Original Document
Original Document
Henry Edward Rood, On the Everyday Lives of Coal Miners, 1898.

As a rule, from six to a dozen of the foreigners live in a single shanty, which they have erected upon land owned by the company, for rental of which fifty cents per month is charged. Then fifty or seventy-five cents is deducted for the company doctor, who asks no other fee for medical advice or for medicines, unless called upon to perform a surgical operation. Formerly twenty-five cents was deducted each month from the wages of Roman and Greek Catholics to pay the priest; but this custom is by no means invariable at present.

Of course all the miners are charged with food, clothing, tobacco, powder, fuses and oil that they have purchased during the month through the company store or office. The remainder of their wages is paid to them in cash. The English-speaking miners expend from four to ten dollars a month rental for their houses, according to size, location, conveniences, etc.

Many assertions have been made that company robs its employees to such an extent that when pay-day comes the miners find they have little or no cash at all due them; and as to this, it may be said that prices vary at different collieries, and that while some superintendents undoubtedly do take every possible advantage of the men, yet others are more liberal in dealing with them.

As far can be ascertained, the price of powder at many collieries is far above the figure asked in the open market; the cost of certain articles of clothing probably is higher. But, on the other hand, the company store transacts a credit business, and it may be worth while remembering that certain furniture-houses in large cities, conducted on a the instalment [sic] plan, allow ten per cent. Reduction to cash purchasers.

The worst feature of the company store system is the absolute conviction, on the part of the miners generally, that they will be deprived of work if they neglect to buy all, or nearly all, their goods from the company and dare to trade to in the open market to an appreciable extent. Rightly or wrongly, this belief is firmly embedded. Furthermore, it is openly asserted that the Pennsylvania legislature appointed a committee to investigate the company-store system a few years ago, and that an order for printing fifty thousand copies of their report was canceled because of the disgrace which would fall upon the State were the truth made known of conditions existing in the Schuylkill region.

Credit: Henry Edward Rood, "A Pennsylvania Colliery Village,"The Century Magazine, (April 1898): 814.
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