Hernando De Soto

May 22, 2013

Engraving of Hernando De Soto
Credit John Sartain

The famed Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto, the first European to see the Mississippi River, died on May 21, 1542.

De Soto and his men had marched hundreds of miles through much of the Southeast. By the time of his death, De Soto had lost at least 1/3 of his men to disease, malnutrition, and constant warfare with the Native Americans.

After his death, the remaining Spaniards traveled down the Mississippi, made their way to Mexico, and then back home.

De Soto's discovery and death is memorialized by the three Burton Callicott murals at the Pink Palace. As you view the murals in the mansion lobby, you will notice something unusual about the western shore of the Mississippi, which De Soto is gazing at.

It is not flat like the real western shore. Instead, it is depicted by three gently rolling hills. Burton Callicott wrote that he took that liberty in order to suggest the outline of a man lying on the ground. That man would be De Soto himself, who died not long after crossing the Mississippi.

To learn more about all of our region's history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums, or on their Facebook page, or at http://www.memphismuseums.org.