town band and worked at the packing sheds, as a Western Union messenger boy, and as a janitor at the high school. He graduated from Crystal Springs Consolidated High School in 1932. He received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Mississippi State College in 1938 and subsequently went to work for the federal government in the War Department, the Navy, and the Air Force. During World War II he served for two years as a Communication Officer, Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve, and was on duty much of that time in General Douglas MacArthur's Communications Headquarters in Leyte and Manila. Hamilton, Jr., married Josephine (Jo) Morris (1905-1996) of West Point, Mississippi, in 1939. He died January 19, 1994, in Panama City, Florida, before he was able to publish a planned book of his father's photographs of Crystal Springs.

Collection Description

The Luther Hamilton Photograph collection consists of 982 photographs taken or collected by Luther Myles Hamilton, Sr., and Luther Myles Hamilton, Jr. Included in the images are seventy-nine (79) of the father's original glass plate negatives and two hundred eighty-nine (289) of his original prints. The priority of digitization, based on availability, was 1.) glass plates, 2.) original prints, and 3.) contact prints. The collection also includes four (4) picture postcards and two (2) photographs created by other photographic studios.

Image Description

Captions by Luther Hamilton, Jr., appear in quotation marks. Other descriptions were provided by the curator. Images may be accessed through keyword search on the Web site and by subject headings through the MDAH online catalog.


MDAH acquired the collection on July 11, 1994, from Mrs. Luther M. Hamilton, Jr., of Panama City, Florida. The MDAH Archives and Records Services Division's Image and Sound section scanned the photographs in 2009-10, creating preservation-quality TIFF images. These were then converted to Web-friendly JPEG images by the Electronic Archives section and made available online within the MDAH Electronic Archives Graphic User Interface.