Arnold takes us into the bituminous coal-mining areas of central Pennsylvania during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Coal mining in this part of Pennsylvania largely has escaped the notice of historians—remaining in the shadows of the great anthracite coal region to the northeast and the vast bituminous coalfields to the southwest. What is to be gained by a look into this neglected nook and cranny of coal production? From Arnold’s account, the answer is “a great deal.”

By the 1870s, relatively small, independent coal-mine operations had been established in Central Pennsylvania. Coal-mine owners there reached accommodations with the miners on whom they heavily depended to share the risks and rewards of business as market prices per ton of coal fluctuated widely. Coal miners formed loose alliances to achieve area-wide accords, a form of federation that Arnold dubs “community unionism.”

Harmonies shattered in the 1870s. Growing competition—spurred by...

You do not currently have access to this content.