Memphis High School  

                      ...The High School - 1877 - 1910



This website researched the archives of Memphis Newspapers to find information about high school education in Memphis.  We found numerous newspaper articles and the Memphis Directories, as early as 1877, with references to "Memphis High School" and/or "The High School". 

Prior to 1877, there were different high schools for male and female students in Memphis.  The male high school was at 300 Adams and the female high school was on Court and Third.  Memphis Directories soon began to call the male school Memphis High School.  Eventually the two separate schools merged into "Memphis High School".  We have not yet found a date when this happened, but it was probably in 1877.  

Memphis High School
...Occupied the top floors of the old Market Street School

From 1877 to 1891, Memphis High School was on the NW corner of Market and 3rd on the top floors of the old Market Street School (which was officially now named Smith School - although everyone continued to call it Market Street School).  Enrollment steadily increased to the point that a new high school was soon necessary.  In 1892, the new high school opened next to the Leath school on Linden near Wellington.  All the staff from Memphis High School moved to this new school - but for unknown reasons, they called the new school Leath High School instead of Memphis High School.  The MHS name was retired for the next 6 years.   It wasn't long before the Leath High School also became too small and a larger building was needed.   In 1898,  the Memphis High School name was resurrected when a new building was opened on the corner of Poplar and Yates and those same teachers moved again to the new school.  The Leath High School reverted to a Junior school. 

A newspaper article of the time stated that "Memphis High School is now the one public High School of the city and all others (Market...Leath, etc) will no longer be high schools."


Photos of Memphis High School 1877-1911


Memphis High School 1877-1891 Leath High School 1891-1898

Memphis High School 1898-1911

Memphis High School and/or the Market Street School.  MHS occupied the top floors of the building and the Market Street School, grades 1-6, occupied the lower floor.

This  was actually a "continuation" of the Memphis High School - same principal and teachers but it was named "Leath" because it was built on the campus of the Leath (elementary) School.

The Memphis High School name is resurrected when this new building opens in 1898 - same principal and teachers.  The school will remain here until 1911.  After that date, the MHS name will never be used again. 


< =     The "Jefferson Annex"                       

When Memphis High School became overcrowded, students would be shifted to "the Jefferson Annex".  This building was originally known as the Fowlkes Grammar School, and was also used by the Board of Education.


1879 Memphis High School Diploma  = >          

Thanks to George Whitworth for this copy of a very rare 1879 Memphis High School Diploma in his Memphis Schools collection.   The school would have been in the Market Street Building.

Click here to read a newspaper article about this 1879 Commencement . It's a PDF file, Be patient.

1875 Commencement Program (Below) 

This is the earliest known High School Commencement Program in the city.  The two schools graduating are "Male High School" and "Female High School".  The Male School was the Adams Street School at 300 Adams.  The Female School was the Court Street School at Court and 3rd.  Within two years these two schools will merge and become Memphis High School.  T. C. Anderson, principal of the Adams Street School will become the first principal of the Memphis High School.  Look at the bottom of the program cover for the name Miss Jennie M. Higbee, principal of the Female High.  The following year she started the Higbee School.  There is a memorial in Overton Park for Miss Higbee and a street is named after her.  On page 2 of the Commencement you'll see the name Mrs. Crockett, who presented the medals at the ceremony.  This is Mrs. E. J. Crockett who became the #2 teacher at Memphis High School and eventually the principal for many years.  The early Memphis Crockett Technial High School was named in honor of Mrs. E. J. Crockett.  Thanks to Rob Jolly for this copy of the very rare 1875 Commencement Program. 


Program 1 Program 2 Program 3 Program 4

Articles about the 1875 Commencement


1899 Memphis High School Commencement  = >

Thanks to George Whitworth for this copy of a very rare 1899 Memphis High School Commencement in his Memphis Schools collection.   This would have been the first graduation class  in the "Castle Building" on Poplar Av.


1904 MHS Commencement

1909 MHS Commencement

1908 Football Team MHS Vase MHS - Plate

1906 Memphis High School Class  = >

Thanks to George D. Krell, Jr. for this photo of the 1906 MHS class.  His grandmother, Susie Wynn Douglass (Krell) is in the 1st Row, 2nd person.from left.


1906 Graduation Class


This very rare Memphis High School Pin dates from 1898.  Notice the engraving of the "Castle Building" in the center of the pin.  The school colors were most likely green and orange.  We've not been able to confirm this. 

Collection:  Dave French


The newspaper articles below are very interesting and corroborate the facts mentioned above. 
Click on the newspaper fragments to read the entire article.


Many of these archived early newspaper articles offer an unfavorable slant on Memphis' attitude toward public education - one that would continue over the course of several years.  It seemed to be the general consensus that high school public education was "...too expensive and very few graduated, and those who did, mostly became teachers".  But after 1881 this will no longer be an issue. 

Below:  1879 article is about closing "The High School".

Below:  1879 article refers to "Memphis High School" and is about the commencement for 13 graduates.



Below:  The four articles reproduced below discuss a "new high school building on Poplar", describing the building as "...built of cream white limestone in a broad Romanesque style with elaborately carved arches and cornices ... nothing in Memphis like it".  There's no question about what building they're describing.  Since there is now only ONE white high school, the Memphis High School will also continue to be called "The High School" in newspaper articles.

Below:  This 1897 article refers to building a new "The High School" on Poplar...

Below:  This 1897 article refers to accepting plans for the high school  on Poplar...



Below:  This 1898 article descries laying the cornerstone and what went into the cornerstone of the new school.

Below:  This 1898 article describes the opening of the new Memphis High School on Poplar



Below:  These rare photos were  taken the last few years that Memphis High School occupied "the Castle" building.  Click on the small photos for enlargements.


Memphis High School 1909

Memphis High School GYM 1907

Writing Class 1909


Home Ec Class 1908 Wood Class 1908 Commercial Class 1909

TeachersMemphis High + Annex  1910

Memphis High Basketball 1910

Memphis High School Class of 1909


Below:  This 1877 Memphis City Directory lists MEMPHIS HIGH SCHOOL at NW corner of Market and 3rd.  We verified additional directories from 1877 through 1891, listing Memphis High School at this same location.   Market Street School is listed at the same address but with a different principal.  This caused a lot of confusion until we learned that Market Street School and Memphis High School shared the same building with the high school on the top floors. 





Below:  1883  Directory showing Mrs. E. J. Crockett has become principal of Memphis High School.  Crockett Technical High was named in her honor.

Below:  This 1892 article verifies that the new Leath High School is "now being completed".


Below:  This 1898 article verifies that the Leath HS reverts to the Leath School as a Junior school.

Below:  This 1900 Directory is the last of the "Memphis Directories" showing the schools in 1900


Below:  1935 article about MHS last class holding a reunion
Below:  1964 article about the cornerstone of the MHS after the building was demolished.





For more archives: and then click on "Ray Holt Memphis School Article Collection".




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