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Mobile is the only saltwater port in the US state of Alabama. The city began as the first capital of colonial French Louisiana in 1702. It was named after the Mobile tribe French colonists discovered in the area of Mobile Bay. These Native Americans could possibly have been the descendants of another tribe, whose fortress town, Mabila, was used to hide thousands of warriors in preparation for an attack against the Spanish expedition of explorer Hernando de Soto in 1540.
Today, Mobile is the county seat of Mobile Country, Alabama. According to the 2010 United States Census, the population within the city limits was estimated at 195,111 people. Mobile is part of the Mobile Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 412,992 residents. This makes the Mobile Metropolitan area the third largest in the state.
The Port of Mobile was once a thriving trading center between the French and Native Americans. Since then, it has evolved into the 12th-largest port in the country. On top of this, Mobile also hosts a strong shipbuilding industry.
The city’s fifth largest employer, according to Mobile’s 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Austal USA (with 3,000 workers), which is a subsidiary of the Australian company Austal, expanded its production facility for US defense and commercial aluminum shipbuilding on Blakely Island in 2005. The company won a new defense contract in 2012 and completed a 30,000 sq. ft. building on the island. This will allow the company to expand the workforce from its current size at 3,000 workers to 4,500 workers, according to The Press Register.
Other notable companies operating in the Mobile area include Atlantic Marine, Brookley Aeroplex, Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company, Delchamps, and Gayfers.
Mobile is best known for its culture, however. It is considered the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States. In fact, it hosts the oldest Mardis Gras celebration, which dates back to the early 18th century during the French colonial period, according to the Library of Congress. Mobile is home to the annual Carnival celebration. This celebration begins as early as November and ends at midnight on Mardi Gras, which signifies Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
The city serves as the site for The National African American Archives and Museum, which features the history of African-American participation in Mardis Gras, artifacts from the era of slavery, and portraits and biographies of famous African-Americans. The Mobile Museum of Art is another notable attraction, with permanent exhibits including the African and Asian Collection Gallery, Altmayer Gallery (American art), Katharine C. Cochrane Gallery of American Fine Art, Maisel European Gallery, Riddick Glass Gallery, Smith Crafts Gallery, and the Ann B. Hearin Gallery (contemporary works).
The Saenger Theatre is home to the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, while the Mobile Civic Center hosts the Mobile Opera and Ballet. The Opera has been in operation for 60 years and averages about 1,200 attendees per performance, according to the Press Register.
Mobile does not have any professional sports teams, but it does have one notable football stadium. Ladd-Peebles Stadium, opened in 1948 with a current capacity of 40,646 is the home of the University of South Alabama Jaguars. However, once a year since 1951, Ladd-Peebles has showcased the best college seniors in NCAA football during the Senior Bowl.
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