News - from the past & the present

In 1891, the State of Alabama took 1st place in a long held tradition held by Pennsylvania. Can you guess what it was?

Here is the story from the June 27, 1891 Times Daily newspaper in Florence, Alabama.

Alabama Takes the First Place long held by Pennsylvania in the
Important Advance Announcement Made by Census Superintendent Porter


Special to The Pittsburg Dispatch

Washington, June 24. – Within a week the census office will issue a bulletin for iron ore which will be perhaps one of the most remarkable as well as one of the most suggestive public documents ever issued.

Birmingham 1873 from top of Courthouse by photographer O. V. Hunt (from Samford University Library)Birmingham 1873 from top of Courthouse by photographer O. V. Hunt (from Samford University Library)

First time in history of the country

For the first time in the history of the country Alabama will change places with Pennsylvania as producing more iron ore in 1890 than the old Keystone state.
This significant statement means nothing more nor less than that the South will be the future iron producing center of the United States, and as a corollary to the above statement in no part of the United states has the industrial progress been more satisfactory than in the South, which demonstrates that the material development in the states south of the Mason and Dixon line has been such as to not only challenge but attract the attention of the world.

Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co.'s furnaces, Ensley, Alabama ca, 1906 (Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress)Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co.’s furnaces, Ensley, Alabama 1906 (Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress)

The Change of Twenty Years

Said Superintendent Porter when interviewed on the subject: “Yes, it is a fact that our statistics will show the South to be producing as much iron ore now as the whole country produced in 1870. And the same is true as regards pig iron and bituminous coal. In my opinion the changes that will come about within the next few months in the manufacture of iron will make the South the great iron producing region of the United States.
“This will not affect Pennsylvania, for we have abundant proof that in all these migrations (so-called), the old center will take up another class of manufactures, which is generally an advanced product of the same article. In England the old centers of iron manufactures were Sheffield and Birmingham, but when the South Wales and Barrow took the lead the former cities engaged in the production of steels and other things.”

Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Co. [Company] furnaces, Ensley, Ala. 1910 (Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress)Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co.’s furnaces, Ensley, Alabama 1910 (Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress)

Great Centers of the Future

“The three future centers of iron manufacture will be Puget Sound on the Pacific coast: Birmingham, East Tennessee and North Carolina in the South: and the Pittsburg region of the North. Schooled in adversity the South is already beginning to realize the blessings that follow from turning the sword in to a plowshare: the truth of President Harrison’s statement in his inaugural address is now most apparent, that the emancipation proclamation was heard in the dark depths of the earth as well as the cerulean depths of the sky.”
To fully comprehend the remarkable change that will be announced by the forthcoming bulletin it is necessary to remember that in 1880, ten years ago, Pennsylvania produced 2,185,675 tons of iron ore, against production of 191,676 in Alabama, being nearly twelve times as much in the Keystone state as in its Southern rival. In 1880 Michigan was the second state with 1,837,712 tons and New York third with 1,262,127, while Alabama was seventh on the list, and a poor seventh at that.

Red Mountain Iron Mine, Birmingham, Alabama ca. 1906 (Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress)Red Mountain Iron Mine, Birmingham, Alabama ca. 1906 (Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress)

Iron mine, Red Mountain, Birmingham, Ala ca, 1906 (Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress)Iron mine, Red Mountain, Birmingham, Ala ca, 1906 (Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress)

Some Very Significant Statistics

In 1880 there were seventeen establishments in Alabama as against 358 in Pennsylvania; and the capital invested was $536,442 in the former state and $17,621,701 in the latter. The total number of persons employed in Alabama ten years ago was only 738, and the total of wages paid amounted to just $123,342.
This great change is likely to pave the way for others. There can no longer be a conflict of interests between the country bordering on the lakes and that which touches the gulf. It will be strange indeed if this new industrial giant does not force some political upheavals in the near future. Certain it is that any legislation benefiting or damaging Pennsylvania must hereafter be felt in Alabama.

Lost & forgotten stories such as:

  • The Birth of Twickenham
  • Captain Slick – Fact or Fiction
  • Vine & Olive Company
  • The Death of Stooka



ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 5)

By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price:$11.77 USD
New From:$11.65 USD In Stock

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


  1. Alabama Weaver

    Philadelphia – was in Alabama

  2. Terri Hildreth

    This is so interesting…and timely. I’m doing a presentation tomorrow afternoon for the Morgan County Genealogical Society about iron production and cast iron cookware in Alabama. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.