Today in Labor History

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Archive for the tag “pennsylvania”

December 19, 1907


An explosion in the Darr Mine in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, kills 239 coal miners, most of whom are Hungarian immigrant laborers. Some came from the nearby Naomi Mine, which had closed after at deadly explosion several weeks earlier. Only one person is thought to have survived the Darr Mine explosion. December 1907 was the deadliest month in U.S. coal mining history.

October 25, 1899

jermynfirstaidsignTwenty-five anthracite coal miners from the Jermyn Coal Colliery in northeastern Pennsylvania attend what is believed to be the first formal training on first aid. Believing that many lives could be saved with quick, efficient medical care until a physician arrived, local doctor Matthew Shields set up a series of courses for the miners who, upon completion, were prepared and able to render first aid to their co-workers.

January 22, 1959

oldknoxOne of the worst mining disasters in northeastern Pennsylvania history occurs when the Knox Mine Company digs illegally under the Susquehanna River without drilling boreholes to gauge the rock thickness overhead. The insufficient “roof” cover caused 10 billion gallons of water to pour into the mine. Ten people were indicted on a variety of charges, including violations of the Anthracite Mine Act, conspiracy, and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of twelve miners whose bodies were never been recovered.

November 6, 1922

image003An explosion in the Reilly No. 1 Mine in Spangler, Pennsylvania, kills 79 coal miners. The mine had been rated gaseous in 1918, but at the insistence of the new operators it was rated as non-gaseous even though a fire boss was employed and workers had been burned by gas on at least four occasions.

May 31, 1889


2,209 people die when a dam holding back a private resort lake upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, bursts, releasing 4.8 billion gallons of water. Owners Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, who had altered the South Fork Dam to allow for development of a resort community for wealthy industrialists, were accused of not maintaining the dam, but the court ruled that the dam break was an “Act of God” and denied the survivors compensation. Carnegie built the town a new library.

April 10, 1917


133 workers, mostly women and girls, are killed in an explosion at the Eddystone Ammunition Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. A monument in the Chester Rural Cemetery marks the final resting place for the remains of the 55 unidentified victims.

April 2, 1937


More than 600 members of the United Chocolate Workers (CIO) union stage a sit-down strike at the Hershey Chocolate Company in Hershey, Pennsylvania. On April 7, an antiunion crowd of 3,000 stormed the plant and 25 workers were badly beaten in the ensuring battle. In 1939, the workers affiliated with the Bakery and Confectionary Workers Union (AFL).

September 10, 1897


Striking immigrant anthracite coal miners raise an American flag and march on the still-open mine in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. They were met by the local sheriff and Coal and Iron Police deputies. The sheriff ordered the workers to disperse and the deputies opened fire, killing 19 and wounding as many as 49 others. All those killed in the Lattimer Massacre were shot in the back; the sheriff and 73 deputies were arrested, tried, and acquitted.

July 10, 1902


A powerful gas and dust explosion occurs in the Rolling Mill Mine in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, killing 112 miners.  The disaster devastated the immigrant community and provoked calls for investigations and greater safety measures.  The Rolling Mill Mine Disaster still ranks as one of the deadliest mining accidents in the history of the U.S.

June 21, 1877


Ten miners accused of being militant “Molly Maguires” are hanged in Pennsylvania.  A private corporation initiated the investigation of the men through a private detective agency.  A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them.  “The state provided only the courtroom & the gallows,” a judge said many years later.

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