Mining History Association

16th Annual Conference, June 16-20, 2005

Lackawana Heritage Valley Center

Scranton, PA


The 16th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area, June 16-20, 2005.  Scranton is the seat of Lackawanna County.  The Lackawanna River Valley was settled in the 1700’s.  Scranton was incorporated in 1866 and named after George Winfield Scranton, founder of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company. In the last half of the 19th Century, what is today the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metro area became a thriving commercial and industrial center. The large deposits of anthracite coal helped make it a center for iron production and a hub for several railroads.  Following World War II, competition from oil and gas caused the anthracite industry to decline.  A successful citizens’ program for industrial development and improvement largely offset the unemployment that resulted.  Like many early industrial cities, Scranton has had to reinvent itself several times.

The Welcoming Reception was held at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton.  Van Wagner, a local song-writer and underground coal miner, presented “Hard Coal,” an entertaining program of music and folklore of the region.  The museum and its trolley car collection celebrate the extensive interurban transportation network that once served the metro area.  The Trolley Museum is adjacent to the Steamtown National Historic Site, which has both a history museum and a technology museum of steam railroading.  There is a collection of rolling stock from the steam train era and shops where they are restored.  Trolley and steam train rides originate at both facilities.

For its program sessions, the conference moved to the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Center (LHVC) in Mayfield, a few miles north of Scranton.  This modern conference facility was also the venue for the Presidential Luncheon and the Awards Banquet.   An evening program featured the movie “The Molly Maguires” which was based on the tumultuous labor conflicts in the anthracite coal fields.

Two field trips gave a good overview of the region’s anthracite heritage.  The tour of the Lackawanna Coal Mine gave everyone an appreciation of the underground mining methods which are more like hard rock than bituminous coal mining.  The day-long post-conference tour of the region visited the Huber Breaker, the site of the 1869 Avondale Mine disaster, and the restored Eckley Miners Village.

The proximity of Scranton to northern New Jersey provided the attendees with an opportunity for an all-day field trip to visit the famous Franklin and Sterling Hill zinc mining areas.  Mining history enthusiasts know that this was the birthplace of the New Jersey Zinc Company.  Mineralogy buffs know that the mines were famous for their array of over 300 individual mineral species, many of which are fluorescent under ultra-violet light.  The Sterling Hill Mining Museum provided excellent surface and underground tours and a chance to visit its Thomas L. Warren Museum of Fluorescence.  In nearby Franklin, the tour group visited the Franklin Mineral Museum and took a rare walking tour of the surface exposures of the ore body.

Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Mining Region.


Statue of an anthracite miner, McDade Park, Scranton.


Lackawanna Heritage Valley Center, Mayfield, PA

(Adapted from the December 2004 and the March 2005 issues of the Mining History News)





Welcoming Reception, Electric City Trolley Museum, June 16, 2010

Awards Banquet, LHVC, June 17, 2005

Presidential Luncheon, LHVC, June 18, 2005

“Pennsylvania Anthracite History on Stage” with Philip Mosley, and the movie “The Molly Maguires,” LHVC, June 18, 2005


Lackawanna Mine, June 17, 2005

Franklin/Sterling Hill, NJ Mining District, June 19, 2005

Anthracite Region, June 20, 2005


Scranton – Official Web Site

Electric City Trolley Museum

Steamtown National Historic Site

Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour

Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum 

Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Franklin Mineral Museum


Robert P. Wolensky, Kenneth C. Wolensky, and Kenneth H. Wolensky, “The Knox Mine Disaster, The Final Years of the Northern Anthracite Industry and the Effort to Rebuild a Regional Economy,” (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1999).

Julian Parton, “The Death of a Great Company, Reflections on the Decline and Fall of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company,” 2nd Edition, (Easton, PA: Canal History and Technology Press, 2004)

Thomas Dublin, “When the Mine Closed, Stories of Struggles in Hard Times,” (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).

Robert P. Wolensky and Joseph Keating, “Tragedy at Avondale: The Causes, Consequences, and Legacy of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Industry’s Most Deadly Mining Disaster, September 6, 1869,” (Easton, PA: Canal History and Technology Press, 2004)

Carrie Pappa, “A Mile Deep and Black as Pitch: An Oral History of the Franklin and Sterling Hill Mines, (Granville, OH: McDonald and Woodward, 2004).


Johnny Johnsson, Chair





(Above) Van Wagner entertains the Welcoming Reception crowd with songs and stories of “Hard Coal” mining in the Anthracite Region.



(Left) Johnny and Dawn Johnsson, organizers for the Scranton Meeting, greet the attendees at the Welcoming Reception.



Catching up with friends and colleagues between program sessions.


Relaxing among the rolling stock at the Welcoming Reception in the Scranton Trolley Museum. Scranton had the Nation's first electric trolley system and was nicknamed the "Electric City."


MHAers listening intently to a presentation.

The Awards Banquet at the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Center.


Browsing new mining history publications in the atrium of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Center.

Breaker Boys (and girls) between shifts at the mine.

Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson and John Park

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