Sketches of the Coal Region from 1877

The following sketches appeared in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly in 1877. The magazine was extremely popular in the mid-19th century and employed a team of sketch artists to document places and events across the United States and around the world. 

These sketches accompanied an article entitled “Among the Coal Mines,” which we’ve written about previously. 

Here they are, with some detail, in the order they appeared in the original article: 

Heckscherville 1877
Heckscherville, Schuylkill County. This was one of the most restive communities during the Civil War. Its residents resisted mine operators and the US Army in their efforts to bring mineworkers to heel.

Mines at Heckschersville 1877
One of the numerous collieries that dotted the landscape near Heckscherville. Though unidentified, it appears that this may be the Mammoth Colliery east of Heckscherville in New Castle Township, Schuylkill County.

Avondale 1877
Avondale, Luzerne County, the site of the deadliest mining disaster in Coal Region history in 1869.


Air Funnel 1877
Mine safety advances in the 1870s meant that air holes became commonplace to provide fresh air to mineworkers, and in some cases, ways to escape during a disaster.

Gravity Road 1877
A small passenger car on the “Gravity Road” above Mauch Chunk, Carbon County.

Sizing Coal - Breaker 1877
The cylinders inside a mine breaker, where coal was broken and sorted by size.

Loading the Cars - Breaker 1877
Outside the breaker, where the broken, sorted, sized, and washed coal was loaded aboard train cars for shipment to market.

Miners Preparing a Blast 1877
Miners Preparing a Blast

The Watch Boy 1877
A watch boy at the intersection of underground mine workings. Boys held numerous jobs within the mines – driving mules, opening and closing ventilation doors, watching intersections, etc.

Miners at Work 1877
Miners at work

Coal and Iron Police Station 1877
A sketch that it is likely from earlier than 1877. The New York and Schuylkill Coal Company operated the Forestville Colliery in Schuylkill County, just west of Pottsville. This was their company police station, showing some well armed company police. Such corporate military forces dominated the Coal Region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A Blast in a Coal Mine 1877
Miners doing blasting to access further coal underground. This was dangerous work in the mid-19th century.

A Coal Miner and His Wife 1877
A coal miner and his wife on a stroll, but also carrying many items suggesting that they may be moving between company towns.

Coal and Iron Police Office 1877
An illustration of a member of the Coal and Iron Police in the Coal Region

Loading the Cars - Underground 1877
Loading the mine cars underground and transporting them to the mine entrance and eventually for processing in the breaker


Arresting Miners 1877
Rounding up and arresting miners. Another illustration that may be earlier than 1877. Judging by the weaponry and uniforms, it appears that this illustration may date to the Civil War when arrests of miners for organizing and resisting the draft were commonplace. 

Mount Laffee 1877'
A scene on the road between Pottsville and St. Clair that saw several muggings, robberies, and even murders that were later connected to the “Molly Maguires.” However, disorganized, random violence was commonplace in Schuylkill County after the Civil War. The region became something of a “Wild West” environment, but located just west of the Eastern Seaboard cities.

Coal Depot at Port Carbon 1877
An awesome sketch of the headwaters of the Schuylkill Canal near Port Carbon. This was where much of the coal mined in Schuylkill County, immediately east and north of Pottsville, would be placed aboard canal boats for shipment to Philadelphia.

Featured Image: Mines near Heckscherville, 1877 – Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly

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