This sensitive portrait “The Coal Miner” (Dora, Alabama c.1960), is the latest addition to our coal collection. This miner worked in the Warrior Coal Field in Walker County. The only question remaining is did he lose his right foot in a mine accident or was this just a bad crop by the photographer? Regardless, working in the coal mines is a dangerous occupation.
A new addition to our coal collection is “Coal Miners of West Virginia” c.1900. Our collection includes images of coal miners, coal mines, coaling operations, coal miners’ housing and so forth. But the image in this blog is special. To us it seems that the photographic style of the photo was similar to that used by Lewis Hine. Note the ages of most of the miners. Boys! Because of the dangerous conditions associated with working in the mines including cave-ins and in particular “black lung” disease, most miners did not live past their 40s. Coal dust is evident on the noses of these miners. I find their eyes telling. Look at the stare of several of these men.
DPI has an extensive collection of images related to coal mining and coal miners. This latest addition, “Coal Mine Town“; Appalachia c.1940 contains many of the elements of a typical coal mining town including the mine, steam shovel, railroad tracks and smokestacks in operation.
Coming of age in Brooklyn, N. Y. the only coal I remember seeing was as a very young boy when the coal truck came and coal was sent down a chute into the coal bin of our apartment building. The superintendent would roll out cans of ash for collection days later. This did not last long as oil became the fuel of choice.
From the song “Paradise” by John Prine. “And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, Down by the Green River where Paradise lay, well I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking, Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.” This photo was taken in the neighboring county, Hopkins. “Paradise” (1952).
This recent addition to our collection initially reminded us of the photo “Ditched, Stalled and Stranded” (1935) taken by Dorothea Lange in the San Joaquin Valley, California. However, research has uncovered a previously unknown significance of this image. “Central City, Kentucky c.1934” is just a stone’s throw from Paradise, Kentucky. “Paradise”, the song, was made famous by John Prine. This song is considered by many to be the unofficial national anthem of Appalachia. Located in western Kentucky the lyrics explain the situation with strip mining and the destruction of the natural beauty of the Green River in Muhlenberg County by the Peabody Coal Company.