Vulcan in Birmingham

World’s Fair Refugee: Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama.

Although World’s Fairs are designed as temporary expositions to be demolished at their conclusions, landmark pieces nearly always survive as cherished civic mementos of the fair: New York’s Unisphere, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge high atop Birmingham’s Red Mountain. Surrounded by iron ore, coal and limestone, Birmingham developed as the steel-making “Pittsburgh of the South.” Fittingly, the city’s mills fabricated a giant, cast-iron Vulcan examining a newly forged spear tip for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Vulcan was brough back to Birmingham and in 1939 was set on his towering stone pedestal as part of the W.P.A. Vulcan Park project. On this moonlit postcard, Vulcan holds a road safety beacon that replaced his spear tip in 1946, which turned from green to red any time there was a Birmingham traffic fatality. The spear tip was returned to Vulcan’s hand in 2004.

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