Haunting Images Of Grizzled Miners From America's Golden Age Of Coal

bankhead mines walker co al 1937

Some analysts are saying President Obama declared a “war on coal” in his climate change address earlier this week.

If coal is indeed phased out, it will mark the end of what had been a staple of the American economy. 

Industries come and go, but for states in the Midwest and Appalachia, coal has been instrumental in shaping local fortunes for much of the 20th century. 

And nationwide, coal employed just as many people as the automobile industry until after World War II.

We dipped into the Library of Congress’ vast image database to take a look at America’s golden age of coal. 

We highlighted a couple salient elements: first, the work appears to have taken as much of a toll on miners’ families as themselves. The coal industry also appears to have been one of the more racially integrated lines of work in the 1930s. This phenomenon has been well documented but hasn’t gotten much attention.

Birmingham Ala., 1937

Pomeroy, Ohio, 1942

Same guy, with wife.

Location unknown, ~1915

Cherokee County, Ks., 1936

Jenkins, Ky., 1935

Jenkins, Ky., 1935

Kingston, Penn., ~1895

Coal mine strike commission, Boulder Colo., ~1905

Williamson, W. Va., 1935

Miner laid off due to mechanization, Bush, Ill., 1939

Capels, W. VA., 1936

Kempton, W. Va., 1939

Pay day, Omar, W. Va., 1938

Price, Utah, 1936

Children of coal miner, Scott's Run, W. Va., 1935

Missouri Coal Commissioner Walter H. Maloney, 1937

Hauler for the Alaska Hufnagel Coal Company, Washington DC, 1942

Near Pittsburgh, 1942

Bankhead mines, Walker County, Ala. 1937

Caples, W. Va., 1938

Miner wife and grandchild, Kempton, W. Va., 1939

Pittston, Penn., 1911

Son of former coal miner, now on relief, Zeigler, Ill., 1939

BONUS: Unknown mine, ~1915

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