Anthracite Coal Industry

The Importance of the Anthracite Coal Industry

The discovery and recovery of anthracite coal altered the course of history.

  • Anthracite coal mined in the 19th and early 20th centuries fueled the Industrial Revolution.
  • Without the industrial base in the northern states, the southern Confederacy might have prevailed, thus breaking the country into two or more parts.
  • The need for labor in the mining industry became a magnet for the waves of immigrants that arrived during this period.   Their arrival populated the east coast and encouraged the rich ethnic diversity that both characterizes and strengthens the United States today.
  • The mining industry spawned support industries in transportation, construction, banking, timber, mercantile trades and the like—industries that generated wealth and employment opportunities throughout the area.
  • Without the increased population caused by the need for labor in the mining industry, Luzerne County and the city of Wilkes-Barre would have remained a small agricultural center, while most of the outlying towns would not even exist today.

And there could be no mining industry without miners.

Motivated by the opportunity of full employment and the potential of a better life for their families, over 500,000  immigrants and men from other areas of this country  arrived at local mine operations, to begin work in a dangerous environment and life in rudimentary housing.    These miners represented the most ambitious and courageous citizens of their native lands; yet despite their perseverance, sense of honor, and spirit of sacrifice, they often met with maiming or even death.    Over 34,000 died in mining accidents, and countless others had their lives shortened with “black lung.”   But their labor made this country and formed our environment.   Even though they were not properly respected during their lives, we the beneficiaries of their effort have an opportunity and a responsibility to correct this oversight.    That is why the Anthracite Foundation was formed.

  “We are working for democracy, for humanity, for the future, for the day that will come too late for us to see it or know it or receive its benefits, but which will come, and will remember our struggles, our triumphs, our defeats, and the words which we speak.”

Clarence Darrow, 1902
Representing the miners at the beginning of the Labor movement