1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Birmingham (Alabama)
BIRMINGHAM, a city and the county-seat of Jefferson county, Alabama, U.S.A., in the north-central part of the state, 96 m. N.W. of Montgomery, at an altitude of 600 ft. It is served by the Southern, the Louisville & Nashville, the Seaboard Air Line, the Central of Georgia, the Alabama Great Southern (of the Queen & Crescent Route), the Illinois Central, the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic, the Birmingham Southern (for freight only), and the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham (Frisco system) railways. Pop. (1890) 26,178; (1900) 38,415, of whom 16,575 were of negro descent, and 1776 were foreign-born; (1910) 132,685. Birmingham is situated in Jones Valley, between two mountains which lie south-east and north-west of the city. Its streets are wide and well constructed, and there are sixteen public parks, three of which, East Lake, Lakeview and Capitol, are particularly attractive. Among the principal buildings are the First National bank, the immense Union station and the Saint Vincent hospital; besides several fine office and school buildings (including the beautiful manual training high school) and churches. Although the state constitution restricts municipal investments, a Waring or “Separate” sewage system has been established. The most important educational institutions are the Birmingham medical college and college of pharmacy; the Birmingham dental college; a school of art and a conservatory of music. At East Lake station, in the north-east of the city, is Howard College (Baptist; founded at Marion, Perry county, in 1841 as an academy; granted first collegiate degrees in 1848; opened in East Lake in 1887); and 2 m. west of the city is the North Alabama Conference College (Methodist Episcopal South), opened in 1897.
Birmingham, situated in an immensely rich iron, coal and limestone region, is the principal manufacturing centre in the state, and the most important centre for the production and manufacture of iron in the southern states. In the decade 1890-1900 the value of the products of Birmingham’s manufactories increased 78.9% from $7,064,248 to $12,581,066; in 1900 establishments under the “factory system” produced goods valued at $8,599,418, in 1905 at $7,592,958, a decrease of 11.7%.
Immediately outside the city limits in 1905 there were many large manufactories, including the repair shops of the Southern railroad; iron and steel, car wheels and cotton-oil were among the products of the suburban factories. In Jefferson county there were in 1900 more than 300 mining and manufacturing establishments, engaged, chiefly, in the production of iron, coal and coke, and a majority of these are in Birmingham and its suburban towns. A short distance south of the city is Red Mountain, 25 m. long and about 225 ft. high, rich in hematite iron ore; valuable limestone deposits are found some 30 m. distant, and in the vicinity are three great coalfields, the Warrior, the Coosa and the Cahaba. These natural advantages make possible the production of pig iron at an unusually low cost. In 1900 the Birmingham district produced six-sevenths of the total pig iron exported from the United States, and in 1902 nine-tenths of Alabama’s coal, coke and pig iron; in 1905 Jefferson county produced 67.5% of the total iron and steel product of the state, and 62.5% of the pig iron produced by the state. The first steel plant in the southern states was established at Birmingham in 1897; in 1902, at Ensley, one of the suburbs, there were 10 furnaces controlled by one company. The city has also a large trade in cotton, the annual receipts averaging about 100,000 bales. Among the manufactures are cotton goods, cotton-seed oil, yarn, furniture and machinery. Birmingham also has important lumber interests.
The city is a product of the industrial transformation in the southern states since the Civil War. In 1870 the site was a cotton field, where two railways, the South & North, and the Alabama & Chattanooga, now part respectively of the Louisville & Nashville and the Southern System, met, 2 m. from Elyton. In 1871 a land company, promoted by railway officials, founded Birmingham. Within four months the population was 1200; by 1873 it was 2500; in 1880 it was 3086; and in 1890 it had reached 26,178.