Today in labor history: 109 coal miners die in explosion

On this day in 1891, the explosion of Mammoth Mine No. 1, near Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, left 109 coal miners dead.

The coal miners were underpaid Eastern Europeans (mostly Polish and Slavic) who were told not to complain about their substandard and dangerous working conditons, frequently informed that “other foreigners with strong backs” could quickly replace them.

After their deaths, the Mount Pleasant journal published an article that remarked, “Of the 109 who went to work that day, no one escaped the awful tale of how death came. It was about 9 o’clock when the explosion occurred, and soon a black vapor poured out of the top of the 107-foot shaft, telling those above ground plainer than words could do that death lurked in the depths.”

Of the deceased miners, 31 left families behind. Some of the others were younger boys.

The Mammoth disaster prompted the state to pass legislation that strengthened mine safety inspections.

Photo: Mammoth Coke Works, near Mammoth Mines No. 1 and 2.  Coal and Coke Heritage Center/Penn State University


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake writes on environment and culture. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill and the UN Climate Conference in Paris. In 2015, he received an award from the Illinois Woman's Press Association for his coverage of the People's Climate March in New York. As production manager, he is also responsible for the daily assembly of the PW home page.

He grew up in Garfield, New Jersey. He likes cats, wine, good books, music, and nature - especially long hikes in the woods. He currently lives in Chicago. He writes a blog that can be found at