Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. Eleanor Roosevelt Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Reference
Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources

Donald Miller : Bituminous and Anthracite Coal Mining
Donald Miller Coal meant everything. This is the age of steel. No coal, no steel. You make steel with coal. And coal also is the primary heating unit for homes and factories as well. Everyone in the Northeast, Philadelphia and New York heated their homes with anthracite. Industry was largely powered by bituminous coal. So coal made everything go.

Bituminous coal mining could use more high powered technology because bituminous coal sits in the ground. The best way to think of it is like the icing between the layers of the cake. And the layers of the cake are rock and soil and the coal sits in there flat. So you can come in with big shovels, strip mining, and simply pull out large amounts of coal like this. With anthracite coal, anthracite used to be bituminous, but the Earth squeezed it down during this Appalachian revolution that took place long ago in geological time. It squeezed it down and created hard coal, which is anthracite. It's not called "anthracite coal", it's "anthracite". And that anthracite has very little carbon content, so it burns clean. The impurities have been squeezed out of it, so you can use it in your home furnace. And where bituminous is loose coal, kind of breaks up and you get a lot of soot and smoke. Philadelphia used anthracite coal. It was a clean city, relatively. Chicago used bituminous. It was absolutely filthy. Now with anthracite, though, it's not only squeezed hard, and, by the way, if you squeeze it a little bit harder it turns to gold -- that's what happened in South Africa -- a little bit less and it's peat, which happens in Ireland. But it also fissured and because of this it's really dangerous to go after.

In bituminous and anthracite coal mining, the final stage is the actual blowing the coal off the face of the mountain, if you will. And you took an auger, a drill, and you drilled into the side of the face of the coal. And then you packed that with black powder and you ran a fuse out from the black powder, lit the fuse and then skeedaddled out of the way. And then the coal and rock was blown off and you used your pick the separate the coal from the rock. You loaded the coal then in the mine cars which are carried by mules and transported outside the mine.

back to Interview Transcripts

Interview Transcripts | Primary Sources | Bibliography

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Feature | Timeline | Maps | People & Events| Teacher's Guide