Memphis Moment: Clifford H. Poland, Sr.

Memphis Moment: Clifford H. Poland, Sr., by Steve Pike

Memphis, TN – From 1912 to 1939, photographer Clifford H. Poland, Sr., documented the rapid growth of Memphis, recording slices of the city's economic and social life through his photographs. Poland had worked as a railway clerk until he was fired for taking too many pictures. He then decided to join the Navy in order to see the world. President Teddy Roosevelt took notice of Poland's photography skills and asked him to be the chief yeoman and official photographer on the flagship Connecticut during its cruise around the world .

When he returned from the cruise, Poland settled in Memphis, opening the first commercial studio in the area. He owned the first movie camera in Memphis and was known for being the only photographer between St. Louis and New Orleans to take color and sound movies at that time. Poland's first commercial movie was of the opening of Clarence Saunders' original Piggly Wiggly store. Poland died of kidney failure in 1939, but many of his photographs remain popular as Memphis memories.