History of coal mining in the United States
Anthracite (or "hard" coal), clean and smokeless, became the preferred fuel in cities, replacing wood by about 1850. Anthracite from the Northeastern Pennsylvania Coal Region and later from West Virginia was typically used for household uses because it is a high quality coal with few impurities and stoves and furnaces were designed for it. The rich Pennsylvania anthracite fields were close to the big eastern cities, and a few major railroads such as the Reading Railroad controlled the anthracite fields. By 1840, hard coal output had passed the million-short ton mark, and then quadrupled by 1850.
Bituminous coal (or "soft coal") mining came later. In the mid-century Pittsburgh was the principal market. After 1850 soft coal, which is cheaper but dirtier, came into demand for railway locomotives and stationary steam engines, and was used to make coke for steel after 1870.
Total coal output soared until 1918; before 1890, it doubled every ten years, going from 8.4 million short tons in 1850 to 40 million in 1870, 270 million in 1900, and peaking at 680 million short tons in 1918. New soft coal fields opened in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, as well as West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama. The Great Depression of the 1930s lowered the demand to 360 million short tons in 1932.
Labor troubles 
|Coal Producing States, 1889|
(thousands of short tons)
United Mine Workers (UMW) labor union was barely three years old when it called the Bituminous Coal Miners' Strike of 1894. This violent two-month strike closed mines from Pennsylvania to Iowa, but it was unsuccessful and almost broke the union. After the Lattimer Massacre of 1897 and the Battle of Virden in Illinois in 1898, the UMW was successful in its strike against bituminous coal mines in the Midwest in 1900. However, the union's Coal Strike of 1902 against the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania turned into a national political crisis in 1902. President Theodore Roosevelt brokered a compromise solution that kept the flow of coal going, and won higher wages and shorter hours for the miners, but did not include recognition of the union as a bargaining agent.
The UMW called strikes in Colorado's coal fields, one of which resulted in the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. Neutralized by the dispatch of federal troops after ten days of skirmishes provoked by the massacre, the UMW pulled out of Colorado for more than a decade. Meanwhile the organization grew stronger in the east until about 1920, when it collapsed after a failed national strike.
Coal mining became the key industry in Southern Illinois at the turn of the century, with cities such as Harrisburg, a bituminous distribution hub, prospering with a population of 16,000 people during the 1920s. Large for the small farm towns of region during the time. The city was visited by many prominent politicians, and boasted the tallest building in Southern Illinois outside of East St. Louis. Union miners all over the nation went on strike in 1922; during this phase, 20 people were killed during a riot in Herrin, in Williamson County. It was called the Herrin Massacre and the county was known as Bloody Williamson for years to come.
In 1927, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) led a state-wide strike in Colorado's coalfields which resulted in the Columbine Mine Massacre. Immediately after that massacre, the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company's president Josephine Roche announced that her company would recognize any union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. In announcing this policy, the company avoided recognizing the radical IWW. Thus, the United Mine Workers was awarded its first contract in Colorado.
Strikes were very common, the rhetoric employed about exploitation was effective in mobilizing strikers. Detailed analysis of historical data by Fishback (1992) shows that mining wages were as high, if not higher, than those in manufacturing industry; that the prices in company stores were rarely higher than those in independent stores; and that miners who were dissatisfied with working conditions in a particular mining camp could either "vote with their feet" by migrating elsewhere or use the "voice" of collective union action to resist the threatened abuse.
Richard Sutcliffe invented the first conveyor belt for use in coal mines in the early 1900s. Within the first forty years of the 20th century, there was an increase of over sixty percent in the amount of coal that was loaded mechanically rather than by man power. The history of the industry is the history of steady mechanization. As mechanization continued, fewer miners were needed, and some miners reacted with violence. One of the first machines to arrive at West Virginia’s Kanawha field had to be escorted by armed guards. The same machine introduced at a mine in Illinois was operated at a slow speed because the superintendent feared labor troubles.
Despite resistance, mechanization replaced more and more laborers. By 1940, over 2/3 of coal loaded in the large West Virginia fields was done by machine. With the increase of mechanization came much higher wages for those still employed, but hard times for the former miners because there were very few other jobs in or near the camps. Most moved to the cities to find work, or back to the hills where they started.
Post-World War II 
Under John L. Lewis, the UMW became the dominant force in the coal fields in the 1930s and 1940s, producing high wages and benefits. Repeated strikes caused the public to switch away from anthracite for home heating after 1945, and that sector collapsed.
In 1914 at the peak there were 180,000 anthracite miners; by 1970 only 6,000 remained. At the same time steam engines were phased out in railways and factories, and bituminous was used primarily for the generation of electricity. Employment in bituminous peaked at 705,000 workers in 1923, falling to 140,000 by 1970 and 70,000 in 2003. Environmental restrictions on high-sulphur coal, contributed to rise of very large-scale strip mining in the West, especially the Powder River Basin fields in Wyoming.
UMW membership among active miners fell from 160,000 in 1980 to only 16,000 in 2005, as coal mining became more mechanized and non-union miners predominated in the new coal fields. The American share of world coal production remained steady at about 20% from 1980 to 2005.
See also 
- Bituminous Coal Miners' Strike of 1894.
- Coal mining in Colorado
- Coal mining in the United States
- Coal Strike of 1902
- Coal Region of Pennsylvania
- Harrisburg Coal Field of Illinois
- History of coal mining
- United Mine Workers
- Herrin massacre
- Sean Patrick Adams, . "The US Coal Industry in the Nineteenth Century." EH.Net Encyclopedia, August 15, 2001 scholarly overview
- Sean Patrick Adams, Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth: Coal, Politics, and Economy in Antebellum America. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
- Frederick Moore Binder, Coal Age Empire: Pennsylvania Coal and Its Utilization to 1860. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1974.
- Chandler, Alfred. "Anthracite Coal and the Beginnings of the ‘Industrial Revolution' in the United States", Business History Review 46 (1972): 141-181. in JSTOR
- DiCiccio, Carmen.Coal and Coke in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1996
- Conley, Phil. History of West Virginia Coal Industry (Charleston: Education Foundation, 1960)
- Eavenson, Howard. The First Century and a Quarter of the American Coal Industry (1942).
- Flores, Verla R., and A. Dudley Gardner. Forgotten Frontier: A History of Wyoming Coal Mining (1989) online edition
- Fred J. Lauver, "A Walk Through the Rise and Fall of Anthracite Might", Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine 27#1 (2001) online edition
- Long, Priscilla. Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry Paragon, 1989.
- Robert H. Nelson. The Making of Federal Coal Policy (1983)
- Netschert, Bruce C. and Sam H. Schurr, Energy in the American Economy, 1850-1975: An Economic Study of Its History and Prospects. (1960) online
- Parker, Glen Lawhon. The Coal Industry: A Study in Social Control (1940)
- Powell, H. Benjamin. Philadelphia's First Fuel Crisis. Jacob Cist and the Developing Market for Pennsylvania Anthracite. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1978.
- Rottenberg, Dan. In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World (2003)], owners' perspective online edition
- Schurr, Sam H., and Bruce C. Netschert. Energy in the American Economy, 1850-1975: An Economic Study of Its History and Prospects. (1960).
- United States Anthracite Coal Strike Commission, 1902-1903, Report to the President on the Anthracite Coal Strike of May–October, 1902 By United States Anthracite Coal Strike (1903) online edition
- Vietor, Richard H. K. and Martin V. Melosi; Environmental Politics and the Coal Coalition Texas A&M University Press, 1980 online
- Warren, Kenneth. Triumphant Capitalism: Henry Clay Frick and the Industrial Transformation of America. (1996).
Miners and unions 
- Aurand, Harold W. Coalcracker Culture: Work and Values in Pennsylvania Anthracite, 1835-1935 2003
- Baratz, Morton S. The Union and the Coal Industry (1955)
- Blatz, Perry. Democratic Miners: Work and Labor Relations in the Anthracite Coal Industry, 1875-1925. (1994).
- Corbin, David Alan.Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922 (1981)
- Dix, Keith. What's a Coal Miner to Do? The Mechanization of Coal Mining (1988), changes in the coal industry prior to 1940
- Dubofsky, Melvyn, and Warren Van Tine, John L. Lewis: A Biography (1977), leader of Mine Workers union, 1920-1960
- Coal Mines Administration, U.S, Department Of The Interior. A Medical Survey of the Bituminous-Coal Industry. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1947. online
- Eller, Ronald D. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880–1930 1982.
- Price V. Fishback. Soft Coal, Hard Choices: The Economic Welfare of Bituminous Coal Miners, 1890-1930 (1992)
- Jonathan Grossman "The Coal Strike of 1902 – Turning Point in U.S. Policy" Monthly Labor Review October 1975. online
- Harvey, Katherine. The Best Dressed Miners: Life and Labor in the Maryland Coal Region, 1835-1910. Cornell University Press, 1993.
- Hinrichs; A. F. The United Mine Workers of America, and the Non-Union Coal Fields Columbia University, 1923 online
- Lantz; Herman R. People of Coal Town Columbia University Press, 1958; on southern Illinois; online
- Laslett, John H.M. ed. The United Mine Workers: A Model of Industrial Solidarity? Penn State University Press, 1996.
- Lewis, Ronald L. Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict. University Press of Kentucky, 1987.
- Lunt, Richard D. Law and Order vs. the Miners: West Virginia, 1907-1933 Archon Books, 1979, On labor conflicts of the early twentieth century.
- Lynch, Edward A., and David J. McDonald. Coal and Unionism: A History of the American Coal Miners' Unions (1939) online edition
- Phelan, Craig. Divided Loyalties: The Public and Private Life of Labor Leader John Mitchell (1994)
- Rössel, Jörg. Industrial Structure, Union Strategy and Strike Activity in Bituminous Coal Mining, 1881 - 1894 Social Science History 26 (2002): 1 - 32.
- Seltzer, Curtis. Fire in the Hole: Miners and Managers in the American Coal Industry University Press of Kentucky, 1985, conflict in the coal industry to the 1980s.
- Trotter Jr., Joe William. Coal, Class, and Color: Blacks in Southern West Virginia, 1915-32 (1990)
- U.S. Immigration Commission, Report on Immigrants in Industries, Part I: Bituminous Coal Mining, 2 vols. Senate Document no. 633, 61st Cong., 2nd sess. (1911)
- Wallace, Anthony F.C. St. Clair. A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town's Experience with a Disaster-Prone Industry. (1981)
- Ward, Robert D., and William W. Rogers, Labor Revolt in Alabama: The Great Strike of 1894 1965 online coal strike
- Binder (1974)
- Bruce C. Netschert and Sam H. Schurr, Energy in the American Economy, 1850-1975: An Economic Study of Its History and Prospects. pp 60-62.
- Source: Thirteenth Census of the United States, Vol. XI, Mines and Quarries, 1913, Table 4, p. 187
- Out Of the Depths, Barron B. Beshoar, 1942
- Schwieterman, Joseph (2002). When the railroad leaves town: American communities in the age of rail line abandonment. Truman State University. p. 59. ISBN 0-943549-98-1.
- Smith, George (1997). History of Southern Illinois: Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Its People and Its Principal Interests. Higginson Book Company.
- Slaughter in Serene: the Columbine Coal Strike Reader, 2005
- Keith Dix, What's a Coal Miner to Do? The Mechanization of Coal Mining (1988)
- Dubofsky and Van Tine (1977)
- "Reflections" Mining History, a short 2002 documentary on the history of American coal mining and mine safety, produced by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration.
- West Virginia coal mining history