Wednesday, March 21, 2007
PA Coal Towns
On my ride home from Ithaca to Maryland for Spring Break I traveled through the old coal town of Wilkes-Barre, and as a result of reading Chandler's article on anthracite coal's role in industrilizing the US, I became more intrigued by the region's history. After a little research, I found that true to Chandler's accounts Wilkes-Barre's industrial foundations were based on the "big three:" manufacturing, coal and railroads. The town's population exploded due to the discovery of anthracite coal in the 1800s, which gave the city the nickname of "The Diamond City." And these events brought in thousands of imigrants seeking work. So, it became clear that Wilkes-Barre was no exception to Chandler's hypothesis, and was another blatant example conradicting the premise of Winpenny's hypothesis (that anthracite coal was not as big of an economic stimulus as Chandler made it out to be). Nevertheless, despite these two professor's disagreements and the history of the Pennsylania coal fields that brings them together, I would like to present an issue that has not been touched on so far in the readings or in class, which is the future of the numerous post-boom coal towns of PA, and similar scenarios that are playing out all over the US. Upon further research I discovered that despite surviving several mining disasters, the mines of Wilkes-Barre (and other towns) could not survive the gradual switch to other energy sources. And subsequently, most coal operations left Wilkes-Barre by the end of the 1940's. So, with that said, my question that I pose to the class is: despite this regions prior reliance on mining, industry and the railroad, what is the economic future of its towns, and other towns that have undergone similar fates all over the Northeast and the rest of the US?