The Anthracite Coal Strike of
1902 resulted in a victory for the hard-coal miners with a 10%
increase in wages and an hours reduction in their working day.
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 for kids: What is Anthracite Coal?
What is Anthracite
Coal? Anthracite Coal is a natural, hard, shiny coal that burns
slowly and gives intense heat. Anthracite coal has fewer impurities
so it burns cleaner than soft coal, with almost no smoke, which made
it particularly well-suited for heating. Anthracite coal was the
most popular fuel for heating in the northern United States from the
1800s until the 1950s. The largest deposits of anthracite coal were
in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 for kids: Big Business and the Corporations
Coal production in the
United States was dominated by
Big Business and Corporations
headed by ruthless industrialist referred to as the Robber Barons.
The powerful Corporations built company towns to house the miners
that the labor of the miners was a commodity and that gave them the
right to set wages, to hire and fire at will, dictate working hours
and establish working conditions.
All economic and political control
was in the hands of the massive corporations.
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 for kids: The Miners
The miners strongly opposed the view that they were just a
'commodity'. The miners believed that they deserved the right to
have a say in their working conditions, health and safety issues,
their working hours and their rates of pay. Miners had seen a
constant reduction in wages over several years but their rents
had stayed the same. The mine owners also charged high prices at
the company stores that were deducted from the miner's wages.
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 for kids: Socialism
Many of the miners advocated socialism which is based
on the idea that the federal government should own and operate
industry for the nation as a whole. Socialists wanted the government
to buy up the large corporations and companies, especially those
that operated in essential industries that affected everyone, such
as services like the railroads and utilities like coal.
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902: Background History - the
Mollie Maguires and the US Labor Unions
Miners had long protested about their dangerous
working conditions. The 'Long Strike of 1875' was instigated by the
a secret society of Irish coal miners in
Pennsylvania. The strike failed and 20 members of the
Molly Maguires were unjustly hanged for murder. Memories of the
unjust treatment of the Molly Maguires were burned into the memory
of Pennsylvania, as were the 1896 Twin Shaft Disaster and the 1897
Lattimer Massacre. The mid to late 1800's saw the emergence of the
US Labor Unions who fought for the rights of workers. The 1897
strike by the Soft-coal (bituminous coal) miners in Illinois,
Indiana, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania, resulted in wage increases
and the significant growth in Union membership.
Causes of the
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 for kids
The Causes of the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 were:
The Mine owners were
making massive profits but refused to address the grievances of
The hazards and dangers of
working in the mines resulted in the miners striking for more
money, shorter hours and improved working conditions.
The hazards and dangers
included roof falls, explosions, mine fires and underground
flooding. Another serious safety hazard risks were the "marsh
gas" given off by coal which led to massive explosions. Coal
dust was breathed into the miner's lungs which often led to a
chronic respiratory disease
Young boys called "breaker boys", from 9 to 14 years old,
processed raw coal by breaking it into various sizes for
different types of furnaces
The increasing support and
success of the Labor Unions.
The Result of the
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902
The Anthracite Coal Strike Commission
was in charge of the arbitration process. The results
The miners asked for a 20%
wage increase, and most were given a 10% increase
The miners who worked 10
hours a day had asked for an eight-hour day, they
were given a nine-hour day
While the mine owners refused
to recognize the UMF, but were required to agree to
a six-man arbitration board, consisting of equal
numbers of labor and management representatives,
with the power to settle labor disputes
The Significance of the
Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902
The significance of the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902
The Anthracite Coal Strike
Commission estimated that during the Anthracite strike the coal
and railroad companies lost about $74 million dollars and the
miners lost about $25 million dollars in wages
Following the strikers
victory, the United Mine Workers became the largest and most
powerful labor union in the United States
The National Child Labor
Committee was established in 1904 with the goal of abolishing
all child labor and led to the passage of the Keating-Owen Act
intervention led to the establishment of the federal government
as a mediator between powerful groups in society
For additional facts refer to the
and the article detailing
Progressive Reforms at city, state and federal levels.
Great Anthracite Coal Strike for kids
Interesting facts about the Great Anthracite Coal Strike are
Statistics: In 1901 the output of
anthracite coal totaled over 60 million long tons and
generated 15% of America's energy
Statistics: The value at the mines
was estimated at $112 million dollars.
Statistics: Between 1870-1901, the
number of miners killed in the anthracite industry was
Statistics: Between 1870-1901 the
number of miners injured totaled over 30,000
Statistics: In 1900, there were
143,824 miners working in the anthracite region
The Unions: The United Mine Workers
union (UMF) was founded on January 22, 1890 merging the Knights of Labor and the National Progressive Miners
Union. The UMF was more open to compromise and
arbitration with businessmen.
The Unions: The Western Federation of
Miners (WFM) was a more radical labor union that was
founded in 1893. The WFM had strong ties to socialism
and was far more radical than the UMF.
On June 28, 1896 The Twin Shaft
Disaster occurred in Twin Shaft Colliery in Pittston,
Pennsylvania. A massive cave-in killed 58 miners.
On September 10, 1897 the Lattimer
Massacre saw the violent deaths of 19 unarmed striking
immigrant anthracite coal miners at the Lattimer mine
near Hazleton, Pennsylvania. 10,000 new members
immediately joined the UMF
The members of the UMF and the WFM
united in their common cause and on May 12, 1902, 95% of
the Pennsylvania miners went on strike demanding higher
wages, a shorter working day, improved working
conditions and the recognition of their union.
John Mitchell was the Union
organizer. Under Mitchell's leadership, the ranks of the
union swelled from 34,000 to 300,000 members
On June 2 1902 the maintenance
workers, consisting of firemen, pumpmen and engineers,
joined the minerís strike.
On Friday, October 3, 1902, President
Theodore Roosevelt intervened, worried that if the
strike continued for too long, the nation would face a
coal shortage that could close down the factories and
leave homes cold in the approaching winter
President Roosevelt said he feared
"untold misery...with the certainty of riots which
might develop into social war."
The strike lost some of its impact
when John Mitchell agreed to negotiate
Mary Harris "Mother" Jones fought for
unity among the strikers, opposing John Mitchell.
The coal mine owners, led by George
Baer, were determined to break the strike and rejected
all union offers to conciliate on the grounds that there
was nothing to talk about.
Although he had no legal right to
intervene, President Roosevelt sent telegrams to mine
owners and the union summoning them to Washington to
discuss the problem. President Roosevelt urged the union
and the owners to accept arbitration
President Roosevelt, and most of the
public, were furious at the mine owners stubbornness in
their refusal to negotiate. A precedent for arbitration
and conciliation had been set by
1898 Erdman Act ,
although only to settle railway disputes. President
Roosevelt believed arbitration was the way forward.
President Roosevelt threatened to
order the US army to run the mines and, under this
threat, the mine owners finally accepted arbitration
The anthracite coal strike ended,
after 163 days, on October 23, 1902
John Mitchell considered the outcome
a victory for the miners and the nation was spared a
disastrous coal shortage