To help mark the release of the Alabama Statehood Forever stamp this week, here are five facts about the state known as the “Heart of Dixie.”
1. Alabama pioneered two holidays. The first Mardi Gras in America was not held in New Orleans, but rather in Mobile, AL, reportedly in 1702. Alabama was also the first state to make Christmas an official holiday in 1836; the rest of the nation didn’t follow suit until 1870.
2. Punxsutawney Phil has southern relatives. Pennsylvania isn’t the only state with meteorological forecasting critters. Alabama has a weather predicting possum named Sand Mountain Sam and two prognosticating groundhogs named Birmingham Bill and Smith Lake Jake.
3. A pest saved the state’s economy. Some credit the boll weevil, a destructive insect, with encouraging farmers to switch from growing cotton to more lucrative crops like peanuts. In 1919, the city of Enterprise, AL, even erected a monument to the boll weevil in recognition of its contributions.
4. The Tuskegee Airmen made their mark in Alabama. The U.S. military’s first African-American flying unit trained in the state. Their accomplished combat record included the accumulation of more than 850 medals and was a factor in President Truman’s decision to desegregate the armed forces in 1948.
5. Until 2015, it was illegal to play dominoes in Alabama on Sunday. The state’s criminal code prohibited the act on Sunday, although every year since 1976 the town of Andalusia, AL, has hosted the World Championship Domino Tournament. This year, the event is scheduled for July 12 and July 13 — a Friday and Saturday.
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