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The Tragic Story of the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster


Publication Year: 2014

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Praise, Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Epigraph, Other Works by the Author, Dedication

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Preface to the Paperback Edition

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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. xvii-xx

Thirty plus years ago, while looking into the history of mining in this country, I came upon the Monongah mine disaster and the fact that it had taken more lives than any mine accident in American history. Little was publicly known about the disaster and its victims, and although other events intervened...

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Robert B. Reich

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pp. 1-2

When I heard Davitt McAteer was working on a book detailing the unparalleled disaster at the Monongah mines, I thought it promising news. I knew that when Davitt applied his considerable intelligence and insight to researching the true story, the results would take readers far beyond the official...

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1. J. H. Leonard, Oiler for the No. 6 Mine

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pp. 3-6

J. H. Leonard was the oiler for the ventilation fan at the No. 6 mine. In Monongah for seventeen years, Leonard had been working as an oiler for the last six. He had worked at the Monongah mine since it opened and was one of the oldest men working there. As oiler, he cleaned fan belts...

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2. The Northern Coal Fields of West Virginia

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pp. 7-16

The Monongah mines were developed by the most powerful, wealthy West Virginian entrepreneurs and politicians and financed by some of the wealthiest men in America. West Virginia’s ex-senators and ex-governors had organized and financed the companies, as did John D. Rockefeller, the

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3. Lester Emmitt Trader: Assistant Fire Boss at Age 22

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pp. 17-26

Thursday, December 5, 1907, was the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, a holiday widely celebrated in Europe and especially important in Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Russia. In Italy, St. Nicholas had been revered since the eleventh century, and the tradition of celebrating with food...

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4. The Company Men

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pp. 27-35

On June 11, 1887, U.S. Senator Johnson Newlon Camden entered into an agreement with Aretas Brooks Fleming and Joseph H. Sands, the head cashier of the First National Bank of Fairmont, to form a syndicate for the purpose of “purchasing and controlling as large an amount of the coal...

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5. The Mining Companies: The Early Years

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pp. 36-43

Although not entirely completed, both the mining plant and the Monongahela Railroad from Fairmont began operation in the early months of 1890. In February, a contract agreement had been entered into with the Ohio Coal Exchange Company of Chicago and its subsidiary, Consolidation...

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6. The City of Mines

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pp. 44-73

Monongahela is a Delaware Indian name meaning “river of falling banks.” The river is characterized by high banks that frequently break off and plummet into the river below. The Monongahela River is formed from the confluence of the Tygart Valley River and the West Fork River, which...

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7. Immigrants Wanted

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pp. 74-90

As the new century dawned and the industrial expansion spread, every sector of the U.S. economy faced labor shortages. The increased demand in the railroad, mining, and manufacturing industries absorbed all available labor and drew workers from rural communities to the cities. As...

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8. “Hire Bands or Anything That Is Necessary”

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pp. 91-113

When J. N. Camden’s Monongah Coal & Coke Company opened the mines at Monongah, their business strategy was two-fold: to mine coal at a lower cost than their competitors and to operate in such a way that they would be able to supply coal during periods of labor unrest. Their chief...

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9. And The Explosion Came

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pp. 114-124

About midmorning on December 6, 1907, a load of nineteen mine cars was being pulled by a wire rope up the incline from the mouth of No. 6 mine just short of the knuckle or top of the trestle. As they were pulled slowly toward the highest point, an iron coupling pin snapped and the nineteen...

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10. Escape and Rescue

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pp. 125-140

At About half past five the morning of December 6, Angelo and Orazio DePetris, brothers, and Dan and Leonardo Dominico, father and son, entered the No. 8 portal and walked down the main entry. They began work in the second right south face off the first south. Here, they undercut the coal...

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11. “They Are All Gone”

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pp. 141-157

Friday night, December 6, and early Saturday morning, December 7, the first bodies were brought from the mine. As they were brought out, they were examined by Dr. F. W. Hill and others who had volunteered and had come out of Fairmont.1 The miners’ bodies were placed on wagons

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12. “We Know So Little About How These Explosions Occur”

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pp. 158-170

Watson's statement, coming as it did on Saturday while the mines were still on fire, the first day after the explosion and before the mine interior had been explored, is suspect. According to Lester Trader, the theory was made up by David Victor, the Chief Safety Inspector for the company on the...

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13. The Monongah Mine Relief Fund in Aid of Sufferers from the Monongah Mine Explosion

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pp. 171-198

In the company blacksmith shop, large pots of soup were simmering, along with gigantic pots of coffee. The initial rescue support efforts were spontaneous: Those with something to contribute did so. Neighbors brought food and clothing. Ethnic suspicions and distrust evaporated, each person...

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14. Wheels of Justice

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pp. 199-217

E. S. Amos, the Marion County coroner, impaneled a jury in Monongah at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 7, 1907, the day after the explosion. They were sworn in at the Monongah Mine offices and the inquisition officially began. Immediately, they walked across the river and went to

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15. The Number

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pp. 218-241

The December 8, 1907, New York Times article on the disaster read
It was stated to-night by General Manager Leo L. Malone of the mines that 478 actual miners were checked off as entering the mines yesterday...

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16. “An End to This Huge Loss and Waste”

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pp. 242-264

On December 10, 1907, the Fairmont West Virginian reported that the Verdi Brass Band of Monongah, having suffered the loss of so many of its members in the disaster, was disbanding and Professor Verdi was returning to Italy.1...

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17. The Conscience of a Nation

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pp. 265-268

In Monongah, there is no question that the runaway mine cars that struck the mine’s ventilation system and the subsequent shock to the air, were factors contributing to the disaster. The disruption of the normal flow of air, the sparks generated in the base of the No. 6 mine entry, the displacement...

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pp. 269-271

One long lasting result of the Monongah disaster was the establishment of “Father’s Day.” The first Father’s Day celebration occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908, at the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, officiated by Dr. Robert Thomas Webb. The suggestion for...


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pp. 272-287


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pp. 288-300

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Individuals Mentioned in Monongah

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pp. 301-315

What follows is a list of the people mentioned in Monongah. Some of them are major players, others appear only briefly, but they were all a part of the events that surround the Monongah explosion...

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Reprint of the Mines Relief Committee Report

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pp. 316-323

On the morning of December 6, 1907, there occurred at Monongah, West Virginia, in two of the mines of the Fairmont Coal Company, known as Monongah No. 6 and Monongah No. 8, a disastrous explosion, resulting in the death of every man within both mines, 358 in all, and of Wm. H. Bice, engineer...


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pp. 324-330

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About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 331-332

Davitt McAteer is internationally recognized as an expert on mine and workplace health and safety. He worked with consumer advocate Ralph Nader to help enact the landmark 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. During the 1970s, he led the safety and health programs of the United Mine Workers of...

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E-ISBN-13: 9781938228971
E-ISBN-10: 1938228979
Print-ISBN-13: 9781938228896
Print-ISBN-10: 1938228898

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: Second edition.

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Monongah Mines Disaster, Monongah, W. Va., 1907.
  • Mine explosions -- West Virginia.
  • Coal mine accidents -- West Virginia.
  • Coal mines and mining -- West Virginia -- 20th century.
  • Mine safety -- Law and legislation -- History.
  • Marion County (W. Va.) -- History -- 20th century.
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