Opera houses were fixtures of Appalachian life from the end of the Civil War through the 1920s. Most towns and cities had at least one opera house during this golden age. Coal mining and railroads brought travelers, money, and change to the region. Many aspects of American life converged in the opera house.
Coal and Culture: Opera Houses in Appalachia is a critical appreciation of the opera house in the coal-mining region of Appalachia from the mid-1860s to the early 1930s. Author William Faricy Condee demonstrates that these were multipurpose facilities that were central to the life of their communities. In the era before radio, movies, television, and malls, these buildings were essential. They housed little, if any, opera, but were used for almost everything else, including traveling theater, concerts, religious events, lectures, commencements, boxing matches, benefits, union meetings, and—if the auditorium had a flat floor—skating and basketball.
The only book on opera houses that stresses their cultural context, Condee’s unique study will interest cultural geographers, scholars of Appalachian studies, and all those who appreciate the gaudy diversity of the American scene.