Breaker boys playing a game of pick up football, northeastern Pennsylvania, circa 1910.
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Breaker boys playing a game of pick up football with the tipple in the background.

Credit: Wyoming Historical and Geological Society

A pickup football game among breaker boys (child laborers who separated impurities from coal) in the early 1900s is captured by an unknown photographer in front of a coal mine in northeastern Pennsylvania. As football went from a genteel pastime to one embraced by blue-collar workers, coal-mining towns sponsored teams that helped the many ethnicities found in one burg unite behind the home team.

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