The naming of an American city often influences that city and surrounding area in all aspects from architecture to the naming of social groups. Many of these cities are named after even older cities, mostly from Europe, such as New York City, New York, or for explorers such as Columbus, Ohio, or are even infused with Greek overtones, such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of the top 100 cities in the United States of America by population, however, only one city has a name whose origin is on the African continent: Memphis, Tennessee. While the naming of this city in itself is an unique occurrence, as there are only small towns that also sport Egyptian names, or Egyptian-themed names, there are other occurrences within Memphis, Tennessee, that make it unique among American cities.
The following research will examine the unique nature of Memphis, Tennessee, and how it has been influenced by its namesake in Egypt. The history of the city will be noted, along with how the city acquired its unique name, who named her, and why. References to the ancient city of Memphis, Egypt will also be presented, including the city’s old Mardi Gras celebrations, the more contemporary Cotton Carnival celebrations, the architecture of the city, the social groups with ancient Egyptian names, and the Egyptian studies performed in the city of Memphis. Each of these points will be briefly compared to other instances of the same type of celebrations, social groups, and studies in other major cities within the United States. These comparisons will further illustrate the uniqueness of the city of Memphis.
“Egyptomania” is the modern term given to a culture’s adoption of their own version of ancient Egyptian art and culture. When this term is used, it is often associated with the 1920s after the discovery of the tomb of the young pharaoh, Tutankhamen, the boy king of ancient Egypt. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb sparked an insatiable interest in all things Egyptian: jewelry, clothing, and even popular culture such as movies and books were produced to slake the thirst of Egyptian-themed materials. This is the common perception of Egyptomania, but, in actuality, it goes back further than the Roaring Twenties.
Egypt fell to the Romans in the first century B.C. Instead of forcing Egypt into the way of life to which the Romans were accustomed, they left Egypt to its own devices, warping their own iconography in Egypt to match the expectations of the Egyptian people. The Roman iconography in Egypt matched the over 3,000 years of history Egypt already possessed. While the change in the iconography was a political move on the part of the Romans, there were aspects of the Egyptian culture that enchanted the Romans; chief among them was the religion. The Romans embraced the cult of Isis and Osiris, a husband/wife deific pair much loved by the Egyptians. The personality of Osiris was melded with Serapis, a compound deity from the Ptolemaic period, but Isis remained her own entity. Through the middle of the third century B.C., Roman rulers would occasionally stress their divine ancestors, mimicking the pharaohs who came before them.
Through the fascination with Egypt and adoption of aspects of the ancient Egyptian religion, the Romans became the first culture to truly adopt aspects of “Egyptomania.” The Romans often took statues and obelisks from ancient Egyptian temples. Many of the obelisks are still visible throughout Rome. These artifacts gave artists and the worshipers of the cults of Isis and Osiris-Serapis the ability to base their own artwork and temples on Egyptian designs they might never have seen had the artwork not been brought to Rome. While the majority of Egyptian-themed artwork at this time was religious, there began to be an interest in collecting and displaying Egyptian and Egyptian-themed artwork in gardens replicating the Nile Valley.
For the next few hundred years, artists, sculptors, and architects took inspiration from the Egyptian artifacts imported by Rome, and many Western societies tried to incorporate Egyptian themes in their own cities and cultures. Though Egyptomania never really ended, there were peaks throughout history, the first being Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign from 1798 through 1801. Joining Bonaparte’s armies were scientists who studied every aspect of Egypt from the ecology of the country to the history. Another spike in the popularity of ancient Egyptian styles was after 1922 when Howard Carter discovered, opened, and catalogued the tomb of Tutankhamen. In addition, there have been two other major peaks of interest in Egyptian art. The first was when the Treasures of Tutankhamen exhibit travelled through Europe and the United States in the 1970s, and the two exhibits, Tutankhamun the Golden King and the Great Pharaohs and Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs, currently touring the United States, Europe, and Australia.
The History of Memphis
The following research will deal with only one city within the realm of Egyptomania: Memphis, Tennessee. This city was chosen over any other due to the name of the city and the wealth of Egyptian-themed elements including architecture, celebrations, and societies. Memphis has had an unique history that has been clouded by poor record keeping, legend, and time itself.
In 1789, two tracts of land measuring 5,000 acres each were purchased from North Carolina for £10 per hundred acres (approximately $1000 as of 2010) and were granted to John Rice and John Ramsey. Interestingly, North Carolina did not have the right to sell these two tracts of land as they were still legally entitled to the Chickasaw. It was not until 1836 the Chickasaw and the United States agreed to a price for the land at $3 million. Unfortunately, the $3 million was never paid, but $530,000 was. The 10,000 acres, however, began to be developed in 1818.
One of the original grantees, John Rice, was killed near Clarksville and his grant was willed to his brother, Elisha in 1794. Elisha sold that grant to Judge John Overton for $500 ($6,326.50 as of 2010). Overton, remembering his friend Andrew Jackson, gave the future United States President half the grant, who, in turn, gave half to James Winchester, a veteran of the War of 1812, who gave half his grant to William Winchester. Overton also bought 714 and two-sevenths of an acre from the Ramsey grant.
The Naming of Memphis
At this point the new settlement had no name and sources become convoluted when the question of who exactly, proposed the name Memphis for the new city. Legend has it that the soon-to-be President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, settled on the name for the new city. However, further research shows that the war hero was less interested in Memphis than many people like to claim, having probably only stopped in the area that was to become Memphis once on his way to New Orleans. In a footnote in J. M. Keating’s book History of Memphis, dating from 1888, Keating cites an Indian agent stationed at Fort Pickering named Isaac Rawlings, who later became the second mayor of Memphis, as being the man who chose the name Memphis. Nowhere else is this theory supported or even mentioned. It is General James Winchester who has the most support as the man who chose the name for the new city. There are numerous quotes of General Winchester’s contemporaries who remember him naming Memphis. Samuel Cole Williams in his own work on the history of Tennessee quotes Judge John H. Dewitt: “It is said authentically that General James Winchester gave the name Memphis to the town, appropriately taken from the ancient city of the Pharaohs, that stood on the banks of another great river. The naming of the town is usually attributed to General Andrew Jackson.” One other quote comes from the Commercial Appeal in an article from September, 1951,
Writing to the Memphis Weekly American Eagle on the subject of the city, in 1844, a writer who signed himself “C.C.,” had the following to say regarding the city’s name:
The name of your city, formerly known by the military cognomen of Fort Pickering, was given to it by Gen. James Winchester, who was one of the co-proprietors, with Gen. Andrew Jackson and Judge John Overton, of the soil on which Memphis now stands – and was suggested to the mind of Gen. Winchester, as he informed me himself, by the fancied or real resemblance of the great river Mississippi, and the unrivalled richness and fertility of its banks, to the far-famed Nile of ancient Egypt… and the exhaustless fertility of its great valley, once the granary of eastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.
The article goes on to identify the author of the above letter, “C.C.,” as Charles Cassedy, a homeless scholar, often welcomed into people’s homes as a wandering academic. Further evidence supports the words of “C.C.” as “Cassedy was a warm personal friend of Gen. Winchester and at one time was his secretary.”
In all, it can be concluded from the above evidence that it is possible that General James Winchester named the city of Memphis. The question remains, however, why General Winchester chose that specific name.
After the naming of the city, the Egyptian theme became a minor footnote for the city itself. The young city first needed to establish itself. Then the entire country was distracted by such community identities as the Civil War and the Reconstruction held sway. As the Reconstruction ended, Memphis’ woes continued with the Yellow Fever epidemics. The region was wracked with worry and financial stress began to pervade the city’s consciousness.
As the financial needs of the city increased and as the citizens of Memphis became more dour, there was need for lightheartedness and celebration. The city’s newspaper, The Appeal, called for residents to submit ideas for increasing Memphis’ income by attracting business and tourism. Colton Greene, a local insurance company owner and longtime civic leader in Memphis, presented the plan for the celebration of Mardi Gras. Other cities such as New Orleans had successfully incorporated the Mardi Gras celebrations with the image of the city, drawing tourists and business to these cities. Greene wanted to do the same in Memphis. He was ultimately successful:
“Yet the town, like Old Man Cotton, refused to give up. Instead it gave a party and called it Mardi Gras. To everyone’s surprise it proved to be just what Mid-Valley folk needed after eleven years of war and Reconstruction….”
The first Mardi Gras was entirely successful. An estimated 20,000 revelers participated in that first Memphis Mardi Gras. Each year following saw a new theme to the overall revelries. The party brought Greece to the city one year, DeSoto’s discovery of the Mississippi in another, and, perhaps most popular of all, the theme of ancient Egypt in 1874. There were only a few years in which the Mardi Gras celebrations in Memphis were popular, but it did alleviate the city’s burdens, both mental and financial.
The Mystic Society of Memphi
To facilitate a successful Mardi Gras, Greene created the Mystic Society of Memphi, a secret society that footed the bill for the first Memphis Mardi Gras in 1872. As the first Sublime Ouro of Memphi, a title he held until 1881, Greene hired costumers and artists to design the floats and decorations. Greene, in addition to planning the celebration, worked with Mr. David P. “Pappy” Hadden, the President of the Taxing District and member of the Mystics, convinced the local railroads to lower their fares during the celebration. Through Hadden’s dealings with the railroads, more people were able to travel to Memphis to celebrate Mardi Gras.
The Mystic Society of Memphi was not just for organizing a successful Mardi Gras, but also the parties and balls surrounding the celebration. It was a high honor to be invited to a Memphi ball, as the invitations were rare. To add to the Mystics’ mystique, invitations were never delivered in an expected manner:
“Some were shoved under doors, others turn up mysteriously in bureau drawers, workboxes, etc., and only a night or two ago a lady was astonished at finding one in her muff at one of the theaters, as no less was another lady at discovering one among her music sheets… Of a variety the ‘Memphi’ and their works are mysterious beyond comprehension.”
The Egyptian Mardi Gras of 1874
One of the Memphis Mardi Gras celebrations dealt entirely with the theme of ancient Egypt. This celebration in particular, held in 1874, was documented by an out-of-town journalist who later sent his observations to The Appeal. Unfortunately, the document was misplaced for seventy-four years. In 1948, it was finally published in The Commercial Appeal.
The parade that year was entirely devoted to recreating Egypt for the Memphians and other revelers. It opened with an entrance by the Grand Ouri, mentioned above as the Sublime Ouro, who was enthroned on a chariot flanked by winged sphinxes and drawn by “Nubian slaves.” The parade began in the furthest reaches of Egypt’s past, taking the onlookers on a trip through Egypt’s history. Each float held some mysterious aspect of ancient Egypt, rooted more in the romantic notions of the ancient civilization than in fact. The costumes, plays and displays all acted out the stereotypes of the exotic fantasy.
Everything was designed to evoke the sumptuousness of ancient Egypt. Greene spared no expense, commissioning costumes and displays from Paris. Many of the costume sketches were saved, preserving the classical ideal of the ancient Egyptian wardrobe. A sole sketch of the parade has also survived, showing the opening of the parade with the Grand Ouri in his lavish chariot.
Unfortunately, the Memphis Mardi Gras’ popularity began to wane after 1882. By the turn of the century, people began to call for the Mardi Gras celebrations to be banned, citing the many sins and disorder that accompanied the revelry. In 1901, the outcry against Mardi Gras in Memphis heard victory, and the celebration was no more.
In 1931, there was a meeting held that included some of Memphis’ leading businessmen, all of whom agreed to help sponsor a “cotton week” celebration. It was a celebration for the local businesses to cooperate with each other in order to promote cotton. After some initial resistance, Cotton Carnival began to take shape. It looked much like a Mardi Gras celebration and was even celebrated in February, mimicking almost exactly the Mardi Gras that had met its demise thirty years earlier. It was complete with parades, competitions, costumes, and a King, Queen, and the Court.
By the next year, the Cotton Carnival was moved to four days in May, but still retained the pomp and celebration of the Memphis Mardi Gras. Once again, and perhaps to an even greater extent, the Egyptian themes spread through the carnival, as Memphis and its population claimed it for their own.
The Many Egyptian Themes of Cotton Carnival
The 1934 Cotton Carnival is perhaps the best illustration of the Egyptianizing movements that accompany anything presented as Memphian. Much like the 1874 Mardi Gras, the 1934 Cotton Carnival theme was “The Life of the Prince of Memphis.” Again, the parade held was lavishly presenting the stereotypes of an exotic history and displaying the natural wonders of the country. The royalty of the Cotton Carnival, keeping with the lightheartedness of the traditional Mardi Gras, presented faux trophies to the city. The pageantry surrounding the 1934 trophy was in line with the Egyptian theme. “Cleopatra’s Bath Tub” was a “relic secured from the site of ancient Memphis on the Nile, Egypt. It is a bronze or copper bathing vessel approximately three feet in diameter and one foot deep, heavily inscribed on the inner side with hierographs and drawings.” It was played out to be a gift from the Sheikh of Memphis, Egypt. It was supposedly placed in a museum within the city. 
Within the Souvenir Program from the 1934 Cotton Carnival is a generic description of what life might have been like in ancient Memphis. It described the geography, and even detailed the fishermen on the Nile, blending what was commonly seen in modern Memphis and turning it into its namesake from ancient Egypt. In essence, the organizers morphed the modern city through words to look like Memphis, Egypt. The story walked the audience through a barbershop, a potter’s plant, a vineyard, and even a funeral home to witness a first-class mummification. Mayor E.H. “Boss” Crump is even honored in this narrative as he is likened to the Pharaoh himself.
The Egyptian theme extended to the private parties, as well. One such party held at the Peabody Hotel, was gaily advertising an exotic dancer. “Ramona Ray,” the advertisement proclaimed at the top of the page, “‘Egypt’s own Sally Rand,’ Originator of the ‘Palm Dance of the Pharaohs’ Will Perform Exclusively for Hotel Peabody’s Visiting Clientele and Memphis’ Secret Masking Societies.” A woman is pictured with two ostrich feather fans covering what appears to be her scantily clad body while she pivots on her toes. She embodies the exotic and romantic notion of Egypt. The Carnival, now known as the Memphis Carnival, is celebrated to this day, usually commencing just after Memorial Day.
The Cotton Maker’s Jubilee
In 1935, a local African American couple by the name of Venson took their young nephew to see the Cotton Carnival parade. The child was stunned because all the African Americans in the parade were hired hands drawing the floats past the spectators and not the performers. “I didn’t like [the parade],” he informed his aunt and uncle, “All the Negroes were horses.” The boy’s uncle, Ransom Q. Venson, decided that this innocent observation was enough of a catalyst to create an entirely African American carnival society. Both Ransom and his wife, Ethyl, promoted their new carnival organization. By the 1980s, however, the Cotton Makers Jubilee was losing favor with some of its African American supporters who wondered why the group chose to glorify cotton. These sentiments continued to varying degrees until 1999 when it became the Memphis Kemet Jubilee. “Kemet” is the ancient Egyptian name for the Nile Valley and roughly translates to “Black Land,” alluding to the fertile soil left behind by the annual Nile flood. The Kemet Jubilee continues to lend entertainment to the Memphis community and also heads a scholarship program for royalty candidates aged six to seventeen.
The Krewes of Memphis
Much like New Orleans, which has one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States, Memphis is home to a number of Krewes, the societies that organize parades and balls around Carnival or Mardi Gras, as well as events localized to each Krewe. New Orleans has a total of twenty-eight Grand Krewes. Of these Krewes, only two have Egyptian-themed names, Thoth and Cleopatra, keeping with the exotic themes that are prevalent throughout New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Memphis has eleven Grand Krewes, of which only three have names that are not Egyptian-themed, the Boll Weevils, Phoenix, and the Queen Bees.
Below is a table of each of the Egyptian-themed Krewes of Memphis, the inspiration for their names, and a brief overview of the Krewe itself.
The Mystic Society of the Memphi
Being the oldest Krewe in Memphis, they promote pageantry throughout the year, though they focus their efforts during the week of the Cotton Carnival.
The Grand Krewe of Osiris
Named for the Egyptian god of the dead, the Osiris Krewe was founded in 1934 and continues to elect an Osiris King and an Isis Queen, mimicking the ancient Egyptian deities.
The Grand Krewe of RaMet
This Krewe, founded in 1938, is named for two ancient Egyptian deities, Ra, the sun god, and Ma’at, the goddess of truth and order.
The Grand Krewe of Sphinx
Sphinx was founded in 1935 and was inspired by the Egyptian sphinx with the head of a man and body of a lion as opposed to the Classical Greek version of the same mythical creature.
The Grand Krewe of Ptah
Named for the patron deity of ancient Memphis, the Grand Krewe of Ptah was founded in 1970.
The Grand Krewe of Ennead
Founded in 1989, the Ennead celebrates singles over the age of thirty. The term Ennead, which means “nine,” though Greek in origin, acknowledges the power of nine in ancient Egyptian mythology.
The Grand Krewe of Ptolemy
Honoring the last line of ancient Egyptian kings, founded by a general in Alexander the Great’s army, the Grand Krewe of Ptolemy melds rich traditions with an outlook of building a future, a duality as was seen when the Ptolemies melded their own Hellenistic culture with the ancient Egyptian culture.
The Grand Krewe of Luxor
In 1999, the Memphis Carnival established a children’s charity initiative. The Luxor Krewe, founded in 2004, is focused almost entirely on lesser funded children’s charities. They are named for the modern city of Luxor, Egypt, which stands near the ruins of ancient Thebes.
The social scene within Memphis is only one aspect which Egyptomania has invaded the subconscious of the city. The physical structures of the city are marked by references to the city’s namesake, as well. Egyptianized buildings, while less in number than their more contemporary counterparts, are scattered throughout Memphis. Each has its own story, history, and reason for the use of Egyptian themes in its structure.
The United States is truly a conglomeration of multiple cultures piled together and nowhere is that mixture more visible than in the architectural themes used in the major cities throughout the country. East Coast architecture, as well as the architecture of the Mid-South, was geared more toward mimicking European architectures. Until the American Revolution, American architecture closely followed that of Britain. As America began to solidify their break with Britain, the architecture, at least in an official and political capacity, took a drastic turn. Gone were the gabled entrances, red brick framing, and whitewashed window trimmings of the Georgian-style. Instead, the young American republic attempted to recall even older polities: Greece and Rome. White, imposing columns stretched before hidden entrances, reaching towards domes of gold and white. In addition to this Federal Style of architecture, there was also a Greek Revival style. This European and New World architectural style lasted through the Civil War in America. The length of this style’s popularity in America is second only to the length of its popularity in Scotland.
This brief history of architectural styles popular in America is missing a key source of inspiration, ancient Egypt. The lack of information pertaining to Egyptian Revival architecture indicates that it was not as popular or as widespread as its Greek, Gothic, and Victorian cousins. Indeed, when simply observing many large American cities, there is an overall paucity of Egyptian-themed buildings. While there are examples of Egyptianized architectures throughout the United States, these are few and far between.
Funerary architecture often shows an ancient Egyptian influence. While some of the most compelling and beautiful Egyptianized architecture, it would add little to this research as the amount of Egyptianized funerary monuments is approximately equal from city to city and state to state in some of the older cemeteries. This being the case, funerary architecture will thus be ignored.
Memphis sports its unique culture once again when we consider the architecture that infiltrates the metropolis’ façade. While not overpowering to a great extent, the ancient Egyptian influence makes its presence felt throughout the city.
Universal Life Insurance Building – 480 Linden Avenue
Having worked on such projects as the Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorials in Washington, D.C., it is interesting to note the architectural company McKissack and McKissack had a presence in Memphis during the 1920s. While the company Universal Life Insurance, an African American insurance company servicing African American clientele founded in 1923, is no longer in business, the building in which they were housed still stands. Indeed, it is a testament not only to the increasing interest in ancient Egypt during the 1920s, thanks to the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, but also representing pride in the fact African Americans could claim the ancient Egyptians as their African ancestors. The Universal Life Insurance Building is a marriage of these two themes.
The building itself is built of white marble. The entrance is raised from the rest of the building slightly. An over-emphasized crown molding flares beneath a large, somewhat pyramidal shaped roof. Below the molding is a take on a traditional Egyptian symbol: the sun disk with two wings unfurled to either side. However, the Universal Life Insurance Company chose the Earth in place of the sun disk. Below that are large recessed entrances bordered on either side by Egyptian-themed pillars crowned with and supported by art-deco lotus blossoms. Bordering the roof to either side of the raised entrance are art-deco designs that recall the winged Earth disk above the entrance.
Praise of Zion Missionary Baptist Church – 974 Mississippi Boulevard
This church was constructed in 1938 by the same company who built the Universal Life Insurance Company building, McKissack and McKissack. It has been hailed as perhaps one of the most Egyptomania-inspired buildings in Memphis. That this is and always has been a church is somewhat abnormal, as most churches tend to prefer the traditional classical or Gothic-style architecture. Unfortunately, there is little that appears to the author to be inspired by Egyptian architecture save for the pyramid at the top of the bell tower.
The Great American Pyramid – The Tomb of Doom
In 1989, ground was broken for The Great American Pyramid sports and entertainment arena, affectionately dubbed “The Tomb of Doom” by Memphians. It was supposed to become the premier tourist attraction for Memphis, Tennessee. Sidney Shlenker is quoted as saying “It’s the first pyramid of consequence to be built in 5,000 years…” Shlenker, the owner of The Pyramid Companies, which ran a number of Memphis organizations, had originally been hired to manage The Pyramid. The groundbreaking ceremony was a festival of lights, music, parades, a performance by Dan Aykroyd, and high hopes. However, the grand plans for The Pyramid began to fall short as Shlenker was fired for not being able to raise funds for his part in the deal. The Pyramid was completed, but its opening ceremony was far more low-key compared to the pomp of the ground breaking ceremony. Only a few speeches and the obligatory ribbon cutting took place to signify the completion of what had once been deemed Memphis’ Eiffel Tower. It closed thirteen years after it opened.
The Pyramid itself was planned to evoke the spirit of the Great Pyramid in Giza, and is one of only three true pyramids in the United States. It is an exact 60% scale model of the Great Pyramid. It is built of steel and glass that allows the large building to nearly disappear into the skyline and the Mississippi River. Above the southern entrance are ancient Egyptian symbols, including the vulture with wings outstretched, representing the mother and protective deity, Nekhbet. Ramesses II, otherwise known as Ramesses the Great, guarded the eastern main entrance for twenty-one years. This statue was moved onto the University of Memphis campus on April 23, 2012. The author, due to the construction currently being done to the grounds, could not access the northern entrance of The Pyramid.
The zoo in Midtown Memphis was founded in Overton Park in 1904. The Egyptian-style architecture began to appear in 1909 with the original elephant house, which has since been transformed into the Education Center. The zoo expanded quickly and the Memphis Zoological Society, founded in 1910, commissioned a new plan for the zoo in 1986. The plan was to upgrade the zoo slowly over time. By 1990, the modern entrance of the zoo was created with marked Egyptian references and in 1993-1994 the Cat Country complex was built and the original Cat House renovated to become the Cat House Café.
The entrance reflects an ancient Egyptian temple with two pylons on either side of the entrance, each having two flagpoles each. The pylons are covered in hieroglyphs, some traditional to ancient Egypt, others made up from a modern perspective. Standing in the place of sphinxes in traditional Egyptian temples leading up to the pylons are white silhouettes of some of the animals that can be viewed inside the zoo. Inside, a brightly colored colonnade of pillars with lotus blossom capitals hide the gift shop, offices, and other facilities. An obelisk stands in the center of the sanctuary. From there, the naturalistic architecture and landscaping takes over almost seamlessly from the structure and rigidity of the temple complex. A small creek, representing the Nile, flows through the complex towards the Cat House Café. A small Egyptian-themed kiosk stands at the end of the creek sporting the lotus capital pillars, this time in a more demure white, contrasting sharply with the earthy and vibrant tones of the rest of the temple-like structure. Almost attached to the temple-like structure is the old Elephant House. It is of the same design as the Cat House Café with a large glass entrance bordered by pylons. In front of the Elephant House is a small cement obelisk commemorating the first animal, a black bear named “Natch,” that was ever kept on the site that would later become the Memphis Zoo. The Cat House Café just outside the temple-like complex has a modernist-styled entrance bordered on either side by pylons of the same shape as the entrance pylons. On each pylon is cat-shaped faux rainspouts.
Ballard and Ballard Obelisk Flour Company Building – 325 Wagner Place
One of the most intriguing buildings with Egyptian themes is the Ballard and Ballard Obelisk Flour Company Building, though it is an anomaly when compared to the other buildings mentioned in this study. The company itself had an Egyptian-themed name, Obelisk Flour. Little information still exists about the company save for what the building’s current owners have been able to discover.
The company began in 1880 in Louisville, Kentucky, and was sold to Pillsbury sometime in 1951. The Memphis building was constructed in 1924, but is only one of the many Ballard and Ballard buildings throughout the Mid-South with the same Egyptian motifs. Two of the few that are still standing are in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee.
The buildings are constructed of red brick with white cement accents in various Egyptian motifs. At the corners of the buildings are obelisk shapes that are lined with images reminiscent of hieroglyphs, which translate to mere gibberish, and Egyptian goddesses. At the center of each obelisk is the Ballard and Ballard logo, a circular seal with sphinxes inside to the right and Egyptian figures to the left, both of which face a centered obelisk. The lintels of the doorways are of the same white cement and sport a winged figure reminiscent of the winged Nekhbet vulture seen on The Pyramid. This figure on the smaller doors appears to be a serpent surrounding the Ballard and Ballard logo. On the largest lintel, the Nekhbet figure is spread behind the Ballard and Ballard logo.
This remarkable example of Egyptomania shows perhaps the most detailed and expressive Egyptian themes of the older buildings in Memphis.  It is a beautiful rendition of Egyptomania, but it cannot be used to lend credence to the conclusion of this research as the focus is the unique nature of Memphis to almost subconsciously produce Egyptian-themes within the city’s culture.
Tom Lee Memorial – Tom Lee Park
In 1954, the City of Memphis erected a small monument commemorating the brave act of an African American fisherman who, in 1925, saved the lives of thirty-two people when the steamer on which they were passengers foundered. The citizens of Memphis inscribed the monument not only with the fisherman’s name, Tom Lee, but also with the names of the people who he saved. The shape of the monument is that of a small Egyptian-style obelisk. It stands at the center of Tom Lee Park, some way from a statue depicting the heroic act. The obelisk itself is small compared to the ancient forms of obelisks and is made of what appears to be white cement.
Robert Galloway’s Donation
In 1913, Robert Galloway, chairman of the Memphis Park Commission, returned from a trip to Egypt bringing with him two blocks from the Temple of Ptah in Memphis, Egypt. They were housed for many years in a gazebo in Overton Park until they were moved to the permanent collection of Egyptian antiquities housed at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis. The blocks themselves date from the Twenty Sixth Dynasty (685-525 BC) of ancient Egypt with a portrait and cartouches of the Pharaoh Amasis decorating them. The gazebo in which they were housed was hexagonal in shape with short fencing between the columns. The columns had lotus capitals with squat vases at the base of each. The roof of the gazebo was domed with a simple ribbon of vertical lines wrapping around the edge that is reminiscent of some of the simpler designs used in ancient Egyptian artwork.
The Founding of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology
The Amasis blocks were but the first of many ancient artifacts from Egypt to be brought to Memphis. As time went on, the local university began to show more and more interest in the study of these artifacts and of the country from which the artifacts originate. It became obvious that an academic institution was needed to better understand and house these artifacts and their histories.
In 1975, before there was a center for Egyptology at Memphis State University, Mr. E. H. (Edward Herman) Little, a prominent administrator with the Colgate-Palmolive company, donated $50,000 to Memphis State University in memory of his late wife, Suzanne Trezevant Little. Drs. Charles Allgood and Dana D. Johnson of the Memphis State University Art Department used the money to purchase forty-four artifacts from the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston. While the MFA agreed to the transaction, it was, in fact, mostly a donation on the part of the MFA; recently, just one of the forty-four artifacts was estimated to be worth $50,000. The artifacts were chosen by MFA curator William Kelly Simpson and consisted mostly of pieces he did not find attractive, such as artifacts made of pink granite. The artifacts were stored in the basement of Jones Hall on the University of Memphis campus and were used as teaching tools for students of the University and were not on display for the general public.
In 1983, Dr. Carol Crown , a professor in the Art Department of Memphis State University, visited the MFA and met Dr. Rita Freed, an Egyptologist working for the MFA. Crown convinced Freed to curate the forty-four original objects as well as a number of items lent to the University from various institutions into an exhibit the University could showcase. Freed agreed to do so and began working on the exhibit A Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt. The University sought the support of the Egypt Exploration Society (EES), one of the foremost Egyptological societies based in England, and the EES’s Survey of Memphis. The Survey of Memphis is fieldwork in Memphis, Egypt, that started in 1982, marking the centenary of the EES. “The Memphis Survey of the Egypt Exploration Society embraced our project enthusiastically and invited us to participate in their work. We hope this is only the start of a fruitful Memphis-to-Memphis union.”
On October 15, 1985, Memphis State University established the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology (IEAA) within the Art Department as a Center of Excellence with Dr. Rita Freed as the Director. The Center of Excellence was established to receive special funding, but did not offer students a degree. Freed agreed to work with the City of Memphis to curate the Ramesses the Great – Memphis exhibit and was unable to teach her classes with Memphis State University, which were taught by a replacement. After seeing her work with both A Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt and Ramesses the Great – Memphis exhibits, the MFA offered Freed a position, which she accepted in 1989.
Dr. Lorelei Corcoran was hired in 1989 as an assistant professor. By 1990, Corcoran was promoted to Assistant Director of the IEAA. She became the Director of the IEAA in 1992 and initiated the process for developing a Master’s Degree in Egyptology with the Art Department. By 1994, the Tennessee Board of Regents approved the Art History department’s Master’s program in Egyptology.
Random Connections to Egypt
To this point, the research has been fairly structured, dealing first with frivolity and social organizations, then with architecture and finally with education. These Egyptianized aspects are joined by a number of other Egyptian-themed episodes that cannot be so neatly categorized as was seen previously. Memphis has attracted a number of unique events and people that add to the colorful Egyptianized subconscious of the city.
The Memphis Egyptians
In 1913, a group of thirty men formed a society based on a common desire to present and discuss the intellectual interests of the members. One of the original members, Rabbi William H. Fineshriber, chose the name The Memphis Egyptians to commemorate the connection between the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and ancient Memphis, Egypt. The society is strict, allowing only thirty-three men of affluence in its circles at any given time. To join the Egyptians, one has to be invited. The subjects the men discuss include “scientific, religious, economic, and other topics pertaining to the welfare, culture, and happiness of the people,” as is stated in the society’s by-laws. Throughout the year, each Egyptian presents his fellows with a paper of interest. At the end of the year, the biographical information of all presented papers are combined in a Year Book for the use of the Egyptians. While not a secret society inasmuch, the Egyptians have little to indicate their existence save for these Year Books. There is an unwritten law of the Egyptians to ensure the society’s name never appears in the press.
Ramesses the Great – Memphis Exhibit
When visiting Egypt, Dr. Freed convinced the curator of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Dr. Mohammed Saleh, that an exhibit scheduled to travel the United States should stop in Memphis, a city the exhibit was not originally scheduled to visit. What finally convinced Dr. Saleh was the offer of the City of Memphis to restore a broken statue of Ramesses the Great. Funds were raised both from the City of Memphis and the Coca-Cola Corporation, and the statue was one of the 73 artifacts to be showcased in the traveling exhibit.
In 1987, the exhibit, Ramesses the Great, opened in Memphis. For nearly four months, the Civic Center Plaza was devoted to the exhibit, described as “The Treasures of the Nile on the Mississippi.” The opening of the exhibit was filled with all the pomp and circumstance Memphis could muster, with many of the Krewes dressing in Egyptian costumes and Charleton Heston giving the opening speech. The exhibit was a huge success: nearly 700,000 people visited the exhibit.
Ramesses the Great – the statue
Part of the Ramesses the Great exhibit was the aforementioned colossus 50-ton statue of Ramesses the Great. The statue was originally carved for the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh Sesostris. It was repurposed by Ramesses II in the Nineteenth Dynasty who had the facial features changed to match his own. The city of Memphis and the Egyptian government agreed that Memphis could copy the statue so it could reside in or around The Pyramid. It was the first, if not the only, reproduction of an Egyptian artifact authorized by the Egyptian government outside of Egypt. When the Great American Pyramid was finished in 1991, the replica statue was placed facing east outside the main entrance of the arena. A plaque that was required by the Egyptian Government detailing the relationship between the city of Memphis and Egypt and how that relationship led to the restoration of the original statue was placed at its base. 
When Bass Pro Shops leased The Pyramid from the City of Memphis in August, 2011, it was decided the statue could not stay in its original place. Through some deliberation, it was decided the statue would be leased to the University of Memphis for one dollar a year for 99 years. On April 23, 2012, the 25-foot tall statue was moved to the University of Memphis campus and placed on a special cement pedestal just off Central Avenue.
The Warehouse – 777 South Main Street
This unobtrusive building might be missed by most passersby, especially as it is overshadowed by a nearby bar and restaurant and the seasonal farmers market across the street. The doorway is guarded by two recumbent sphinxes. The building is known locally as The Warehouse, and is the home of Kris Kourdouvelis and Sharon Gray. It was originally a warehouse but was converted to a home with a large area for live music performances. It is an exclusive venue for promotions, music video shoots, and parties, all hosted by Kourdouvelis and Gray.
It is not the building itself that is intriguing, though the sphinx guardians hint at the Egyptian influence inside. In an interview for the show “Off Beat America” on HGTV that aired in 2009, Kourdouvelis revealed his extensive Egyptomania collection. When asked why he had so much Egyptian-themed décor spread throughout his home, Kourdouvelis replied, “Well, there’s a pyramid just down the road, didn’t you notice?”
The reason for naming the city Memphis has been lost to time. There are too many conflicting bits of information to fully understand why the founders of Memphis decided on such a unique name. As the city grew, so did the references to the city’s ancient Egyptian counterpart. By the late 1800s, Memphis organized an annual Mardi Gras celebration. The main organizing force behind the first Mardi Gras celebrations was the Mystics of Memphi who associated themselves through graphics and themes to ancient Memphis. As the Mardi Gras grew, culminated, ultimately floundered, then found new life in the Cotton Carnival, Krewes traditional to Mardi Gras celebrations began to establish themselves. Many of these Krewes automatically chose Egyptian-styled names. In addition, the architecture of the city has a distinctly Egyptian theme. While somewhat few in number compared to the numerous buildings throughout the city, the number of Egyptianized architectures far and outweighs the Egyptianized architecture of other major United States cities. Such buildings as the Memphis Zoo and the Great American Pyramid show the instinct for Memphians to showcase the origin of their city’s namesake. With the subtle structuring of the city came some of the more academic endeavors relating to ancient Egypt. The Ramesses the Great – Memphis exhibit and the subsequent acquisition of the replica of the Ramesses the Great statue proved to be a more blatant acknowledgement of Memphis’ ancient ties. With such scholarly inclinations as the Ramesses the Great – Memphis exhibit and the Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt exhibit, the faculty of one of the foremost universities in Memphis realized there was a call for a more structured department dealing with Egyptology. The the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology was established and a Master’s program through that Center of Excellence proved Memphis had a more keen interest in the ancient heritage of the city’s namesake than it had previously.
This long litany of Egyptian elements within an American city proves, not only a recent interest in Memphis’ ancient Egyptian heritage, but also that the city has a more subconscious ideology as a whole. The earlier references of the city to ancient Memphis in Egypt show an assumption that as Memphis derived its name from ancient Egypt, the theme of ancient Egypt should be a recurring one. Buildings such as the Universal Life Insurance building, the Tom Lee Memorial, and even the recent structures such as the Pyramid and the Memphis Zoo’s entrance, shows little forethought given to the theme of their designs. Instead, it appears it was almost assumed that these structures would be Egyptianized. Actions of Memphis’ citizens like Robert Galloway in bringing back blocks from the temple of Ptah in Memphis, proves and assumption that there would be an interest in ancient Egyptian history.
The city of Memphis, Tennessee, is a unique metropolis, not so much because of its origins or even what it has become. It is a subtler detail that has permeated the subconscious of the citizens and those who have encountered Memphis. While there was never a premeditated decision to Egyptianize the city, it has happened in such a way that it is assumed the city is almost required to be Egyptianized. It can thus be posited that the subconscious need to represent ancient Egyptian culture stems from the name of the city.
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 In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, and thus began Hellenizing Egypt to a certain extent, though, overall, Egypt remained unchanged. When Rome conquered Egypt in 32 B.C., they left Egypt unchanged due to the already Hellenized nature of the country. For further information, read: David Peacock, “The Roman Period (30 BC – AD 395)” in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 414-436.
 Jean-Marcel Humbert, Michael Pantazzi and Christine Ziegler, Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art 1730-1930 (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1994), 15.
 Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003), 127; Humbert, 17.
 Humbert, Egyptomania, 17.
 Humbert, Egyptomania, 17.
 Humbert, Egyptomania, 18.
 Humbert, Egyptomania, 21.
 Humbert, Egyptomania, 22.
 Karl W. Butzer and Elisabeth K. Butzer, “Treasures of Tutankhamun Review,” in American Anthropologist Vol. 79. No. 4 (Dec. 1977), 997-9.
 The National Archives. “Currency Converter,” http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/results.asp#mid and http://www.x-rates.com/calculator.html, accessed 2 February 2012.
 J. P. Young, Standard History of Memphis, Tennessee: From a Study of the Original Sources (Knoxville: H. W. Crew and Company, 1912, reproduction, 1974), 52-3. Due to lack of information it is possible that John Rice and John Ramsey are the same person, however, evidence either was is inconclusive.
 Jesse Burt and Bob Ferguson, “The Removal,” in Indians of the Southeast: Then and Now (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1973), 170-3. Another source, “The Night Desk: City named After Memphis, Egypt” in Commercial Appeal dated 2 August 1949, mentions the Chickasaw were paid $300,000 in 1818. There is conflicting information concerning this topic, but the author was unable to find reference to the original contract with the Chickasaw nor any reference to the amount finally paid to the Chickasaw and what year that transaction took place.
 James Roper, The Founding of Memphis 1818-1820 (Memphis: The Memphis Sesquincentenial, Inc., 1970), 38.
 Roper, Founding, 38.
 Young, Standard History, 59.
 The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, ed. Carroll Van West, Tennessee Historical Society (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998), 1067.
 Young, Standard History, 60.
 J.P. Young, “Early Beginnings of Memphis,” in Memphis Historical Society Papers. Unpublished. Written 1916.
 Loise N. Ahrens, “Know Who Named Memphis? – No, it was not Andrew Jackson,” in Press Scimitar, 11 October 1972.
 E.L. Rawlings, personal letter (n.d.). He was elected mayor a total of five times.
 J. M. Keating, History of the City of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee (Syracuse: D. Mason, 1888), 139.
 Samuel Cole Williams, Beginnings of West Tennessee (Johnson City: Watauga Press, 1930), 137.
 “The Name of Memphis,” in Commercial Appeal, Editor, September 1951.
 “The Name of Memphis”
 Eda Clarke Fain, Jr.,“Cut Loose the Corset Strings of Dull Times”: Attending Carnival in Memphis, Tennessee, Through Newspring Coverage, 1872-1901 (Memphis: University of Memphis Dissertation, 1999), vi-vii.
 Memphis Public Library. Colton Greene Collection.
 Shields McIlwaine as quoted by Perre Magness, The Party With a Purpose: 75 Years of Carnival in Memphis, 1931-2006 (Jonesboro: Pinoint, 2009), 1.
 Magness, 2.
 Fain, 54. This title corresponds with director.
 memphishistory.com/Politics/MayorsofMemphis/DavidParkHadden.aspx, 7 April 2012.
 Colton Greene Collection
 Magness, 6.
 H.W. Prentis Sr., “Memphis Visitor Described Brilliant celebration of 1874 With Graphic Word Pictures” in The Commercial Appeal, 18 April 1948.
 Wayne Risher, “City’s Mardi Gras to Return” in The Commercial Appeal, 1 February 2001.
 The Commercial Appeal, Editor, 17 December 1901.
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 Souvenir Program, 1934.
 Souvenir Program, 1934.
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 Magness, 179-181.
 Magness, 182.
 Barry Kemp, Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization, Second Edition (New York: Routledge, 2007), 21.
 Magness, 182.
 New Orleans Online, “Krewes,” http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/mardigras/krewes/, accessed 8 April 2012.
 Carnival Memphis, “Grand Krewes,” accessed 8 April 2012.
 Carnival Memphis, “Grand Krewes,” accessed, 8 April 2012.
 Wilkinson, 78-9.
 Grand Krewe of Luxor, “Home Page,” http://www.thegrandkreweofluxor.com/pages/about_us.htm, accessed 8 April 2012.
 Kemp, 265.
 Author attempted to contact the architects of each of the building projects numerous times with no response from any.
 James Stevens Curl, Georgian Architecture (London: David & Charles, 1993), 15.
 “Federal style,” Encyclopædia Britannica Online (Web: Encyclopædia Britannic Inc., 2012), http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/203457/Federal-style, accessed 24 March 2012.
 “Greek Revival,” Encyclopædia Britannica (Web: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012), http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/244824/Greek-Revival, accessed 24 March 2012.
 Richard A. Fazzini and Mary E. McKercher, “’Egyptomania’ and American Architecture” in Imhotep Today: Egyptianizing Architecture, Ed. Jean-Marcel Humbert and C.A. Price (Portland: International Specialized book Servies, 2003), 140-1.
 Tennessee Historical Society, The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Carroll Van West, ed. (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998), 1009.
 The African American community has long been interested in studying Egypt as a part of their African heritage. For a brief overview of the African American and Black Ancient Egyptian Studies Movement, see Encyclopedia of Black Studies, Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama, eds. (Thousand oaks: SAGE Publications, 2005), 93-7.
 Eugene J. Johnson and Robert D. Russell, Jr., Memphis: An Architectural Guide (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990), 107.
 Johnson, 171.
 Baird, “Memphis will celebrate.”
 Baird, “Memphis will celebrate.”
 Dennis McLellan, “Sidney Shlenker, 66; Entrepreneur Staged Astrodome Events” in Rutgers, April 28, 2003, http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/archive/index.php/t-45740.html, accessed 30 March 2012.
 Woody Baird, “Big pyramid, little wonder: Memphis tourist magnet failing to tickle interest” in The Free Lance-Star, A-3, November 9, 1991, http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=pAFOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FowDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5002,1577415&dq=en, accessed 30 March 2012.
 Zack McMillin, “Once filled to the rafters, Pyramid sits empty as its future is debated” in The Commercial Appeal, May 10, 2009, http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/may/10/quiet-as-a-tomb/, accessed 30 March 2012.
 Wilkinson, 213-5.
 The Pyramid will soon be a large Bass Pro Shop.
 Abbey Dane, Memphis Zoo, personal communication, 23 February 2012.
 Virginia Tech, “A Guide to the Ballard and Ballard Company Collection, c. 1925, Collection Number Ms2010-032,” 2010, http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaead/published/vt/viblbv00663.document, accessed 30 March 2012.
 The author was unable to contact anyone associated with the Ballard and Ballard Obelisk Flour Company for further information.
 Photograph courtesy of William Bearden, Overton Park (Mount Pleasant, North Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2004), 88.
 Carol Crown, “Late Dynastic Egypt” in Ancient Egypt A Guidebook (Memphis: Memphis State University, 1983), 20.
 William Bearden, Overton Park (Mount Pleasant, North Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2004), 88.
 Bearden, 88. Author was unable to find any more information pertaining to the gazebo and is uncertain as to its current status.
 Memphis State University became University of Memphis in 1994.
 “Edward Herman Little,” Davidson College, Archives & Special Collections, http://sites.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/edward-herman-little/ (Davidson, North Carolina, 2010), accessed 21 April 2012.
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 Rita E. Freed, A Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt (Memphis: The University Gallery, 1983), 7.
 Dr. Lorelei Corcoran, personal interview, conducted 9 April 2012.
 Freed, 9.
 Corcoran, 9 April 2012.
 Corcoran, 9 April 2012.
 Jennifer Dorner, “Historical Sketch” in An Index to The Egyptians 1913-1995 (Memphis: Memphis and Shelby County Public Library and Information Center, 1996).
 The Egyptians, “Historical Sketch,” in The Egyptians 1994-1995 Year Book (Memphis: Sawtelle Printing Company, 1995), iv.
 Corcoran, 9 April 2012.
 Exhibition Pamphlet, Ramesses the Great Memphis, 1987.
 Whitney Smith, “Heston puts aside his magical act: Star Focuses on Egyptology” in The Commercial Appeal, 17 April 1987, B1.
 John Beifuss, “The Count is in” in The Commercial Appeal, 5 September 1987, B4.
 Charles Bersen, “Egypt gives Memphis OK to clone Ramesses Statue – Artifact copy will reside in pyramid,” in The Commercial Appeal, 9 September 1989.
 Laura Fenton, “Walk like an Egyptian: Ramesses has eyes on U of M,” in Update, (Jan. 12, 2012), accessed 22 April 2012.