Miners And Prospectors: Photos Of A Tough Life

posted Oct 24, 2016 by Kathy Pinna
Black lung, cave-ins, noxious gases, low wages, owing your soul to the company store . . . mining has always been a difficult, hazardous, and societally necessary job throughout the world. With the rise of industrialism, mining became even more important. In the U.S., prior to Child Labor Laws, even children were involved in the mining industry.

Today, mining is still an important part of our economy but changing technology has impacted employment in the industry. For instance, in the U.S. coal mining jobs fell from 694,000 in 1919 to 83,000 in the past year. At the same time, about 209,000 solar jobs and over 88,000 wind jobs have been created and these numbers are growing exponentially. While safety and living conditions (and wages) are improving, this change has left many in difficult straits.

We honor those who have given their lives to improve ours - the miners of the world.

1889 South Dakota gold

Three men (and a dog) exclaiming "We have it rich!" while panning for gold.

1956 copper mine

Two of these men are believed to have later been injured in an explosion.

Deep in a mine

Mining can be deadly

This message, left on the wall by 47 entombed miners, was written with carbide lamps (miner's lamp). Shortly before midnight on August 27, 1922, a fire broke out, trapping the miners. . .

A 1913 machine that took the place of "breaker boys"

Breaker boys were (literally) young boys who separated coal from impurities. This machine was more effficient and eliminated the need for young boys to do this.

Breaker boys, 1913

These are breaker boys doing the same work as the machine.

A trapper boy

Trapper boys opened and closed wooden gates - allowing trains filled with coal to leave the mine and controlling ventilation.

Trapper boy (far left)

He said he was going back to school - it was more fun!

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