chapter  Four
21 Pages

Cameras in the Coalfields: Photographs as Evidence for Comparative Coalfield History

ByJanet Wells Greene

Many investigations into living conditions for miners in the bituminous coalfields in America during the twentieth century gathered and published photographs to reinforce the view that there were only two kinds of mining communities: the 'model towns' constructed and operated by a benevolent paternalistic management; and the squalid hovels owned by companies with no regard for the welfare of their workers. During a federal takeover of the mines following a nationwide coal strike in 1946, federal investigators and their cameras for the Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry technically had unrestricted access to the private property of the 260 mines selected for review. The focus of the Wage Conference in 1946 was to be the union's demand for a Health and Welfare Fund for miners, to be financed by a royalty on coal production. There were cameras employed by the union, the federal government and the coal operators, as well as cameras belonging to the press.