Alabama - The Heart of Dixie


Capital City:
Heart of Dixie / Cotton State
Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere(We Dare Defend Our Rights)
December 14, 1819 (22nd)
Origin of State's Name:
Means "tribal town" in Creek Indian language.
Largest Cities:
Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa
Border States:
Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee
Land Area:
50,750 sq. mi., 28th largest
State Bird:
State Flower:
State Tree:
Southern Pine (pinus palustris)
State Song:

Known as the Heart of Dixie, Alabama became the 22nd state in 1819. The name Alabama is derived from an Indian word meaning "thicket clearers." Alabama has been at the center of many American battles--between white settlers and Native Americans, and between the North and South in the Civil War. The state also is home to the first of three Space Camps in the United States. These camps let kids experience what it would be like to be in outer space. The capital is Montgomery, and state flower is the camellia.

DeSoto Caverns


Would you like to go spelunking? Do you know what it is? Spelunking is the exploration of caves as a hobby, including measuring and mapping caves and reporting on the plants or other things that grow in them.

The DeSoto Caverns in north central Alabama are a great place to go spelunking. They have one of the most awe-inspiring collections of stalagmites and stalactites found in the United States. A stalagmite is a cone-shaped mineral deposit that forms upward; a stalactite forms downward.

The caves have a long history. The earliest inhabitant was Archaic man (Archaic Period, 8,000 to 1,000 B.C.), a cave-dweller who lived on small game, fish and nuts. Many centuries later, in 1796, Benjamin Hawkins, a U.S. agent appointed by George Washington, wrote about the magnificent beauty of the DeSoto Caverns in a report, making it the first officially reported cave in the United States. During the Civil War, the DeSoto Caverns became a site for mining saltpeter, used in making gunpowder for the Confederate Army.

In 1965, the caverns were officially opened to the public. With high-power electric lights the caverns' colorful beauty could be fully appreciated. Today, DeSoto Caverns hosts several major weekend festivals each year.

Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention


Have you ever heard some good, old-fashioned fiddle music? You would if you went to the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention, which holds a "fiddle-off" competition each year.

Nicknamed the "Granddaddy of Midsouth Fiddlers Conventions," the Tennessee Valley Convention is held at Athens State University in Athens, Alabama. The idea for a convention began in 1967 when a few musicians who were meeting in a rural Limestone County home decided it was time to bring fiddling out of the living room and onto the stage. Back then, square dances were held almost every week, and fiddlers, guitar and banjo players would play up a storm at homes and social events.

Today, the convention brings back the tradition of competition in old-time music. Contestants compete for prize money in 15 categories, including several fiddle and guitar categories, harmonica, mandolin, old-time singing, banjo, and buck dancing. If you win the "fiddle-off" competition, you are declared the "Fiddle King" and take home a trophy and $1,000.

Kentuck Festival of the Arts


Art means different things to different people. For Sam "The Dot Man," art is all about -- you guessed it -- dots.

If you go to Northport, Alabama, in October you can catch the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. This two-day event features 300 nationally known artists and crafts people showing and selling their work. When it began, the festival included mainly local artisans, some of whom gave demonstrations, such as a woman who showed how to make thread out of cotton on a spinning wheel. Today some of these local artists include Sam "The Dot Man" McMillan in his colorful clothes and hat and Charlie "The Tin Man" Lucas, who makes sculpture from wire and other people's trash. There's also Jerry Brown, who continues an unbroken tradition of Southern stoneware pottery that has been in his family for nine generations.

A "petting zoo" of musical instruments from the Tuscaloosa Symphony provides other entertainment for kids while everyone admires the artwork of sculptors, painters and artisans. Children can participate in hands-on craft projects such as squishing clay between their fingers, or making paper hats or tie-dyed garments.

Vulcan, the World's Largest Cast Iron Statue


You might think a superhero is a man of steel but do you know a man of iron? Have you ever heard of Vulcan? Taller than a five-story building, he is a 56-foot cast iron statue of the Roman god of fire.

Vulcan was sculptured in 1904 for an exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair. The Commercial Club of Birmingham, Alabama, commissioned the statue to symbolize the state's leadership in the production of iron. Not only is Vulcan the largest cast iron statue in the world, but it is also the second largest statue in America -- only the Statue of Liberty, made of copper and steel, is bigger.

Vulcan was exhibited at the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy at the World's Fair. At Vulcan's feet were exhibits of Alabama's raw materials and the products made from them. In his right hand he held a spear point, while his left hand gripped a hammer resting on an anvil. When the fair was over, Vulcan was taken apart and transported back to Birmingham, but when it was put back together the arms were installed incorrectly! And, after years of neglect, one of the thumbs rusted and fell off. Now, thanks to recent repairs, Vulcan once again stands proudly on Red Mountain.




Source: Library Of Congress
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