Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Rocks that Fueled the Industrial Revolution

I have so many ancestors who were coal miners that I've become a bit of a coal buff. The first thing my husband told me about coal was that anthracite was best. Of course it was! That's what Adam Dagutis, his grandfather, mined in Pennsylvania so he would certainly think so. Sure, I scoffed; coal is coal. Not so and my husband was right. Anthracite coal was called "king coal" and commanded the highest prices because it burned cleanly. It has the highest carbon content and is black and shiny.

Anthracite coal; photograph courtesy of AmazonSupply

Here is my coal miner sculpture carved from anthracite purchased from the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvana in 2009:

Personal collection

The most plentiful coal in the U.S. is bituminous coal. It is used primarily to generate electricity and make coke for the steel industry. There is also a sub-bituminous coal, which produces less heat and is found mostly in the western U.S. and Alaska. Most of my Muir ancestors mined bituminous coal.

Bituminous coal photograph courtesy of Volunteer State Community College

Lignite coal is geologically young coal and has the lowest carbon content. It's sometimes called brown coal and can also be used for electric power generation.

Lignite "brown" coal; photograph courtesy of Colorado Geological Survey

A map of the U.S. coal seams is almost a map of where my ancestors lived. 

Coal bearing areas of the U.S.; image courtesy of Clean-Energy.us

Learning about coal and coal mining helped me understand the lives my coal mining ancestors lived and what their daily lives entailed. My husband and I even took a coal mining vacation in 2009 and are planning on driving the National Coal Heritage Trail in West Virginia.  I can't wait.


  1. Some of my more distant ancestors were coal miners too. Like you, I thought coal is coal - never knew some served a purpose better than others. the statue is a good way to remember and honor your ancestor -- love that!

    1. Thanks, Wendy! As soon as I saw that statue, I knew I had to have it. I also threaten to buy a big rock of anthracite and use it in my garden, but my husband is having none of it. :)