Monongah Coal Mine Disaster News
News of the infamous Monongah coal mine disaster on a black Friday, December 6, 1907 does not seem to have been covered extensively in the nation’s newspapers and magazines. At least, that is what our research shows. The Darr Mine explosion that followed two weeks later, on December 19, 1907, killed 239 miners at Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania; and this tragedy may have drawn attention away from the Monongah catastrophe. Moreover, since 1907 produced over 3,000 coal miner deaths—and over 700 alone in the month of December (the worst year in the U. S. history)—the public was probably becoming a bit calloused to reading the tragic stories.
Local newspapers, like the Fairmont Free Press, Fairmont Index, and Fairmont Times covered fairly well the Monongah mine explosions at Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and 8 mines. The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Pittsburgh Dispatch, and Zanesville Dispatch also printed stories, but otherwise the tremendous tragedy seems to have been largely neglected over the rest of the nation.
No great number of national periodicals appear to have run significant stories either. The December 26, 1907 issue of Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly did, however, ran a full page spread of seven pictures of the wreckage around the Monongah No. 6 and No. 8 mines, and included a few comments under each photograph. One pointed out and showed “workmen strenuously digging a new entrance” to the No. 8 mine, and another the ruins of its “fan-house.”
Under two photographs at the top of the page, the underlying comments pointed out that “more than 300 widows and 1,000 orphans were left destitute,” and that the “explosion “caused a loss of five hundred lives.” This figure was probably closer to the true number than the 361 reported in the official report issued later. The headline read: “WORST MINE DISASTER IN AMERICAN HISTORY.”
Harper’s Weekly, another popular magazine at the time, included the pictures above and below and ran a short commentary with them in its December 28 issue. The annotation under the picture above reads: “Near the Mouth of the Wrecked Mine. On the first Day only one Man was saved. Even when a new Fan was set up, Fires drove back the Rescuers.” The one under its photograph below says: “Rescue Work was delayed by the Destruction of the Fan, shown in the Ruins at the Left; for in the absence of Ventilation it was sure Death to venture far into the Mine.”*
Harper’s headline at the bottom of the page under the photographs read: “THE MINE CATASTROPHE IN WEST VIRGNIA.” Its short commentary, in smaller capital letters, announced: “ONE OF THE MOST AWFUL DISASTERS IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN COAL-MINING WAS THE EXPLOSION AND FIRE IN THE FAIRMONT MINE AT MONONGAH, WEST VIRGINIA, ON DECEMBER 6, IN WHICH THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY LIVES WERE LOST.
A SHOT BLEW OPEN A POCKET OF GAS, WHICH EXPLODED, WRECKING THE GIANT FAN THAT DROVE FOUL AIR OUT OF THE MINE, THUS ALLOWING THE FATAL AFTER-DAMP TO ACCUMULATE IN ALL THE GALLERIES, AND SMOTHER MEN TO DEATH ALMOST INSTANTLY.”**
Two other periodicals, The American Review of Reviews and Charities and The Commons of 1908 covered the Monongah Coal Mine Explosions in much greater detail. However, due to their lengths, we will place them on separate Web pages, which will be listed in the index at the top of this page, on the left.
*Notice the old American style of capitalizing nouns. Many people today could not even identify one. This was a keen way of keeping writers skilled and aware of the importance of grammar. However, laziness has set in on American society, and like the dropping of the dash to indicate a noun is modifying another; this beautiful style of writing has also fallen by the wayside. Yet, notice that “absence” is not capitalized in the Harper's report. Writers occasionally made little errors then, just as we, even with these fancy computers, still do today. To err is human; so if you find any mistakes on these Web pages, please keep this in mind and let me know.
**Like writers often do today, the one for Harper's Weekly came to a premature conclusion, on the number of miners killed and the cause of the Monongah mine explosion, before official investigations in West Virginia had even begun. The final number of miner deaths in the Monongah tragedy and the cause of the catastrophe have never been agreed upon.
This page was last modified on Wednesday, January 20, 2016