Barron G. Collier
 ... Father of Streetcar Advertising


Very few Memphians know the name Barron G. Collier, yet he began his successful Streetcar Advertising Company in Memphis and it became a national success story.   With capital generated from an earlier business venture, Collier had invested in a printing plant which sold advertising banners to streetcars and trains.  It wasn't making any money but he saw the potential and turned it into the most profitable part of the printing company.  Eventually he took the company to New York City where Barron Collier Inc, became the largest advertising organization in the world.



Click on small photos to see an enlargement


Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 23, 1873, Barron Gift Collier was the son of confederate soldier Cowles Myles Collier.  Early in life, he knew that a career in the military like his father wasn't for him.  Instead he decided to go into business, but what business?  At 16, he had quit school and was already working a full-time job soliciting freight cargos for the Illinois Central Railroad.   By the  age of 20, he was a very successful business owner and by 26, had amassed his first million.  


Barron G. Collier 

Age 10

Cowles Collier

Collier's first Memphis business developed from meeting someone who made street lights powered by gasoline, which made a brighter glow.   He acquired the patent for using gasoline and then convinced the Ohio Company which produced them to give him franchise rights for Memphis.  And then he sold Memphis officials on his ability to light some suburban streets that were beyond the reach of the city's gas mains.  These lights each had a small gasoline tank.  Collier hired 25 boys, to push two-wheeled carts to refill the tanks and then make the rounds at dusk to light them.  He also made the rounds and lit and snuffed them out himself.  This proved successful in Memphis and then Collier negotiated contracts in Hot Springs, Raleigh, and other southern cities.   He was 17. 

Collier's light

1920 Article

With the success of the "Sun Vapor Street Light Co", Collier now had capital to invest in additional businesses.  In 1892 he acquired half interest in the Memphis G. S. Standish print shop. The shop had an unprofitable contract that sold advertising cards to the Memphis streetcars.  Collier saw potential here and set the stage for what would become the foundation of his immense empire.  At the age of 19, he secured an exclusive contract for streetcar advertising in Memphis.  He sold the ads, printed the cards, put the cards in the cars, and paid the streetcar system a fee for the privilege. 

Poplar Av 1890s


Streetcar advertising

Streetcar advertising

Streetcar advertising

Streetcar advertising

Streetcar advertising

Collier introduced a standard size card of 11" x 21" so the cards would be interchangeable among various trolley car companies.  His advertising business was immediately successful and this success was repeated in Little Rock, Chattanooga, Birmingham, and New Orleans.   It was inevitable that he move on to New York City, where the Collier's Consolidated Street Railway Advertising Company soon led the market in mass transit advertising with affiliates in over 70 American cities, Canada, and Cuba.  By 1925, after acquiring other companies, Barron G. Collier Inc became the largest advertising organization in the world.   Collier's type of advertising cards are still found on public transportation today.


      11' x 21" Card

The Memphis Directories of 1892 show the G. S. Standish & Co (Printing) was located at 282 Main.  The same directory lists Collier's street lighting company as Sun Vapor Street Light Co, 16 Madison and Collier lived at 367 Pontotoc.  The 1894 Directory lists both the street light and advertising companies.  The 1907 directory presents a more extensive listing.  After Collier relocated to New York, his name remained on the Memphis Streetlight and Advertising businesses, well into the 1920s. 

  1892 1892 1894 1907

 In 1907, with success in  the advertising business, Collier married Juliet Gordon Carnes, his Memphis childhood sweetheart. The couple had three sons who would later carry on their father's empire.   That empire had begun to take shape in 1911 after Barron and Juliet visited Florida and fell in love with the place.  He immediately started buying Florida property.  At the time, the state wasn't the tropical paradise it would later become.  Collier's buying continued and he acquired over a million acres in the undeveloped wilderness.   He then worked with the state to get roads to these areas.  This undeveloped wilderness was now ripe for development and Collier was ready. . .


Juliet Gordon Carnes


Collier NY Herald 1922 Collier -  Governor Florida 1929

Collier and Sons


Barron Collier died on March 13, 1939, at the age of 66.  He was Florida's largest landowner at the time of his death. In 1947, the land that Collier had hoped to turn into a nature preserve was turned over to the state for management as a state park. Collier-Seminole State Park opened in 1947, offering visitors a glimpse of the natural, untamed beauty that had captivated the young advertising baron almost 100 years ago.


       Seminole State Park


A true pioneer, Barron G. Collier helped found the Boy Scouts of America and served as first commissioner of Public relations.  He was recognized for his service to scouting with the prestigious Silver Buffalo Award in 1932.  Collier also help found Interpol, the world's largest police organization. He invented the white and yellow dividing lines on America's highways and served as a special deputy commissioner for public safety in New York, where he campaigned against jaywalking.  His less known enterprises included subway gum machines and also owning, for a time,  Luna Park in Coney Island.


Bear Mt. Scout Camp 1921


Collier-Al Smith Collier - Gov Hardee Collier - FDR Luna Park Collier Monument Obit

Radium Springs, Georgia

Radium Springs is located in Dougherty County, Georgia and is best known as the location of one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia" - the largest natural spring in the state.  The water contains trace sources of radium and the temperature is 68 degrees  year round.  Prior to the Radium discovery, the site was known as "Blue Springs".  Barron G. Collier purchased the site in the 1920's and developed it as a popular and successful spa and resort.

Blue Springs, Ga.  

Collier County Museums

The Collier County Museums represent five museums within Collier County, Florida.  Each museum presents information on the history, heritage, culture and evolution of life and ecology in the Everglades.  The museums were established in 1978, and display the people, places, and events that mark the area's history.  The museums offer five separate facilities, each providing a different view of the area's past. 

Collier County Museum  

Barron G. Collier High School

Barron G. Collier High School is a four-year high school located in Collier County, Florida, northeast of the city of Naples.  The school opened in 1978 as the third high school in the area.  It has enjoyed a rich history  and was included in Newsweek's 2006 list of top U. S. high schools.

Collier High School  
Juliet Carnes Collier Hospital

The Juliet Carnes Collier Hospital was founded in the 1920s at Everglades City, Florida.  Today the building is a private residence ... and looks the same.

Juliet Carnes Collier Hospital  
Everglades Entrepreneur  .  By Marya Repko, 2018

The author digs into the life of the man who created a successful advertising business in Memphis and expanded it in New York.  Then he invested in Florida and became the largest landowner there ... bought hotels, operated a telephone system, published newspapers, and undertook a road-building project across the Everglades swamps.  At the same time he kept up his New York interests as a civic leader who was generous with his wealth.

2018 Book  

The Collier Family


Cowles Myles Collier
was Barron's father.  He was an officer in the U. S. Navy, from Virginia, but resigned his commission when the Civil War began.  Afterwards he became a Colonel in the Confederate States Army.  Cowles was considered an "artist of note" during his lifetime.  His paintings are mostly watercolors of boat-ocean scenes.  The paintings below are in the collection of Wesleyan College in Georgia.


Cowles Collier


Painting Painting Painting Painting





Mother Hannah

Brother Charles

Sister Georgia

Uncle C.H. Collier


Juliet Gordon Carnes married Barron G. Collier, her childhood sweetheart, in 1907.  She was 23 and he was 34.  Their first child was born five months later and two more sons quickly followed.  In 1911 the Colliers visited Florida and fell in love with the state.  They bought an island, called Useppa, for $100,000.    Very little in print can be found about Juliet, but as a prominent member  of  New York society, one has an idea of the kind of life she led.  It is known that the Colliers were a close and frequently traveled as a family.  Juliet's father Samuel T. Carnes was a prominent Memphian.  He was responsible for bringing electricity and the first telephone to Memphis.  He also had the first automobile in the city.





Colliers 1907

1920 1912 Juliet-Children Obit 1971 Sam T. Carnes *

K. Carnes


Two of Collier's sons, Cowles and Samuel, were accomplished racers, but neither became a champion of the sport.  Their main contribution to American motor sports is actually more significant.  They introduced the MG brand to the United States and founded the Automobile Racing Club of America.  Sam was born in 1912, followed by Myles in 1914.  Older brother Barron, Jr. was more like his father and tended to the business.


Barron, Jr.

C. M. Collier II

S. C. Collier


Cowles. - Le Mans 1950

Samuel- Le Mans 1950

Cowles & Samuel 1948

Young S. C.

C. M Collier

G.B. Jr Obit


* Samuel T. Carnes has comprehensive coverage on another page of this website >  Click here



The Collier Homes .  The Collier's had homes in New York City, Florida, and a summer home in Pocantico Hills, NY.  In 1923 they purchased Villa Meineck, owned by the Krupp family in Baden Baden, Germany.   Half their summers were now spent here.   As prominent members of New York Society the Collier's were listed in the "American Elite Blue Book" and the New York Social Register.


1920 Passport


NY Social Resigter

Summer Register Amer  Blue Book

56 W 70th  NYC

Useppa Cottage 1912

Useppa Island Home


Villa Meineck 1923 . 1.47 MB 114 5th Av NYC 220 W. 42nd NYC Flatiron Bldg NYC

Pocantico Hills, NY


WW1 Barron Collier Propaganda Posters . In 1918, Collier's Advertising Company created a series of 6 propaganda posters (11" x 21").  The design of the posters was simple and was meant to evoke contempt for the Germans, leaving no doubt that America was right in joining the war.  The red color used for Satin and Kaiser Wilhelm II helped intensify the feelings of anger towards the Germans.  By keeping the theme and colors the same in the series, the posters were easily identified as being part of the Collier series.  Today, the posters are very collectible and  average $1200 each.






Streetcar Advertising in America

Tennessean Woody Savage began collecting streetcar advertising signs a few years ago, and in the process, discovered Barron G. Collier who had become the father of streetcar advertising in America.  Woody was amazed that so few folks knew about Collier.  As a result of this chance encounter, he wrote a book about "Streetcar Advertising in America" with major sections devoted to Collier.  Recently Woody contacted the Historic-Memphis website and introduced us to Barron G. Collier , resulting in this page being developed.  Below:  A selection of Woody's great collection of Streetcar Advertising.







For more information on "Streetcar Advertising History"
visit Woody Savage's website:





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The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Collier County Museums, Woody Savage, Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commision, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

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