Masterbilt Shotgun Houses

Scholars like Jay Edwards of Louisiana State University and John Michael Vlach of George Washington University have long made a convincing case that the long, narrow form of what we now call the shotgun house came to the United States through New Orleans via Africa and Haiti, making it the country’s one, true African American architectural form. But as you can see in the advertisement below, published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, by the twentieth century, the shotgun–scaled down and without the decorative ornament commonly seen on New Orleans shotguns–was marketed to planters, a class that was by that time almost all white, as cheap and easily moveable housing for their mostly black tenant workers.

Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 12, 1920

Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 12, 1920

Note also the comment that Masterbilt was clearing out the shotguns to be replaced by their “bungalow business.” As we saw earlier this year, Hattiesburg’s Gordon Van-Tine mill put out a catalog in 1922 that was full of “bungalow business,” although they still had one lingering shotgun tacked on at the end. These were the two pages Gordon Van-Tine dedicated to tenant and worker housing.

gordon-van-tine-tenants1

gordon-van-tine-tenants2

See more of Gordon Van-Tine’s 1922 catalog . . .



Categories: Architectural Research, Vernacular Architecture

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3 replies

  1. No. 1105 looks to be the model the King was begot in.

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  2. From my memories and experiences in Hattiesburg I can recall an event that happened sometime between 1946 and 1949 at the former commercial “livestock yard” located on River Avenue which at that time was “Uptown.” My mother lived on River Avenue and attended Eaton School as a pre-teen. Years later my mother occasionally had need for services of a maid during canning season and had employed a black lady(Fannie) who lived on the livestock yard location. One can still see the “hump” on River avenue where the road bed for the railroad spur crossed into the stockyard. I remember my mother driving down to Fannie’s house after a storm–tornado or hurricane– to deliver canned goods and clothing. Fannie was sitting atop personal goods that she had salvaged from the storm. Her damaged house was one of several in a row of what we are are describing as shotgun-style construction. I remember my mother saying after the storm that some of the victims there had died of internal injuries weeks later . Pure speculation, but I suspect these tenant houses were for workers at the slaughter houses; there was no reason that shotgun-style houses would be built “Uptown.”
    I learned from internet searches that the slaughter house complex–Central Packing Co.–had been built in the 1930s by a Mr. Beasley and that it was purchased in 1951 by Merchants Co., a food broker that is still operating in Hattiesburg. In 1961, after the river flooding onRiver Avenue and the stockyard, a fire and explosion destroyed the slaughter house. Merchants Co. rebuilt the complex in 1962 and it became Pine Burr Packing Co.
    I suspect, that as you pore over the issues of the Hattiesburg-American, you will find reports on these events. Or maybe Merchants company has archival material that they will share which would corroborate my “memories” and speculation. The local Calico Antique Mall is the former location of the Armour(Swift?) Meat Packing Company cold storage facility which most likely processed the meats for rail shipment.

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