Browse photos

See all photos

People

Subjects

Holidays & Special Events

Historic Events

Military

Wars & Conflicts

Year

Photograph Types

Places

Miners and Prospectors

Photos of the harsh living and working conditions of miners and prospectors and of the men who endured this life.

The lives of miners and prospectors involved grueling, backbreaking, and dangerous work with long hours and low pay. Especially in coal mining: workers and their families lived in company housing, shopped in company stores, and ended up owing the mining company so much money that they couldn't quit their jobs. Generations were stuck in the "family business."

First recorded in 1946, the song "Sixteen Tons" is based on the life of a Kentucky coalminer. It describes many of the aspects of the daily life of a these men:

"You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store"

Boys as young as nine - by law, they were supposed to be 12 - began as "breakers." Breakers worked 10 hours a day, picking pieces of slate and rock from mined coal. The next step was the "door boy" - the door boy opened and closed the doors to the mine, allowing coal cars and men to enter or leave the mine. For this job, he received 65 - 75 cents a day and provided his own lamp, cotton, and oil - bought from the company store, of course. Next came the "driver" who took care of the mules who pulled the coal cars, guided the full cars to the mouth of the mine, then took the empty cars back down. Drivers got $1.10 to $1.25 a day and again, provided their own lamps, cotton, and oil.

Finally, at age 20, a boy could become a runner or a miner. Still working 8 - 10 hours per day, miners provided their own tools and supplies. And they made about $1.65 per day. On average, the lifespan of a miner - due to the hazardous condition of the job - was age 32 in 1902. It was a dangerous life with no escape.

These photos show the daily life, work, and living conditions of those miners and prospectors who toiled all day long for low pay.

Select a Tag
Taken in .
Young miner cashing check at commissary while another waits in line for his... more
Shared on Jan 11, 2012 by
Taken in .
Miners cabins on the Elk River at Bream, W. Va. near Charleston. Others on... more
Shared on Jan 11, 2012 by
Taken in .
Arthur Havard, a young driver, Shaft #6, Pennsylvania Coal Company. Location:... more
People in this photo:
Shared on Jan 11, 2012 by
Taken in .
A photo of Jack taeger (far left) with two co-workers, Taken at the Mass... more
People in this photo:
Shared on Oct 9, 2014 by
Taken in Barstow, California USA .
In the 1890's, Frank Risor mined for Silver in Barstow California
People in this photo:
Shared on Feb 12, 2014 by
Taken in California United States .
Silver mining in California
People in this photo:
Shared on Dec 28, 2013 by
Taken in Montana United States of America.
Mouat mine - the equipment inside the mine.
Shared on Mar 11, 2013 by
Taken in Montana United States of America .
Men working inside the mine - mid to late 1950's.
Shared on Mar 11, 2013 by
Taken in Montana United States of America.
Mouat mine camp in Montana - the upper camp.
Shared on Mar 11, 2013 by
Taken at Mouat mine camp upper camp, in Montana United States of America .
This is Mouat mine camp in Montana, about 1957.
Shared on Mar 11, 2013 by
Taken in Lac la Ronge, Saskatchewan Canada.
L-R: Richard Claus, Robert Ford, Hillis "Bud" Ford & Roger Waller on a... more
Shared on Jul 19, 2012 by
Taken at Hull Rust Mahoning open pit iron mine, Hibbing, in Hibbing, St. Louis County, Minnesota USA in .
John Palumbo Jr at the Hull Rust Mahoning open pit iron mine, Hibbing,... more
People in this photo:
Shared on Jun 18, 2012 by
Taken at Tipple, in Bradshaw, McDowell Co County, West Virginia USA.
This is the mine (I believe) where my grandfather Mose Muncy worked -... more
People in this photo:
Shared on May 30, 2012 by
Taken at Greenbriar Coal Mine, in Muses Mills, Fleming County, Kentucky USA .
This photo was taken around 1921 at Greenbriar Coal Mine in Muses Mills,... more
People in this photo:
Shared on Apr 19, 2012 by