Mining History Association

32nd Annual Conference, June 23-26, 2022

Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama will be our host city for the 32nd Annual Conference of the Mining History Association on June 23-26, 2022.  The Hilton Birmingham at UAB (University of Alabama – Birmingham) will be our conference hotel and the venue for the technical sessions as well as several social functions.  It is located in downtown Birmingham and, as the name implies, is adjacent to the University.


Abundant iron ore, coal, and limestone resources in the Birmingham area made it the center of iron and steel production in the Southeastern U.S. into the late 1900s.  Steel is still produced in the area using modern electric arc furnaces fed with scrap metal.  It was dubbed the “Magic City,” The industrial heritage of these industries is on display at many locations throughout the Birmingham Metro Area and sites we will visit on the conference tours and field trips.  Click Here for a historical map of Birmingham’s iron mines, coal mines, iron and steel furnaces, and railroads ca1890 (Ramsay, 1890).   Click Here for a cc1950 map of Birmingham Industrial District (Library of Congress, HAER, 1968). 


Iron and Steel Making History

Antebellum production of iron in charcoal furnaces was carried out at several locations in Alabama including the Tannehill, Brierfield, and Oxmore Furnaces.  They provided vital materials to the Confederacy.  After the Civil War, the unique combination of large deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone in the Birmingham area made it attractive for major investment, so a group of investors incorporated the city in 1871, naming it after Birmingham, England's major industrial city at the time. The new city became the center of iron and steel production in the Southeastern U.S. for over a century.

The first production of iron using coke as the fuel was at the rebuilt Oxmore Furnace in 1876.  The 1880’s saw rapid expansion with the formation of the Sloss Furnace Company, Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company (TCI), Woodward Iron Company, the Pioneer Mining and Manufacturing Company, and the DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Company.  Pig iron was the main product because of the high phosphorous content of the iron ore from the nearby mines on Red Mountain.  Production found a ready market in the foundries at Atlanta.

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Iron Mining History


There are both Red Iron Ore (Hematite) and Brown Iron Ore (Limonite) deposits in the vicinity of Birmingham.  These deposits are the southeastern continuation of the Silurian Clinton Iron Formation which extends from New York State along the Appalachian Mountains.  Red Mountain on the east side of the city was the location for most of the iron mines.  Many antebellum charcoal furnaces utilized the Brown Limonite Ore; however, after the Civil War, the mainstay of the iron and steel industry was the Red Mountain Hematite Ore.  The hematite ore beds were in the Red Mountain Formation with a dip of about 16°.  The greatest production came from the “Big Seam.“  This seam was 15-22 feet thick and divided into parts by a small bed of slate.  Smaller amounts of production came from the thinner Ida and Irondale Seams located above and below the Big Seam respectively.

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Coal Mining History

There are four bituminous coalfields in the Birmingham area and northwestern Alabama, the Cahaba, Coosa, Plateau, and Warrior.  Like the iron ore formations, the coalfields are located in the southern end of the Appalachians with their bituminous coal deposits extending northward into Pennsylvania.  In Alabama, the largest coalfield by far is the Warrior which extends northwestward from the outcrop near Birmingham as part of the Appalachian Plateau. 

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Marble Quarrying History

Marble deposits near Sylacauga, a city 40 miles southeast of Birmingham, are famous for their high-quality marble, especially pure white marble for sculptural purposes (often compared to Carrara marble from Italy) and lightly-veined marble for ornamental building stone. The 2022 MHA Conference will offer an all-day excursion to an active quarry, plus visits to a sculpture studio and exhibits of sculptures by international sculptors.


Gold Mining History

Alabama isn’t normally thought of as a gold-mining state, but in fact it has a significant history of gold production in the east-central part of the state.

A great belt of gold-bearing metamorphic rocks occurs in the Piedmont region of the southeastern U.S. from Virginia to Alabama, with the greatest production from North Carolina and Georgia. Beginning in 1799, when a North Carolina farm boy found a 17-pound nugget, heightened awareness of gold resulted in local people discovering deposits throughout the region: South Carolina in 1827; Georgia and Virginia in 1829; and Alabama in 1830.





The conference hotel is the Hilton Birmingham at UAB (University of Alabama – Birmingham). There is a special group rate for the MHA of $139 per night. Use this code "MHA" when making reservations. Make your reservations early by calling 205-933-9000, ext. 1. There is an additional $14 per day hotel parking fee for those with vehicles. The Hilton has a complimentary shuttle from Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM).


There is a wide variety of accommodations in the Birmingham area from quaint bed and breakfasts to many national chains at various price points.


For campers, there are a number of state park and private campgrounds outside the Birmingham metro area.  For example, at Oak Mountain State Park (south) and at Tannehill Ironworks Historic State Park (west).  You campers will know how to surf the web for more options.



By Air

Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) is served by American, Delta, Southwest, and United Airlines. Flights arrive from Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Philadelphia, and Tampa. There are a variety if transportation options from the airport to local hotels (taxi, bus, etc.). Check the airport website for more information. The Hilton offers a complimentary airport shuttle.

By Car


Easy access to Birmingham is provided via several Interstate highways: From N&S on I-65, SW on I-20, NE on I-59, NW on I-22.

By Rail

AMTRAK’s “The Crescent” between New York and New Orleans (30 hours, 33 stops, via Phila, Wash, Charlotte, Atlanta and on to New Orleans – Make a “Grand Tour” of it with a USA Rail Pass, 10 segments, 30 days).



The statue of Vulcan on Red Mountain overlooking downtown Birmingham.


Entrance to Red Mountain Iron Mine, Slope No. 10, ca1908.

Sloss Iron Furnaces National Historic Landmark.


Historic coke ovens at Blocton.


Coal miners in the Warrior Basin, ca1937.



Historic Gannt’s Marble Quarry at Sylacauga.


In “Sylacauga Emerging,” the sculptor frees himself from a block of Sylacauga marble. (Sculpture by Craigger Browne)



There is a lot more to see and do in Birmingham than mining history.  Information about attractions, dining, sports, festivals, and current events are available from the sources listed below under VISITOR INFORMATION LINKS.  Popular attractions include the Red Mountain Park, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Alabama Theater, Lyric Theater, Carver Theater, Birmingham Barons Baseball, Regions Field, Negro Southern League Museum, Rickwood Field, Railroad Park, a large number of walking tours and hiking trails, and much more.



Copper Country – Ducktown, Copperhill, and Cleveland, TN (via Chattanooga and I-59, U.S. Highway 74)


Gold Rushes - Charlotte, NC (via I-85 and Atlanta, I-20); Dahlonega, GA (via Atlanta and I-20)


Civil War History – Chickamauga and Chattanooga/Lookout Mountain, TN, (via I-24, I-59 and I-75); Atlanta, GA (via I-20); Shiloh near Corinth, MS (via U.S. Highway 72 and U.S. Highway 45); Vicksburg, MS (via I-20)

Aerospace – Huntsville, AL (via I-65)


Civil Rights – Montgomery, AL (via I-65); Selma, AL (via U.S. Highway 31 and 22)


Gulf of Mexico Beaches – Mobile, AL (via I-65) and Pensacola, FL (via I-10 and I-65)





In late-June, we can expect the weather in Birmingham to be hot and humid.  Temperatures range between Highs ranging between the upper 80°s F - low 90°s F to Lows ranging between the upper 60°s F - low 70°s F.



Conference Registration


Conference Program

Presentation Abstracts and Author Biographies




Welcoming Reception, Thursday, June 23, 2022, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm.

Birmingham Hilton at UAB, Pool Veranda

Awards Banquet, Friday, June 24, 2022, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm.

Vulcan Park, Elektra Room.  Enjoy Vulcan Park’s dramatic setting from atop Red Mountain with a panoramic overlook of downtown.  We’ll have access to the entire facility - museum, Vulcan statue, patio overlook, etc.  It’s even built over an old iron mine tunnel.  Don’t miss the spectacular views!

Presidential Luncheon, Saturday, June 25, 2022, 11:30 pm – 1:00 pm.

Birmingham Hilton at UAB, following the Technical Sessions



Sloss Furnaces Tour
Thursday, June 23, 2022, 1:00 pm – 5:30 pm.

The Sloss Iron Furnaces National Historic Landmark is a well-preserved iron smelting complex and has an excellent museum on-site. From 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, there will be an iron pour demonstration.
PLEASE NOTE: Thursday is “Sloss Day” for the MHA and our only chance to see this amazing site. Birmingham is hosting the World Games in July 2022, and Sloss will close after our event.


Red Mountain Iron Mines

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The iron mining legacy of Birmingham is preserved at several locations in and near the city.  Red Mountain Park (southeast of downtown) has an extensive system of hiking trails.  Several trails pass old mine entrances and other remains of the once thriving industry.  The tour will hike the southwest section of the park to the locations of the Redding/Wenonah No. 10 Mine and the Songo/Redding Shaft Mine, the most complete mining remains in the park.

Company Towns      

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A range of architectural styes and housing types from the boom days of the iron industry throughout the Birmingham district.  The bus tour will first visit downtown Birmingham to see some of the preserved historic buildings in the city’s core.  Then the tour will then visit neighborhoods that range from the owner’s mansions lining the brow of Red Mountain to the middle- and working-class housing areas closer to the mines, iron furnaces, and metal working plants.


Sylacauga Marble Excursion
Sunday, June 26, 2022. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.

The world-class marble quarries in Sylacauga are located about an hour’s drive east of Birmingham.  A 32-mile-long formation has been known for producing the “whitest marble” (and many other varieties) for over a century.  It has been used in countless construction, interior decor, and sculptural projects.  We will see the Alabama Marble, Mineral, and Mining Company (AM3) quarry operation and visit with European-trained Sculptor-in-Residence, Craigger Browne.  (Box lunch included)


Tannehill, Blocton and Brierfield Excursion
Sunday, June 26, 2022. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

This tour will visit two antebellum ironworks, the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park and the Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park. Both of these furnaces supplied the Selma Arsenal with iron during the Civil War but were destroyed by Union Cavalry in the Spring of 1865.  Brierfield reopened after the Civil War. The state-of-the-art Alabama Iron and Steel Museum is also located at Tannehill.  We will also visit the well-preserved Blocton Beehive Coke Ovens. (Box lunch included)


Saltville, Virginia.  Join Pat and Mike Kaas as they explore the “Salt Capital of the Confederacy” and the long-time gypsum mining and salt producing district of southwestern Virginia, on their way to the 2022 annual conference.

Reed Gold Mine, Midland, North Carolina.  Join Pat and Mike Kaas as they visit the Reed Gold Mine State Historic Park, on their way home from the 2022 annual conference.  This is where the first discovery of gold took place in 1799 and led to the Carolina Gold Rush in the 1820s.

Join Mike and Pat Kaas as they visit the Ducktown, Tennessee, Copper Basin Museum at the site of the Burra Burra Mine.  They then explore some of other the historic mine and mill sites and environmental restoration projects in this famous copper and chemical producing district, on their way to the 2022 annual conference.  




Ethel Armes, “The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama.”  (Birmingham:  The Chamber of Commerce, 1910) 

Ernest R. Burchard and Charles Butts, “Iron Ores, Fuels, and Fluxes of the Birmingham District, Alabama,” Bulletin 400, US Geological Survey, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1910)


W. R. Crane, “Iron-Ore (Hematite) Mining Practice in the Birmingham District, Ala.,” Bulletin 239, US Bureau of Mines, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1926)

James Sanders Day, “Diamonds in the Rough: A History of Alabama’s Cahaba Coal Field,” (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2013)


Milton L. Fries, “Alabama Coal Mining Practices,” AIME Transactions, (New York: AIME, 1924).


W. David Lewis, “Sloss Furnaces and the Rise of the Birmingham District,” (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998)


Henry McCalley, “On the Warrior Coal Field,” Geological Survey of Alabama, (Montgomery: Barrett & Co., State Printers, 1886)


Erskine Ramsay, “The Pratt Mines of the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company of Alabama,” AIME Transactions, (New York: AIME, 1890)


Click Here for an expanded Suggested Readings List.





  • Jim Day (Chair), University of Montevallo

  • Jim Baggett, Birmingham Public Library Archives

  • Fred Barnard, Geologist

  • Jack Bergstresser, Industrial Archeologist

  • Craigger Browne, Sylacauga Sculptor-in-Residence

  • Lisa Carroll, Tannehill & Brierfield Ironworks State Parks

  • Ruth Beaumont Cook, Sylacauga Marble Author

  • Marty Everse, Independent Scholar

  • Beth Hunter, Independent Scholar

  • Pam King, University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Ty Malugani, Sloss Furnaces

  • Jeff Newman, Red Mountain Park

  • Ted Spears, B. B. Comer Memorial Library





  • Erik Nordberg (Chair), University of Tennessee at Martin

  • Jo Holt, Keweenaw National Historical Park

  • Chris Huggard, Northwest Arkansas Community College



(Images courtesy Alabama Archives and History, Alabama Marble, Mineral, and Mining Company, Alabama Mining Association, American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), Fred Barnard, Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau,, Craigger Browne, James Day, Encyclopedia of Alabama, Library of Congress, Red Mountain Park. U. S. Bureau of Mines (USBM), and U. S. Steel Corporation.)


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