Indianhead, Tremont, PA
This breaker was about a mile from my home and my father hauled coal from there to be delivered to New York, Philadelphia and everywhere in between. This gorgeous photo was taken by Scott Herring, a photographer who has dedicated years to capturing the essence of the Anthracite Region. Thank you Scott.
Photo used with permission. Copyright © 1997, Scott Herring, All Rights Reserved
In Honor and In Memory
This site is dedicated to my Dad, Grandfathers, and all the brave souls who worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania’s Anthracite region, and to their families and friends who call the Coal Region, and Schuylkill County in particular, “home” — many of them for generations.
Skeletons of The Coal Region
When coal was king, its castle was the breaker — an imposing fortress that crushed, washed and sized billions of tons of Pennsylvania anthracite for use in factories, foundries and homes up and down the East Coast. Nearly 300 breakers loomed over the coal patchs more than a century ago, playing a key role in the nation’s rapid economic expansion and symbolizing the might of an industry that drew hordes of European immigrants who toiled, and often died, underground. The breakers gradually disappeared as anthracite production began a long, steady decline after World War I. Invented in the 1840s, breakers transformed large, hard-to-ignite chunks of raw anthracite into a variety of smaller sizes suitable for smelting iron, propelling a locomotive, running a machine or heating a building. A conveyor carried raw coal from the top floor through a variety of crushing devices and screens to the bottom, where the finished product — given names like egg, stove, chestnut and pea, according to size — was loaded onto rail cars and taken to cities like New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Ethnic Roots In The Anthracite Coal Region
Northeastern Pennsylvania still retains its multi-ethnic character,
By the Civil War era, coal was king in the United States. Success and prosperity, however, were not shared by all in the anthracite region. The new and often rough-hewn coal communities that sprouted up during the anthracite boom became rigidly defined places, where elite and often arrogant coal operators built magnificent Victorian mansions while their immigrant laborers lived in overcrowded, company-owned “patch towns.” Waves of European families arrived to live and work in these isolated company towns: first the German and Welsh, then the Irish, and later, the Italian, Polish, and Lithuanian. Despite deplorable living conditions and discrimination directed at them from established groups, they created vibrant ethnic cultures that built churches, formed clubs and aided each other in times of need.