Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) Photo Collections...

In January 1901 the state of Mississippi purchased land in Sunflower County for a prison. The Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm or simply Parchman, became the main hub for Mississippi's penal system. Parchman Farm was in many ways reminiscent of a gigantic antebellum plantation and operated on the basis of a plan proposed by Governor John M. Stone in 1896. By 1917, Parchman was separated into twelve male camps and one female camp, and racial segregation was considered of paramount importance.

The convicts worked ten hours a day, six days a week, and slept in long, single-story buildings commonly called "cages" that were constructed of bricks and lumber produced on site. Most male prisoners were employed in farming, but some also worked in the brickyard, sawmill, cotton gin, and prison hospital. The female camp produced clothes and bed sheets for the entire farm. On Sundays, the convicts would attend religious services and often formed baseball games between opposing camps.

Because of the remote location and vast size of Parchman Farm, a sophisticated system of walls and fences was considered unnecessary. Prison officials would employ convicts they considered trustworthy as armed guards. These prisoners were known as "trusty guards" or "trusty shooters" and were separated from the general prison population.

These two photograph collections, designated PI/1996.0006 and PI/PEN/P37.4, showcase photographs taken at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in the early twentieth century. They document Parchman facilities and activities from 1914 to the early 1940s.

Collection Description General & Tech Data

Image Arrangement and Numbering

Within each of the two collections the photographs were maintained in the order in which they were received and assigned consecutive numbers by the curator. In PI/PEN/P37.4 there are several duplicate prints made from the same negatives. The curator selected one representative print from each group of duplicates to be scanned, so there are seventy-five images from eighty-six prints.

Technical Details

The original scans of the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) Photo Collections were made by the Image & Sound Section staff February-May 2008, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees' approved imaging procedures, following ANSI/AIIM recommended practice. The photographs were scanned as 24-bit RGB uncompressed TIFFs at 600 ppi. For Web display, the original scans of the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) Photo Collection were converted to JPEGs by the Electronic Archives Section.


There are no known restrictions on use of images within the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) Photo Collections. MDAH asks that each image used in a presentation, display, or publication be accompanied by the following credit statement:

Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Publicity and Privacy Rights

MDAH alerts the user to the issue of publicity and privacy rights of subjects represented in these scans. Distinct from copyright, which concerns the owner of the intellectual content, publicity and/or privacy rights apply to individuals who did not sign a contract or release form giving the creator the legal right to use his/her likeness or personal information. Publicity and privacy rights also differ from copyright in that there are not exemptions for Fair Use or educational purposes. These rights are not regulated by federal law but by state statute and common law. When using images from this collection it is the patron's responsibility to determine whether privacy and publicity rights issues may exist and consider the mitigating factors.

Copy Availability

High-resolution TIFFs of the images may be purchased from MDAH. The MDAH Public Order procedure and fee schedule apply. Consult the Photoreproduction and Digital Imaging policy or contact MDAH Reference Staff for order options as well as information on how to obtain and complete the necessary Public Order forms: 601-576-6876 or refdesk@mdah.state.ms.us.