Stories from PA History
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Mining Anthracite
During the nineteenth century, northeastern Pennsylvania's anthracite coal mines fueled one of the great mining booms of American history. The people who mined, moved, and sold anthracite coal built an industry that was crucial to the industrialization of the United States. Along the way, they created dynamic and culturally diverse communities that survive today.

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Overview: Mining Anthracite
Chapter One: Turning Stones to Diamonds
Chapter Two: From Mines to Markets
Chapter Three: Coal Communities
Chapter Four: Labor Strikes and Mine Disasters

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon John O'Hara (Schuylkill) marker icon Lackawanna County (Lackawanna)
marker icon Luzerne County (Luzerne) marker icon Packer Mansion (Carbon)
marker icon Schuylkill County (Schuylkill)

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Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text Social Reformers Describe a Coal Breaker and Breaker Boys, 1906.

1791 Philip Ginter found anthracite while hunting on Sharp Mountain
1807 Abijah Smith & Co. begins shipments of coal on the Susquehanna River
1808 Jesse Fell invented an open air grate that allows easier burning of anthracite, paving the way for its use as a household fuel
1814 Anthracite begins to penetrate the Philadelphia market during its fuel crisis in the War of 1812
1825 Schuylkill Canal opens
1827 - 1829 Building of the Lehigh Canal, a waterway developed by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co.
1827 Switchback or gravity railroad from Summit Hill to Mauch Chunk began to carry coal to the Lehigh Canal
1828 Delaware & Hudson gravity railroad began – one of the first railroads in the nation
1828 Schuylkill Canal extends to Port Carbon and begins to revolutionize the transportation of coal to market
1829 - 1832 Construction of the state-funded North Branch Division of the Pennsylvania Canal provided a market access route for coal to inland towns and seaport cities
1831 - 1834 Building of the Wyoming Division of the Pennsylvania Canal
1833 Dr. Frederick W. Geissenhainer received a patent for a furnace that burns anthracite successfully as fuel
1835 Burd Patterson devised the slope method for mining anthracite below water level
1836 Geissenhainer's Valley Furnace in Schuylkill County demonstrated his patented anthracite heating process
1840 Lehigh Crane Iron Works launched the first successful commercial anthracite furnace in Catasauqua
1849 Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad links Schuylkill County's anthracite to Philadelphia
1849 Liggett's Gap Railroad incorporated in Scranton. Becomes the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad
1850 Pennsylvania Coal Co. gravity railroad began operations
1853 Lehigh Valley Railroad formed by Asa Packer
1860 Construction of Packer Mansion, the home of industrialist Asa Packer
1869 Avondale Mine Disaster results in 110 deaths
1879 Terence V. Powderly, originally from Carbondale, heads the Knights of Labor
1896 Twin Shaft Disaster results in 58 deaths and an official state investigation of mine safety
1897 The Lattimer Massacre occurs when nineteen immigrant mine workers are killed by sheriff's deputies during a strike march from Harwood to Lattimer
1900 Mother Jones marches with mine workers' wives and children
1902 The Anthracite Strike of 1902 occurs, it is among the largest strikes in U.S. history
1911 Anthracite Mine Disaster in Lackawanna County results in more than 70 deaths
1913 Concrete City, a planned community for the employees of the Truesdale Colliery, opened
1914 Employment in the anthracite industry reaches an all-time high of 180,000 workers, about two-thirds of whom are members of the United Mine Workers of America
1920 During the 1920s and 1930s, the anthracite industry begins its long decline
1933 United Anthracite Miners of Pennsylvania forms, led by Thomas Maloney
1944 Min L. Matheson arrives in the Wyoming Valley to organize women garment workers
1959 Knox Mine Disaster results in 12 deaths and an end to deep mining in the Wyoming Valley
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