Opened in 1930 as Memphis Museum of Natural History and Industrial Arts, the Pink Palace was originally the home of Clarence Saunders, founder of the Piggly Wiggly, the first self-service grocery store in the US. Saunders lost his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929 and gave his mansion to the city when he couldn’t afford to finish it or keep it. The mansion is undergoing renovation so we didn’t see the exhibits normally on display there but the large addition which includes permanent and temporary exhibits is still opened.
Memphis was founded in 1819. As the city grew into a major cotton and slave trading center providing public services such as garbage collection or a sewage system was neglected. Water was pulled directly from the river. Yellow fever, cholera, and malaria epidemics were common but the worst yellow fever epidemic hit in 1878. Over 25,000 middle and upper class people fled. Of the 19,000 poor people who remained, 17,000 contracted yellow fever. More than 5,000 people died and the city didn’t recover financially or population wise for years.
The epidemic and health care are thoroughly covered in the museum. Other exhibits cover natural and human history including evolution, fossils, geology, the early history of Memphis, and the Civil War.
The museum is accessible.