Mobile (mōbēlˈ, mōˈbēlˌ) [key], city (1990 pop. 196,278), seat of Mobile co., SW Ala., at the head of Mobile Bay and at the mouth of the Mobile River; inc. 1814. Lying on one of the continent's greatest natural harbors, Mobile is one of the country's major ports, the only seaport in Alabama, and the second largest city in the state. It has an important history as a shipping and shipbuilding center. The city's economy is primarily based on its oil refineries and industries that produce paper, textiles, aluminum, and chemicals. There is also steel processing. Commerce through the port of Mobile increased greatly following the completion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in 1984.
A settlement was founded on the site of Mobile in 1710 by the sieur de Bienville, and it was the capital of French Louisiana from 1710 to 1719. The British held it from 1763 to 1780, when Bernardo de Gálvez took it for Spain. Mobile was seized for the Americans by Gen. James Wilkinson in 1813. During the Civil War, ships from Mobile evaded the Union blockade until Admiral Farragut's victory at Mobile Bay (1864); Gen. E. R. S. Canby captured the city in Apr., 1865.
Mobile has many beautiful antebellum homes and magnificent gardens. Also noteworthy are a Roman Catholic cathedral, the city hall (1858), and Marine Hospital (1842). Of historical interest are the homes of Admiral Raphael Semmes and Gen. Braxton Bragg, the headquarters of Gen. Canby, and forts Morgan and Gaines at the entrance to Mobile Bay. Mobile is the seat of Spring Hill College (the oldest in the state), the Univ. of Mobile, and the Univ. of South Alabama. A Coast Guard aviation training center and Battleship Memorial Park, with the USS Alabama and the USS Drum submarine, are there. The colorful annual Mardi Gras was begun in the early 1700s; the Azalea Trail Festival dates from 1929. The Bankhead Tunnel lies under the Mobile River.
See C. Donelson, Mobile: Sunbelt Center of Opportunity (1986); E. O. Wilson and A. Harris, Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City (2012).