By Dr. Irwin M. Marcus, Professor of History, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
The coal regions of Central Pennsylvania were at one time the hub of a mighty industrial complex whose activities produced national and international reverberations as well as a domination of the regional economy. Often linked with major railroads and leading steel companies, the largest coal companies played pivotal roles in the industrialization of the United States. The counterpart to their wide geographical outreach were the company towns which housed the miners and their families who produced the coal which powered the national industrial engine. These communities, which often featured company stores and company houses as well as churches, mining facilities and local unions of the United Mine Workers, were sites of both fragmentation and solidarity. Ethnic and religious divisions and labor-management struggles produced strife, while community loyalty, often symbolized by the local baseball teams, provided a common bond.
Eileen Mountjoy Cooper's collection of articles, which focus on the company towns of the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company, offer readers and researchers a valuable body of evidence which presents the coal story from the "bottom up." These newspaper articles, using research funded by a grant from the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company, depict life in coal towns based on company records, local newspapers, and numerous interviews, describe the joys and sorrows of life in this special environment and contribute significantly to the ability of current and future historians to heed the advice of Herbert Gutman and Staughton Lynd to study working class history from local as well as national venues.
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