Mobile, Alabama's oldest and third-largest city, has a population of 195,111 (2010 census). The city sits on the shore of Mobile Bay in the southern part of the state.
In 1702, Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne founded Fort Louis de la Mobile on the edge of the Mobile River. Floods in 1711 forced the French settlers to move south to what is today the city of Mobile. Most of Alabama was settled by +British pioneers. But control of Mobile switched between the French and the Spanish for many years. The United States finally seized the city in 1813.
The French influence is still obvious throughout +Mobile. One example is the tradition of Mardi Gras. This weeklong carnival is held before the Lenten season. Most people think that Mardi Gras celebrations started in New Orleans. But Mobile's citizens claim that their town hosted Mardi Gras festivities more than 100 years before the "Big Easy" adopted the custom. Mardi Gras parties stopped during the +Civil War, but Joseph Stilwell Cain revived the tradition in 1866.
Mobile is best known for its deep harbor, which allows large ships to pass through easily. The +City initially sent cotton to +Europe by steamboat. In later years, iron and steel from Birmingham left Alabama on ships through Mobile Bay. Mobile was an important Confederate port during the Civil War. Union forces took control of the harbor during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. The city fell to the Union on April 12, 1865. The first Confederate submarine, the Hunley, was built there during the Civil War. During World War I and World War II, Mobile became an important shipbuilding center for military vessels.
Today, Mobile is a hub of development and activity. The Port of Mobile ranks first in the nation for wood-pulp exports. It ranks second for forest product exports. Airplane maintenance and repair are growing businesses in the Mobile area. The McDuffie Coal Terminal at the Alabama State Docks is one of the nation's leading facilities for exporting coal. Mobile has been named an "All-American City." This title recognizes Mobile's efforts in downtown revitalization, housing rehabilitation, crime fighting, beautification, and education.
There is much to see in Mobile. The USS Alabama, a retired battleship, is docked in Mobile Bay. The "Mighty A" was scheduled to be sold for scrap metal in 1962. But Governor George C. Wallace thought the Alabama should retire to the state for which it was named. Schoolchildren from across Alabama donated nickels and dimes to help pay for moving the ship from Seattle, Washington. The battleship was donated to the state in 1964. That summer, it was towed to its new home at Mobile Bay's Battleship Memorial Park.
Thousands of azaleas bloom in Mobile each spring. Festivals and special events abound during azalea time. A 37-mile (60-kilometer) stretch through Mobile is known as Azalea Trail. This driving route passes by public and private areas that almost seem to burst with azalea blossoms each spring.
The people of Mobile have preserved many historic homes. Visitors to areas such as Old Dauphin Way and Church Street East can see examples of architecture from the 1800s. The Mobile Museum of Art reopened in 2002 after renovations. It now has more than 6,000 works permanently on display. The Conde-Charlotte House was built in 1822 as the first courthouse and jail of Mobile. As a museum, it is furnished to depict the five periods of Mobile's history. Many of the city's landmarks and buildings were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The city has made significant progress in rebuilding.