Days Gone By - stories from the past

Living conditions were difficult in early steel days – this film & vintage photographs tell the tale

[These photographs of Birmingham, Alabama were taken in 1936.]

Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. Most of the original settlers were of English Ancestry, hence the name Birmingham after Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

The Magic City

The fast pace of Birmingham’s growth during 1881 from 1920 earned it the nickname of the Magic City and for the booming steel industry taking place in the city, it was also sometimes called the Pittsburgh of the South.

Towns owned by the steel company grew up almost overnight. These photographs were taken in March 1936 of the steel industry in Alabama. All pictures were taken by Walter Evans.

Town owned by the Steel Company - notice the line of outhouses behind the houses.

This was a steel company owned town in Birmingham in 1936.  Look at all the outhouses lined up in a row.  At least there was electricity.

Middle Class neighborhood in Birmingham March 1936

This was considered to be a middle class neighborhood in Birmingham in 1936.  I wish it was identified further.

Birmingham Boardinghouse March 1936

This was a boarding house in Birmingham in 1936.

Birmingham Steel workers houses owned by Republic Steel March 1936

Another photograph of company owned houses in 1936 — they were owned by Republic Steel.

Steel Mill and Workers Houses

Steel Mill with company owned workers’ houses lined up down the road from the plant.

Birminham Industrial workers with their children March 1936

Birmingham workers with their families in 1936. No television to stay home and watch so I guess people just visited. Look at the smoke bulging out of the pipes. That wouldn’t happen today.

Birmingham steel workers on street in 1936

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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

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  1. Lived in Fairfield in 1970 and remember going out and the car was so dirty with pollution. Later after environmental changes you could really tell a difference. But sorry they lost so many needed jobs!

  2. 1936 was in the middle of the Great Depression, which took Birmingham about 50 years to recover from. I noted that the mill houses had no shade and no ventilation in the roofs. They must have been like ovens during summer.

  3. mu grandfather and grandmother met there in the early 1920s working in a basket factory. They moved back to my grandmothers farm in Weoka after the doctor instructed because the pollution was so bad and she had issues breathing.

  4. Is the statue of Vulcan still standing? Birmingham was also known as the “Little Pittsburgh of the South” because of those steel mills.

    1. Yes, and he had his 110th birthday in 2014. Here is a story we on him.

    2. Yes they even have an elevator to go to the top now besides the stairs . It’s beautiful there and has a shop and history of the place inside

  5. My 4great-grandparents was some of the first settlers of what is now Jefferson County. They lived at Fort Jonesboro in 1815 the Ruhama (now East Lake) community in 1819.

  6. I’ve seen Valley Creek run red with creosote. I don’t really know what that is but that’s what my daddy said it was.

  7. Now the federal government has killed the steel industry in this country.

  8. Karen, I love you posting these…and I like to share with Pam…thanks

  9. @ Alabama Pioneers – Why not? do a piece on the B’ham Company, “Hardy Tynes Air Compressors.” I am of the opinion that these machines sustained the US Submarine fleet for many years. I served on 3 US subs, in the early-mid 1950s, all had a Hardy Tynes Air made me comfortable to see that bold logo, and “Made in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.. The air compressor is the vital “heart” of a sub and cannot, must not, fail.

  10. My neighbor and wonderful friend’s brother-in-law, the late Robert A McMasters, was a top ranking official of the steel industry in Birmingham.

    I love the story and especially the pictures!

  11. The photo of the “middle-class” housing on a hill by a cemetery is on Birmingham’s northside. The cemetery is the city’s Jewish burial ground, which is still occasionally used today. The locale is at or near 12th Avenue North and 4th Street North and is today and all black neighborhood…..

  12. I found this very interesting !! We need more like this !!!

  13. A great article.

  14. The cemetery is in Fountain Heights. Still kept and maintained and still used it’s Jewish but reminds me of New Orleans with the houses for the dead. I also have the book The earlier days in Birmingham I just posted on FB 2 days ago and another book written by a pioneers grandson a lawyer I think; a lot of them were lawyers and bankers and most sons who wasn’t entitled to inherit because that went to 1st borns then. It won’t allow me to post pic of the book

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