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Artifact Tutwiler Hotel

Recent History Center Acquisitions

E. E. Forbes Upright Player Piano

E. E. Forbes Upright Player Piano

The History Center recently received a donation of a 1920s E. E. Forbes Player Piano along with 60 piano rolls. The piano was donated by Yvonne Wood Sides who generously paid to have the piano delivered to our offices in the Pythian Building. The piano was purchased by her grand-parents, Arthur and Pau line Wood for their Belview Heights home. The piano was inherited by their son Pau l Wood in 1966.

The piano uses foot pedal pumps to blow air through perforated paper rolls, an invention that was first patented in 1842. Sales for these pianos peaked in 1924—soon to be replaced by the improvement of phonograph records.

History Center building


Bring any items of historical interest to our new office at 310 18th Street North, Suite 401. Our phone number and e-mail has stayed the same: 205-202- 4146    Email:

Majestic Coffee Company Urn from the collection

Occasionally the JCHA helps us purchase Birmingham items found on Ebay. This coffee urn is a good example. To see more go to www.birminghamhistorycenter.org.


Camp Mary Munger Artifact

Camp Mary Munger Artifacts

Our board co-president, Garland Smith, recently donated a grouping of Camp Mary Munger activity patches, councilor handbooks, brochures and post cards. Camp Mary Munger was founded in 1924 on sixty-five acres near Trussville on the headwaters of the Little Cahaba River. The land was donated by Mary Collett Munger, the wife of Robert S. Munger. The Mungers were famous for their philanthropy during their lifetime and were owners and restorers of Arlington Ante-Bellum home.

For more information about this carriage go to our website blog at:



Then and Now: Woolworth’s
1901 Third Avenue North, Birmingham

F.W. Woolworth Company store, Birmingham Alabama 1930

intage postcard showing the F. W. Woolworth’s Five and Dime when it was on Third Avenue North and 19th Street. Woolworth’s operated at this location from the 1930’s to the 1980s. The art deco building today is occupied by the California Fashion Mall.

The chain, which closed nationally in 1997, operated stores that offered lipstick, diapers and a milk shake at a discount all under one roof. Most big city stores including Birmingham, also had lunch counters. It was the Wal-Mart of 100 years ago.


Woolworth stores carried oddball items that are often hard to find elsewhere: Iron-on hemming tape, cans of aerosol hairspray, with lids sometimes coated with dust, lemon sucking candy, rubber car toys and the occasional parakeet.

F.W. Woolworth Company store building today

Center Point City Hall

Center Point City Hall occupies the old rock school, erected 1924, on Center Point Parkway (John Phelan).

Place Names: How Center Point Got Its Name


n the 1700s, Native Americans occupied the area that is now Center Point in the vicinity of Barber Springs, the head of Five Mile Creek. The Roebuck, Reed and Truss families settled in the area beginning in 1816. In 1871, Dave Franklin dug a well and built a homestead, and later a grocery at a convergence of roads near the springs. By the early 1900s a blacksmith shop and post office had rounded out the community, now commonly called Center Point or "Centerpoint" for its location at the gathering of roads.

By the 1960s, the rapid growth of the Birmingham District reached into this northeastern suburb. The residential growth in the area was so dramatic that its population of over 60,000 by the 1970s gave Center Point the distinction of being the most populous unincorporated place in the United States.

A first attempt at incorporation failed in 1990 but a second effort was successful in 2002 led by the Center Point Action Committee headed by Wink Chapman. In the 2000 census listed the population at 22,784, representing an incorporated area much smaller than the Center Point community.

References: Center Point Historical Marker, Alabama Bureau of Tourism, 2010; Center Point, BhamWiki; Center Point, Wikipedia.


91st Observation Squadron, from left, two members of the ground crew, Capt. Everett Cook beside the Salmson A2, Lt. William Badham behind the Lewis guns, crew chief Sgt. Scott Currigan far right.

91st Observation Squadron, from left, two members of the ground crew, Capt. Everett Cook beside the
Salmson A2, Lt. William Badham behind the Lewis guns, crew chief Sgt. Scott Currigan far right.

Walter R. Lawson and William T. Badham WWI Birmingham Flyers

—by: Tom Badham


he average lifespan of a pilot in World War I was very short, and that of an observer, very very short. "They’d come in and get killed before we learned their names." declared William T. Badham in a 1984 interview.

The 91st Observation Squadron was in the first long-range reconnaissance group in the American Expeditionary Force. The 91st, the 88th Observation Squadron and the 1st Observation Squadron were formed into the U.S. Army’s First Corps Observation Group at Amanty, France in December, 1917, to fly missions for the French Eighth and American First Army Headquarters. It would be six months, though, before the squadron received its observers and all its flying equipment.

While the neighboring U.S. 94th Pursuit (Hat in the Ring) Squadron with Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Meissner got most of the publicity in back home newspapers, the 91st Observation Squadron was doing just as much, if not more, to win the war.

Their work was described as beginning five kilometers inside the German lines and as far back as their gasoline would carry them and then still wiggle out. Depending on the weather, they had up to three flights a day.

By June, 1918, the squadron moved to its first combat operations flying field near Gondreville-sur-Moselle, receiving its compliment of observers and the necessary machine guns and camera gear. While some of the observers were fresh out of training at Tours, Lt. William T. Badham had flown with the French for several months and had valuable combat experience. That experience taught to the other observers allowed the 91st to successfully complete assigned missions almost immediately.

The squadron would fly one to three flights daily deep into German territory with no other protection. The Germans, recognizing how important their photographs would be to the Allies, would fire every anti-aircraft cannon and send every fighter plane in the sector after them to stop the missions.

Lt. Walter R. Lawson served in the squadron almost from its inception as both an observer and operations officer. Lawson began his military career in the Alabama National Guard serving on the Mexican border. He mustered into federal service as a second lieutenant in June, 1916 and in 1917 was ordered to France.

Many observers were artillery officers who volunteered for duty with the Air Service. They were sent to air fields in France for specialized training in visual observation, artillery regulation, photographing enemy areas and fortifications and handling their double Lewis machine guns to defend themselves from attacking enemy pursuit planes. While in observer training in France, Lawson also took flying instruction with the 41st French Escadrille.

Lawson and Badham both won the Distinguished Service Cross for one particularly vicious fight in late October, 1918. Lt. Lawson had been wounded back in September and was not yet back on flying duty, but volunteered to participate in this mission because the squadron didn’t have enough observers left to complete the mission.

Bill Badham remembered: "In late October, 1918, our largest and fiercest dogfight of the war was fought with Germany’s famous Richthofen Circus. Our two flights of three planes each was on a routine mission into Germany and was surprised by a large number of fast, brightly colored German planes. Richthofen had been killed shortly before, but his fliers proved to us how great they were."

"My pilot, Lt. Everett Cook, and I signaled our flight to bunch up to make our fire more effective and to protect each other. But, this was not to be for very long due to the arrival of more planes, our other flight and more Germans. There was no maneuvering, just plain shooting at close range. We proved our two seat Salmson French plane could hold its own when the going got tough, and tough it was."

Lt. Walter R. Lawson 
 Lt. William T. Badham

Lt. Walter R. Lawson                                       Lt. William T. Badham

The 91st Observation Squadron in five months of combat from June, 1918 to Armistice, Nov. 11 brought down 21 confirmed German fighters. The squadron sustained a total of 13 pilots and observers killed in action with 13 more wounded in action.

The majority of official aces outside of pursuit squadrons came from the 91st with Observer Lt. Leonard C. Hammond officially credited with six victories and Badham, Cook and Pilot Lt. Victor H. Strahm credited with five each. The only other observer ace with the American forces was Lt. Arthur C. Easterbrook of the 1st Observation Squadron with five victories.

On Jan. 10, 1919, at a ceremony in Luxembourg, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell personally awarded 13 Distinguished Service Crosses to the squadron’s pilots and observers.

Two more DSC’s were later awarded posthumously to Pilot 1st Lt. Asher E. Kelty and Observer 2nd Lt. Francis B. Lowery. The squadron’s personnel also received six Croix de Guerre with palm and a squadron unit Croix de Guerre with palm. Only three US squadrons received this decoration.

Sources: Memoirs and Art of William Terry Badham; Everett R. Cook; A Memoir; America’s First Eagles; The Official History of the U.S. Air Service, AEF, (1917-1918), Lt. Lucien H. Thayer; Find A Grave Memorial.org.




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