James Withers Sloss started the Sloss Furnace Company in 1880 to take advantage of the mineral wealth of the Jones Valley. He built Sloss’s first blast furnace the following year. A second furnace soon followed and Sloss Furnaces produced twenty-four thousand tons of iron in its first year of operation. Sloss Furnaces was an industry leader in innovation and design. Its superintendent of construction, James Pickering Dovel, led Sloss through a period of modernization in the 1920s that resulted in Sloss becoming the second largest producer of pig iron in the Birmingham District.
Colonel James Withers Sloss, a plantation owner and railroad developer from Athens, Limestone County, founded the Sloss Furnace Company in the midst of an industrial boom that grew from Birmingham’s unique proximity to large deposits of coal, iron ore, and limestone in or near the Jones Valley. Sloss built two blast furnaces that went into production in April 1882 and May 1883, respectively. The furnaces, which featured a modern heated air-blast system, were located at the confluence of the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) and Alabama Great Southern railroads on the east side of the city.