year coal production in tons
1870 13,200
1880 380,000
1890 4,090,409
1900 8,273,262
1910 16,139,228
1920 17,391,437
1926 21,508,812
1929 18,415,914
Production rates according to an article in
The Shelby County Reporter
dated Thursday, December 18, 1930.

The State of Alabama is one of the southern states of the United States, almost completely bordered by other states it has a sort of leg to the south with a short piece of Gulf of Mexico coastline. The state is divided into two different areas with different geologic structure. The southern and western part of the state is covered by almost horizontal, gently dipping rocks. They form shallow escarpments. The northeast is the southernmost end of the Appalachian mountain ridge which runs almost parallel to the east coast from northeast to southwest.

The caves of Alabama are located in the northeastern part of the state. This part of the Appalachian Mountains consists of folded GeologyCarboniferous limestones. Many caves of this region have served as shelter for Indians. The oldest known Woodland Indian site of the eastern United states has beeen found in ShowcaveRussell Cave NM.

The second part of Alabama, to the south is covered by sedimentary rocks. They form a typical escarpment area where the gently to the southwest dipping rocks are eroded into steps, with harder layers forming plateaus to a steep escarpment down to the next hard layer. The escarpments face northeast, so the youngest rocks of Cenozoic age, younger than 65Ma old, are found at the coast. Then follows Selma Group and Tuscaloosa Group both of Late Cretaceous age, more than 95Ma.

During the late Carboniferous, which is called Pennsylvanian in the U.S.A., the Allegheny Orogeny was in full force. This caused huge areas of subsidence in front of the orogeny, basins which were continually covered by the sediments from the eroding mountains. But those basins also were a broad, tropical coastal plain with a rain forrest of primitive trees and fern-like plants. The sediments covered huge amounts of biomass, which was then transformed into coal.

There is a long mining history for coal in Alabama. The first coal was commercially mined at Tuscaloosa and floated down to Mobile in 1830. This is eleven years before the state joined the Union, when most of the area was still owned by the native Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokees and Creeks. The coal was an important factor in the developmment of the railroad system, the creation of many industries and businesses, and as a result of the jobs this caused, the growth of many Alabama cities.

The peak of coal mining was around 1926, afterwards it decreased because of cheap foreign fuels. Coal mining ended in the 1950s, but it left an infrastructure of railroads, roads, factories and businesses. Without the coal the state would have stayed rural.