The Founding of Birmingham
Birmingham can be used as an example of:
- New South Industrialism in last half of nineteenth century;
- Growth of Cities in period following Civil War;
- Sociological Problems in cities during Gilded Age;
- Use of Immigrant Labor in United States's rise to industrial power.
Birmingham was founded in 1871 during the Reconstruction Period.
- Site was in Jefferson County where two railroads planned to cross.
- Valley was in middle of Alabama's mineral district with coal, red and brown iron ore, and limestoneminerals needed to make iron.
- Site was a corn field in a poor hill country valley with no navigable river.
- Streets were surveyed in grid pattern in 1871.
- Called "Iron City," later "Magic City" (grew magically from a corn field).
First boom was from real estate salesboom town with wild west flavor.
- Auction sale of lots advertised all over the country.
- Problems with providing city with clean water and sewage disposal.
- Cholera epidemic in summer of 1873 almost destroyed city.
- September Panic of 1873 drained capital investments and prevented new investment.
Industrial base began with:
- Reopening of Confederate iron furnaces in Shades Valley at Irondale and Oxmoor;
- 1874 opening of Warrior coal field;
- First making of coke pig iron in 1876 (Confederate iron was made with charcoal. Charcoal comes from wood, and many trees in area had been cut; coke comes from coal and burns hotter);
- Investments encouraged by Henry F. DeBardeleben (who was married to Daniel Pratt's only child, Ellen; example of antebellum industry supporting New South industry);
- Rapid growth of city during Great Iron Boom of 1880s:
- Woodward Iron Company furnace went into blast in 1883;
- Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Co. (TCI) arrived in 1886;
- In 1888 Henderson Steel produced first steel in Birmingham.
- About 20% of the miners were immigrants, 35% native-born; rest African Americans.
- As miners tried to organize, strikes and some violence resulted.
- Many miners and mill workers lived in company towns, shopped at company stores, and went to company doctors when they were sick.