13 things you probably didn't know about Alabama

Published: Aug. 31, 2018 at 7:31 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2018 at 10:53 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Think you know Alabama? There are a lot of things you may not realize about the 'Heart of Dixie'! Pour a cool glass of sweet tea and pull up a rocking chair.

We're not going to bore you with state flower and population facts. Been there, done that (Camellia and just shy of 5 million). We've sought out the coolest of the cool, like that tea you're already sippin'.

Here we go!

Bless your 'Heart' but not officially!

(Photo Courtesy of a WSFA 12 News producer who walked out to the parking lot to take a picture of his license plate in 1,000-degree southern heat. )

Alabama has been called the Yellowhammer State, Cotton State, even the Heart of Dixie for as long as anyone can remember, but did you know not one of those is an 'official' nickname?

That's odd because our legislature LOVES making things "official". Official state birds, official state trees, official state insects, even an official state whiskey to go with an official state cake!

(Bonus points: Though 'Heart of Dixie' isn't an official state nickname, it is required by 1951 state law to appear on all license plates.)

Bless your heart, literally!

(Pioneering physician and Montgomery native Luther Leonidas Hill Jr. Photo Courtesy of Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences via the Encyclopedia of Alabama)

Say hello to Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill, Jr. He was a prominent Alabama doctor who went down in history after becoming the first person to perform heart surgery on a living patient who survived! It happened in Montgomery on Sept. 15, 1902.

The patient, 13-year-old Henry Myrick, had been stabbed in the heart a day earlier. While still conscious, the boy would ultimately have bled to death had it not been for the historic operation by Hill.

Hill's office in downtown Montgomery is still standing and bears a historical marker placed by the Alabama Historical Association.

Want to read more about Hill's feat? Check this out!

'Sweet Home Alabama' has an address

It's not just a song or a state of mind. There is a REAL Sweet Home in Alabama.

Next time you're in Bessemer jamming out to the country super group's biggest song, cross over the railroad tracks and tap the brakes in front of the stately residence at 1830 Arlington Avenue.

The Sweet Home was built in 1906 for H.W. Sweet, who dropped a sweet amount of money for the day to have it built. The $10,000 he spent then is equivalent to about $266,000 today!

Hitler's typewriter is in Alabama. Yeah, that Hitler.

(This Groma typewriter from the 1930s was recovered from Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's retreat in Berchtesgaden, Germany, by an American soldier after German surrender. It is unclear if it was ever used by Hitler, however. Photo courtesy of the Bessemer Hall of History via the Encyclopedia of Alabama)

So you tapped the brakes to see the Sweet Home, huh? Now step on the gas and go about a block. There, you'll find the Hall of History and a really unexpected piece of office equipment.

The Führer would probably have been in a fury over this (and what was he not in a fury about?). He's dead, though, so he can put it in a letter. Just not from this machine. It's missing its ribbon.

The old typewriter draws crowds from all over the world. Read more about it, and the museum, here!

Getting your water bill delivered...by water!

(The mailman delivers everything by boat in Magnolia Springs. Photo Courtesy WBRC/AbsolutelyAlabama.)

Have you ever gotten behind the postal vehicle, the ones with the flashing lights with the 'caution: vehicle makes frequent stops' sign plastered on the back? Yeah, not if you live in Magnolia Springs, Alabama.

Located in Baldwin County, this is the ONLY town in the United States where the USPS has an all-water delivery route, so the mailman IS ON A BOAT!

All politicians lie...but this one lies in Alabama

The State of Alabama has never sent a man to the White House, but we did send a vice president there (briefly). William Rufus King was more famous for being a founder of Selma than he ever was as President Franklin Pierce's veep. He died just a month into office in 1853.

It only makes sense that when he died, he was buried in Selma. Want to see his grave? It's located in Live Oak Cemetery at 300 Dallas Ave.

Read more about King and see a photo of his tomb here.

(Bonus points: We've sent three men to the U.S. Supreme Court)
(Bonus bonus points: King was sworn in as vice president on foreign soil.)

Alabama's capitol dome is in...Lowndes County?

(Separation of church and state? Not with this building! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.)

Wait. When did the Alabama Capitol move from Montgomery? Quick answer: It hasn't. The state has had multiple capital cities and capitols.

We're focused on the very first one. The building in loooooong gone (though the ghost town of Cahawba is neat to check out). However, a very unique part of the building remains, it's dome. And you can check it out in Lowndesboro!

Stop by the CME Church of Lowndesboro and look up. It's perched right on top! It's the only known piece of the state's first capitol building still in existence.

Interstate coming through!

(Alabama's first governor's mansion was used from 1911 through 1950. Photo Courtesy of Alabama's governor's office.)

Alabama's current governor's mansion is a stately home built in 1906 and nestled on its own block along Perry Street in Montgomery. But before the state bought it in 1950, there was another governor's mansion not far away on the corner of South Perry and South Street.

So what happened to the governor's old digs? It was bulldozed in 1963 to make way for Interstate 85!

Read more about the current (and former) mansions here.

Windshield wipers

(Greene County native Mary Anderson (1866-1953) invented the first operational windshield wiper. Photo Courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library via Encyclopedia of Alabama.)

While you're driving down I-85 in the rain, thank Alabama native Mary Anderson for inventing windshield wipers in 1903. She tried to sell her patent but was rebuffed because the company she approached saw no commercial value in the device. Boy were they wrong!

Hold the phone!

(The emergency system known as 911 started with this phone. Photo Courtesy of the Haleyville Chamber of Commerce.)

9-1-1 is an emergency system available to residents across the nation, but it started right here in Alabama!

On Feb. 16, 1968, Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite picked up a red telephone at Haleyville City Hall and dialed up 9-1-1 for the first time. In another room nearby, U.S. Congressman Tom Beville answered the ring, sending the men, city, and state of Alabama into the history books.

The city still celebrates the milestone annually with a 9-1-1 festival.

Want to hear something bananas?

(Squirrel monkey Miss Baker is seen in her bio-pack at Marshall Space Flight Center prior to launch of the Jupiter, AM-18 mission into sub-orbit in May 1959. Photo Courtesy of NASA.)

The first animal to survive a trip into space was Miss Baker. People leave bananas on her grave near the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center.

The monkey is also a member of the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame along with Matilda, the "World's Oldest Living Chicken". Who knew?

George Washington's Peace Medal

(The George Washington Peace Medal. Photo Courtesy the Alabama Department of Archives and History.)

In 1790, following the election of George Washington, the newly established United States of America signed its first treaty, the Treaty of New York, with the Creek Indian Nation. The medal you're looking at (as well as an armband that is not pictured) was given to one of the six principal Creek chiefs, according to the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

This is the George Washington Peace Medal, believed to be the only surviving one from the first set of presidential treaty medals.

It was found in 1929 "near the falls of the Tallapoosa." It's now on display at the state archives building in Montgomery.


Nearly forty years before the rest of the nation decided to deck their halls, Alabama was in the Christmas mood. Christmas became a legal holiday in Alabama in 1836. Everyone else jumped on-board in 1870.

And there you have it. 13 cool facts related to Alabama! There are no doubts many more could be shared! Have something interesting to add? Let us know!

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