At the turn of the 20th century in the United States, European immigrants were coming in droves to the coal fields of Appalachia. Vintage pictures of coal miners in the United States attest to this fact. When they arrived – at the promise of steady work – many entered into the cycles and strictures of the typical Appalachian coal company town. Similar lifestyles and working conditions abounded in English and Welsh colliery towns, as well. Certainly, life was hard for many of these turn-of-the-century miners and their families, and stories of coal mining disasters abound as a result of the hazardous working conditions. And, with a lack of child labor laws, images of child coal miners illustrate that life wasn't just challenging for family patriarchs when it came to laboring in the mines.
However, as with most things in life, existence also wasn't a simple drudge up and down from the mine shaft. As these old photos of coal miners show, family and community made life down in the seam and in a coal town a rich, nearly forgotten mode of existence. This list showcases miners at all stages of the coal extraction process – from weary but smiling coal miners and their kids in the hollows of West Virginia to proud Ukrainian female miners.
A Miner Works A 13" Seam Near Newcastle, EnglandPhoto: Hulton Deutsch / Getty Images
Vance, A 15-Year-Old West Virginia Coal Miner, Waits For A Load Of CoalPhoto: Library of Congress / Getty Images
A Coal Miner And His Work Pony In A Mine ShaftPhoto: Hulton Deutsch / Getty Images
A Proud Female Coal Miner In The Ukrainian Soviet RepublicPhoto: George Rinhart / Getty Images