Unofficially nicknamed the “Yellowhammer State,” the “Cotton State,” and the “Heart of Dixie,” Alabama was the 22nd state to join the USA on December 14, 1819.
It has a population of 4.8 million people, making it the 24th most populous state.
Alabama is bordered by the states of Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia, with a total of 52,419 sq mi (135,765 km2) of land and water it is the 30th largest state.
That’s enough of the hard facts though; let’s take a peek at some facts that shed some real insight into Alabama!
Alabama used to be covered in grassland.
When the first Europeans came to Alabama it looked so very different to how it does today.
Once the early settlers arrived, they cut down the trees and burnt off the grass to turn it into farmland.
Originally more than half of the state was covered in grasslands, wetlands and open grassy woodlands.
Of all the prairie land there was originally, sadly only about 1 percent now remains.
It was in Alabama that Rosa Parks started a civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat to a white man.
Referred to as the “Mother of civil rights movements,” Rosa Parks played an incredibly important part in American history.
At a time when public buses were still segregated into zones for white or colored people, Rosa stood up for her rights.
On December 1st, 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat in the colored area to a white man when the white zone’s seats were full.
Despite being legally allowed to occupy her seat, she was arrested for civil disobedience.
While this may not have been the first case of this happening, Rosa was able to challenge the court.
Rosa’s defiance became a symbol for the civil rights movement, and she went on to do many great things over her life.
The first Europeans to find Alabama were Spaniards, but it was settled by the French.
A Spanish expedition lead by the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto first passed through parts of Alabama in the 16th century.
Hernando wasn’t interested in founding any settlements though – he was in search of gold, as well as a passage through to the Pacific coast.
It wasn’t until 1702, over 160 years later, that the first European settlement was founded in Alabama.
The first settlement was named Old Mobile, and had a population of 350 inhabitants at its peak.
Old Mobile ended up being relocated just 9 years later due to a long list of troubles, severe flooding among them.
Alabama is home to the largest cast-iron statue in the world.
In 1904, the city of Birmingham, Alabama constructed a 56-foot (17 m) statue of the Roman god of fire and forge, Vulcan.
Once completed the statue was shipped to St. Louis as Birmingham’s entry into the 1904 World’s Fair.
The statue was a demonstration of the manufacturing abilities of the Birmingham area, which everyone agreed must have been pretty incredible, as the statue was awarded a “grand prize.”
The statue of Vulcan now rests in the Vulcan Park and Museum, atop a 123-foot (37 m) pedestal.
It weighs an incredible 120,000 pounds (45,359 kg), which is the equivalent of 10 elephants!
Alabama’s first permanent state capital is now a ghost town.
After Alabama was admitted into statehood a site for a state capital had to be chosen.
On the 21st of November, 1818, the site of Cahaba (also known as Cahawba) was chosen.
The capital was planned out, plots of land were auctioned off and the town was up and running by 1820.
Cahaba was Alabama’s state capital for a very short time though, from just 1820 to 1825, before it was relocated due to frequent floods.
The town never really recovered from this, and after another severe flood in 1865 it was all but abandoned.
By 1880 Cahaba had been removed from the US census rolls.
The first civil aviation school in the United States was opened in Alabama.
Orville and Wilbur Wright, or more commonly known as the Wright Brothers, opened the very first US civil aviation school outside of Montgomery, Alabama.
The Wright Brothers were famous for many things, but their greatest legacy is being the fathers of flying itself.
These American Aviation pioneers not only invented, but built and flew the world’s first successful airplanes.
One of Alabama’s nicknames is “The Yellowhammer State.”
While Alabama’s state bird is the Yellowhammer, this isn’t the direct cause of its nickname. The origins are said to lie with the Civil War.
A uniform worn by a company of soldiers from Huntsville, Alabama, had yellow trim, and thus they were nicknamed “Yellowhammers.”
The nickname caught on, and was applied to all soldiers from Alabama, and eventually to the state itself.
Alabama is home to the only bookstores in the world that only sells signed copies.
Hidden away on a dead end street in Birmingham, Alabama, lies a bookstore with a unique twist.
Jacob Reiss, the owner of Alabama Booksmith has been in the business of selling books for 25 years.
Originally selling rare and used books, it was only in 2012 that Jacob made the change to selling signed-only copies.
The first successful heart surgery on a live patient was in Alabama.
Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill Jr, a doctor from Montgomery, Alabama, was the first to achieve this impressive feat.
It all started when a 13 year old boy by the name of Henry Myrick was involved in a fight and stabbed through the heart.
What’s even more impressive, though, is that the operation wasn’t even performed straight away – Myrick had been stabbed the previous afternoon!
Alabama is the most religious state in the US.
According to research from the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank who conducts research into demographics and public opinions, Alabama comes up as the most religious state.
According to their data 86% of the state’s residents are Christian, with 49% of those being Evangelical Protestants.
Interestingly enough, only 51% of people from Alabama actually attend church on a weekly basis, yet 73% pray on at least a daily basis.
Not surprisingly, 50% of adults in Alabama look to the Bible for guidance when it comes to a question of right and wrong.
The first operational windshield wipers were invented in Alabama.
Mary Anderson, an Alabama native, is credited for the invention back in 1903.
This was way back in the day when automobiles were starting to really gain some popularity, just before the famous Ford Model T was released.
She tried to sell her patented invention to a number of companies, but they rejected the idea as they thought they would be too distracting to drivers.
Montgomery, Alabama, was the capital of the Confederate States of America.
Alabama Seceded from the United States on the 11th of January, 1861.
In February of the same year Alabama and 6 other states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Louisiana) formed the Confederate States of America, an unrecognized republic in the lower south region of the now USA.
These states were pro-slavery, and relied heavily upon African American slaves for their vast agricultural industries.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 the states that formed the confederacy believed their rights to keep slaves would be abolished, and thus they seceded from the USA.
The first ever submarine to sink an enemy ship was constructed by Confederates in Alabama.
Designed by James McClintlock, the submarine H.L. Hunley’s construction was finished in 1863.
In its first test run it sank, killing 5 crew members, and its second trial saw it sink again, killing all 8 crew members.
Undeterred by the rising body count, the Confederates raised the submarine to the surface and tried again.
The H.L. Hunley finally saw success in 1864, yet it was to be a bittersweet victory.
On one hand it was able to torpedo the United States Navy’s sloop-of-war, the USS Housatonic, sinking it.
On the other hand, due to damages suffered during the attack, the H.L Hunley sank again, killing all crew members, again.
Alabama is the home of the longest NASCAR oval in the USA, if not the world.
The Talladega Superspeedway, previously known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, has a NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66 miles (4.28 km).
This Motorsports complex is located just outside of Talladega, Alabama, where it was built on the site of a former air force base in 1969.
In its many years of operation the track has been home to countless broken records, as well as first-time winners.
The speeds at this track often reach a whopping 200 mph (320 kmph) or more!
There actually is a sweet home in Alabama.
Here’s one for you if you’re a fan of the song Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In 1906 a man by the name of H.W. Sweet had a home built for him in the town of Bessemer, just outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
Sweet had his home built for $10,000 US, which is the equivalent of about $266,000 dollars today. Talk about a sweet deal!
Alabama has such incredibly rich history and varied geography, it’s no small wonder it’s a fascinating place.
Its past is contrasted between its time in the confederation, to being the seat of civil rights movements for African Americans.
As you can see there’s a huge range of fascinating facts about Alabama, what you’ve learned here is really only the tip of the iceberg!