WHERE THE SUN NEVER SHINES: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry by Priscilla Long

WHERE THE SUN NEVER SHINES: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry

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A sweeping, in-depth account of coal mining in the US until 1920 that admirably strives to achieve an integration of the newer, post-1960's working-class cultural history and the older, institutional labor history. Weaving the coal miner's changing history into that of the industry's immigrants, women, unions, and businessmen, Long adds much to our understanding but sometimes forces conclusions to preserve the neatness of her synthesis. Long, a historian of radical and labor movements, deals first with coal mining in the eastern US up to the late 19th century, then with the industry in the new American West. At that later time, the industry underwent a radical change to adopt to the era of industrial capitalism, with its economics of scale, impersonal management, and mass, unskilled unions. In the earlier, preindustrial era, Long finds a predominance of craft-based English immigrant miners overseen by small-scale mine operators who were often themselves English immigrants and former miners who could understand the lot of their workers. In the West, the industrial era in coal mining emerges full blown after 1880, with giant corporations like the Rockefeller interests pitted against a polyglot, non-English immigrant working class of unskilled wage-earning miners. The militant demands of the latter met the iron-fisted ownership of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in the now legendary Colorado Fuel and Iron Strike of 1913-14. Management prevailed in the most brutal way by killing the women and children of striking miners in their tent city during the infamous Lud-low Massacre. Long emphasizes that this brought a widespread public condemnation of management--along with a sympathy for the miners--that led Rockefeller to adopt a successful p.r. campaign to portray his company as concerned and conciliatory toward the defeated workers and their demands. This ""enlightened"" corporate liberalism, Long concludes, was mainly a ruse to split conservative from radical unionists and to invite a management-friendly federal regulation of the coal industry. Long's outstanding contributions include an original, telling history of the women of the coal mining towns and a brilliant chapter, ""My Lamp is My Sun,"" on the actual miner's work. Her account is vital for a full understanding of the coal industry.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Paragon House