Preliminary returns arrived from a distant county, and it appeared that Democrat John Erwin had won a seat in the U.S. House to represent the Seventh Congressional District of Alabama. A rowdy group of his supporters, led by John Gorman Barr, rolled a cannon to a hilltop overlooking Tuscaloosa and were set to have “a grand jollification.” But before any salutes could be fired, the official returns for the general election of November 6, 1851, arrived. The hoped-for result was not to be, as Whig candidate Alexander White was victorious. The would-be merrymakers dispersed in disappointment.
The count was two and two. Chicago Cub players jeered the New York batter, and fans cheered for a strikeout. It was the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The next pitch was hit 440 feet and over the fence.
Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Miller were walking toward the end of Washington Street, now known as Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard North in downtown Tuscaloosa. It was Friday evening, September 21, 1900. In the darkness, the 68-year-old Mrs. Miller did not see the edge of a gully that had eaten into the street, and she fell to her death. Later, her husband received a settlement from the City of $2500—equal to about $65,000 over a century later.
It was Tuesday evening, and the Tuscaloosa Citizens Cornet Band was playing, when suddenly their practice room filled with fluttering birds. The “affrighted” creatures had been shaken from their roosts in trees outside an open window. All over town people fled outside, fearing their houses would fall.
Nell, a frustrated young writer, struggled with her novel. She was working with multiple versions and felt it was disjointed and episodic. The stress had become more than she could bear. She opened a window and hurled the manuscript, Atticus, into the darkness. The pages fluttered and settled onto the dirty snow. It was the winter of 1958 in New York City.
A sharp succession of shots rang out, and a gray clad figure fell. It was February of 1883, and two cadets were fighting a pistol duel on the porch of Woods Hall on the University of Alabama campus. The integrity of a young woman had been questioned, and a challenge was issued in defense of her honor. Cadet William Alston of Selma succumbed to wounds inflicted by Cadet H. K. Harrison. Over a year later, Harrison was found not guilty of murder.
It was over in 20 minutes. A storm of wind, rain, and hail had struck Tuscaloosa, and damage was extensive. It was late Saturday afternoon, May 2, 1829. The Alabama State Intelligencer reported that although the sun had not set, “it was impossible to see half way across the street,” and that if the earth and planets had been thrown from their orbits “the elements could not exhibit more fury, violence, and commotion.”
A capacity crowd of about 700 filled Morgan Auditorium at the University of Alabama. It was Monday evening, February 19, 1968. After watching about an hour of a seemingly pointless and confusing movie, three people appeared on stage.
On a warm spring morning, black smoke from the stacks of a riverboat wafted above the edge of River Hill. Teams of sturdy draft horses pulling heavily laden drays and wagons climbed the nearly 100-foot ascent up Market Street (now known as Greensboro Avenue) on their way to Tuscaloosa stores and warehouses. Below at the city wharf, stevedores moved rapidly to simultaneously load and unload a steamer about to embark on the two-day downstream voyage to the port city of Mobile. Crates and barrels of cargo were off-loaded, while hundreds of cotton bales were stacked onboard to begin their journey to distant destinations such as New England, Liverpool, or Le Harve.
If 19th century Tuscaloosans could be transported through time to a modern drug store, they might be disoriented. But after scanning the shelves of their new environment, some familiar names would appear—Vicks VapoRub, Milk of Magnesia, Geritol, Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, and others. All are survivors from the flamboyant, and unregulated, age of patent medicines.