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Memphis, Tennessee Photographer, C.H. Poland: Two Hand-Colored Photographs

Pair of elaborately hand-painted photographs by C.[lifford] H. Poland of Memphis, Tennessee showing a woman with displays of large floral arrangements.

In one photograph, the woman, who is wearing a white dress and white hat with pink bow, is seated and in the other she is standing. Some of the flower arrangements appear in both photographs, although in different positions. It might be speculated that these photographs are souvenirs of her wedding flowers. Indeed, on her left hand in the photograph in which she is standing, one can see several rings upon her fingers.


The festive floral arrangements in their various wicker baskets are quite colorful and show pink, yellow, white, and red flowers. Most of the baskets are also decorated with colorful bows. An archway with green ferns is shown in the background.

One of the photographs is signed within the image by Memphis photographer “C. H. Poland, Photo” and is dated August 5, 1918. This image shows a basket of flowers adorned with a red, white, and blue ribbon, possibly a patriotic motif suitable for a wedding during the First World War.


The 1920 US Federal Census records Clifford H. Poland, a native of Ohio, living with his family as a commercial photographer. Further:

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…in 1939, but many of his photographs remain popular as Memphis memories. ¹

An attractive complementary pair of early 20th century hand-painted Southern photographs.


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