The All-Too-Youthful Proletarians: Breaker Boys of the Anthracite Coal Region in the Early 1900s

Many Pennsylvanians have long forgotten one of the state’s major claims to national prominence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-the anthra­cite coal industry. In those years, clean-burning anthracite heated more homes in the northeastern United States than any other fuel, and a 1,700 square-mile area in northeast Pennsyl­vania produced almost all of the nation’s...
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A Most Deadly Business

During the early morning hours of December 5, 1885, John Lynot labored hundreds of feet underground in the stale air of his “breast,” a black chamber in the coal seam the size of a small room, preparing an explosive charge. An anthracite miner for the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, Lynot earned eighty-five cents for each two ton mine car he filled. Finding the weakest point...
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Schuylkill County: Built on Coal

The history of Schuylkill County is inextricably bound to the story – and drama – of the great anthracite industry in the United States. Despite nearly two centuries of active mining, the county’s 783 square miles still boast the largest accessible reserves of hard coal known in the world. Its lives and lifestyles have been quasi-fictionalized by two of the county’s best...
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The Molly Maguires: Fighting for Justice

Early on the morning of Wednesday. Septem­ber 1, 1875, a young English-born mine foreman started from his Schuylkill County residence to the Shenandoah coal colliery where he was employed. A gunshot pierced the air. Scrambling for cover behind a neighbor’s house, he was met by another assassin who drew his revolver and fired. Struck in the groin, the young man staggered blindly and fell to...
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Visiting the Museum of Anthracite Mining: A Walk Through the Rise and Fall of Anthracite Might

One of Pennsylvania’s most significant resources was once considered useless. Although anthracite was distinguished as a natural resource as early as 1770, the sale of “stone coal” – as it was then called – was outlawed in some places. Many believed that anthracite (or “hard” coal) was little better than slate and would not burn. Eventually, however, a...
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