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Alabama Trivia

One interesting fact after another

Alabama Department of Archives and History is the oldest state-funded archival agency in the country. Photo by Marilyn Jones
Alabama Department of Archives and History is the oldest state-funded archival agency in the country. Photo by Marilyn Jones

What do Jan. 4 and Mardi Gras have in common? Well, Jan. 4 is National Trivia Day, and the first Mardi Gras in America was held in Mobile starting in 1703. That’s 15 years before New Orleans was founded and a bit of trivia Alabamians might like to know.

That’s the fun of trivia: Interesting little factoids important to some, but not always readily known by many.

Industry and innovation

Just about everyone knows Alabama workers built the first rocket to put humans on the moon and that Huntsville is known as the rocket capital of the world, but did you know the world’s first electric streetcar system was introduced in Montgomery in 1886 and ran down Dexter Avenue?

And Alabama is the only state with all the major natural resources needed to make steel. It is also the largest supplier of cast-iron and steel pipe products. In fact, Birmingham was established in 1871 at the anticipated intersection of the North & South and Alabama & Chattanooga railroads. Nearby mineral deposits of iron ore, limestone and coal made Birmingham a natural location for iron smelting.

Alabama’s famous sons and daughters

In 1902 Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performed the first open heart surgery in the Western Hemisphere by suturing a stab wound in a young boy’s heart. The surgery occurred in Montgomery.

W.C. Handy’s home in Florence. Photo courtesy Alabama department of tourism
W.C. Handy’s home in Florence. Photo courtesy Alabama department of tourism

W.C. Handy, the “father of the blues,” was born in a log cabin, now restored with a museum nearby, in Florence in 1873.

Baseball legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and famed boxer Joe Louis were born in Alabama.

Tallulah Bankhead, star of stage, screen and radio during the 1930s-1950s, was born in Huntsville in 1902, and singer and entertainer Nat “King” Cole was born in Montgomery in 1919.

Actress Kate Jackson, author and actress Fannie Flagg, and Oscar-winning actress Louise Fletcher all hail from Birmingham, as did Betty Lou Gerson, a voice actress who brought Cruella de Vil to life in Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.”

Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer is from Montgomery, and actor Channing Tatum is from Cullman.

The author of Forrest Gump, Winston Groom, grew up in Mobile.

Museum facts and finds

The Alabama Department of Archives and History is the oldest state-funded archival agency in the nation. The agency was organized in 1901 and housed in the capital building until 1940 when it moved across the street to the War Memorial Building.

Adolf Hitler’s typewriter survived from his mountain retreat and is exhibited at the Hall of History in Bessemer.

Geography

At 2,405 feet, Cheaha Mountain is Alabama’s highest point above sea level.

Alabama’s geographic center is located in Chilton, a community located 12 miles southwest of Clanton.

The state has four national forests, 10 national wildlife refuges and two national monuments: Little River Canyon National Preserve and Russell Cave National Monument.

State stats

Alabama became the 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819. It is 30th in size at 52,423 square miles.

Montgomery was the birthplace of the Confederate States of America and its first capital. The capital was moved from Montgomery to Richmond, Virginia, on May 24, 1861.

The Confederate flag, the “Stars and Bars,” was designed and first flown in Alabama in 1861. The Alabama state flag was authorized in 1895.

Share your knowledge

Alabama is a state of interesting people, places and events. Thousands of little known facts are just waiting to be discovered.

What unusual piece of trivia can you share with readers? Send your trivia to agriffin@areapower.com for possible inclusion in a future issue of Alabama Living.