Coal miners working inside the mine, early 20th century (gallery)

Coal miners worked long hours inside the mine, often traveling by elevator deep underground to extract coal from the coal seam.  In the nineteenth century, miners worked largely by hand alongside animal labor. As new technology emerged, underground mining increasingly depended on heavy machinery.

In either case, the work was fraught with danger. Mines could collapse or explode, vents could close unexpectedly, and coal dust could cause serious respiratory problems, such as black lung disease.  The harsh conditions led to constant conflicts over exploitative working conditions, but they also forged a powerful sense of pride among miners and their families.

What would it be like to work underground in a coal mine?

How do you think miners balanced their pride in their work with their feelings of exploitation by the coal companies?


Photographs from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Library Item date: 

Between 1908-1932