Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Pink Palace Museum

The story of the Pink Palace Museum starts with Clarence Saunders, founder of the Piggly Wiggly chain of grocery stores. Piggly Wigglys were the first grocery stores to:
Provide checkout counters.
Put a price on every item in the store.
Use high volume/low profit margin retailing to keep costs down.
Use refrigerated cases for fresh produce.
Insist on uniforms for store employees.
Design and use patented fixtures and equipment in their stores.
Franchise independent grocers.

Saunders was an excellent grocer, but although he made gobs of money, he made the mistake of creating Piggly Wiggly Corporation and then giving ownership of all PW properties to that corporation. He then managed to lose control of PW through a series of trades in the 1920s.

At which point Saunders opened a new chain of stores called "Clarence Saunders, Sole Owner of My Name Stores." I kid you not. Unfortunately, during the Depression, this new chain was forced to close.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, in the early 1920s Saunders began to build himself a mansion, which was unfinished when he lost Piggly Wiggly in 1923. The City of Memphis took ownership in 1926 for use as a conservatory, art gallery, and museum of arts and natural history.
It was therefore never lived in but has always been a museum. It's a lovely building, built from pink marble quarried in Tate County, GA. It houses some interesting exhibits.
One of the displays features clothing worn in the annual Cotton Carnival. This dress has appliqu├ęs showing cotton plants in various stages of growth.
There is an actual Tsantsa, or shrunken head from the Shuar people of Ecuador. When an enemy was killed, the head was severed and the skin removed. The heads were considered a temporary vessel of the avenging soul of the dead, so they were shrunken into tsantsas to lock in the avenging spirit. The tsantsas were brought back to the village where three feasts were held to share their power with everyone. After the ceremonies, the heads no longer had any importance to the Shuar and were not considered objects of value.
The museum has several reproductions of grocery stores from early American to early Piggly Wiggly stores. Here is an old fashioned general store.

Many people are unaware (as we were) that the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC was made in Memphis, TN. We watched a fascinating film about its creation.
A piece of the Wall is here at the Pink Palace Museum.

We found this to be a very interesting place to visit. I was glad that my back felt good enough to walk around and see the various exhibits, which also included a very well-done dinosaur display as well as rocks and gems. I was ready for a break by the end of the exhibits, though!




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