Situated in between tranquil hills and shorelines, Alabama remains to be a state of quiet charm. Although hailed as the most affordable state in the United States, many remain unaware of its rich history despite its fame in mainstream media. There’s more to the state than just meets the eye, and certainly warrants more attention than just internet jokes. Without further ado, here are some Alabama facts to help you dig deeper into the sweet, sweet Heart of Dixie.
- Alabama is the United States’ 24th most populous state.
- As of 2019, Alabama had a population of 4,903,185 people.
- It is the 22nd state.
- Alabama has 67 counties.
- The state spans a total area of 52,419 square miles.
- Alabama sits in the southeastern part of the United States.
- The capital of Alabama is Montgomery.
- Its state tree is the southern longleaf pine.
- The official demonym for residents in Alabama is “Alabamians”.
- “Alabamans” is an unofficial alternative to “Alabamians”.
- The state was admitted to the union on December 14, 1819.
- Birmingham is the most populous city in the state of Alabama.
- Huntsville has the largest land area among all cities in Alabama.
- In terms of state area size, Alabama’s territory ranks the 30th largest.
- The state motto is “Audemus jura nostra defendere”, a Latin phrase that translates to “We dare maintain our rights”.
- It has among the most inland waterways among the states.
- The state flag contains the cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
- Camellia, Alabama’s state flower, is not native to the state.
- In 1836, Alabama declared Christmas a legal holiday — the first one to do so among all the states.
- The state song’s title is “Alabama”, written by Julia Tutwiler.
Alabama played a central role in the American Civil War.
When Jefferson Davis proclaimed his oath of office in 1861, Montgomery, Alabama served as the first capital of the Confederacy. This place also birthed the Constitution of Confederacy. Despite receiving significant resistance from the northern parts of the state, Alabama led the efforts towards secession. During the civil war, Alabama was a strong provider of men, military supplies, transportation such as horses and mules, and food.
Alabama does not have an official state nickname.
While state has various nicknames like The Cotton State, Heart of Dixie, The Lizard State, and The Yellowhammer State, none of these are official.
Alabama earned the nickname “The Cotton State” and “The Cotton Plantation State” because of the state’s prosperous cotton production. At the center of the Cotton Belt, the state heavily relied on cotton production for its culture and economic growth. To this day, Alabama leads cotton production in the US.
One of the more popular Alabama facts is that people refer to the state as the “Heart of Dixie”. You can find this nickname embedded in Alabama license plates, first seen during the American Civil War. The nickname “Heart of Dixie” highlights the state’s central role in the history of the southern states, or Dixie.
Meanwhile, “Yellowhammer State” is an unofficial but popular nickname for Alabama that originated way back in the time of the Civil War. It earned this nickname when a company of Alabama soldiers wore uniforms trimmed with yellow cloth. Other troops would call them “yellowhammers”, after the state bird which had yellow feathers underneath its wings and tail.
The state takes its name from a Native American tribe.
Alabama River and the state of Alabama both got their names from the Alibamu people. This Muskogean-speaking indigenous tribe lived below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers. Although there is some disagreement regarding the meaning of the word “Alabama,” some scholars suggest that the word came from the Choctaw term for “herb gatherers” or “clearers of the thicket.” However, some experts still deem it unlikely that the term came from the Choctaw language.
The earliest recorded variations of the term “Alabama” date as far back as the 1540s. Some variations included Alibamo, Alibamu, Alabama, Alibama, and Alibamon. Additionally, the French referred to the Alabama River as Rivière des Alibamons since 1702.
Many places in Alabama have names of Native American origin.
Thousands of years before Europeans arrived on American soil, indigenous peoples already occupied the area of what is now Alabama. The main Native American peoples that historically occupied Alabama included the Alibamu, Koasati, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and the Muscogee.
Not only is the state name of Native American origin, numerous place names in the state of Alabama also reflect their rich history and culture. Places like Autauga County, Choctaw County, Cahaba, Mobile, and Sipsey River are some of the few place names that have Native American origins.
The French were the first Europeans to settle in Alabama.
While historical accounts claim that Spanish explorers first arrived at Mobile Bay in 1519, they were not the first Europeans to establish permanent settlements in the territory. Hernando de Soto and the other explorers were only interested in searching for gold and passage to the Pacific coast, briefly leaving the territory after finding it.
Instead, the first recorded permanent European settlements only came with the arrival of the French. In 1702, the French built a fort at Old Mobile that housed up to 350 residents until floods made them relocate to what is now known as Mobile, Alabama in 1711.
Alabama has an opossum that reportedly predicts the weather.
While some parts of the US observe Groundhog Day by watching prognosticating groundhogs predict the weather, Albertville, Alabama has its own way of doing things. They employ the help of an opossum named Sand Mountain Sam. If Sam does not see his shadow after coming out of his burrow, it’s a sign of an early spring.
Aside from Sand Mountain Sam, Alabama also has two weather-predicting groundhogs: Birmingham Bill and Smith Lake Jake. Certainly one of the odd but interesting Alabama facts you’ll ever see.
Rosa Parks first started rhe US civil rights movement in Alabama.
In 1900, Montgomery passed an ordinance that called for the segregation of bus passengers by race. The law stated that passengers did not have to move for other people if the other seats were occupied, but bus riders began enforcing the custom of requiring black passengers to move at the back if there were no white-only seats available. They did not allow black people to sit in the same row as white people, with the former required to yield their seats to the white people. If there were more white people boarding the bus and there are no more seats left, black people would have to either stand or exit the bus.
Rosa Parks, however, wanted to fight for her rights and defy this unfair practice. At around 6PM on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man even though the three other passengers in her row yielded. Although Parks did not defy any laws, they arrested her for civil disobedience. With this small act, she challenged the courts and thus sparked the civil rights movement. Since then, the US congress has referred to Rosa Parks as “the mother of the freedom movement” and “the first lady of civil rights”.
Over 70% of Alabama is covered in forests.
Topographically, Alabama has four different forests that spread throughout the state. These are the William B. Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega, Tuskegee National Forests. In total, they cover about 667,000 acres of land in the state. This makes Alabama rank 7th among the states with the highest percentage of forest covers, with 70.57% of the state being covered in timberland.
The world’s largest cast iron statue stands in Birmingham, Alabama.
Aside from its renowned agriculture industry, the Heart of Dixie also is rich in metals and raw materials needed to make iron and steel products. In particular, Birmingham, Alabama serves as an industrial center for mining and steelwork in the whole US, earning it the nickname of “steel city”.
The steel city of Birmingham also has a major monument reflecting the prosperous steel and iron industry of the city. The city built a massive statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge. Built in 1904, the statue stands at an astonishing 56 feet (17 m), making it the largest cast iron statue in the world. Weighing around 120,000 lbs (45,359 kg), Birmingham’s Vulcan statue measures roughly the weight of 10 adult elephants! How’s that for cool Alabama facts?
The state has the only alcoholic state beverage.
In 2004, Alabama designated an official state beverage in the form of Conecuh Ridge Whiskey or Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey. This moonshine whiskey originates from the Conecuh Ridge Distillery and is the only alcoholic official state beverage in the entire US.
It used to be legal to wrestle a bear in Alabama.
One of the most peculiar Alabama facts is that back in the day, Alabamians used to make a bizarre sport out of wrestling trained bears. The sheer popularity of this practice entailed several issues regarding animal cruelty and exploitation. A popular bear involved in bear wrestling matches is Terrible Ted, who was a large black bear whose owner had his teeth and claws removed and had his neck bound in chains. From the 80s to 1996, Terrible Ted fought bears in an Alabama bar.Following the outcries of numerous animal rights protesters, the state senate officially voted to ban the practice of bear wrestling in 1996. The law prohibited exploitation of bears for profit and engaging in any bear wrestling matches. Bear wrestling became a Class B felony in the state, which is in the same class as offenses like manslaughter and the use of deadly weapons. Legislators repealed the law in 2015 in an effort to remove outdated laws, but other laws encompassing animal cruelty and exploitation still prohibit the practice.
Alabama’s constitution is the longest constitution in the US, and possibly the world.
The state constitution of Alabama has more than 300,000 words, making it the longest, most-amended constitution in the United States by a huge margin. It dwarfs the second longest state constitution, which is the constitution of Texas containing 86,936 words. Compared to the US Constitution, the state constitution of Alabama is 44 times longer, possibly making it the longest operative constitution in the world. This constitution includes a plethora of issues such as bingo, boll weevil taxes, and even mosquito control taxes.
To further blow your mind, the longest country constitution in the world is the Constitution of India, with the English translation lasting 146,385 words long. Even so, the Constitution of India isn’t even half as long as the Constitution of Alabama. How’s that for some mind-blowing Alabama facts?
NASA designed the rocket used in the Apollo 11 mission in Alabama.
One of the greatest feats of humanity is travelling safely to the moon and back, accomplished by the Apollo 11 crew in 1969. However, the Apollo crew couldn’t have done it without NASA‘s powerful Saturn V rocket.
Wernher von Braun and his team designed Saturn V in Huntsville, Alabama, sending it on its first test flight in 1967. The city is home to George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and earned the nickname “Rocket City.” That said, Huntsville also has a reputation as the “rocket capital of the world”.
Mobile, Alabama used to be part of Louisiana.
In 1702, French settlers moved to Mobile, making it the capital of what was then colonial French Louisiana. However, the British soon took control of the city, followed by the Spanish, then the Americans. It was not until December 14, 1819 that the city of Mobile became part of Alabama.
A town in Alabama has the only all-water mailing route available year-round.
In the town of Magnolia Springs, you can only receive your snail mail via boat. The town has a year-round delivery route that’s entirely on water. This on-boat mailing route started in 1915. Spanning around 31 miles (50 km), this route is the only one of its kind in the United States.
The first 911 call in the US was made in Alabama.
On February 16th, 1968, Speaker of the House Rankin Fite made the first ever 911 call in Haleyville, Alabama. Fite made the call to contact US Representative Tom Bevill at the local police station. Provided by the Alabama Telephone Company, this Haleyville 911 system operates to this day.
The Wright brothers opened the first US civil aviation school in Alabama.
Just outside of Montgomery, Alabama, Orville and Wilbur Wright established the first civil aviation school in the United States. The Wright brothers invented, constructed, and operated the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.
Windshield wipers originated in Alabama.
In the winter of 1903, Alabama resident Mary Elizabeth Anderson visited New York. While riding a trolley car, Anderson observed that the operator struggled to see the road ahead because of the sleet, having to leave the vehicle to wipe it off. Upon her return to Alabama, she employed the help of a designer and a local company to produce the first working model of windshield wipers. She received a patent for the invention in 1903. A decade later, the mechanical windshield wipers were a standard feature for street cars.
The first open-heart surgery in the western hemisphere happened in Alabama.
On September 15th, 1902 in Montgomery, Alabama, Luther Leonidas Hill performed the first successful open-heart surgery in the entire western hemisphere. Dr. Hill performed the surgery on a teenage boy suffering from a stab wound on his heart. Henry Myrick survived a stabbing incident a day before the operation.
Several local doctors tried to stop the bleeding from the boy’s heart but remained unsuccessful. Dr. Hill, already an established surgeon at the time, got permission from the boy’s mother and attempted to operate on his living heart. He opened up the boy’s chest and sutured his wounds in an operation lasting around 45 minutes. Upon Myrick’s successful recovery, the medical community deemed Dr. Hill’s procedure a breakthrough in the world of medicine.
Confederates in Alabama constructed the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.
H. L. Hunley was the first ever combat submarine to sink an enemy warship. Confederates completed its construction at Mobile, Alabama in 1863. From 1863 to 1864, James McClintock designed the submarine throughout the Civil War. The submarine takes its name from Horace L. Hunley, who primarily financed the submarine’s construction.When confederates first tested the submarine, it sank and took down five crew members along with it. On its second run, it had eight members manning it, but it unfortunately sank again and killed the whole crew. It wasn’t until 1864 that the submarine ran successfully, although its career was short. It successfully sank the Union warship USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864. However, it suffered critical damages during the attack and sank again, once again killing all crew members. In total, the confederates lost 21 men in all of the submarine’s sinkings.
Alabama was actually the first state to hold a Mardi Gras celebration.
Although many associate the celebration of Mardi Gras with the state of New Orleans, Alabamians were the first ones to celebrate it. The celebration took place in Mobile, Alabama in 1703, a year after the French established the city. This was about 15 years before the founding of New Orleans. To this day, Mobile still celebrates Mardi Gras with festivities and throwing moon pies.
There’s an actual place called Sweet Home, Alabama.
If you know Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song Sweet Home Alabama, this is one of the Alabama facts you can’t miss. In 1906, Henry W. Sweet had a Queen Anne and Neoclassical-style home in the town of Bessemer, Alabama. The home became known as “Sweet Home, Alabama”. Lynyrd Skynyrd released the hit song of the same name in 1974, after which the home rose to fame. In 2006, the Alabama Historical Association dubbed it a historic landmark.
In Alabama, you can’t dress up as a religious minister for Halloween.
Being the most religious state, Alabama takes religion very seriously. In this state, it’s illegal to dress up as a priest, a nun, or any religious minister in public places. Make sure to pick your Halloween costume carefully, or it could earn you up to one year in jail or a $500 fine if you dress up as a religious minister.
A pregnant Alabama woman faced charges of manslaughter after a shooting incident.
One of the more controversial Alabama facts is that authorities pressed charges of manslaughter to a 28-year-old woman who lost her unborn child in a shooting incident. While 5 months pregnant, Marshae Jones got shot in the stomach and ultimately lost her unborn child in an ufortunate incident.
Police defended the charges by saying that Jones initiated the fight that would eventually lead to the death of the fetus. This sparked controversy, however, regarding the treatment of women, fetuses, and people of color.
Wooden roads once adorned parts of the state.
Before railroads, parts of Alabama once had plank roads. In 1849, Daniel Pratt built the first plank road in the United States. Its route went from Pratt Cotton Gin to the Alabama river. The wooden plank road system eventually took off because it made roads open to travel even in wet weather. Furthermore, it was cheap and readily available. It lost its appeal with the advent of railroads, however, five years after its rise in popularity.
The world’s oldest chicken is from Alabama.
One of the little-known Alabama facts is that Bessemer, Alabama once housed the world’s oldest chicken. Most chickens can only live for five to ten years, but Matilda the hen surpassed any of them and lived up to the age of 16. As a result, she received the title of World’s Oldest Living Chicken from Guinness World Records in 2004, after Keith and Donna Barton contacted them and confirmed her age. Matilda was 14 years old when she received the title. While she never laid eggs, Matilda lived a long and happy life until 2006, when she passed away due to heart failure.
The first confirmed meteorite injury occurred in Alabama.
Meteor showers have long been documented in Alabama, and the jazz song Stars Fell On Alabama reflects this. However, there is only one confirmed case of a human receiving an injury from a meteorite. In 1954, a meteorite struck Alabama resident Ann Hodges, leaving a bruise on her thigh. Hodges was napping on her couch when the meteorite broke through the ceiling and bounced off her radio, ultimately ricocheting to her. To this day, she is the only known person in recorded history to be hit by a meteorite. Many now refer to the meteorite that hit her as the Hodges meteorite.
It once rained eels in Alabama.
The strangest Alabama facts are some of the most unforgettable. While Alabama has meteor showers in its recorded history, these showers are not the only ones deserving of recognition. In May 1892, the New York Sun published news of a bizarre phenomenon in the small town of Coalburg, Alabama. Countless eels rained down from the skies, which farmers gathered to fertilize their crops. The strange event may have been the result of a waterspout lifting the eels and raining them down on the town.
Giant sloths used to roam the state.
Sloths are cute, small mammals that have a reputation for being the slowest mammal alive. However, their ancestors used to be huge, strong creatures that grew up to 9 ft (2.7 m) and weighed more than two tons. These giant sloths lived in what is now known as Alabama during the Ice Age, but unfortunately went extinct. To date, archaeologists have found fossils of two types of giant ground sloths in Alabama — the Megalonyx jeffersonii and Paramylodon harlani.
The state is home to one of the world’s smallest museums.
For museum lovers and literature buffs, this is among the Alabama facts you will be thrilled to hear about. One of the world’s smallest museums is in Alabama, and it’s dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar’s Closet lies in a small high school closet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, taking up only 22 square feet (2 m2) of space. It has over 2000 artifacts related to Edgar Allan Poe.