Memphis High School (The High School):  1877 - 1910


Memphis High School
(Occupied the top floors of the old Market Street School)

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

Prior to 1877, there were different high schools for male and female students.  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.  We have not yet found a date when the male and female schools officially merged as Memphis High School, but it probably happened in 1877.  

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 (now named Smith School).  Enrollment steadily increased to the point that a new high school was necessary.  In 1892, the new high school opened next to the Leath school on Linden near Wellington and was named Leath High School.  All the staff from Memphis High School moved to this new school and the name "Memphis High School" was not used for the next 6 years.  But it wasn't long before the Leath High School also became too small and a larger building was needed.   In 1898,  the new Memphis High School opened on the corner of Poplar and Yates and those same teachers moved to the new school - and the Leath High School reverted to a Junior school.  Of course the new Memphis High School occupied the building on Poplar that in 1911 would become the home of the new Memphis Vocational High School, which would later become Crockett Technical High.

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.  It was named "Leath" because it was built on the campus of the Leath (elementary) School.

MHS has a new building in 1898.  Central opens in 1911 and take the principal and staff.  The "Memphis High School" name will no longer be used.  The new Memphis Vocational  School opens in this building in 1911.


The "Jefferson Annex"

Rare 1879 Memphis High School Diploma

When Memphis High School became overcrowded, students would be shifted to "the Jefferson Annex" .  This building was originally known as the Fowlkes Grammar School.

Thanks to George Whitworth for this copy of a very rare 1879 Memphis High School Diploma in his Memphis Schools collection.

Click to Read Newspaper Article about this 1879 Commencement . It's a PDF file, Be patient.


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



There's no doubt what building is being described in the articles above. 

For a very interesting article about an antique Memphis High School pin engraved with an image of that new school, circa 1898... 


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


Memphis High School Class of 1906

1904 MHS Graduation Program

1904 MHS Graduation Program

Thanks to George D. Krell, Jr. for the photo.  His grandmother, Susie Wynn Douglass (Krell) is 1st Row, 2nd from left.


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.  This website has confirmed that Crockett Technical HS could be named for Mrs. E. J. Crockett.

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".




A rare photo of the Old Market Street School









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