Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Birmingham (Alabama)

BIRMINGHAM, city and county-seat of Jefferson co., Ala.; at the junction of several trunk railroads; 96 miles N. W. of Montgomery, the State capital. It is at the foot of Red Mountain, which, besides its vast limestone deposits, contains a remarkably large and accessible vein of hematite iron ore; and is also in close proximity to the Warrior, Cahaba and Coosa coal fields. These natural resources have made Birmingham the most important manufacturing city in the South since the close of the Civil War. The city has an extensive waterworks system with a reservoir on Shade's Mountain, 225 feet above the city; is provided with the Waring system of sewerage; and has an exceptional equipment of street railroads connecting it with all important suburban points. Birmingham is served by nine railroad systems, the Alabama Great Southern, Seaboard Air Line, Central of Georgia, Illinois Central, Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic, Southern, Frisco, Louisville and Nashville, and Mobile and Ohio. It is in the heart of great coal fields which have an estimated available supply of 68,572,000,000 tons.

Following the 1904 census, the corporate limits of the city were extended to seven times the former area, or from 4,270 acres to 30,881 acres. There are 60 elementary schools, five high schools, beside commercial, technical, and collegiate institutions. The city is under the commission form of government. The net funded debt in 1919 was $6,035,000. The total assessed value of realty was $75,000,000; of personalty, $29,000,000. The ratio of assessment to market value was 50 per cent. The tax rate was 1 per cent. Budget for the year, $1,445,000. Charitable institutions include St. Vincent's Hospital, Hillman Hospital, Mercy Home, Jefferson Co. Almshouse, and the Boys Industrial School. Birmingham has been called the “Pittsburgh of the South.” Every year 70 per cent. of the entire tonnage of Alabama is hauled in and out of the city. There are over 400 mining and manufacturing plants of various kinds, blast furnaces, coke ovens, steel plants, rolling mills, cement factories, chemical works, hollow ware factories, corn and flour mills, sash factories, agricultural implements, packing companies. Its manufactures are over one-sixth of the total for the State.

History.—Birmingham was incorporated as a city in 1871 with a population of less than 1,000. Its noticeable development began in 1880 and its remarkable progress may be said to date from 1890. In 1896 its two largest iron and steel corporations began selling pig iron for export at prices as satisfactory as those obtained on domestic orders; and since then it has had a larger development in the iron and steel industry than any city S. of Pittsburgh. Pop. (1890) 26,178; (1900) 38,415; (1910) 132,685; (1920) 178,270.

Collier's 1921 Birmingham.jpg
© Ewing Galloway