Following the nightmarish disaster at Avondale in September 1869, Pennsylvania began to think about mine safety. Although these early efforts to legislate miners’ welfare in the anthracite coal fields were rather meager, they did produce some changes.
Among those changes was the appointment of mine inspectors to visit collieries throughout the Coal Region in an attempt to root out dangerous conditions and punish those companies that failed to maintain basic safety requirements. As part of this legislation, “The Mine Safety Act of 1870,” inspectors were required to file yearly reports on all collieries in the anthracite fields. This legislation was later expanded to include bituminous mines in central and western Pennsylvania as well.
As historical documents, these yearly reports are rich in details about the evolution of mining in Pennsylvania and the dangers inherent in the coal industry in the 19th century. Tallies of accidents are a major part of the reports.
In recent years, many of these documents have been digitized and have been made easily available to the general public. Penn State University has created a page where these annual reports are all accessible and easy to access.
Featured Image: A gangway inside the Williamstown Colliery, Dauphin County (Williamstown – My Hometown)