Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern U.S. state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 198,915 during the 2000 census. Mobile is the principal municipality of the Mobile Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 399,843 residents which is composed solely of Mobile County and is the second largest MSA in the state. Mobile is included in the Mobile-Daphne-Fairhope Combined Statistical Area with a total population of 540,258, the second largest CSA in the state.
Mobile began as the first capital of colonial French Louisiana in 1702, and during its first 100 years, Mobile was a colony for France, then Britain, and lastly Spain. The city gained its name from the Native American Mobilian tribe that the French colonists found in the area of Mobile Bay. Mobile first became a part of the United States of America in 1813, left the United States with Alabama in 1861 to become a part of the Confederate States of America, and then back to the United States in 1865.
Located at the junction of the Mobile River and Mobile Bay on the northern Gulf of Mexico, the city is the only seaport in Alabama. The Port of Mobile has always played a key role in the economic health of the city beginning with the city as a key trading center between the French and Native Americans down to its current role as the 10th largest port in the United States.
As one of the Gulf Coast's cultural centers, Mobile houses several art museums, a symphony orchestra, a professional opera, a professional ballet company, and a large concentration of historic architecture. Mobile is known for having the oldest organized Carnival celebrations in the United States, dating to its early colonial period. It was also host to the first formally organized Carnival mystic society or krewe in the United States, dating to 1830. People from Mobile are known as Mobilians.
These additional outbreaks of disease and a series of floods caused Bienville to order the town relocated several miles downriver to its present location at the confluence of the Mobile River and Mobile Bay in 1711. A new earth and palisade Fort Louis was constructed at the new site during this time. By 1712, when Antoine Crozat took over administration of the colony by royal appointment, the colony boasted a population of 400 persons. The capital of Louisiana was moved to Biloxi in 1720, leaving Mobile in the role of military and trading center. In 1723 the construction of a new brick fort with a stone foundation began and it was renamed Fort Condé in honor of Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon and prince of Condé.
In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the French and Indian War. The treaty ceded Mobile and the surrounding territory to the Kingdom of Great Britain, and it was made a part of the expanded British West Florida colony. The British changed the name of Fort Condé to Fort Charlotte, after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, King George III's queen. The British were eager not to lose any useful inhabitants and promised religious tolerance to the French colonists, ultimately 112 French Mobilians remained in the colony. In 1766 the population was estimated to be 860, though the town's borders were smaller than they had been during the French colonial efforts. During the American Revolutionary War, West Florida and Mobile became a refuge for loyalists fleeing the other colonies.
The Spanish captured Mobile during the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780. They wished to eliminate any British threat to their Louisiana colony, which they had received from France in 1763s Treaty of Paris. Their actions were also condoned by the revolting American colonies due to the fact that West Florida, for the most part, remained loyal to the British Crown. The fort was renamed Fortaleza Carlota, with the Spanish holding Mobile as a part of Spanish West Florida until 1813, when it was seized by the U.S. General James Wilkinson during the War of 1812.
When Mobile was made a part of the Mississippi Territory in 1813, the population had dwindled to roughly 300 people. The city was included in the Alabama Territory in 1817, after Mississippi gained statehood. Alabama was granted statehood in 1819 and Mobile's population had increased to 809 by that time. As the inland areas of Alabama and Mississippi were settled by farmers and the plantation economy became established, Mobile's population exploded. It came to be settled by merchants, attorneys, mechanics, doctors and others seeking to capitalize on trade with these upriver areas. With its location at the mouth of the Mobile River, a river system that served as the principal navigational access for most of Alabama and a large part of Mississippi, Mobile was well situated for this purpose. By 1822 the population was 2800.
From the 1830s onward Mobile expanded into a city of commerce with a primary focus on the cotton trade. The waterfront was developed with wharves, terminal facilities, and fire-proof brick warehouses. The exports of cotton grew in proportion to the amounts being produced in the Black Belt and by 1840 Mobile was second only to New Orleans in cotton exports in the nation. With the economy so focused on this one crop, Mobile's fortunes were always tied to those of cotton and the city weathered many financial crises during this period. Though Mobile had a relatively small slave owning population itself compared to the inland areas, it was the slave-trading center of the state until surpassed by Montgomery in the 1850s. By 1860 Mobile's population within the city limits had reached 29,258 people, it was the 27th largest city in the United States and 4th largest in what would soon be the Confederate States of America. The population in the whole of Mobile County, including the city, consisted of 29,754 free citizens, of which 1195 were African American. Additionally, there were 1785 slave owners, holding 11,376 slaves, for a total county population of 41,130 people.
During the American Civil War, Mobile was a Confederate city. The first submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship, the H. L. Hunley, was built in Mobile. One of the most famous naval engagements of the war was the Battle of Mobile Bay, resulting in the Union taking possession of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. On 12 April 1865, 3 days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, the city of Mobile surrendered to the Union army to avoid destruction following the Union victories at the Battle of Spanish Fort and the Battle of Fort Blakely. Ironically, on 25 May 1865, the city suffered loss when some three hundred people died as a result of an explosion at a federal ammunition depot on Beauregard Street. The explosion left a deep hole at the depot's location, sunk ships docked on the Mobile River, and the resulting fires destroyed the northern portion of the city.
Federal Reconstruction in Mobile began after the Civil War and effectively ended in 1874 when the local Democrats gained control of the city government. The last quarter of the 19th century was a time of economic depression and municipal insolvency for Mobile. One example can be provided by the value of Mobile's exports during this period of depression. The value of exports leaving the city fell from $9 million in 1878 to $3 million in 1882.
World War II led to a massive military effort causing a considerable increase in Mobile's population, largely due to the huge influx of workers coming into Mobile to work in the shipyards and at the Brookley Army Air Field. Between 1940 and 1943, more than 89,000 people moved into Mobile to work for war effort industries. Mobile was one of eighteen U.S. cities producing Liberty ships at its Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company to support the war effort by producing ships faster than the Axis powers could sink them. Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, a subsidiary of Waterman Steamship Corporation, focused on building freighters, Fletcher class destroyers, and minesweepers.
The years after World War II brought about changes in Mobile's social structure and economy. Instead of shipbuilding being a primary economic force, the paper and chemical industries began to take over and most of the old military bases were converted to civilian uses. This period saw the end of racial segregation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though many in Mobile had considered the city to be tolerant and racially accommodating compared to other cities in the South, with the police force and one local college becoming integrated in the 1950s and the voluntary desegregation of buses and lunch counters by the early 1960s, Mobile's African American citizens were not nearly as content with the status quo as some believed. In 1963 three African American students brought a case against the Mobile County School Board for being denied admission to Murphy High School. The court ordered that the three students be admitted to Murphy for the 1964 school year, leading to the desegregation of Mobile County's school system.
Mobile's economy took a large hit in late 1960s with the closing of Brookley Air Force Base. This and other factors ushered in a period of economic depression that lasted through the 1970s. Beginning in the late 1980s, the city council and mayor began an effort termed the "String of Pearls Initiative" to make Mobile into a competitive, urban city. This effort would see the building of numerous new facilities and projects around the city and the restoration of hundreds of other historic downtown buildings and homes. This period also saw a reduction in the rate of violent crime and a concerted effort by city and county leaders to attract new business ventures to the area. The effort continues into the present with new city government leadership. Shipbuilding began to make a major comeback in Mobile with the founding in 1999 of Austal USA, a joint venture of Australian shipbuilder, Austal, and Bender Shipbuilding.
Being on the Gulf, Mobile is occasionally affected by major tropical storms and hurricanes. Mobile suffered a major natural disaster on the night of 12 September 1979 when Category 3 Hurricane Frederic passed over the heart of the city. The storm caused tremendous damage to Mobile and the surrounding area. Mobile received moderate damage from Hurricane Opal on 4 October 1995 and Hurricane Ivan on 16 September 2004. Mobile also received moderate damage from Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005. A storm surge of damaged eastern sections of Mobile and caused extensive flooding in downtown.
Mobile's Carnival celebrations start as early as November with several balls, with the parades usually beginning after January 5. Carnival celebrations end promptly at the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras, signaling the beginning of Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. Mardi Gras, though literally meaning Fat Tuesday and thus the last day of the Carnival season, is normally used locally to refer to the entire Carnival season. During this time Mobile's mystic societies build colorful Carnival floats and parade throughout downtown with masked society members tossing small gifts, known as throws, to the parade spectators. Mobile's mystic societies also give formal masquerade balls, which are almost always invitation only and are oriented to adults.
Mobile first celebrated Carnival in 1703 when French settlers began the festivities at the Old Mobile Site. Mobile's first Carnival society began in 1711 with the Boeuf Gras Society (Fatted Ox Society). Mobile's Cowbellion de Rakin Society was the first formally organized and masked mystic society in the United States to celebrate with a parade in 1830. The Cowbellions got their start when a cotton factor from Pennsylvania, Michael Krafft, began a parade with rakes, hoes, and cowbells. The Cowbellians introduced horse-drawn floats to the parades in 1840 with a parade entitled, “Heathen Gods and Goddesses. The Striker's Independent Society was formed in 1843 and is the oldest remaining mystic society in the United States. Carnival celebrations in Mobile were canceled during the American Civil War. Mardi Gras parades were revived by Joe Cain in 1866 when he paraded through the city streets on Fat Tuesday while costumed as a fictional Chickasaw chief named Slacabamorinico, irreverently celebrating the day in front of the occupying Union Army troops. The year 2002 saw Mobile's Tricentennial celebrated with parades that represented all of Mobile's mystic societies.
The Mobile Museum of Art features European, Non-Western, American, and Decorative Arts collections. The Saenger Theatre of Mobile was opened in 1927 and is a modern dynamic performing arts center. It is home to the Mobile Symphony and Space 301, a contemporary art gallery. It also serves as a small concert venue for the city. The Mobile Civic Center contains three facilities under one roof. The building has an arena, a theater and an exposition hall. It is the primary concert venue for the city and hosts a wide variety of events. It is home to the Mobile Opera and the Mobile Ballet. The 60-year old Mobile Opera averages about 1,200 attendees per performance. A wide variety of events are held at Mobile's Arthur C. Outlaw Convention Center. It contains a exhibit hall, a grand ballroom, and sixteen meeting rooms. Additionally, the city is host to BayFest, an annual three day music festival with over 125 live musical acts on nine stages.
The Mobile Botanical Gardens feature a variety of flora spread over . It contains the Millie McConnell Rhododendron Garden with 1,000 evergreen and native azaleas and the Longleaf Pine Habitat. The Bellingrath Gardens and Home are located on Fowl River and contain of landscaped gardens and a mansion dating to the 1930s. The 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center is a new facility for exploring the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Appalachee, and Blakeley River delta.
Mobile has more than 45 public parks with some that are of special interest. Bienville Square is a historic park dating to 1850 in the Lower Dauphin Street Historic District and is named for Mobile’s founder, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. This park was once a principle gathering place for the citizens of the city and remains popular today. Cathedral Square is a performing arts park in the Lower Dauphin Street Historic District overlooking the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Fort Condé is a reconstruction of the original Fort Condé, built on the old fort's footprint. It is the city’s official welcome center and living history museum. Spanish Plaza is a downtown park that honors the Spanish occupation of the city between 1780 and 1813. It features the "Arches of Friendship", a fountain presented to Mobile by the city of Málaga, Spain. Langan Park is a municipal park that features lakes and natural spaces. It is home to the Mobile Museum of Art, Azalea City Golf Course, Mobile Botanical Gardens and Playhouse in the Park.
Mobile has antebellum architectural examples of Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Creole cottage. Later architectural styles found in the city include the various Victorian types, shotgun types, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Beaux-Arts and many others. The city currently has nine major historic districts consisting of Old Dauphin Way, Oakleigh Garden, Lower Dauphin Street, Leinkauf, De Tonti Square, Church Street East, Ashland Place, Campground, and Midtown.
Mobile has a number of historic structures spread throughout the city. Some of Mobile's historic churches include Christ Church Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Government Street Presbyterian Church, and Trinity Episcopal Church. Two historic Roman Catholic convents survive, the Convent and Academy of the Visitation and the Convent of Mercy. The Stone Street Baptist Church is a historic African American church that was established in the 1840s. Barton Academy is a historic Greek Revival school building and local landmark on Government Street. The Bishop Portier House and the Carlen House are two of the many surviving examples of Creole cottages in the city. The Mobile City Hospital and the United States Marine Hospital are both restored Greek Revival hospital buildings that predate the Civil War. The Washington Firehouse No. 5 is a Greek Revival fire station, built in 1851. The Hunter House is an example of the Italianate style and was built by a successful 19th century African American businesswoman. The Shepard House is a good example of the Queen Anne style. The Scottish Rite Temple is the only surviving example of Egyptian Revival architecture in the city. The Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Passenger Terminal is an example of the Mission Revival style.
The city has several historic cemeteries that were established after the colonial era. They replaced Mobile's colonial Campo Santo, of which no traces remain. The Church Street Graveyard contains above-ground tombs and monuments spread over and was founded in 1819, during the height of the yellow fever epidemics. The nearby Magnolia Cemetery was established in 1836 and was Mobile's primary burial site during the 19th century with approximately 80,000 burials. It features tombs and many intricately carved monuments and statues. The Old Catholic Cemetery was established in 1848 by the Archdiocese of Mobile and covers more than . It contains plots for the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of Charity, and Sisters of Mercy, in addition to many other historically significant burials. Mobile's Jewish community dates back to the 1820s and the city has two historic Jewish cemeteries, Ahavas Chesed Cemetery and Sha'arai Shomayim Cemetery.
The 2000 census determined that there were 198,915 people residing within the city limits. Mobile is the center of Alabama's second-largest metropolitan area, which consists of all of Mobile County. Metropolitan Mobile (MSA) had a population of 399,843 as of 2000 census.
There were 73,057 households out of which 22,225 had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29,963 were married couples living together, 15,360 had a female householder with no husband present, 3,488 had a male householder with no wife present, and 24,246 were non-families. 20,957 of all households were made up of individuals and 7,994 had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The racial makeup of the city was 48.2% White, 47.9% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, 0.9% from two or more races, and 1.2% of the population were Latino. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.23.
The population was spread out with 7.1% under the age of 5, 73.6% over 18, and 13.4% over 65. The median age was 35.6 years. The male population was 47.6% and the female population was 52.4%. The median income for a household in the city was $37,439, and the median income for a family was $45,217. The per capita income for the city was $21,612. 21.3% of the population and 17.6% of families were below the poverty line.
Since 1985 the government of Mobile has consisted of a mayor and a seven member city council. The mayor is elected at-large and the council members are elected from each of the seven city council districts. A supermajority of five votes is required to conduct council business. This form of city government was chosen by the voters after the previous form of government, which used three city commissioners who were elected at-large, was ruled to substantially dilute the African American vote in the 1975 case Bolden v. City of Mobile. Municipal elections are held every four years.
The current mayor, Sam Jones, was elected in September 2005 and is the first African American mayor of Mobile. As of January 2006, the city council is composed of Fredrick Richardson, Jr. from District 1, William Carroll from District 2, Clinton Johnson from District 3, John C. Williams from District 4, Reggie Copeland, Sr. from District 5, Connie Hudson from District 6, and Gina Gregory from District 7. Reggie Copeland, Sr. is currently serving as Council President with Fredrick Richardson, Jr. serving as Council Vice President.
In January 2008, the city hired EDSA, an urban design firm, to create a new comprehensive master plan for the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods. The planning area is bordered on the east by the Mobile River, to the south by Interstate 10 and Duval Street, to the west by Houston Street and to the north by Three Mile Creek and the neighborhoods north of Martin Luther King Avenue.
Colleges and universities in Mobile include the University of South Alabama, Spring Hill College, the University of Mobile, Faulkner University, and Bishop State Community College.
The University of South Alabama is a public, doctoral-level university established in 1963. The university is composed of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Mitchell College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Engineering, the College of Medicine, the Doctor of Pharmacy Program, the College of Nursing, the School of Computer and Information Sciences, and the School of Continuing Education and Special Programs.
Spring Hill College, chartered in 1830, was the first Catholic college in the southeastern U.S. and is the third oldest Jesuit college in the country. This four-year private college offers graduate programs in Business Administration, Education, Liberal Arts, Nursing (MSN), and Theological Studies. Undergraduate divisions and programs include the Division of Business, the Communications/Arts Division, International Studies, Interdivisional Studies, the Language and Literature Division, Nursing (BSN), Philosophy and Theology, Political Science, the Sciences Division, the Social Sciences Division, and the Teacher Education Division.
The University of Mobile is a four-year private Baptist-affiliated university that was founded in 1961. It consists of the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Christian Studies, School of Education, the School of Leadership Development, and the School of Nursing.
Faulkner University is a four-year private Church of Christ-affiliated university based in Montgomery, Alabama. The Mobile campus was established in 1975 and offers bachelor's degrees in Business Administration, Management of Human Resources, and Criminal Justice. It also offers associate degrees in Business Administration, Business Information Systems, Computer & Information Science, Criminal Justice, Informatics, Legal Studies, Arts, and Science.
Bishop State Community College, founded in 1927, is a two-year public institution with four campuses in Mobile and offers a wide array of associate degrees.
Aerospace, retail, services, construction, medicine, and manufacturing are Mobile's major industries. After experiencing economic decline for several decades, Mobile's economy began to rebound in the late 1980s. Between 1993 and 2003 13,983 new jobs were created as 87 new companies were founded and 399 existing companies were expanded. 1,700 new jobs were created from February 2003 to February 2004. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mobile's unemployment rate is 4.2% as of May 2008.
In 2005 Austal USA, based in Mobile, expanded their production facility for US defense and commercial aluminium shipbuilding. In 2007 German steel manufacturer ThyssenKrupp announced plans for a $3.7 billion steel mill. The new plant is currently under construction in northern Mobile County. Company officials state that 2,700 permanent jobs will be added to the local economy.
On 29 February 2008, the United States Air Force announced that a partnership between Northrop Grumman and EADS had won the contract to produce the new KC-45 aerial refueling tanker. The contract is considered to be worth up to $40 billion with 179 planes to be delivered over the next ten to fifteen years. The production of these aircraft will be at Mobile's Brookley Complex.
Two major interstate highways and a spur converge in Mobile. Interstate 10 runs northeast to southwest across the city while Interstate 65 starts in Mobile at Interstate 10 and runs north. Interstate 165 connects to Interstate 65 north of the city in Prichard and joins Interstate 10 in downtown Mobile. Mobile is well served by many major highway systems. United States Highways US 31, US 43, US 45, US 90 and US 98 radiate from Mobile traveling east, west, and north. Mobile has three routes east across the Mobile River and Mobile Bay into neighboring Baldwin County, Alabama. Interstate 10 leaves downtown through the George Wallace Tunnel under the river and then over the bay across the Jubilee Parkway to Spanish Fort/Daphne. US 98 leaves downtown through the Bankhead Tunnel under the river onto Blakeley Island and then over the bay across the Battleship Parkway into Spanish Fort, Alabama. US 90 travels over the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge to the north of downtown onto Blakeley Island where it becomes co-routed with US 98.
Mobile's public transportation is the Wave Transit System which features buses with 18 fixed routes and neighborhood service. The Wave Transit System also operates the Moda! electric trolley service in downtown Mobile with 22 stops Monday through Saturday. Baylinc is a public transportation bus service provided by the Baldwin Rural Transit System in cooperation with the Wave Transit System that provides service between eastern Baldwin County and downtown Mobile. Baylinc operates Monday through Friday. Greyhound Lines provides intercity bus service between Mobile and many locations throughout the United States. Mobile is served by several taxi and limousine services.
The Port of Mobile has public, deepwater terminals with direct access to of inland and intracoastal waterways serving the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Tennessee river valleys (via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway), and the Gulf of Mexico. The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the public terminals at the Port of Mobile. The public terminals handle containerized, bulk, breakbulk, roll-on/roll-off, and heavy lift cargoes. The port is also home to private bulk terminal operators, as well as a number of highly specialized shipbuilding and repair companies with two of the largest floating dry docks on the Gulf Coast.