Life
100-Year-old photos show what home-life was like for coal miners of the past
They didn't always have the best of everything but they sure did make the best of everything.
D.G. Sciortino
12.31.21

Coal mining has a long history. It’s a history fraught with controversy, struggle, and ultimately, the hope for a better future.

Large corporations and industries have exploited capitalism for decades in order to line their own pockets while making employees work in unacceptable conditions.

And they require it for poverty wages, no less. They rely on tax dollar-paid programs like Medicaid and food stamps to help supplement the meager wages they provide their workers.

It’s common, but it’s not right.

According to Business Insider, the report found that 70 percent of people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps and Medicaid have full-time jobs.

Working full-time just to need

Most of these employees worked for companies with 100 or more employees.

Ninety percent of SNAP and Medicaid recipients worked in private sectors like restaurants, department stores, and grocery stores.

And Fast-food workers just recently protested over unsafe labor conditions. Workers everywhere are pushing for realistic wages.

Including over 1,000 Warrior Met coal miners.

Boston Public Library - Flickr
Source:
Boston Public Library - Flickr

These century-old photos of coal miners will tell you that the mistreatment of workers by greedy corporations is nothing new.

Coal mining; a historically dangerous occupation.

Over a century ago, injuries, fatalities, and illnesses like Black Lung and other cancers were common occurrences among cold miners.

Post Wolcott - Library of Congress
Source:
Post Wolcott - Library of Congress

The whole household had obligations.

Since miners often lived in company houses, a family member from the household would have to immediately replace any coal mining relatives who passed away on the job so they wouldn’t be left homeless.

Entire towns, schools, and stores were built around the mines and were run by the mining company who employed the citizens of the manufactured work towns.

Arthur Rothstein - Library of Congress
Source:
Arthur Rothstein - Library of Congress

Sometimes coal miners weren’t even paid money. They were just given paper coupons or “scrip” tokens to be used at the company store.

Rent was automatically deducted from pay.

This caused inflated costs at the company store. Companies also hired paid police officers to keep union organizers out of the region.

Marion Post Wolcott - Library of Congress
Source:
Marion Post Wolcott - Library of Congress

Companies would intimidate, harass, and even murder those trying to push for workers’ rights, according to Wikipedia.

Workers were too scared to organize.

They were afraid to unionize because everything was on company property.

These were the only jobs available in rural areas so people had no choice but to work under these awful conditions in order to provide for their families.

New York Public Library
Source:
New York Public Library

The Coal Wars, a series of armed labor conflicts that resulted from the exploitation of workers, brought publicity to the plight of the coal miner creating a movement of change.

Still, miners kept their spirits high

They decorated and made their company-owned houses a home. The home only had a few rooms and children often shared rooms and beds.

Many families had double beds and would let the littlest children sleep in drawers lined with blankets.

Marion Post Wolcott - Library of Congress
Source:
Marion Post Wolcott - Library of Congress

Supervisors and foremen were often given bigger homes

They were built a bit more nicely. They also got paid more to better furnish these homes.

These photos serve as a reminder that no matter the circumstance, there is always hope for a better life. And where there is hope, there is fight. Fight to bring that hope into reality.

And the only way to do that is to stand firm in what you believe and hold those in power accountable.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

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By D.G. Sciortino
hi@sbly.com
Dina is a contributing writer in Shareably. She's based in Connecticut and can be reached at hi@shareably.net.
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