Fuel and Materials
Fuel and Materials
As American entrepreneurs enlarged their undertakings and began to shift them from waterpowered shops in the countryside to factories in the cities, they created a demand for new sources of energy and larger quantities of raw materials. The coal and, later, oil that they used to power their factories were brought to manufacturing centers on canals and railways and by coastal or river shipping. They used the wood and water resources of North America more heavily than ever, but they also created new kinds of workplaces. Their workplaces in the coal and oil fields, on canals and railways, in mills that made iron with mineral coal, and in the nonferrous-metal mines and mills were outside any previous experience of American artisans. Often, these workplaces were not adequately described or recorded before they were replaced. Material evidence helps us fill this gap in the historical record. In mining anthracite, both miners and mine operators faced a complex underground environment where there were few reliable clues to guide their work (Chapter 4). Geologists could help little, and, as anthracite was not much used elsewhere in the world, mining expertise could not be easily borrowed; instead, mining methods were developed through experience and error on the part of individual miners. The technological and social practices that endured in anthracite mining were largely established in the years between 1827 and 1834 by inexperienced adventurers whose aim was to obtain coal quickly and with the least trouble. Many of these practices were later adopted in underground bituminous mines. We can reconstruct a picture of the work of anthracite miners from study of the remaining mines, artifacts, and accounts of mine operation. Each breast in a mine was worked by a miner, who was paid on piece rate. He directed and paid one or two helpers, for whom he provided the necessary tools and supplies. They reached the breast where they worked by walking through the haulage ways and gangways that were the common ground in the mine.
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