The Anthracite Coal Strike -- By: Ernest Ludlow Bogart

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 058:229 (Jan 1901)
Article: The Anthracite Coal Strike
Author: Ernest Ludlow Bogart

The Anthracite Coal Strike1

Prof. Ernest Ludlow Bogart

Years of industrial expansion are usually marked by a more than proportionate number of labor troubles, and the past year has been no exception to this rule. Of the numerous outbreaks that have occurred none is more interesting or instructive than the strike of the anthracite coal miners in Pennsylvania, while some important conclusions as to the future of organized labor may be drawn from its outcome. The magnitude of the interests involved, the importance of the industry in its influence on the consuming public, the conduct of the strike, and finally the terms of its settlement—all call for a thorough understanding of the situation. Before proceeding to a discussion of the strike itself, however, we must consider briefly the conditions of the anthracite coal-mining industry as a whole.

Practically all of the anthracite coal produced in the United States comes from the deposits in the Blue Ridge Mountains lying between the Schuylkill and Lehigh rivers and the Susquehanna. These coal basins extend over an area of about 470 square miles, and are distributed throughout several counties. If all the veins were located in one place, they would occupy a space about twenty miles wide and a little less than twenty-four miles long. The coal seams vary from six to sixty feet in thickness. Originally one vast bed of coal, the area has been broken by geological action into three distinct fields known in trade circles as No. 1, or the northern or Wyoming field, comprising upper Luzerne and Lackawanna; No. 7, or the middle or Lehigh field, comprising Hazleton and the upper Schuylkill region; No. 9, or the southern or Schuylkill field, comprising Shamokin and the greater part of the Schuylkill region. During the last year 366 mines were in operation, which employed 140,583 persons; the output of the mines for 1899 was 54,034,224 tons, about one-third of the total coal product of the United States.

When an industry is so highly localized as this one is, its concentration in a few hands is an inevitable result. And when to the ease of a centralized control is added the economic advantage of a unified management, the pressure towards combination becomes irresistible. Accordingly we are not surprised to find the anthracite coal-mining industry centered in comparatively few hands. By far the larger part—about 72 per cent—is mined by nine railroads, which are at the same time the carriers of the entire output of the region. The concentration of the industry has resulted in fierce competition between the rival companies, and lower prices have always followed increased production. From the beginning the cry of “overp...

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