Summer Research Reflection

In the beginning of the summer, I thought I had the perfect envision for my research project. I had a solid research question, “How do Pennsylvania anthracite mining communities publicly represent their heritage?,” and a plethora of ideas to pursue. As the summer progressed, I realized that my scope was incredibly ambitious to complete in eight weeks. Instead of developing a two month research plan, I had created a much longer in-depth goal.

After some weeks, I had to find different ways to tighten my scope and realize a definite project by the end of July. As an undergraduate, having completed a successful research project is an invaluable experience. In two short months, I was able to expand on prior research that I partook in and expand my knowledge of a particular area of study. I really enjoyed finding a new niche and field — the intersection of landscape architecture and memory studies. Through extensive readings and applying certain theories, I have developed a new perspective to view the world and, particularly, my relationship with my hometown.

Additionally, I was able to learn more about the field of digital humanities and collaborate with my peers about how to integrate digital scholarship into our own classes. A great component about Digital Scholarship is that it encourages collaboration. It was an absolute pleasure to work in a student cohort with Justin, Minglu, and Rennie. Although we conducted independent research, throughout the summer we gave each other constructive feedback. Also, Courtney and Carrie were essential with keeping us on track and helping us work through the various digital platforms. It was great being introduced to many of the library and IT staff. I am so pleased to know so many wonderful people now.

My final research project is a digital database curating ten monuments and analyzing their symbology and significance to the anthracite region. Also, by critiquing their urban spaces this illuminated how Shamokin has the potential to represent their coal mining heritage. The digital database is not an exhaustive list of monuments in the anthracite coal region of PA; however, it is a genesis of a much larger digital archive intended to establish a connection with a town’s history and heritage through public monuments.

I created a “walking-tour” of the monuments by using a few different interactive platforms for the reader. There is a timeline, map, and digital gallery of the monuments. This allows the reader to view the monuments historically, geographically, and as a curation. There are newspapers for some monuments so that the reader can read about the importance of the monument through a public medium. There are also some photos analyzed for their symbology of the PA anthracite coal region, and I try to propose how Shamokin could represent their heritage as well. I encourage the reader to visit these monuments as well to experience their distinct urban spaces.

Please visit my site and feel free to contact me with any suggestions or information you may have!

-Tyler Candelora ’19 tdc008@bucknell.edu

http://tinyurl.com/PACoalMiners

Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Coal Region

Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Coal Region

There are a plethora of occupations that are dependent upon the formation of the land in a certain location.  The development and design of a landscape has a lasting impact on the means of production and labor that create an effective economy. In central Pennsylvania, the anthracite coal mining region began in roughly 1792 with the founding of the Lehigh Coal Mine Company by Josiah White and Erskine Hazard. This was the first commercially operated coal mine. The anthracite region would see new mines developing throughout prominently six counties: Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon, Northumberland, Columbia, and Schuylkill. Thus geographically, there are northern, middle, and southern anthracite fields.

As anthracite mining began spreading rapidly throughout central Pennsylvania, many problems arose surrounding working conditions, town life, pay, etc. It was common for miners to have major and minor accidents within and outside of the mines. There were many perilous activities a miner had to perform.

The coal companies began hiring boys to work in the mines as early as ages six to eight. They would pick rock, slate, and refuse out of the coal in the breaker; an arduous and dangerous task for a young boy.[1] There were usually contract miners, laborers, foremen, and superintendents that worked per colliery. There was a large inequality of wages between laborers and miners that caused a further divide between ethnic enclaves. The Welsh immigrants who were skilled miners who usually became the foremen and superintendents of a colliery. While Irish immigrants were “distrusted” by the coal owners and other miners. This was partly because of the Molly Maguire movement, who were accused of murder, arson, and other crimes throughout the mining districts.

Nevertheless, the dangers and the perils of a coal miner were extreme. The mines could be very difficult to mine in without proper lightning, protection, ventilation, or other essential equipment. Usually due to poor ventilation, mine fires would trap miners in the coal mines and the only means of escape was the main shaft, which at times would be destroyed by flames.[2] Other mining accidents included accidents due to poor quality of the colliery with columns falling on people, and commonly floods, which would occur when a geological depression in the mine filled with water and created a flood in the mine.[3] If a miner did not die from an accident in the coal mine, it was common to die from “miner’s lung” or “black lung” from the sulfur toxins in the mines. In order to provide for their families and contribute to the economic prosperity of their town, miners would sacrifice their well-being and risk death.[4]

In order to preserve the heritage and culture of the coal mining industry, while paying homage to the coal miners and their families, some anthracite communities choose to represent coal miners through monuments. These representations are sometimes specific to a certain town’s coal history, however, many represent the greater Pennsylvania anthracite region.

By critiquing the two out-facing public mediums, newspapers and monuments, I will investigate how Pennsylvania anthracite coal communities choose to represent their coal heritage.

[1]  Janet MacGaffey, Coal Dust on Your Feet: The Rise, Decline, and Restoration of an Anthracite Mining Town (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2013), 23.

[2] Ibid., 25.

[3] Ibid., 25.

[4] The few descriptions of different types of accidents in the coal mines is not an exhaustive list. There were many other perils and dangers depending on the skill level of a miner or laborer and the quality of the colliery and its owners.