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
PRODUCTION OF IRON ORE.
Important Advance Announcement Made by Census Superintendent Porter
GREAT PROGRESS OF THE NEW SOUTH.
THAT SECTION IS NOW PRODUCING AS MUCH IRON ORE AND SOFT COAL AS THE ENTIRE COUNTRY TWENTY YEARS AGO.
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)
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 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 & 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)
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.
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