Here's an image I made at the 2004 Iron Bowl. That year the unranked Alabama team hosted undefeated Auburn and these Bama fans were hoping their team would "upset" Auburn's perfect season. However, by the end of the game the painted word took on some irony as the fans became upset at Bama's loss to Auburn 21-13.
Those first games between Alabama and Auburn weren’t referred to as an “Iron Bowl,” but they were just as heated and hard fought as the one being played today. The game being watched by millions of people today didn’t become known as the Iron Bowl until Auburn coach Shug Jordan coined the term in the late 1970's when the two teams met on neutral turf at Birmingham in Jefferson County, Ala. The term “Iron Bowl” is a reference to Birmingham’s role in the iron and steel industry that transformed the city from a small village in the 19th Century to the largest city in Alabama today. But the iron industry that made Birmingham actually got its start at an out of the way place on Roupes Creek in southwest Jefferson County. I went there looking for an “Iron Bowl” and I found one.
In 1830 Daniel Hillman built a forge where Bibb, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties meet. In 1859 Moses Stroup built a large iron making furnace on the site. During the Civil War it was the largest iron making center in the state and the Confederate government’s chief source of iron for weapons. The site was destroyed by the Federal Army on March 31, 1865. Today it’s a state park called the Tannehill Ironworks where the large reconstructed furnaces can be seen as they appeared in 1860. Stroup’s forge not only produced iron for the military but also household items like kettles, ovens, holloware, bells, nails and machine parts. Much of these items can be seen in the Iron and Steel Museum located in the park. If you visit the museum today you can see in an out of the way corner a large iron bowl that was created at the site sometime around 1860, the “Holy Grail” of iron bowls you might say.
This past week I have been posting Iron Bowl related blogs leading up to today's game. Most of the photos came from my archive of images from past Iron Bowls that I have photographed. But I decided to go looking for the Iron Bowl outside my archive. My first stop was the site of the first game between Alabama and Auburn. That game was held on February 22, 1893 in what was then called Lakeview Park in Birmingham. The "Orange and Blue" team from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama won that game 32-22.
The Birmingham Age Herald reported that 5,000 screaming fans were on hand to witness the event.
I made this photo in the second half of the Iron Bowl on November 23, 1996 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. It shows Alabama coach Gene Stallings as his team trailed Auburn. Alabama scored in the final minutes of the game to defeat Auburn 24-23. After this game Stallings announced his retirement. Just to the right of Stallings in the photo is Mike Dubose, the man who would become the Alabama head coach after Stallings' retirement.
Here's a gif I created from a series of pictures I made as the Alabama team walked down a tunnel and onto the field to warmup before the start of the 1996 Iron Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham. Roll Tide.
This is a photo I made of Gene Stalllings before the start of the 1996 Iron Bowl in Birmingham. The Crimson Tide came back in the final minutes and defeated Auburn 24-23. During the post-game press conference Stallings announced his retirement. Stallings was the Alabama coach from 1990 to 1996. He racked up a won/loss/tie record of 70-16-1.
Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson is seen here during the 2005 Iron Bowl in Auburn, Alabama. Jackson was born in Bessemer, Ala., and was given the nickname “Bo" as a child growing up there. His family described him as a “wild boar hog” as he was always getting into trouble. The name was shortened to Bo. Jackson played for Auburn from 1982 to 1985 where he racked up 4,303 rushing yards and scored 45 touchdowns. In 1985 Jackson was awarded the Heisman Trophy, an award given to the most outstanding college football player in the United States. During the Iron Bowl on November 27, 1982 with 2:26 left in the game Jackson took a hand-off on fourth down from the 1-yard line and went over the top for a touchdown to defeat Alabama 23-22. It was not only a huge victory for Auburn but also a stunning loss for legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in his final Iron Bowl game. Jackson went on to play football for the Los Angeles Raiders and baseball for the Kansas City Royals, California Angels and Chicago White Sox.
Auburn Coach Terry Bowden runs from the Auburn locker room past an M1841 Mountain Howitzer cannon to start the third quarter during the 1996 Iron Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. Mountain Howitzers were used by the United States Army from 1837 to about 1870. They saw action during the Mexican American War, the Indian Wars, and the American Civil War. The 1841 Mountain Howitzer is a type of bronze smoothbore 12 pounder that has a range of 1,005 yards at 5° elevation with a charge of 0.5 pounds of black powder when firing shell. Coach Bowden ordered the cannons to be brought onto the field as a backup plan in case the Alabama Crimson Tide gave his team any trouble in the second half. Just kidding. They were part of the Auburn University Marching Band halftime show.
Here's an outtake from the 1996 Iron Bowl in Birmingham. From left Amanda Smythe Lucas, Justin Webster and Jason Harris.