The Human Machinery of War

The Human Machinery of War: Disability on the Front Lines and the Factory Floor, 1941-1945
Coal Mining: A Dangerous Trade
Photograph: Pennsylvania Miners on their Way to Work
Photograph: Coal Miners Leaving Work in Pennsylvania

Office of War Information, 1942,
"Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (vicinity). Westland coal mine. Enroute to work."

 

Office of War Information, 1942,
"Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (vicinity). Westland coal mine. Miners coming off shift."

 

 
Photograph: Miner Reading an Enclosure with His Pay Check  about his Wartime Work
Photograph: Two Miners Show a Soldier an Underground Mine

Office of War Information, 1942,
"War production drive. Anthracite rallies. Smiling with pleasure, a husky coal miner reads the enclosure with his pay check that shows him how he is helping to win the war. He extracts anthracite, or hard coal, from an Eastern Pennsylvania mine."

Office of War Information, 1942,
"War production drive. Anthracite rallies. Soldiers saw how the production front fights when coal miners took them underground during the anthracite miners' rallies, September 28th through October 1st, at Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania."
 

Miner's Asthma, or Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis: The Threat of Occupational Disease

From U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Labor, Subcommittee to Investigate Aid to the Physically Handicapped, Hearings, Part 12, Accident Prevention, 79th Congress, First Session (Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1945), 1437-1438.


Letter By Mr. Thomas Kennedy, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers of America, Washington, D. C.

United Mine Workers of America,
Washington, D. C., June 18, 1945.
Hon. Augustine B. Kelley,

House Office Building, Washington, D. C.

MY DEAR CONGRESSMAN: We are very much interested in the study which your subcommittee of the House Labor Committee is conducting on the subject of aid to physically handicapped.

Our interest, of course, stems from our aim to provide the best possible protection to the members of the United Mine Workers of America. I will therefore address myself to the relationship of the subject matter to the men who work in the coal mines of America.

In the broader sense, too many physically handicapped persons are discriminated against in the hiring and rehiring of men. Employers use the dollars-and-cents meter of costs in determining whether a physically handicapped man should be hired as a new employee, or rehired where the man reapplies to his former employer. True, management of American industry is entrusted with the investments of many thousands of stockholders. These people are entitled to have their investments handled and managed in the most efficient and economic manner. But what of the man who works for such employer? It is admitted he has invested no money in the corporation, but he has invested something that transcends dollars and cents in value. That is his life. If, in the course of the operation of a coal mine and the daily tasks of the individual worker which is indispensable, a man is injured then we feel he should not be thrown on the industrial scrap heap of American industry at the mercy of public charity and with his family left penniless to fend for themselves.

Many men are admittedly too crippled to again take up gainful employment, but too many men are abandoned who could be once more made into useful workers through the use of artificial limbs and the establishment of schools to rehabilitate and train these men for new lines of endeavor for which they could, after such training, prove well qualified. We believe there should be a better understanding and more funds provided either by the Federal Government or jointly with the States for such industrial rehabilitation work as I have outlined herein.

Another point in which we are interested is occupational diseases and proper compensation therefor. It is estimated that 25 percent of anthracite mine workers are afflicted to some degree with miner's asthma. Yet no provision exists in Pennsylvania to provide compensation paments [sic] for such men. The percentage of such men in the bituminous industry is comparably as high.

Pennsylvania has a law which presumably does provide compensation for anthracosis and silicosis but a recent decision of the State supreme court nullified the act and to all practical purposes miner's asthma is excluded.

The toll taken by occupational disease in the coal industry is too high. While we believe that all possible progress should be made through the introduction of technical changes to remove the causes of miner's asthma, we also believe that its victims should be adequately covered through proper compensation payments.

The above are my broad views of the subject being studied by your committee. Should you desire any additional information on the subject, please advise me and I shall be glad to arrange to forward it to you.

Very truly yours,

Thomas Kennedy,
Secretary-Treasurer.

 

Excerpt from Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State (Oxford University Press, 1940), 152.

"Down, Down, Down" by William Keating

"With your kind attention a song I will trill
All ye who must toil with the pick and the drill
And sweat for your bread in that hole at Oak Hill
That goes down, down, down.

When I was a boy, said my daddy to me,
'Stay out of Oak Hill, take my warning,' said he,
'Or with dust you will be choked and a pauper you'll be
Broken down, down, down.'"

 
Disasters in the Mines
July 15, 1947, American Federation of Labor Weekly News Service:
Headline: Men Dying in Gas-Filled Mine Shaft Wrote Pathetic Letters to Relatives

The article reported that 111 men died in the mines of Centralia, Illinois. While trapped in the mines, 13 men wrote letters to their families on pages torn from the foreman's time book. Rescuers who found the men's bodies also found a note from the men written on the rock walls of the mine instructing them to look in the men's pockets because they had letters for their families.

One letter read: "Dear Sweetheart and sons:  It’s now 6 o’clock.  ------ is feeling pretty low, but honey, if I don’t make it, sell the house and go live with your folks.   Your mom and dad will take care of you and the boys.  Please pray for me and join the church for me.  Tell dad to quit the mine and take care of mom, not like this.  Well baby, and my loving boys, goodby as I am feeling weak.  Lots of love."

Photograph: Pennsylvania Miners on their Way to Work Photograph: Coal Miners Leaving Work in Pennsylvania Photograph: Miner Reading an Enclosure with His Pay Check  about his Wartime Work Photograph: Two Miners Show a Soldier an Underground Mine