- East Alabama Male College opened with a student body of eighty and a faculty of ten.
- Sewanee Furnace Company was sold to New York investors and reorganized as the Tennessee Coal and Rail Company.
- Tannehill Furnace No. 1 was blown in.
- Crumly Chapel Methodist Church was established.
- John Quinlan became Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Mobile.
- Baylis Grace was appointed Jefferson County tax assessor.
- Richard Hudson became Jefferson County Sheriff again.
- Alburto Martin was elected to the Alabama Legislature.
- Nathaniel Lupton joined the faculty of Southern College in Greensboro.
- January 12: Harry Jones, hardware salesman and Alderman
- April 10: Dolphus Shields, carpenter and church deacon
- July 18: George Anderson, foundry owner
- August 17: Mitchell A. Porter, attorney and politician
- November 7: Zennie Tomlinson, stenographer and railroad purchasing agent
- November 8: Sidney Norwood, entrepreneur and investor
- November 17: John Gillespy Jr, physician
- November 19: Martin Eagan, Birmingham Police Chief (1914–1917)
- December 20: Basil Allen, attorney and judge
In 1859, the Taiping Rebellion and Second Opium War continued. Oregon was admitted as a state. Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities was published. Ground was broken for the Suez Canal. The Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster, housing Big Ben, was started. The first oil well in the U.S. was drilled. John Brown raided the Harpers Ferry Armory in Virginia. Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species.
Notable births in 1859 included composer Victor Herbert, author Kenneth Grahame, physicist Pierre Curie, writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and outlaw Billy the Kid. Notable deaths included abolitionist Horace Mann, author Washington Irving, and abolitionist John Brown (executed).
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