Friday, January 31, 2014

A Melting Pot Tale

Coal gets a bad rap these days—and rightly so, from an environmental standpoint. Yet, it should not be forgotten,United States through the 19th and well into the 20th century.
coal was a vital element in the economy of the

It was coal that fueled the industrialization of the United States and made it the most productive nation in the world for a long period of time.

My book “Digging Dusky Diamonds” is not intended to glorify the industry but to offer some insight on the lives of the ordinary men who worked as miners and their families in one area of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region.

The wilderness pioneers found when they arrived was destroyed in less than a century by the mining that provided wealth for a handful and employment for the thousands who came to do the dangerous, dirty and vital work.

The miners were representative of the melting pot characteristic Americans love to brag about. They represented dozens of nationalities and various races. They were mostly moral, hardworking people who sought a better life for their families than available elsewhere.

The stories recounted in the book were culled from contemporary newspapers, which reveal the daily concerns of the miners and their families, their diversions, social attitudes and prejudices. The accounts reveal what was different about those people and what has remained constant in their descendants.

Why should someone with no ties to the coal region find the book of interest? Well, aside from the economic angle, there’s the common theme of people striving for upward mobility against great odds. There are accounts of disasters, bravery, superstition, amusements, and the callow behavior of those reaping the big profit. There’s also the fact mining contributed to changes in labor laws which had broad influence across the nation and in other industries.

Or, ask your favorite bookseller.


  1. This sounds great, John! I grew up in an area of coal mines (Lancashire),and there are many stories here about the miners in the past, especially when the Industrial Revolution was taking place in the 18th/19th centuries.

    1. Thanks, Paula. Some of the first miners here were English and Welsh. They were elevated to bosses when the Irish, Poles and others arrived looking for work.

  2. No coal mines in Ireland (as far as I know) so the English and Welsh probably had more experience of mine working. Coal was king here when the steam engines needed it.

    1. You're right, Paula. Because of their prior experience, the English and Welsh became bosses. The Irish began as laborers and worked their way into experience, many becoming very good at the job.