Mobile, Alabama, the seat of Mobile County and Alabama's only seaport. It is on Mobile Bay, at the mouth of the Mobile River. A 36-mile (58-km) ship channel and an extensive river-and-canal system serve its harbor. Much bauxite and iron ore enter Mobile's port from Latin America. Among the products exported from Mobile are steel and lumber.
Mobile has major shipyards and produces large amounts of paper products, wood pulp, and chemicals. It is a trade center for a farming and lumbering area. The city is the seat of the University of South Alabama, University of Mobile, and Spring Hill College.
Mobile's business district surrounds Bienville Square, a park. The residential areas contain many fine homes built before the Civil War, some showing French and Spanish influences. Mobile is known widely for its live-oak trees, azaleas, and camellias; the 35-mile (56-km) Azalea Trail winds through the area. The annual Azalea Festival includes Mardi Gras celebrations originated by French settlers. Near Mobile are the vast Bellingrath Gardens.
The name Mobile came from that of an Indian tribe. In 1702 the French built Fort Louis de la Mobile near the site of present-day Mobile. The settlement was the capital of French Louisiana, 1702–20. It was ceded to Britain in 1763 and to Spain as part of West Florida in 1783. Mobile was in an area claimed by France after the treaty of 1800 and by the United States after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, but not ceded by Spain. The Spanish held the town until American troops seized it in the War of 1812.
Mobile became a city in 1819. During the Civil War it was a major Confederate port until the Battle of Mobile Bay, 1864. The city was captured by Union troops April 12, 1865. The first Confederate currency was issued here (1861), and the first submarine to sink a warship was built here (1863). Mobile was an important shipbuilding center during World Wars I and II.