Introduction to Mobile, Alabama
The Alabama port city of Mobile, county seat of Mobile County, is situated along the shores of Mobile Bay in the southwestern corner of the state. The only saltwater port in Alabama, Mobile is located only 30 miles from the Mississippi border (to the west) and 40 miles from the Florida border (to the east). The city is serviced by Interstate Highways I-10 and I-65 and also by U.S. Routes 43, 45, 90, and 98.
Founded in 1702, Mobile had several flags flying over its soil during its history. Originally the capital of French Louisiana, Mobile came under British rule in 1763 until it was captured by the Spanish in 1780 during the American Revolution. During the war of 1812, Mobile was seized by the United States and was incorporated as a city in 1819. For almost the next half-century, Mobile prospered as one of the largest international seaports on the Gulf Coast, specializing in the shipment of cotton. Part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Mobile came under a blockade instituted by Union Naval forces headed by Admiral David Farragut. One of the war's most significant naval battles, the Battle of Mobile Bay, resulted in an 1864 Union victory. After the war, ship-building became a significant industry in the city and many years later (post-World War II) was replaced by the pulp and paper industries as principal economic drivers for the city. In more recent years, the petroleum, chemical, aerospace and maritime industries, along with tourism, have achieved dominant roles in the city's economy.
Mobile's name is believed to have originated as a derivation of the name of a local Indian tribe (the Maubilla Indians). The city is often referred to as the "Azalea Capital of the World," with more than 50 varieties of the flower on display. Mobile also retains the distinction of being the original home of the Mardi Gras in this country. Instituted in 1704, sixty-two years before New Orleans adopted the celebration, the "America's Family Mardi Gras" is still celebrated today as a two-week long yearly festival culminating on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. Mobile is also the host site of the America's Junior Miss Pageant, held annually in July.
Mobile Area Attractions
Mobile is rich in museums. The Oakleigh Period House Museum and Historic Complex is a 3 1/2 acre landscaped complex consisting of Oakleigh, the city's official ante-bellum period house museum, and the Cox-Deasy Creole House Museum, built around 1850. The Museum of Mobile houses numerous innovative exhibits chronicling life in early Mobile. The Mobile Museum of Art is one of the largest of its kind along the Gulf Coast. Battleship Memorial Park is home to the USS Alabama, which is permanently moored there. Also within the city are the Gulf Coast Exploreum, a regional science center with interactive exhibits, and the National African-American Archives and Museum.
Mobile is also abundant in venues for the performing arts. The historic Saenger Theatre Performing Arts Center serves as a multi-faceted arts site and home of many concerts, lectures, and special events. The Mobile Opera, founded in 1946, is Alabama's oldest performing arts organization. The Mobile Ballet, which originated from the merger of two local ballet companies in 1987, presents several productions annually. The Mobile Symphony is the top producer of live symphonic music in the Gulf Coast region.
Sports fans have plenty to look forward to in Mobile. Every January, collegiate football takes center stage when Ladd-Peebles Stadium hosts the legendary battle between the North and South in the annual Senior Bowl. Also held in Mobile is the GMAC Bowl, where the champions from the Mid-American Conference face the Conference USA runners-up. Another of Mobile's premiere annual sporting events is the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tournament of Champions, held at the city's Magnolia Grove golf course. The city also offers minor league baseball at Hank Aaron Stadium, home of the Mobile BayBears. The BayBears play in the Southern League and are the Class Double-A minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Other minor league franchises in Mobile include the South Alabama Bounce, a basketball team which plays in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the Port City Monarchs, a football team playing in the North American Football League (NAFL).
A sports-related measure of distinction for Mobile is the fact that four members of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame were born in Mobile: Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige and Ozzie Smith. A fifth Hall-of-Famer, Billy Williams, was born in Mobile County in the nearby community of Whistler.