• Press Release

Portsmouth Museums Examines History Of Dry Dock #1 At Norfolk Naval Shipyard


USS DELAWARE, first ship to enter the dry dock at Norfolk, June 17, 1833, Image Courtesy Naval Historical Center

Words and Images Courtesy of the the Portsmouth Museums


[PORTSMOUTH, Virginia, February 4, 2022] – Linda Upham-Bornstein, Ph.D., Teaching Lecturer in History at Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH, will speak about “Engineer Loammi Baldwin, Urban Slavery, and the Construction of Dry Dock #1 at Gosport Shipyard,” as part of the Black History Now! 2022 Series on Saturday, February 19, 2022. This lecture will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the Art Annex of the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, 420 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704. This presentation is free and open to the public.

Portsmouth Museums, History of Dry Dock #1 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
Linda Upham-Bornstein PHD

Dr. Upham-Bornstein’s original paper on the use of enslaved stonecutters to construct the historic dry dock at what is today’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard was published in the journal Labor in 2007 with the title, “Men of Families”: The Intersection of Labor Conflict and Race in the Norfolk Dry Dock Affair, 1829 – 1831.”

In the late 1820s, when Engineer Loammi Baldwin embarked on simultaneous construction of two monumental naval dry docks in Charlestown, MA, and Portsmouth, VA, he faced a common challenge for any government project: staying within budget. In the early 19th century, his choices for cutting expenses included finding ways to pay less for labor. In Massachusetts, he used imprisoned laborers. In Virginia, he hired enslaved stonecutters from their owners.

The protests of white stonecutters led to the conflict Dr. Upham-Bornstein will be discussing. Join us to hear more about this fascinating time period of American history, when the forces of economics were changing long-held labor practices. This played out right here in Portsmouth at the Navy Yard.

Visit PortsVaEvents.com for a full listing of upcoming events for the remainder of Black History Month as well as future events. Additionally, you can visit the new exhibit, “Rooting for the Home Team: Portsmouth’s Black Baseball Players, Promoters, and Parks,” at the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum at 904 Elm Ave., through 2023.


Find more information about the Portsmouth Museums at portsmouthva.gov/305/Museums. The Portsmouth Public Libraries are at portsmouthpubliclibrary.org.

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