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Bessemer Coal, Iron, and Land Company records

Identifier: MSS-0145

Scope and Contents note

These records include minutes of stockholder meetings (1890-1936), early accounting books, ledgers, and office files from the 1930s to the 1960s containing correspondence and negotiations with other industries (e.g., railroad, timber, banking, and insurance) and dealings with governmental agencies. The collection also contains company files on lawsuits, records of legal documents (stock sales and share certificates, deeds, and right of way agreements), and over 150 maps (1887-1978) of the company's land-holding and coal mining interests.


  • 1886-1982


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical/Historical note

Seven businessmen founded the Bessemer Land and Improvement Company in July 1886 (the company was incorporated in January 1887) as a land speculation venture in the mineral-rich valley of central Alabama. Starting with the initial acquisition of 4040 acres of land, the company recognized the importance of attracting viable industries to the area to employ the residents of Bessemer. It provided incentives to businesses (either cash gifts, grants, loans or a combination of these means) to locate on its lands. The company also engaged in the acquisition of other companies to keep them in Bessemer or to relocate them there.

Under the direction of its first president, Henry F. DeBardelben, the company directly entered into the mining and iron industries in 1895. The move into coal mining and iron production was a natural choice after the failure of the company to attract a major steel producer to Bessemer. After all, DeBardelben had selected the name Bessemer to honor the inventor and to underscore the importance of steel in this town. The founders had agreed to the site for their new city based on the land's fortuitous location between the ores of Red Mountain, the rich coal veins of the surrounding area, and the vast limestone resources of the Jones Valley, and the initial investors had discussed the idea of diversification at the first meeting in Charleston in March 1886. To reflect the new missions of the company, it was renamed in 1903 as the Bessemer Coal, Iron, and Land Company.

The company and the city enjoyed strong growth during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By 1916, Bessemer was the fourth largest city in Alabama, and new mine purchases in Alabama and Tennessee expanded the coal yield. However, the Depression and the decline in the coal market after World War II brought sharp profit declines. The company also faced increasing competition from other local mines and iron manufacturers in the area. After the war, the company lessened its dependence on coal fortunes and returned to its initial charter as a land and development company. It focused on the growth of the Bessemer Mortgage and Securities Company and started work on new subdivisions in the area.

After years of declining returns, the company disbanded in 1981, but Bessemer remains a living legacy of the initial stockholders of the land company.


12 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains much of the business correspondence and records of the Bessemer Coal, Iron and Land Company, including lists of stock holders, minutes of meetings, maps of mine sites, and correspondence with government entities.


Purchased from Cather & Brown Books, 1993

Processed by

Unknown; updated by Andrew Harris, 2012



Guide to the Bessemer Coal, Iron, and Land Company records
May 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266