Known as “The River City” Memphis is located in western Tennessee on the Mississippi and Wolf Rivers and is the largest city in the state of Tennessee. Memphis was founded by Andrew Jackson, John Overton, and James Winchester and is the youngest of the major Tennessee cities. They named the city after the city of Memphis in Egypt, which is located on the Nile.
Known internationally as an Elvis fan mecca, Memphis has much more to offer its visitors and residents than the grandness of Graceland. Memphis was not just where the “King of Rock ‘n Roll” got his start, but also where the “King of Country”, Johnny Cash, and the “King of the Blues”, B.B. King, also made their early marks—all recording their early records at Memphis’ famed Sun Studio. This city is especially known for giving birth to the blues and this art form can still be witnessed on Beale Street?, the busiest street in the south. The city is more than music, many museums throughout the city offer magnificent and unique historical and art exhibits throughout the year, including the largest Chinese Art collection in the US. On the culinary side, Memphis is also home to its own unique form of barbeque, which prefers pork over beef.
Finally formed in 1819 by a future American president, Memphis was named after an ancient Egyptian capital that was also located on a monstrously important river. Because of its location on the biggest river in the US and its early rail routes, Memphis soon became a very important transportation hub in early America. Memphis succeeded from the Union in 1861, but was captured by the Union a year later. The 1870’s were a horrible period for the city with an outbreak of yellow fever which decimated the population so severely that the city shrunk to a size that excluded it from actually being a city. Sanitation eventually improved and the city began to grow again. By the 1960’s the city became an important part of the Civil Rights Movement, most tragically with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, while standing on the balcony of a Memphis motel—the motel is now a civil rights museum.
Memphis Tennessee was founded in the early 19th century, but its history reaches much earlier, when the region was inhabited by First Nations residents known as the Mississippian culture, which dominated the South-eastern United States from around 800 AD to the early 1500s.
The land was then ruled by the Chickasaw tribe, who were on site when the first European explorers arrived from Spain around 1540. The tribe welcomed Hernando De Soto, but soon attacked the explorers driving them further west.
In the 1680s, the French landed, establishing a settlement known asFort Prudhomme, that would eventually grown into the city of Memphis. Over the next century, the region would grown very slowly. By the time the state of Tennessee was admitted to the United States as the 16th state, Memphis was the furthest western urban settlement.
In 1820, the settlement officially became Memphis, founded by John Overton, James Winchester and future 7th President of the United States Andrew Jackson. the town became a city in 1826.
From the start, the plan was to develop the city into a major destination, utilizing a grip pattern to make the development easy to manage. During this time, Historic Court Square, now a public park in the downtown, was constructed.
The growth of the cotton industry helped the city evolve, and Memphis became a viable commercial center, transporting the product throughout the south.
The industry brought a downside to the city, with the forced slave labour of the African population. The result was a secondary industry that became a staple in the Memphis economy-the American slave trade. The growing trade practices led to the evolution of the “Underground Railroad”, through which escaped slaves looking for freedom could travel in secret to safer environments.
The now historic Burkle Estate, now a museum dedicated to the flight for freedom, became an important way station along this route. The home was built in 1849, by German immigrant Jacob Burkle, a livestock trader who worked the Underground Railroad. Through the home’s cellar, a tunnel was dug connecting to the Mississippi River, where escapees could hop on a boat heading for the free states in the north.
In 1857, the Memphis and Charleston railroad connected the city to Stevenson Alabama. The economy soared and the population grew. Memphis became a major city in the eastern states, and remained so during the Civil War years.
When the war broke out in 1861, the railroad served as the only major trade route between the eastern and western forces of the Confederate Army, until the Union captured the city of Huntsville, Alabama and severed the railroad’s connection to the west. Due to the changes brought by the war, the railroad was merged with the growing Southern Railway system.
In June of 1862, the Union captured the city, during the Battle of Memphis. The city became an important union supply center and the economy boomed.
Tragedy struck during the 1870s, when a Yellow Fever epidemic nearly destroyed the city. So many lost their lives that Memphis had to renounce its city status, which it would not regain until the early 1890s. The epidemic came to an end when residents coincidentally destroyed the breeding grounds of infected mosquitoes (it was unknown that mosquitoes carried the disease at that time).
With health returning, the city once again began to prosper. Natural stores of pure water found beneath the city brought new life, and much needed health to residents. The city grew so much that it was selected as the site of the 1897 Centennial Exposition.
The major event brought new strength to the economy, as countless buildings and businesses revitalized Memphis. Most notable among these are the Nashville and Memphis pavilions. The Nashville Pavilion was designed as a scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece, but was originally built as a temporary plaster building. In the early 29th century, the original was replaced with a permanent concrete structure, which now serves as an art gallery. The site of the event became the Centennial Park, and continues to host many events.
The early years of the 20th century saw continued growth and redevelopment. The Memphis Park and Parkway system was developed, which included the now much loved Overton Park. The park opened in 1906, and now hosts the Memphis zoo, an art gallery, a college and a small golf course, and one of the oldest forests in the state.
During these years, local music began to attract national attention, in large part due to the stylings of African-American locals. New styles of musical expression arose, inspired by earlier blues music. Legendary blues musician Robert Johnson spent many years developing his unique style in Memphis, which would inspire some of the biggest names in music over the next century, from Elvis to Led Zeppelin.
The city also gave the world the first supermarket chain, the Piggly Wiggly, in 1916. The home of the founder Clarence Saunders, known as the Pink Palace in his day, has since become the Memphis Natural History Museum.
In 1941, the Mason Temple was founded as the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ.
In 1947, WDIA was founded as the first African American radio station in the country. Memphis also saw the first all female radio station, WHER, founded in 1955.
In 1948, the Presley family moved to the city, where a young Elvis was always seen carrying an old guitar. Elvis drew heavily on southern musical styles, and became a staple patron of local blues clubs. By 1953 was recording with Sun Records. His debut record was released in 1955.
In 1957, Presley purchased the Graceland estate, which would remain his home until his death in the 1970s. The home, now a National Historic Landmark, was purchased for $100,000. Following his death in 1977, Presley’s remains were interred on the estate, which has since become a pilgrimage site for fans of Elvis and southern inspired music. It is currently the second most visited residence in America.
By the mid 20th century, the city boasted the largest cotton market in the world. It also became the home of the first national chain of motels, the now global Holiday Inn.
Memphis took the world stage once again in the 1960s, during the national Civil Rights movement. A worker’s strike in 1968 brought the attention of cultural icon and national inspiration Martin Luther King, Jr, who came to the city in support of the strike. On April 3, King spoke at the Mason Temple, delivering his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in which he seems to prophesize, or at least recognize the possibility of his premature death. The very next day, while standing outside of his second floor room (room 306) at the Lorraine Hotel, King was assassinated with a single shot from a rifle. James Earl Ray confessed to pulling the trigger, only to recant days later. However, he plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.
The motel closed in 1982, and was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum, under the direction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation.
In 1973, FedEx moved to the city, taking advantage of the transportation potential of the international airport. The move boosted the economy, and turned the former Municipal Airport into the largest airfreight center in the world.
Modern Memphis enjoys a reputation as one of the pre-eminent music centers in America. Its long history of world class entertainers continues to attract artists, recording industry business men and women, and tourists from around the world. The city also proudly supports a lung multicultural heritage, unique and distinct culinary tastes and public events, such as the month long Memphis in May festival dating back to the late 1970s.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
In 2006 the Memphis Metro was ranked the second most dangerous in the nation.
Power: 120 V, 60 Hz
Climate: Memphis enjoys a sub tropical climate, with rather humid summers due to the warm winds carrying north from the Gulf of Mexico. Thunderstorms are not uncommon during the warmer months. Winters are generally mild, but temperatures can drop to just below freezing, making them occasionally chilly. Winters only occasionally see snowfall.
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: UTC/GMT -6 hours
There is plenty more activity to explore in exciting Memphis, Tennessee.
Activities? | Sights? | Shopping? | Events? | Business Index?
National Civil Rights Museum?
Peabody Place Museum?
Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium?\\ Mud Island River Park and Mississippi Museum?
What do you think about when you hear Memphis?
Of course you think about Elvis Presley, blues music and BBQ. These are all a part of the Memphis experience but not the WHOLE experience. The beauty of Memphis lies in its small town charm in the middle of a busy urban area.
The Memphis Zoo offers an array of exotic and beautiful animals ranging in size from elephants to mice. The aquarium in the Memphis Zoo is both spooky and mesmerizing, the panda exhibit has lovely oriental structure surrounding the holding area, the big cats have a great place to stretch, climb and even take a dip, in all it is worth taking a day to explore and enjoy the recent renovations.
The Memphis music underground scene is one that is edgy and fast paced. Sure, Memphis has blues galore and Beale Street but the locals know this is a small piece of the pie. Most clubs in Memphis host local musicians who are definitely worth your time. Any type of music you enjoy can be heard any night in Memphis, just ask anyone or pick up a free copy of the Memphis Flyer on most street corners and find the right spot for you.
Take a horse drawn carriage ride around downtown for a little local history made fun, or ride the trolley down main street and catch a glimpse of the ghosts of the past, cruise the Mississippi on the Delta Queen at sunset and watch Ole Man River roll around you while enjoying the Memphis skyline. If you love to shop Memphis has what you want from great junking trips to the whole mall experience, set aside one day to explore the shopping scene and I guarantee you will be happy with your find.
Shelby Farms in East Memphis offers so many different ways to enjoy the outdoors you will have a hard time deciding on one...they even have buffalo roaming around in enclosed areas but dont get too close unless you just love that natural aroma. Dining in Memphis is an experience in itself..lets get BBQ out of the way, most BBQ in Memphis is good, some is great and the great ones are mostly hidden in out of the way places that arent on the tourist maps.
Kelvin's in Frayser serves up a hot plate that will make you cry, Gridleys is hot, moist and lip smackin good, Tops BBQ in East Memphis is the place locals try to keep a secret, because it is a small stand and if it gets too crowded you have to wait outside, there are too many to list so just ask a local and I guarantee you will like what they say.
There are many ethnic restaurants located throughout the city that serve some of the finest sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Mexican, etc. that you will find anywhere, not to mention some good old southern cooking..anyone for grits and chitlins? Memphis is a great place to vacation for a week or a day. Try to look past all the tourist attractions and dig around for the places locals love, I promise you will have a good time.
For hotels, a grand dame of hotels, The Peabody is a nice classic hotel, with ducks and all. Also,a boutique hotel The Madison is a nice spot. Both with great locations.