1871 was the year the City of Birmingham was founded.
- January 26: The Elyton Land Company was organized at Josiah Morris' bank office. James Powell was elected the company's first president.
- March 6: Josiah Morris, acting on behalf of the Elyton Land Company, purchased 1,113 acres from William and Elizabeth Nabers.
- June 1: Birmingham was founded by the Elyton Land Company.
- August: Alburto Martin sold land that became part of Birmingham to the Elyton Land Company.
- September 5: Birmingham was granted a post office.
- November 6: The first train entered Birmingham. It was conducted by Porter Lewis on the Alabama Central Railroad line.
- December 19: Birmingham was incorporated.
- December 19: Birmingham's first city officials took office, including Robert Henley (mayor), the first Birmingham Board of Aldermen, and O. D. Williams (police chief).
- Birmingham Fraternal Lodge No. 384 was chartered.
- Dave Franklin dug a well and built a homestead near Barber Springs.
- Northport was incorporated.
- The Propell post office was established.
- The University of Alabama reopened following the burning of the campus by Union troops during the Civil War.
- May 16: Wallace S. McElwain and his partners sold the Cahaba Iron Works to the new Jefferson Iron Company.
- Robert Henley purchased the Elyton Herald and renamed it the Birmingham Sun. Later, Thomas McLaughlin and James Matthews purchased the Sun and renamed it The Jefferson Independent.
- The Dude Saloon opened.
- The Hewitt & Walker law firm was founded.
- James Sloss persuaded the Louisville & Nashville Railroad to take over the contract of the unfinished South & North Alabama Railroad, extending its line to Birmingham.
- Fall: Baptist missionary Jonathan Hillyer arrived in Birmingham.
- November 22: James T. Eubank became Jefferson County Sheriff.
- Thomas Jeffers was appointed master mechanic for the South & North Alabama Railroad shops.
- Thomas McDonald moved his family to Birmingham.
- John F. McLaughlin married the former Ella Meredith.
- James T. Murfee became president of Howard College in Marion.
- Nathaniel Upton succeeded Matthew Maury ad president of the University of Alabama.
- Benjamin Roden moved to Birmingham.
- January 7: William Gussen, owner and director of the Birmingham Conservatory of Music
- February 28: Joseph Lacey, Pratt City Mayor
- Fall: Mamie Morrow, first girl born in Birmingham
- September 17: Itishey Hagan, wife of C. D. Hagan
- October 12: Miss Fancy, beloved Birmingham Zoo elephant
- November 11: Richard McNally, first boy born in Birmingham
- November 22: William Mailly, labor leader and journalist
- December 1: Charles Glenn, superintendent of the Birmingham City Schools
- Daniel Reamer, architect
- John Altman, bachelor of law degree from the University of Virginia
- Benjamin Franklin Riley, from Erskine College.
- Relay House (opened December 15)
- Webb Building
- St John's Episcopal Church in Elyton (structure relocated from Ashville)
In 1871, the member-states of the North German Federation and the south German states united into a single nation-state known as the German Empire. The King of Prussia was declared the first German Emperor as Wilhelm I of Germany. The first U.S. Surgeon General was appointed. The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria. The Great Chicago Fire left 90,000 homeless. Henry Morton Stanley located the missing explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone, greeting him by saying "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
Notable books published in 1871 included Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, and The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin.
Notable births in 1871 included writer Marcel Proust, aviation pioneer Orville Wright, cartoonist Winsor McCay, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, baseball player Buck Freeman, writer Stephen Crane, and baseball player Joe Kelley. Notable deaths included mathematician Augustus De Morgan, astronomer John Herschel, and inventor Charles Babbage.
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