The Coalcracker Bookshop

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Schuylkill County is located in east central Pennsylvania in the rich southern fields of anthracite coal. The era when “coal was king” has long since passed, but the story of the development of the anthracite coal industry that fueled the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. has not been lost. The vivid details and nuances of local community life from the 1850s to the 1920s are brought to light in this wonderful collection. When Broad Mountain was conquered by the railroads and the Mahanoy plane was built, coal could be brought up over the mountain to reach its markets. The transportation that was necessary to get the coal to the rapidly developing markets in Philadelphia, New York, and New England caused the development of the towns in northern Schuylkill County such as Shenandoah, Mahanoy City, and Ashland during the 1850s–1860s.

Located in the rich anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County was captured on film as early as the 1860s, when A.M. Allen set up Pottsville’s first photography studio. The Historical Society of Schuylkill County has been collecting and preserving these images for the last 95 years, bringing history to life once again in the companion to their first two volumes. Schuylkill County Volume II includes the work of George M. Bretz, the famous “Photographer in the Mines,” as well as a collection of postcard images that were popular in the early 20th century. View houses of worship, construction of Route 122/61 during the 1940s and 1950s, railroad stations and crossings that have since given way to the age of the automobile, and familiar county scenes. Dedicated historians Leo L. Ward and Mark T. Major have reached deep into the collections of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County to mine this fascinating collection of images. A thoroughly researched and informative text complements the images and evokes a nostalgia for the past.

The history of Schuylkill County is one of rich culture, strong heritage, and the triumph of human spirit. The boroughs and towns of Southern Schuylkill County contributed formidably to the development and progress of the entire county, from its first tiny settlements to the explosion of the Industrial Revolution. This unique collection of photographs reveals a portion of Schuylkill County that is often overlooked, but definitely not forgotten. The story of Southern Schuylkill County is also the story of small-town America: the development of culture, transportation, education, agriculture, and industrial progress detailed on these pages symbolizes the determination and spirit upon which this country was built. Those who dared to dream forged ahead and built the railroads, canals, schools, and churches that transformed settlements into “communities.” From Orwigsburg, the county’s first seat of government, to Port Clinton, with its history deeply rooted in transportation, this collection provides an opportunity for people of all ages to relive an incredible era of historical accomplishments and personal achievements.

From villages and cities in Lithuania, immigrants came to America to find what they were denied in Eastern Europe, which was freedom from tyranny and want as well as freedom to worship and live as they chose. Through centuries of bloody invasions and cruel oppression, their Lithuania was denied to them, yet here, in the anthracite coalfields of Pennsylvania, these immigrants worked to build communities of proud American citizens who continued to celebrate Kucios as well as Kaledos, eat blynai and šaltibaršcia, decorate marguciai, and pray the rosary in their native language. In Schuylkill County, they built the first churches, first schools, and first communities established by Lithuanians in the United States. Lithuanian American bands, newspapers, and festivals prospered for decades. No matter the hardships–grueling work in coalmines, contempt and violence against recent immigrants, religious prejudice, or condescension toward foreign names and accents–they believed in their country, the United States. Their stories are essential America.

The lives of coal miners in the United States, like the black rock they cut from the earth, are wrought by the forces of time and pressure. Risking crippling injury and death, generations of miners have tunneled down from the surface and emerged at the end of each exhausting day with the fuel needed to drive the nation’s industry. Their sacrifices are great, their glories unheralded.With this stirring account, author and former coal miner Joseph W. Leonard III provides a means for understanding and fully appreciating the crucial work these brave men have done throughout the years. The mining tradition in Leonard’s family spans five generations in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, home to some of our country’s richest deposits of anthracite coal. His family’s stories illustrate with touching candor the plight of many thousands of Coal Belt families who stood proud through years of watching their sons, fathers, and husbands descend down the shafts into darkness.

Beginning in the latter half of the 19th century, individuals identifying themselves as Poles, Slovaks, Carpatho-Rusyns, Ukrainians, and others began what would eventually become a mass influx of eastern and central Europeans into Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal mining region. These people brought with them languages and customs quite alien to the longer-established groups that had settled the area many years earlier. At times the Slavs clashed with these groups, as well as among themselves. Eventually, however, they wove their way of life indelibly into the multiethnic fabric of the growing region. The Anthracite Coal Region’s Slavic Community presents a pictorial history of Slavic people in hard coal country, conveying the unique and rich culture brought to the area with the arrival of these diverse communities.

Four distinct anthracite coal fields encompass an area of 1,700 square miles in the northeastern portion of Pennsylvania. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, underground coal mining was at its zenith and the work of miners was more grueling and dangerous than it is today. Faces blackened by coal and helmet lamps lit by fire are no longer parts of the everyday lives of miners in the region. Early Coal Mining in the Anthracite Region is a journey into a world that was once very familiar. These vintage photographs of collieries, breakers, miners, drivers, and breaker boys illuminate the dark of the anthracite mines. The pictures of miners, roof falls, mules, and equipment deep underground tell the story of the hard lives lived around the hard coal. Above ground, breaker boys toiled in unbearable conditions inside the noisy, vibrating, soot-filled monsters known as coal breakers.

John Henry O’Hara, the American author from Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, was so engrossed by the coal-rich “Anthracite Region” that he wrote about it in his professional work and personal correspondence for most of his life. The history, geography, and society of the area, particularly within a thirty-mile radius of Pottsville, were put under a microscope throughout O’Hara’s career. John O’Hara’s Anthracite Region covers the exciting period from the 1880s to 1945 in the coal region of Pennsylvania. John Henry O’Hara investigated, studied, and recorded the most intimate aspects of the upper class of his “Pennsylvania Protectorate” from his first novel, Appointment in Samarra, onwards. From the “Aristocrats’” escape to Eagles Mere, Sullivan County to the amusement parks such as Tumbling Run and Marlin Park in the “Anthracite Region,” O’Hara captured every detail of the upper class’s way of life. 

From a distance, Shenandoah may look like any other small town, quaint and unassuming, and yet in one square mile, there are more treasures than the “black diamonds” of coal that run in her veins. Discovery of the Mammoth Vein of anthracite in the 1860s brought tens of thousands of immigrants to work the local mines; in turn, they brought their cultures and dreams of a better life in America. Within a generation, rapidly increasing population created the “Most Congested Square Mile in the United States.” Later, a shift from coal mine to Main Street fashioned recognition for retail fineries, along with distinction as the “City of Churches.” At the center of the Molly Maguire troubles of the 1870s and the 1902 coal strike that changed the power of the presidency, Shenandoah has long been recognized for defiance and determination. Mining disasters, financial adversity, and ruinous fires scarred memories of decades of prominence; however, Shenandoah’s spirit has endured through the last 150 years.

The Mahanoy area in Schuylkill County is the heart of the anthracite coal region. It is quintessentially defined by hardworking individuals who made their livings around the mining industry, but the area was also the foundation of family fortunes, longstanding business ventures, and political intrigue. Real estate mogul Charles D. Kaier began the mostup-to-date brewery of the day here; early resident John Smith built his lavish fourteen-room mansion for $40,000 in 1908; and the controversial Mollie Maguires―a secret society of Irish coal miners who used violence against mining hierarchy―were based here.

“FAREWELL 1899! WELCOME 1900!” was the headline in the Pottsville Republican on January 1, 1900. The people of Pottsville ushered in the new century in the usual manner with noisy gatherings and crowded churches. Coal was king in Schuylkill County during the nineteenth century, but the demise of the coal industry had already begun by 1900. Bitter strikes between coal operators and miners, especially the great strike of 1902, caused consumers to find other fuels and forced Pottsville to re-create its economy and identity.

The photographs in this book bring to life a bygone era, when Coal was King, and almost everyone who lived between Pottsville, Hazelton, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton was affected by the daily activity of coal mining. The development of the anthracite coal industry began in 1822 causing the “Coal Rush” of the 1820s and ’30s and drawing thousands of new people to the area. The outstanding images contained in this visual history have been mined by Leo Ward and Mark Major from the rich seam of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County. These images―many of them rare and previously unpublished―take us back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, and capture the harsh conditions of collieries such as Maple Hill, Sherman, and Wadesville: the toughness and humor of the miners; the grit and determination of the young boys who worked as breaker boys; and the solidarity and stoicism of the miners’ wives. They also document a fascinating aspect of our social history by giving us an intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of Pottsville people, from the hustle and bustle of Market and Center Streets to the cherished summer days at Tumbling Run.

Minersville, aptly named for those who toiled in the coal fields of east-central Pennsylvania, embodies the very essence of the coal region. This town and surrounding areas, however, are much more than abandoned breakers and row after row of coal company houses. Although coal is no longer king, the people of Minersville still take pride in their heritage. The gridiron battles of the Pottsville Maroons, the much-disputed 1925 NFL champions, and the failed political campaign of Lewis Cass against Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore proved that more than coal could come from this region. Minersville provides a glimpse of the early days of coal, as well as the people of the area and their accomplishments of spirit.

Every Labor Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Courthouse Square in Scranton for the largest ethnic festival in northeastern Pennsylvania: La Festa Italiana. The Italians of this region have been proudly celebrating their heritage since their arrival in this country with traditional festivals, including La Corsa dei Ceri in Jessup and Dunmore’s procession in honor of St. Rocco. Using vintage and recent photographs, Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania shows how the Italian immigrants to this area, some of whom arrived with little more than the clothes on their back, became well-respected community leaders. Through hard work and dedication, they have made northeastern Pennsylvania into an area that defines the term “ethnic pride.”

St. Clair lies in a narrow valley rich with anthracite resources. The town was born around 1831, during the great hard coal boom in northeast Pennsylvania. Over the years the town expanded to surrounding areas or patches known as Arnouts Addition, Wadesville, Dark Water, New Castle, Mount Laffee, Crow Hollow, Ravensdale, Lorraine, Diener’s Hill, East Mines, and Mill Creek. People came from these areas to work in the mines, railroads, and supporting industries. As the demand for coal increased, the town grew to a high point of 7,000 residents. The decline of the coal industry also brought the decline of the railroads, and the population of St. Clair fell. The photographs in Around St. Clair show the fortitude of its people; the notable residents who have gained national acclaim for their achievements in the labor movement, medical field, and professional sports; and the diverse cultures that make up the town.

Remember all of the places you visited as a child. . . then revisited as an adult. . . The memories come flooding back, all the places you had been, the things you had seen, and the memories associated with them. . . now you see these places with all of the changes and the new memories to be made. . . With a family history in Mahanoy Area, Schuylkill County is one of these places for Photographer Naomi R. Heckler. She has captured some of these memories to share with all of us. . . The restoration of a Library and the Central Train Station, the beauty of an early fall snow storm, the serenity of the natural surroundings, the modern ways of power and the beauty of hard work. . . All in black and white and shades of grey. These are just a few of the special memories Naomi has captured to share with all of us.

“Anthracite coal was mined in Northeastern Pennsylvania throughout the nineteen and twentieth centuries. The industry was a major employer in the region. It has been fifty to sixty years since the decline of the industry, and the coal breakers are now gone, but images and memories remain. Author Michael G. Rushton, an amateur photographer and industrial archaeologist, grew up in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area; there, the remains of the anthracite and railroad industry formed his playground. In this book, he guides readers through the history of anthracite mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania through the display of numerous images related to the industry.”

Based on contemporary newspaper accounts and genealogical records, Digging Dusky Diamonds tells the story of the people who made the anthracite coal mining industry a major economic force in Pennsylvania in the 19th and early 20th How the miners and their families lived and worked, loved and died is recorded in old newspapers and reveals their daily concerns, their diversions, social attitudes and prejudices. The accounts reveal what was different about those people and what has remained constant in us, their descendants.centuries. Though the focus is mainly on Northumberland and Schuylkill counties, similar conditions prevailed across the anthracite mining region.

Known as “America’s Oldest Brewery,” D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., of Pottsville has been in continuous operation since 1829. Since its start, Yuengling has been prudently managed by the Yuengling family. Overcoming the 14 dry years of Prohibition, Yuengling persevered due in part to the ingenuity and creativity of its owners and loyalty of its consumers. Unlike many of the regional brewers who were forced to close their doors over time, Yuengling found a niche for itself beginning in the late 1980s. With the introduction of Yuengling Lager and Black & Tan, the brand became a sensation in and around Philadelphia. Popularity of the beverages led to Yuengling being distributed in 14 states, making it the largest American-owned brewery. Through more than 220 historic images, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., tells the story of this legendary American company.

Lost Coal Country of Northeastern Pennsylvania documents the region’s disappearing anthracite history, which shaped the legacy of the United States of America and the industrial revolution. The coal mines, breakers, coal miners’ homes, and railroads have all steadily disappeared. With only one coal breaker left in the entire state, it was time to record what would soon be lost. Unfortunately, one piece of history that persists is underground fires that ravage communities like Centralia. Blazing for over 50 years, the flames of Centralia will not be doused anytime soon. Images featured in the book include the St. Nicholas coal breaker, Huber coal breaker, Steamtown National Historic Site, Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, Eckley Miners’ Village, Centralia, and the Knox Mine disaster. A hybrid history book and travel guide, Lost Coal Country of Northeastern Pennsylvania is one final recounting of what is gone and what still remains.

Centralia is the saga of a Pennsylvania community consumed by an underground mine fire. The town, founded in 1866, has often been embroiled in tragedy and controversy. Beginning with the infamous Molly Maguires, Centralia was confronted with the murder of its founder and an assault upon its Catholic priest, who cursed the town, saying, “One day this town will be erased from the face of the earth.” Almost one hundred years later, a vein of coal that ran underneath the town caught fire and has burned since 1962. In the 1990s, the state of Pennsylvania declared eminent domain and forced most of the town’s sixteen hundred residents to leave. Ten people remain in Centralia today. This book chronicles many of the images and stories from this fascinating and colorful Pennsylvania community.

Inspired by her in-laws’ recollections of working in coal country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti has gathered the voices of men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. The story that emerges is not just a story of long hours, little pay, and hazardous working conditions; it is also the uniquely American story of immigrant families working together to make a new life for themselves. It is a story of hardship and sacrifice, yet also of triumph and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.

Explored by Europeans as early as 1615, Sunbury developed into a transportation hub because of its location at the confluence of the Susquehanna River. Later, it became important as the site of Thomas A. Edison’s first successful installation of a three-wire electric lighting system on July 4, 1883, at the City Hotel, which today is called the Edison Hotel and is a cultural hub for the area. Sunbury is also an important historic district, showcasing over 200 examples of Federal, Italianate, Romanesque, and Second Empire architecture in the hotels, homes, public buildings, and taverns from the canal days to the grander Victorian era.

Jim Thorpe in the 20th Century examines the causes and effects of a community’s decision to relinquish its Native American name Mauch Chunk (“Bear Mountain”) to become the town of Jim Thorpe. In the 19th century, Mauch Chunk rode a wave of prosperity, as coal shipping and tourism turned ordinary men into millionaires. In the 20th century, the mainstays of the town’s economy began to tumble like dominoes: mule-drawn coal boats could not compete with the iron horse, ending Mauch Chunk’s days as a canal town by 1922; the touristattracting Switchback Gravity Railroad, unable to afford parts, closed in 1932; the coal mines and working railroads collapsed, as industry, home heating, and trucking turned to petroleum. Down-and-out by the mid-1900s, Mauch Chunk was looking for a means of saving itself when the widow of 1912 Olympian Jim Thorpe proposed a stranger-than-fiction solution.

Situated in the coal regions of northeast Pennsylvania, Lakewood Park was established in 1916 by the Guinan family as a place to bathe, picnic, and camp. It became known as a nature retreat for the nearby miners and their families, and it developed into the destination for swimming, amusement rides, skating, big band dances, boxing matches, ethnic celebrations, summer stock plays, and political banquets. The park boasted a 150-yard cement pool, hand-carved Spillman carousel, and grand ballroom. It was the host of the longest-running ethnic festival in Pennsylvania, Lithuanian Day, from 1914 to 1984. Using vintage images, Lakewood Park recalls the various festivals and celebrations, amusements rides, and celebrity performers, such as Dick Clark and Doris Day, that made the park an entertainment mecca for 68 years.

Frackville, Pennsylvania, is a perfect community for exploring the identity of small-town America. This borough is representative of the many struggles American citizens and immigrants had to overcome in the mid-nineteenth through the twentieth century on their way to success. Even though Frackville’s men and women possess a tremendous drive for progress, they have not forgotten the sacrifices made by earlier generations that have helped shape them and create the area in which they live. This volume looks back on the borough’s history and retells the fascinating stories of its original families and early settlers, like the Fracks and the Merediths, and traces Frackville’s growth and development from its incorporation in 1876 to its centennial celebration in 1976. With over 200 images, many never before published, this collection shows the reader buildings and homes, some now demolished, lining dusty roads and peopled with citizens in antiquated hats or dresses, and even presents pictures of more recent generations participating in the centennial parade.

In 1825, the Schuylkill Navigation Company completed a waterway of 108 miles, linking Port Carbon to Philadelphia. The waterway, known as the Schuylkill Navigation but commonly referred to today as the Schuylkill Canal, consisted of a system of interconnected canals (often called reaches), locks, and slack-water pools to transport anthracite coal. Before that time, Philadelphia depended on the import of coal from Europe. The Schuylkill Canal was operational until 1931, around the time of the collapse of commercial traffic in the navigation. Only two watered stretches of the canal remain today: the approximately 2.5 miles of the original 3.5 miles of Oakes Reach between Oaks and Mont Clare and the one-mile reach in Manayunk. While these areas are no longer used for navigation, they are enjoyed recreationally by many in the surrounding communities.