Machines and the Coal Miner's Work

The introduction of mining machinery powered by electricity or compressed air changed the way coal miners worked.

These pages show mining machines, and offer some information about the introduction of machinery into mining.

The point of the pages is to appreciate the dynamic quality of the industrial revolution. Other pages reviewed the work of a coal miner and coal mining in the 1870s. These pages will be about the coal industry at the turn of the twentieth century. These pages will show the introduction of laborsaving machinery into coal mining. For the course "History 563" the machinery has no intrinsic interest as artifact. However, the human story of the introduction of machinery is important, as is, of course, the business and technological dynamics behind its introduction.

Look at the pictures and read the short texts that accompany them. After you are done, you should briefly answer questions about what you have seen.

After you have looked at the pictures and read the short texts, you should think about three questions.

    • Did you see any differences in the pictures of coal miners working with mining machines versus the pictures you saw of the coal mines in the 1870s?
    • Why were mining machines introduced into coal mines?
    • How did the introduction of mining machines change the organization of work in the mines? What impact did it have on miners with traditional skills?
    • How does mechanized mining seem to be different from the mining described by Andrew Roy?  How does this change help you to understand the industrial revolution and its impact on workers' lives? 

The first decades studied in this course were a time when Americans lived without using electricity. Coal mines operated without electricity. Electricity began to be adopted in mining and manufacturing in the late 1880s and the 1890s. (Electricity was first introduced into Ohio's bituminous coal mines in 1889.) The introduction of electricity in coal mines greatly facilitated the introduction of laborsaving machinery.

1891550 Coal Cutting Machines in use
19003,000 Coal Cutting Machines installed in bituminous coal mines