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Miners & Prospectors

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

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. << Read less
Young miner cashing check at commissary while another waits in line for his turn. Mogollon, New Mexico
Miners cabins on the Elk River at Bream, W. Va. near Charleston. Others on slope beyond. A typical mining community here. Children go to Big Chimney school. Oct. 10, 1921. Location: Bream, West Virginia / Photo by Lewis W. Hine.
Arthur Havard, a young driver, Shaft #6, Pennsylvania Coal Company. Location: South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
People in this photo:
A photo of Jack taeger (far left) with two co-workers, Taken at the Mass City, Mi copper mine about 1956. It is believed the two other men in the photo were injured in a mine explosion later in the mines operation.
People in this photo:
Jacob Taeger
Jan 8, 1904 - Feb 24, 1985
Ewen, Michigan
A photo of Charles Allen Ballou
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Charles Allen Ballou
Feb 14, 1932 - around Jun 4, 2011
Whitesburg, Kentucky
In the 1890's, Frank Risor mined for Silver in Barstow California
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A photo of Elzie Byron Cornett, Sr., superintendent, with mining crew.
People in this photo:
Elzie Byron Cornett, Sr.
Aug 21, 1890 - Jan 21, 1975
Pineville, KY, USA
L-R: Richard Claus, Robert Ford, Hillis "Bud" Ford & Roger Waller on a uranium expedition in Lac la Ronge, Canada.
People in this photo:
John Palumbo Jr at the Hull Rust Mahoning open pit iron mine, Hibbing, Minnesota. Library of Congress: Medium: 1 negative : safety ; 3 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches or smaller. Summary: Photo shows miner John Palumbo, Jr. (1921-2008), possibly during the summer of 1942. (Source: Palumbo's family, 2009.) Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-fsa-8c20455 (digital file from original) LC-USF34-064024-D (b&w film neg.) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa2000044728/PP/
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This is the mine (I believe) where my grandfather Mose Muncy worked - Bradshaw tipple in West Virginia.
People in this photo:
This photo was taken around 1921 at Greenbriar Coal Mine in Muses Mills, Kentucky. I believe the men in the photo are almost all Muse men. 2 have been identified as Oney Muse and Audrey Muse (they are brothers) If anyone can help me identify these men, I would really appreciate it.
People in this photo:
This is a photo of Michigan School of Mines, Haughton [i.e. Houghton], Mich. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of School of Mines, University of Minnesota added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Aurora iron mines, Ironwood, Mich. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Norrie group no. 3, Ironwood, Mich. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Hon. Henry Miner, Dir. Public [...] Natl. Democratic... added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Committee on transfer of Bureau of Mines to Dept. of... added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Committee on transfer of Bu. of Mines to Dept. of... added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Quarry pool, Paradise Creek, Pa. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Scott Turner, Director of Bu. of Mines, 11/16/25 added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Zinc mines, Franklin, N.J. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Stone quarry at Pearl, Ill[inoi]s added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Zinc mines, Franklin, N.J. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Coal breaker no. [11], Avondale, Pa. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Marble quarry, near Rutland, Vt. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Marble quarry, near Rutland, Vt., looking out added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
This is a photo of Republic Marble Quarry near Knoxville, Tenn. added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
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