Jim Popso’s Lokie

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

Lokie by Jim Popso. Eckley Miners’ Village/Photo by Bode Morin


James “Jim” Popso (1922-98) documented the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region of the 20th century in folk art assemblages he made from scrap wood, found objects, glue, household supplies and bargain paints. For more than 20 years until his death, he handcrafted scenes of collieries, breakers, mining machinery and patch towns, most of them supplemented with his models of real individuals who lived in the mining community in his hometown of Hazleton, Luzerne County.

Jim was the son of a coal miner whose family had emigrated from Austria-Hungary. His mother was born in Poland and arrived in the area as a child. When Jim was older he went to work in the mines, but immediately quit because he was annoyed by the coal dust. Fortunately, his father taught him how to weld at a young age, so he was able to work in that occupation for 27 years. He was also the local constable for two decades and was additionally employed at various times as a night watchman, mechanic and driver. He knew the regional mining community well and captured his perspective of this world in his art.

Popso initially sold his sculptures directly to friends and locals, but in 1989 the gift shop at Eckley Miners’ Village began carrying them on consignment. Before long his work caught the attention of folk art collectors and dealers.

In 1994 Popso created this piece called Lokie, short for locomotive. It represents the small short-line engines that hauled coal cars to and from the area mines from the early 1900s into the 1950s. Popso printed “Eckley” on the engine’s side, probably to give the sculpture souvenir value rather than indicating that this particular engine actually ran through the mining village. The sculpture was donated recently to the historic site by Woodward Blagg, an artist and former Eckley resident. Blagg believes the figure labeled “Preacher Lou” may have been someone Popso knew who lived at Eckley or in the Hazleton area in the latter half of the 20th century. Lokie is 28 x 10 x 13 inches and is made of wood, paint, sheet metal, wire, chain, caulk, nails and other small found objects. It is currently on display in Eckley’s museum lobby along with other Popso works.


Kyle R. Weaver is the editor of Pennsylvania Heritage.