Stories from PA History
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King Coal: Mining Bituminous
Bituminous mining began on a small scale in southwestern Pennsylvania during the mid-eighteenth century. During the mid- and late nineteenth century the industry grew enormously, greatly increasing output and the numbers of mines and workers. Thousands of people settled in western Pennsylvania to labor at mines and coke works.

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Overview: King Coal: Mining Bituminous
Chapter 1: King Coal and Queen Coke
Chapter 2: Working Where the Sun Never Shines
Chapter 3: Life in the Coal Patches

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon Cambria County [Bituminous Coal] (Cambria) marker icon Darr Mine Disaster (Westmoreland)
marker icon Fannie Sellins (Westmoreland) marker icon John Brophy (Cambria)
marker icon Joseph A. "Jock" Yablonski (Washington) marker icon Mammoth Mine Explosion (Westmoreland)
marker icon Mary Harris "Mother" Jones [Bituminous Coal] (Schuylkill) marker icon Morewood Massacre [Bituminous Coal] (Westmoreland)
marker icon Rossiter Strike Injunction (Indiana) marker icon William B. Wilson (Tioga)
marker icon Windber Strike of 1922-1923 (Somerset)

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Story Bibliography

1760 The first mining of Pittsburgh coal occurs, a precursor to massive mining of the Pittsburgh coal seam during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
1792 The first coal discovery is made in Tioga County
1840 Construction of the Corning and Blossburg Railroad is completed to ship Blossburg coal; this is one of many railroad lines that ship bituminous coal to wider markets
1845 Clay Furnace, which uses bituminous coal as fuel, is constructed; coke made from bituminous coke later becomes the principal fuel for the iron and steel industry
1877 - 1940 18,000 men and boys die in bituminous mines
1879 Henry Clay Frick becomes a millionaire; Frick's coal and coke company dominates the industry in southwestern Pennsylvania during the late nineteenth century
1880 Fayette County is the largest producer of coke in the country
1890 William B. Wilson helps found the United Mine Workers of America union (UMWA)
1891 Mammoth Mine explosion kills all 109 workers in the mine
1891 Moorewood Massacre occurs, in which sheriff's deputies fire on striking coke workers, killing seven
1897 The Berwind-White Coal Mining Company begins construction of Windber, a "model" company town in Somerset County
1897 UMWA wins recognition as collective bargaining agent for miners at many Pennsylvania bituminous mines
1902 Anthracite coal strike results in UMWA winning a ten-percent pay raise, shorter work day, and partial recognition enabling it to appoint representatives to a Board of Conciliation that adjudicates labor-management disputes
1905 The Pennsylvania State Police are formed in part to help control labor unrest in the bituminous fields
1907 The Darr Mine disaster, the worst mine disaster in Pennsylvania history, kills 239 miners
1911 Mary Harris "Mother" Jones works for the UMWA to organize Westmoreland County miners
1916 Production from the Pittsburgh seam peaks at forty million tons of coal; about 46,000 beehive coke ovens convert most of this output into coke
1918 Bituminous coal production in Pennsylvania peaks at 177 million tons
1919 Fannie Sellins, a UMWA organizer, is shot and killed during a miners" strike in New Kensington
1922 Nationwide strike by UMWA; John Brophy opposes leaving nonunion strikers out of UMWA's agreement with operators
1922 - 1923 Nonunion miners strike for union recognition in the Windber Strike of 1922-1923
1927 UMWA stages major, unsuccessful strike; judge issues Rossiter strike injunction that greatly limits strikers" actions
1930 West Virginia surpasses Pennsylvania in bituminous coal production
1933 Congress passes the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which authorizes collective bargaining between unions and management in many industries, and spurs enormous growth of the UMWA
1934 The federal government establishes Norvelt, a community that provides housing and work for unemployed miners and their families during the Great Depression
1937 - 1943 American Friends Service Committee develops Penn-Craft, an experimental community for unemployed coal miners during the Great Depression
1942 Coal production peaks in Cambria County at twenty million tons
1963 State law requires restoration of strip-mined land
1969 Joseph A. "Jock" Yablonski, embattled reformer within the UMWA, is murdered on orders from Tony Boyle, president of the UMWA
1993 Pennsylvania bituminous coal production is fifty-eight million tons
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