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What's a Coal Miner to Do?

The Mechanization of Coal Mining

Keith Dix


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For more than one hundred years, until the 1920s, coal production involved blasting a seam of coal and loading it by had into a mine car.  In the late 1920s, operators introduced machines into the mines, including the coal loader. In this book, Keith Dix explores the impact of technology on miners and operators during a crucial period in industrial history. Dix reconstructs the social, political, technical and economic environment of the “hand-loading” era and then views the evolution of mechanical coal technology, including the inventions of Joseph Joy. He also examines the rise of the United Mine Workers under John L. Lewis, and the expanded role of the state under New Deal legislation and regulations.

Praise For What's a Coal Miner to Do?: The Mechanization of Coal Mining

“Dix, the leading authority on work relations in the Appalachian coal region, has written an important book about mechanization in the mining industry. He emphasizes the workers' response to new machines at the point of production and explains the tension that developed between some of these workers and their national union.”
—Business History Review

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822985105, 272pp.

Publication Date: December 15, 1988

About the Author

Keith Dix is a historian who specializes in coal industry labor. He is the author of several books, including: An Analysis of West Virginia Work Stoppages; and Work Relations in the Coal Industry: The Hand-Loading Era, 1880-1930.