Memphis, Tennessee, was founded in 1819 and named after the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis on the Nile River. The founders of Memphis aimed to establish a trading post along the Mississippi River and named the new settlement in honor of the ancient city, which was known for its significance in trade and commerce.
The city’s original name was “Memphis” as well, but it was later changed to “Memphis” to avoid confusion with another settlement in Tennessee. The original name of the city was chosen by the founders, who sought to pay homage to the ancient city. However, to distinguish it from another smaller settlement named Memphis located in the eastern part of Tennessee, the spelling was altered to “Memphis” in 1826.
The population of Memphis is approximately 651,000 people as of 2021. Over the years, Memphis has experienced fluctuations in population due to various factors, including economic changes, demographic shifts, and social dynamics. As of 2021, it remains one of the largest cities in the southeastern United States, attracting residents with its cultural heritage, economic opportunities, and vibrant music scene.
Memphis is the largest city on the Mississippi River and the second-largest city in Tennessee, after Nashville. Situated on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, Memphis holds a strategic position for commerce and transportation. Its location has contributed to its historical significance as a hub for river trade, making it an important center for industries such as shipping, manufacturing, and logistics.
The city covers an area of about 324 square miles (839 square kilometers). With its expansive area, Memphis offers a diverse range of neighborhoods, parks, and cultural attractions. From the bustling downtown area to residential districts and green spaces, the city provides residents and visitors with a mix of urban amenities and natural beauty. Its geographical size contributes to the city’s status as a regional economic and cultural hub.
Memphis played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. It was where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum. The assassination of Dr. King had a profound impact on the city and the nation, leading to widespread mourning and renewed efforts in the fight for civil rights. The Lorraine Motel, preserved as part of the National Civil Rights Museum, stands as a poignant reminder of this pivotal moment in American history.
Elvis Presley, the legendary “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” lived in Memphis and made it his home. Graceland, his former mansion, is now a popular tourist attraction. Elvis Presley moved to Memphis with his family in 1948 and rose to fame from the city’s vibrant music scene. Graceland, located in the Whitehaven neighborhood, became his residence in 1957. Today, visitors from around the world flock to Graceland to tour the mansion, view his collection of memorabilia, and pay tribute to his legacy.
Memphis is known as the “Home of the Blues” and the “Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll” due to its rich musical history. The city’s cultural heritage and influence on music are profound. Blues legends such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf had significant ties to Memphis. Moreover, iconic musicians like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis began their careers in the city, shaping the sound and style of rock ‘n’ roll.
Beale Street, located in downtown Memphis, is a historic street famous for its blues music and vibrant nightlife. Beale Street has long been recognized as a center for African American culture and music. In the early 20th century, it became a hub for blues artists, attracting musicians from all over the country. Today, Beale Street continues to thrive as a popular entertainment district, offering live music venues, clubs, restaurants, and festivals that celebrate the city’s musical heritage.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is located in Memphis and showcases the history of soul music, featuring exhibits on artists like Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. Stax Records, founded in Memphis in 1957, played a significant role in the development of soul music. The label produced hits from legendary artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The Stax Museum preserves the legacy of this influential record label and highlights the impact of soul music on American culture.
Memphis is home to the Memphis Grizzlies, an NBA basketball team. The franchise was established in 1995 and has become a beloved sports team in the city. The Grizzlies play their home games at the FedExForum, an arena located in downtown Memphis that also hosts various other events and concerts throughout the year.
The Mississippi Riverfront is a popular area for recreational activities, offering parks, walking trails, and riverboat cruises. The riverfront area of Memphis provides scenic views of the mighty Mississippi River and serves as a hub for outdoor activities. Residents and visitors can enjoy jogging or biking along the riverfront trails, picnicking in the parks, or taking a relaxing riverboat cruise to explore the river’s beauty.
Memphis has a humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild winters. The city experiences all four seasons, with average high temperatures ranging from the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius) in summer to the 50s Fahrenheit (10s Celsius) in winter. The city’s climate is conducive to outdoor activities and contributes to the lush vegetation found in the region.
The Memphis International Airport is a major hub for FedEx, the global courier delivery services company. Memphis International Airport is one of the busiest cargo airports in the world, serving as FedEx’s global “SuperHub.” The company’s headquarters are also located in Memphis, and its operations have had a significant economic impact on the city, providing numerous job opportunities and contributing to its status as a transportation and logistics hub.
The city has an annual festival called the Memphis in May International Festival, featuring events like the Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Memphis in May is a month-long celebration of the city’s culture, heritage, and international connections. The Beale Street Music Festival is a three-day music event held along the Mississippi River, featuring a diverse lineup of renowned musicians. The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest attracts pitmasters from around the world who compete for the title of the best barbecue in various categories. These events draw crowds and showcase the city’s rich music and culinary traditions.
The Memphis Zoo, located in Overton Park, is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 species. The zoo covers an area of 76 acres and offers a range of exhibits, including exhibits on animals from various regions of the world, such as China, Africa, and North America. It is a popular destination for families and animal enthusiasts, providing educational and entertaining experiences.
The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis is famous for its “Peabody Ducks.” Every day, a group of ducks marches to the hotel’s lobby fountain in a tradition that dates back to 1933. The ducks, led by a Duckmaster, make their way through the hotel lobby, waddle along a red carpet, and settle into the fountain, where they spend the day swimming. The Peabody Ducks have become a beloved symbol of the hotel and a unique attraction for visitors.
The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis is a historic performing arts venue that hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and other live performances. The theater originally opened in 1928 and has undergone renovations over the years to preserve its grandeur. It features stunning architecture and a rich history of hosting world-class performances, making it a cultural centerpiece of the city.
Sun Studio, often referred to as the “Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is where legendary musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash recorded their first songs. Founded by Sam Phillips in 1950, Sun Studio played a pivotal role in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. It is considered hallowed ground for music enthusiasts, offering guided tours that take visitors through the iconic studio and share stories of the musicians who launched their careers there.
The National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the art and craft of fine metalwork. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the museum showcases a diverse collection of metalwork, including sculpture, jewelry, and functional art. Visitors can explore the galleries, observe artists at work in the on-site studios, and learn about the history and techniques of metalworking. The museum also hosts exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs to promote the appreciation of this unique art form.
The city’s economy is diverse, with industries such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, and tourism playing significant roles. Memphis is home to numerous hospitals and medical centers, including the renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The city also has several higher education institutions, such as the University of Memphis and Rhodes College. Manufacturing is another vital sector, with companies involved in sectors like automotive, food processing, and medical devices.
Memphis is home to several Fortune 500 companies, including FedEx, International Paper, AutoZone, and ServiceMaster. FedEx, headquartered in Memphis, is one of the world’s largest shipping and logistics companies and has a significant impact on the city’s economy. International Paper is a global leader in the paper and packaging industry. AutoZone is a prominent retailer of automotive parts and accessories, while ServiceMaster provides residential and commercial services, including pest control and cleaning.
The Memphis Belle, a famous World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. However, the Memphis Belle has strong ties to the city of Memphis. It was named after pilot Robert K. Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk, who was from Memphis. The Memphis Belle completed 25 combat missions during the war and became a symbol of American resilience and the bravery of bomber crews.
The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, chronicles the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The museum is housed in the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was tragically killed. It provides a comprehensive and immersive experience, showcasing the struggles and achievements of the movement through exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia presentations.
Memphis is renowned for its barbecue, with various styles such as Memphis-style dry ribs and pulled pork being popular among locals and visitors. The city’s barbecue scene is vibrant, with numerous barbecue restaurants and pitmasters offering mouthwatering dishes. Memphis-style barbecue is characterized by its emphasis on dry rubs, slow smoking, and tangy tomato-based sauces. Each year, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest takes place in Memphis, attracting pitmasters from around the world to showcase their skills and compete for top honors.