Bootleg coal miner near Lykens, PA, taken by photographer A. N. Towsen for the WPA Pennsylvania Guide, circa 1936.
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Miner in overalls standing to right on mine entrance.

Credit: Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives

The Great Depression devastated Pennsylvania's bituminous and anthracite coal industries. Between 1926 and 1933, operators cut Pennsylvania anthracite production by one-third and laid off nearly 67,000 miners, almost 40 percent of the workforce. In northeastern Pennsylvania, unemployed miners worked illegal "bootleg" mines on company-owned land. By the mid-1930s, bootleg mining accounted for 10 percent of the total anthracite produced. In 1941, it still accounted for one out of four jobs in Schuylkill and Northumberland Counties.

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