Memphis Aerial Views Vintage Photos and Postcards


Before the invention of photography, aerial views were left to the imagination of artists.   Early artists  had used the principles of perspective to create images of how they believed cities might look from above.  But the view from the sky was strictly a matter on conjecture until  the first "air vehicle" was created.   These "air vehicles" were the hot air balloons and were introduced in the United States in the 1790s.  For the first time one could actually see the world from above, but only a handful of adventurers were able to take advantage of this thrilling opportunity.   It wouldn't be until the 1850's that Photography would eventually  provide the aerial views for the general public.


Because early photography used a process that required the photographic plate to be developed within 20 minutes, photographers weren't able to take advantage of the hot-air balloon in the beginning.  In 1858 a Frenchman put a darkroom and all his gear, including a supply of water, into the basket of a balloon. The photo he managed to produce has been lost, but within two years a Boston photographer repeated the accomplishment.  From then on, there were aerial  photos of the world's cities.  Other than the hot air balloons, vintage aerial photos were soon taken from the new skyscrapers and eventually from those daring bi-planes that could seemingly fly anywhere.



Click on the small photos to see an enlargement.


1906 Front Street 1908 Front Street 1950's Court House Vintage Front Street




Front ... Main Streets *




1928 College Campus

1920s Ellis-Poplar Station

         Main and Monroe *


     Courtsquare 1909

1924 Ellis - Poplar Station

1938 Aerial Map

          1885 Aerial Map -2.5 MB


   1989 Madison - Looking West

Enlargement:  Front-Main

Enlargement:  Main-Monroe


   Urban Renewal 1963

U.R. 1963:  Streets Labeled

Madison - Looking east

Downtown - Riverside Dr.


1920s - Claridge-Ellis 1948 1948

Fairgrounds 1930


Front Street

OK Storage - Ellis Aud.

Postcards ...Vintage aerial views of Memphis

    1906 Bird's Eye View

1908 Bird's Eye View

1909 Court and Main

Main - Looking North


Main Street            

Mississippi Bridges

Beale 1950s

Main 1905


    Skyline by Moonlight



Skyline 1944


Vintage Skyscraper District 1959 Looking North Circa 1960

Downtown Memphis      



Medical Center 1960


Bridges-Marine Hospital        1916 Coovert Photo Mud Island Kennedy Hospital
Vintage Cameras and Inventive Photographers

Nadar - 1862

Lawrence - 1901

Batut - Kite


Crane Hoist

Circa 1918




      During WW1 1918 Russel Gerow 1930s 1938

Geo Goddard 1925      


Wilbur Curtis - Aerial Specialist      

Aerial Photographers 1914






The Historic-Memphis website does not intentionally post copyrighted photos and material without permission or credit.  On occasion a "non-credited" photo might possibly be posted because we were unable to find a name to give credit.  Because of the nature of our non-commercial, non-profit, educational website, we strongly believe that these photos would be considered "Fair Use.  We have certainly made no monetary gain, although those using this website for historic or Genealogy research have certainly profited.  If by chance, we have posted your copyrighted photo, please contact us, and we'll remove it immediately, or we'll add your credit if that's your choice.  In the past, we have found that many photographers volunteer to have their works included on these pages and we'll  also do that if you contact us with a photo that fits a particular page. 


The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  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 Commission, 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, Woody Savage 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.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).