As a function of its corporate duties, the Consolidation Coal Company, one of the largest coal-mining operations in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, had photographers take hundreds of pictures of nearly every facet of its operations. Whether for publicity images, safety procedures, or archival information, these photographs create a record that goes far beyond the purpose the company intended.
In Extracting Appalachia, geographer Geoffrey L. Buckley examines the company’s photograph collection housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Included in the collection are images of mine openings, mining equipment, and mine accidents, as well as scenes of the company towns, including schools, churches, recreational facilities, holiday celebrations, and company stores.
Although the photographs in the collection provide us with valuable insights, they tell only part of the story. Using company records, state and federal government documents, contemporary newspaper accounts, and other archival materials, Professor Buckley shows that these photographs reveal much more than meets the eye.
Extracting Appalachia places these historic mining images in their social, cultural, and historical context, uncovering the true value and meaning of this rare documentary record.