Photograph from the 1860s shows incredible detail of the Shenandoah City Colliery

On a recent online research adventure, I found myself staring at an incredible image of a coal mining operation on the outskirts of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in the late 1860s. I’d seen the photograph before, but hadn’t looked closely at what it showed and where the colliery was located.

The Shenandoah City Colliery (Getty Museum)

The photograph, in the collections of the Getty Museum in California, was taken sometime in the late 1860s by Pottsville photographer Amos M. Allen. This photographer created a large number of images that are available online today showing Schuylkill County in the mid-19th century. 

Allen documented the breaker and slope at Maize and Miller’s Shenandoah City Colliery. This mining operation was located on a ridge just south and east of Shenandoah.

This 1864 map of Schuylkill County shows the location of the colliery. (LOC)

When we match up details from the photograph to an 1870 description of the colliery from state records, we can begin to understand how the colliery functioned.

By the time the report was made, the management of the Shenandoah City Colliery had changed hands from Miller and Maize to Neal Trustee. Such management changes were common – being a mine operator in 19th century Schuylkill County was rarely a successful venture. 

Advertisement for Shenandoah Colliery coal from the Pottsville Miners’ Journal, December 1865
The Maize and Miller partnership dissolved in June 1867, suggesting this photograph was taken pre-1867.

From the 1870 Report of the Inspectors of Coal Mines of the Anthracite Coal Regions of Pennsylvania:

Inspected December 30, 1870

Description – Neal Trustee’s Shenandoah City colliery is situate at Shenandoah City, on the estate of White, Lloyd, Jourdan & Bowers. IT consists of a slope opening on E Vein sunk 772 feet deep, on a 20 degree dip, and used as a down-cast air course. The coal is 300 feet thick from state to state on this angle. The yield of coal is immense. Three gangways are open on this level.

The slope at Shenandoah City Colliery. (Getty Museum)

Gangways – There are 6 main gangways open on the colliery, with numerous branch gangways run in the breasts; the lower slant gangway is in 172 yards, and another 150 yards; top do. 70 yards in; the back do. 1,100 yards, working 45 breasts; the top level do. is in 600 yards; No. 4 water level gangway 1,200 yards in a fault 200 feet; No. 3 drift is 775 feet in. The character of the mining done here is opening gangway and breastworks.

Ventilation – This is produced thus: the slope is used as a down-cast, and a steam fan = 15 horse, which is also used to pump by; a series of air-courses have been opened to remedy the defects in ventilation, which is at present tolerable, though some powder smoke prevails.


Engines – A 60-horse double acting steam pump is used in drainage; two 50-hore connecting engines are used in hoisting, and 40-horse engine is used at the breaker; 12 good boilers, with all their attachments, are in good order.

Detailed view of the breaker at the Shenandoah City Colliery

Remarks – It is proposed to visit these last collieries soon, in order to make a more full investigation of their condition, and ascertain to what the extent the improvements have progressed, as ventilation and other needed reforms must be continued to completion; for the present, we will confine our remarks to the above.  

This photograph and the accompanying documents reveal the operations of a typical Schuylkill County colliery in the mid-19th century.

Featured Image: The Shenandoah City Colliery as photographed by A.M. Allen in the 1860s. (Getty Museum)

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2 thoughts on “Photograph from the 1860s shows incredible detail of the Shenandoah City Colliery

  1. Dear Jake,   you really have the most wonderful images (and stories of course) on your blog, you should do a book.  Trust all is well and you and Alison are surviving the covid.  What a time.  Fondest best, Peter W.


  2. When I lived on Mountain Street in Wiconisco, the deed to our property gave us only surface rights. The land under us belongs to a coal company out of Philadelphia. I think there may have been lots of deeds like this and they likely went back many years. Interesting and sad for the people.

    Liked by 1 person

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