Vulcan Dedication Celebration
The Vulcan Dedication Celebration was a ten-day event held from May 7-May 17, 1939 to dedicate Vulcan Park, a public park on Red Mountain centered on the statue of Vulcan, which was newly coated with aluminum paint and installed on a 124-foot sandstone tower overlooking the city of Birmingham. The event was planned and produced by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
The president of the dedication committee was Erskine Ramsay with Howard Richards as executive chairman. Other co-chairs of the committee included W. H. Pitts, Moray Hart, Roy Hickman and John Henley. Among the members were L. Frazier Banks, Henry White, Mrs Charles Sharp, Grady Hutchinson, Walker McNeil Jr, Ethel Joy and Margaret Burford.
The event featured a gala pageant directed by William E. Baker of New York, New York. The cast included as many as 1,200 people on four stages, including 25-year-old insurance agent and former football player George Seibels in the role of Vulcan, Malcolm O'Neal as Achilles and Harry Gingold as Prometheus. The pageant was accompanied by "kaleidoscopic" lighting effects and music from a pipe organ and 12-piece orchestra. The main musical theme was "Magic City Nights", composed by Sybil McKinley for the celebration.
The fist two scenes in the pageant were described in a contemporary article: "The first episode depicts Vulcan working at his forge with the two Golden Maidens he had fashioned with his own hands to aid him. He is welding a suit of invulnerable armor for Achilles. In a second episode Hernando DeSoto and his Spanish adventurers are seen in an Alabama Indian village searching in vain for 'cities of gold,' while neglecting the far greater wealth of iron and coal beneath their feet."
Later scenes included the sale of lots by the Elyton Land Company and Charles Linn's "Calico Ball". At the close of the pageant, a "mechanical ballet interpret[ed] the making of iron into steel and chromium-plated products."
Kress department store clerk Evelyn Tully won a newspaper contest to become "Queen of Vulcan" (or "Miss Vulcan") and was crowned on opening night by Erskine Ramsay. A line of trumpeters heralded her walk down a red-carpeted aisle to her throne. As a prize, she received a week's paid vacation to make promotional appearances all over town. She was joined in her hostess duties by "Lady Birmingham" Helen Jemison and "Lady Alabama" Kitty Oliver, along with twenty-four attendants. Guests included Fred Buettiker, Clarence Hancock, H. H. Morgan, David Morgan and George Rush, representing the foundry workers who cast the statue at the Birmingham Steel & Iron Company in 1904.
More than three thousand people attended the opening night of the festival. Over the course of the 10-day celebration, special theme nights including "religious night", "Alabama night", "labor and industry night", "agricultural night", and "education night" were designed to attract a wide range of visitors. On Alabama night the mayors of all cities and towns in the state were invited to receive a special honor. On another night, the governors of neighboring Southern states were invited.
The event was dramatized in a play, "Miss Vulcan, the Belle of Birmingham" written by Marian Partee with music and lyrics by Jan Powell and Noelle Donfeld. The play was staged by Red Mountain Theatre in 2007 and again for the park's 75th anniversary in 2014.
- "Vulcan to be dedicated with mammoth spectacle" (April 14, 1939) Florence Times-Daily
- "Vulcan Rises From Cinders to Peak Above Birmingham" (May 12, 1939) The Christian Science Monitor - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Rowell, Raymond J. Sr (1972) Vulcan in Birmingham. Birmingham: Birmingham Park & Recreation Board
- Caldwell, Carla (March 21, 1999) "Queen in 1939 Evelyn Williams says it was 'like being Cinderella'." The Birmingham News
- Caton, Bill (March 3, 2004) "Vulcan's Queen: Hoover woman recalls her special reign 65 years ago." The Birmingham News