The following is a listing of coal mining resources that are available in Pennsylvania’s bituminous region. It is not a comprehensive survey since it primarily draws on materials that are located in major libraries and neglects holdings that may be available in local historical societies, public libraries, or other colleges. The collection provides a starting point for those interesting in finding out more information about the industrial heritage of coal mining with a particular focus on the northern Appalachian region. It lists available books, reference books and materials, newspapers, oral history collections, films and videos, bibliographies, with an additional section on coal related organizations. Overview narratives on the development of coal industry in central Pennsylvania in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are also provided. I wish to thank Teresa Statler-Keener for her assistance and the students of the 1992 & 1993 IUP Oral History and Visual Ethnography Institutes in Patton and Nanty Glo for their support and guidance. Any misrepresentations of the following information are exclusively my responsibility.
and Struggles: A Bibliography .................... 272
Community Organizing in
Appalachia: A Bibliography ....................... 277
Directory of Organizations ....................... 286
Films on Appalachia:
- Labor Issues & Struggles ...................... 287
- Community Organizing .......................... 288
An Overview Review of Literature:
The Appalachian region is known for its abundant natural resources, rolling hills, creeks and hollows. But coal strikes, persistent poverty, and environmental problems have also been a vivid part of its heritage. Historically the region has experienced a marginal existence in relation to the rest of America. Most of its day-to-day activities go virtually unnoticed by the larger society even though the relationship between the two has been symbiotic. Studies such as the congressional investigations of the causes and consequences of poverty in the coal industry in the 1920s and the Harlan County Kentucky investigations of the 1930s are a few examples of how policy makers took notice of the region only when it experienced massive catastrophes. More often than not, the responses to those situations and problems was anemic, and in nearly every instance supported the interests of a powerful local and national elite at the expense of mine workers and their families and communities.
In the early 1960s the nation once again turned its attention to the plight of Appalachia. Michael Harrington's Other America: Poverty in the United States (Baltimore: Penguin, 1963), Harry Caudill's Night Comes to the Cumberland's A Biography of a Depressed Area (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1962), and John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign swing through the region helped to stimulate part of this renewed interest. Recently the scholarship of the "new social historians," following the footsteps of E.P. Thompson, Herbert Gutman, David Montgomery, continues to draw academic and public attention to the region through monographs, articles, documentaries, university courses, and reports.
One of the first attempts to develop an understanding of how state politicians and outside investors worked together in Appalachia was undertaken by John Alexander Williams in West Virginia and the Captains of Industry (Morgantown: West Virginia University Library, 1976). William focused on the careers of four businessmen/politicians; Johnson N. Camden, Henry G. Davis, Stephen B. Elkins, and Nathan B. Scott. They are credited with forging a "modern" political party system that was used to promote their involvement in the state's extractive industries between the 1880s and 1913. The four developed close working relationships with major outside investors and industrialists. Camden made large sums of money serving Standard Oil, while Davis and Elkins acquired huge profits from selling their railroad to George Gould. Williams suggests that it is the tradition of the political and economic structure created by these individuals that is responsible for the pillage of West Virginia's resources and people which continues to persist today.
In a sequel to his earlier work Harry M. Caudill in Theirs Be The Power: The Moguls of Eastern Kentucky, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), investigates how the acquisition of land and mineral rights, and the building of railroads and company towns transformed the eastern Kentucky countryside. Exploring the relationship between the moguls of the industrial era, the Rockefellers, Roosevelts, and the lesser known local moguls such as John C. Mayo, and the political leaders of Kentucky, Caudill argues that the relationship resulted in tax legislation and other laws very favorable to the mining interests. He concludes that the alliance enriched the owners of the mining firms at the expense of eastern Kentucky's workers, their local communities, and the region's abundant natural resources. Caudill identifies the major benefactors as a part of an intercorporate network of banks, railroads, and major financiers.
A preceding volume undertaken by Ronald D. Eller, Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1982), develops a broader analysis. Eller attributes the region's persistent marginality to the industrialization process of the late 19th century. Like Caudill he tells a story of how the region underwent a massive upheaval of every aspect of "mountain life" from a static preindustrial state, to the land and development schemes, and life in company towns under the total control of coal barons during the so-called "modernization" era of the 1880s-1930s. As a result, the "indigenous" populations found themselves powerless and unable to escape dependency upon a coal company for a wage income. Eller concludes that the area's poverty is not related to a deficiency systemic to its culture but is rather a product of the larger society's method of industrialization.
The analysis of how miners responded to these conditions varies. David Alan Corbin in Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), argues that the miners' were not quiescent. Ultimately they responded with a militancy that was stimulated in part by increased class consciousness, the acceptance of "radical" ideology, and class solidarity. Prior to 1900 apathy did prevail among the miners which he attributes to organizing priorities of the UMWA, and physical intimidation on the part of company hired private police. Later mine worker attitudes changed in the wake of the famous Paint Creek - Cabin Creek strike of 1912-1916, the continuous police harassment, and the "democracy" and "good American" rhetoric Wilson used to legitimize the WWI effort. The violent clashes between miners and operators after the war and the progressive tradition which continues in District 17 today can all be traced to this period.
Instead of focusing on miner - operator conflict John Gaventa investigates why coal miners don't rebel. In his acclaimed book Power and Powerless: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980) he argues that the coal miners lack of protest stems from an awareness that the cost of challenging the status quo far outweighs the benefits. Miners are conscious of their own powerlessness, not apathetic or ignorant of who dominates and controls their very livelihoods.
Gaventa traces the roots of this lack of assertiveness to the late 19th century when the American Association Ltd, a British based firm, came to Kentucky's Cumberland valley to extract its natural resources. The Association's involvement in the valley mirrored what has happened throughout Appalachia, workers and their families were subjected to constant miserable living conditions. In an effort to grasp the workers unwillingness to strike back Gaventa developed a three "dimensional" model for understanding powerlessness. The first two dimensions investigates the role of political institutions and resolutions and the values, beliefs, and rituals associated with them. The third level looks at the "means through which power influences, shapes or determines conceptions of the necessities, possibilities, and strategies of challenge in situations of latent conflict." This includes the study of social myths, language, symbols, and how they are shaped or manipulated. Gaventa's history shows all three dimensions of the mechanisms are used for maintaining power and powerlessness in Appalachia.
Ronald L. Lewis traces the history of African-American coal miners from slavery to the present in Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780-1980 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987). Between 1890-1930 African-American miners had different experiences in the various mining regions. For instance in Alabama, where most of the miners were African-American, employers divided the workers by isolating the African-Americans in low-paying positions and by segregating them in company towns. In the central region, mostly West Virginia, the miners experienced more equality. Their employers made attempts to hire a cross section of workers from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. African Americans were generally treated equally in the mines but were not granted job advancements. Few were given jobs as bosses. Lewis illustrates how these miners were virtually eliminated from the industry after 1930 as the coal industry declined and machines replaced workers. African-American miners (other than the slave or imprisoned miners in the south) were the last hired, relegated to low-pay positions, and the first to be fired when market conditions changed or new technology was introduced. The plight of the African-American miner can be attributed to racism on a societal level particularly from coal operators and local unions.
Joseph William Trotter, Jr. adds to Lewis's work by investigating the experiences of African American coal miners in southern West Virginia between 1915 and 1932. In Coal, Class, and Color: Blacks in Southern West Virginia, 1915-32 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), Trotter sees African American miners as a work force making their way from a rural agrarian past into an industrial setting for the first time. Understanding how larger social/economic and political forces shaped the race and class dimensions of this process, according to Trotter, can help fill in the gaps of the existing scholarship on "how race, class, culture and power interplayed in the coal fields." Trotter acknowledges that racism was a major force in limiting interaction between the races and the UMWA's efforts to unionize southern West Virginia, but it was not an impermeable force and some African American miners joined the United Mine Workers of America. However, Professor Trotter concentrates on the proletarianization process of the African American miner which produced situations where they could influence the traditional social/political/cultural structures and ultimately lead to a higher standard of living for their families and communities. The outcome of these dynamics gradually influenced African American culture and consciousness. The rise of an African American middle class, expansion of institutions, and gaining more control and influence over their lives are some of the major factors emerging out of these early African American mine worker experiences and initiatives.
Building upon his early work, Work Relations in the Coal Industry: The Hand-Loading Era, 1880-1930 (Morgantown: West Virginia University, 1977), Keith Dix examines the technological transformation of the coal industry during the 1920s and 30s in What's a Coal Miner to Do?: The Mechanization of Coal Mining (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988). Dix expands on one of his earlier themes that during the hand-loading era miners "largely controlled the production process" through their control of the knowledge of skills, their participation in day-to-day activism, and their involvement in the union. The daily on the job decisions were left to the miners while the companies raised the capital and marketed the production.
Dix argues that this system was transformed during the 20s and 30s with the introduction of new technology. Market conditions and increase competition encouraged operators to seek ways to cut costs and increase productivity. This result was achieved by replacing miners with mechanical loading machines and increasing supervision. As the process became more entrenched management gained control over the production process and undermined the workers' freedom. Dix also shows that the union and New Deal bituminous coal mining legislation contributed to the operators' victories.
Richard Francavigla departs from these efforts by providing an interdisciplinary investigation of one of the most under-appreciated aspects of mining, the "cultural landscape," the image of a place based upon its visual characteristics. In Hard Places: Reading the Landscape of America's Historic Mining Districts (Ames: University of Iowa Press, 1991) Francaviglia assumes that much of the U.S. landscape which extends from the anthracite and bituminous coal fields of the East to the iron ore, copper, and uranium fields of the West has been created by the technology used during the production process. The abandoned towns and mining facilities that dot the countryside should not be characterized as "a ruined hellish wasteland," according to Francaviglia, but perceived, interpreted, and remembered within the same framework held by the operators who reshaped the land. To Americans in the late nineteenth century mining activities symbolized progress and domination over nature. Hard Places provides an overview of mining landscapes and a guide for developing a better understanding of them.
Francaviglia provides the reader with three chapters to initiate this process. In the first one learns how the natural and "persona-made" configuration of a site, its physical layout, and the design of buildings help shape mining regions. Surveying photographs, maps of infrastructure development and other local historical and archaeological collections can augment what one might see and find when investigating a mining area. Interpreting the landscape is a process where an analysis of mining landscapes should include aesthetic factors as well as the social forces which, combined, shape a region's heritage.
However, the story of mining is also a story of conflicting elements. Socially they were stratified by race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Yet houses, commercial buildings and other functional buildings were physically homogeneous. Francaviglia attributes this lack of physical diversity to the domination of large corporations, which expected their mining engineers to also serve as architects. The lay-out of towns and company housing done by these engineers tended to be as standardized as the production processes they designed.
Francaviglia sees the growing interest in historical preservation as one of the most powerful economic and social forces affecting modern perceptions of mining landscapes. Spurred by the Historical Preservation Act of 1966, preservationists aim to identify and evaluate all historical resources and to preserve historically significant ones. More often than not these selection processes, according to Francaviglia, are narrow and lack a broader interpretation of what happened to these industrialized areas. Developing a holistic perspective of today's mining landscape depends on how well one utilizes all available clues, including topography, the nature of the extraction process, weather conditions, and re-vegetation, among numerous other considerations.
Francaviglia's perspective is shared by numerous professionals including archaeologists, architects, mining engineers, geographers and historians. However, the author overlooks some key elements for understanding the coal story. He does address the role of the operator and mine worker, but the discussion is often overwhelmed and lost in the description of the physical structures. It is equally important to remember that although these communities and area were hard places to live, they were decided upon, invested in, planned, and maintained by human beings, a point Francaviglia does not seem especially interested in. The stories of mine workers and their families, which unfolded throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, still affect us today. Understanding how resources were developed in our country may help us gain more insight into what it takes to develop resources on a much larger scale in the contemporary global economy.
INVESTORS AND INTRA-REGIONAL INTERLOCKINGS IN THE COAL FIELDS
Central Pennsylvania is one of the oldest bituminous coal mining sections in the United States. Tioga, Clearfield, Huntingdon, and Cambria counties were producing coal prior to the Civil War. During the late 19th century Pennsylvania's fields were rapidly developed by outside interests from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. The invasion of these investors and coal operators represents a classic case of economic colonialism similar to what has been documented in other Appalachian regions. The eastern/central division was acquired by the Rockefellers through their corporate holding, the New York Central Railroad, and its subsidiary, the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Company.1 By the 1920s the CBC owned coal property in Center, Clearfield, Cambria, and Blair counties. It leased 47,000 acres of land "in fee" and 12,000 acres in leaseholds to the Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Corporation (Moody's Manual of Investment, 1928, p-726). The extreme west/southern fields were dominated by the Mellon/Carnegie/Frick interest and later by J.P. Morgan after he transformed the Carnegie Steel Company into U.S. Steel in 1901.
The discovery of coal in central Pennsylvania was facilitated in part by two state sponsored geological surveys. The first in 1836 documented the existence of a coal belt from the counties of Clearfield and Jefferson, in west/central Pennsylvania, to the Maryland border. The second survey (1874) had a more direct personal impact on the region. One of the nine surveyors, Franklin Platt, the assistant geologist of the state of Pennsylvania, eventually became the President of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company.
As the coal region developed, inter-locking connections were established between investors, operators, and railroads in northern, central, and southern Appalachia. Most of the larger concerns built an intra-regional system of parallel production. During peak market conditions underused facilities were utilized to meet heavy market demands, while in the case of work stoppages production was usually shifted to non union areas, making the system a formidable weapon in the operators' arsenal for beating back worker and union demands. Curtis Seltzer in Fire in the Hole: Miners and Managers in the American Coal Industry, (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1985), argues that these relationships were similar to what transpired in the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania and were continued as investors moved west and southward into the bituminous fields. According to Seltzer: