Coal Breaker Model at Museum of Anthracite Mining

Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.

Once a familiar sight in the Commonwealth’s northeastern counties, a breaker, a plant which processed raw anthracite, was the heart of a colliery, usually an expansive complex of various buildings and structures surrounding a deep mine or surface stripping operation. A wooden model of a breaker, crafted by Calvin Boyer, a plasterer and cement finisher who lived in Ashland, Schuylkill County, depicts the activities of workers and the operation of the breaker while processing hard coal. Eighty-one hand-carved wooden figures, many with pivoting shoulders, hips, and knees, are operated through an intricate system of cams, levers, pulleys, and belts. At one time a small engine powered the model. Today, this object – a mechanical marvel as well as a stellar example of twentieth-century folk art – is on view at the Museum of Anthracite Mining at Ashland. Part of the Anthracite Museum Complex, the Museum of Anthracite Mining offers visitors a firsthand look at equipment, machinery, and tools that workers used in mining the coal that fueled the nation’s factories and furnaces.