Lattimer Archaeology at Eckley Patch Town Days/ Project Update

A couple of updates here, but first of all, we’d like to announce that the Lattimer Archaeology Project will have a table set up at Eckley Miner’s Village Patch Town Day. The festival will run 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM this Saturday, June 15th and 16th. Their website for the event can be found here.

The picture below shows some items we are preparing for display at our table.


In other news, we were rained out again today, but we didn’t let it bring us down. We had a great and productive day last Wednesday. We finished up Unit 1, which ended with the discovery of a 6″ sewer pipe. This is a occupational hazard, and not an uncommon occurrence in the field of archaeology! We are looking into historic maps and other documents to determine the chronology of infrastructure development into the town. Thinking back to a previous posting in which we discussed the biased observations of turn of the century visitors to the town, sanitation was a big issue, a grounds for judgement in their part. How and when did things change over the course of the following 100 years in Pardeesville? In other units we are still uncovering mysterious features. In Unit 2 we are delineating the remains of some outbuilding. In another we are digging through fine layers of coal dust and ash, layered in sequences. We are theorizing that it represents cycles of coal cracking then burning in the side yards of the house. We are hoping to find the earliest yard surfaces deep below.

We were lucky on Wednesday to have some youthful energy helping us screen at the site. The picture below shows Tristan Hendricks in the foreground with James Kuzma and Teresa Robbins. Tristan helped us out on the Canal Street dig last year as well. See yous [sic] at Patch Town Days?


Images of the Massacre

The NY Evening Journal, 11 September 1897

Much has been written describing the terrifying moments of the massacre itself. All of this writing is rich in description, with evocative expressions of the sounds and smells of the event in addition to sensual evocations  of the movements of the people involved. These descriptions, written and oral, began in the days just after the event, as witnesses from both sides of the massacre told their accounts of what they saw and heard.  Two books have been written about the events (Pinkowski 1950; Novak 1976) which both feature rich descriptive text of the events from many perspectives. Fragments of the trial transcripts have also survived in newspapers and excepted in books.  These trial transcripts include  first-person accounts from different witnesses, often with varying details.

Today we live in a  world saturated with images:  photography in magazines, newspapers and social media, videos on television, film, and on the internet, live footage from surveillance cameras, etc. Just image if the marchers and posse had cell phone cameras… we would have hundreds of individual perspectives of the event!

A recent strike and massacre of coal miners in South Africa was heavily photographed.  When I viewed these photos, particularly the ones of police officers firing upon and then standing over the bodies of prone miners, I immediately thought of the following images.  Be careful, these are very difficult photos to look at here.

Of course none of this was present during the moments of the massacre. We are lucky to have the one amazing photo of the marching miners from the day of the event, and a few after action images of the massacre site. Here are five representations of the massacre that I have found. Some have been blogged here before, but there is something powerful about collecting them all together here.

The first (pictured above) is from the New York Evening Journal from the day after the Massacre. It is really one of the most powerful images I have seen, showing the posse firing upon the strikers with a calculated precision.  One individual, however, seems to be contemplating his rifle.  Is he clearing a jam, or having second thoughts?

The second image (below) is from the New York Evening Journal from 1898.  It was drawn during the trial.  It is a powerful image that emphasizes the accounts that suggest that the encounter between the posse and strikers was at very close range, close enough that  the posse fired at wounded strikers while they were lying on the ground.

The third print image, also from newsprint, is probably the best known image of the massacre. It was printed in the Philadelphia Enquirer two days after the event.  It shows the strikers backed up against the trolley tracks, a long line of posse members firing upon them from a distance, opening up with pistols and rifles. The vantage point is from behind the line of the posse. Strikers can be seen running over the trolley tracks, silhouetted against the sky.

The first painting I only recently discovered (thanks to Ralph Brauer, who I made acquaintance of through his blogpost on the massacre). It is from an article in the journal Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine from November, 1897. As far as I know it is only available in printed format so the colors, which were probably quite striking, are lost to time. In the foreground, it shows the struggle between Sheriff Martin and the bearer of the flag.  Behind them, the posse is already firing into strikers who have begun to turn and run.

The second painting is from the Hazleton Historical Society.  The painters name, Louis Lamont, is written in the bottom right corner of the painting. The image shows the moment of the initial confrontation between Sheriff Martin and the posse. Sheriff Martin has been forced to the ground and a thin stream of blood runs down his chest.  A striker has also been shot and an even larger stream of blood is running down his front. The posse looks on threateningly from the left side of the scene. This image was reproduced for a commemorative postcard printed in 1986 (pictured next). I don’t know anything about the painter. (please contact me if you have any info on this

Do you know of any other images of the massacre you could share with us?

New York Evening Journal, 10 March, 1898

Philadelphia Enquirer, 12 September 1897

Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, November 1897

Lamont, Hazleton Historical Society

Lattimer Canal Street Archaeology Project Starting Today!

We started posting blogposts from our archaeological fieldschool starting on the 29th of May, 2012. We will be posting regularly there throughout the field season.  Please visit us here.


Lattimer Massacre Monument erected at National Labor College

As mentioned in the last post, a monument to the Lattimer Massacre was erected at the National Labor College last Friday at their yearly Worker’s Memorial Day event.  The sculpture was made by Timothy Turnbach, who I learned has lived in and around Hazleton his entire life.  In fact, his family has been in the area since the 19th century.  I was lucky to speak to Tim and his family about Hazleton and labor history.

I was really moved to hear Tim describe how, as a welding teacher, he used the construction of the monument to teach his students the craft of welding as well as to talk about the sacrifices of organized labor.  Below is a picture of Tim and the monument, and a close-up of the plaque describing the piece. It is fantastic to have a memorial to the massacre near Washington DC, ensuring this history gets the national attention it deserves! Looking forward to meeting with Tim and his family this summer when we start our project in Lattimer, exploring the lives of the folks involved in this tragic event.

Lattimer Massacre Monument to be Dedicated at the Meany Center, Silver Spring, MD

Here at the Lattimer Massacre Project we were excited to hear that a sculpture of the massacre will be dedicated at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland this April.  The sculpture was made by Tim Turnbach of Scranton, who is a member of the UA Local 524.  The dedication will take place on the Worker’s Memorial Day ceremony at the college on Friday, April 27, 2012.  A schedule of events can be found here. Cecil Roberts, president of the UMWA will be present for the ceremony.

The National Labor College is the only college in the United States dedicated exclusively to the education needs of union members, leaders and their families. (website: It is located on the northern outskirts of Washington, D.C., in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Address: 10,000 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20903.

For more info and to RSVP to the event contact:

Archaeology Project/ New Blog

A brief  project update.  Things are happening here at the Lattimer Archaeology Project.  Here are a couple of updates:

1) Archaeological Field School: We are planning the logistics for a summer archaeological dig in Lattimer this summer.  At the moment we are gathering a team for the project.  Details of the project can be found at our blog, which we will devote entirely to the archaeology project. Check it out!: Folks in the area, we would love to have visitors or volunteers.  We will be blogging our progress as we go, so check back during the summer.  The site we will be working on is going to be amazing…

2) We are working on a master list of names in our employee record cards. (read post below for info on this)  We will post this in GoogleDocs soon for open public access. University of Maryland students Katie Nyulassy and Katie Chen (see a post on their work here) are hard at work transcribing the information on the cards. We would love to have public input on the spelling of names and other information.  We would also love to fill in this database with personal and family stories.

4) University of Maryland student Jeremy Krones transcribed the community and life history interviews we collected this summer about Hazleton life, labor history and coal mining.  Jeremy’s post on his experience and research will go up on this blog soon.  We will post sections of these transcripts on this blog as well. We would love to conduct more family and community histories the next time we are in Hazleton.  Please contact us if you have a story to tell about Patchtown life, labor heritage and/or immigration.

3) We have also been gathering names and other information on immigration to Hazleton and Lattimer between 1850 and 1900.  We have a list of names and other information from Italy, Germany and Russia between these dates.  Many of the Russian ships have Eastern European names we suspect originate in Poland, Lithuania and other parts of Eastern Europe.  These will also be posted to GoogleDocs for public access.

Thanks for all of your comments on past posts.  We love to hear from Hazleton folks about their family and community histories. Hope to see you this summer.

Employee Record Cards, Part II

In our last blog post we talked about the employee records cards that we encountered this summer.  Here is a blog post from University of Maryland anthropology major Katie Chen, who has been working on this difficult project all semester. I asked Katie to talk about her working process:

Hi! My name is Katie Chen and I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am currently studying Anthropology, but recently got interested in archaeology. During my freshman fall semester I studied abroad in London and took a course called Social Anthropology of Britain. During this semester, I started some ethnographic research on the London black cabs, learning about the cab business and the changing geography of London through interviews with the drivers.  This experience confirmed my interest in ethnographic research and anthropology. Someday I hope to return to London to continue what I started.

Recently, having become interested in archaeology, I decided to help Mike on his research on the Lattimer Massacre. I am currently making a database of miner employee records cards. My strategy has been to go through the cards and make an initial attempt at deciphering the handwriting.  After a couple days, I will go back to the cards and read them again. This method has worked almost every time, but some cards need more review time.

On several occasions, I’ve tried to look online to see if there is a name for the type of script used then.  I have not been successful yet, but I’ve been able to look at specific examples, and get an idea of what the letter could be.  Inputting data is rather tedious and can be frustrating, as I have spent more than 30 minutes looking at one card because I can’t read the names or locations. When entering data on locations, I will sometimes look up on Google if my spelling version comes up with any additional spellings. This has worked a couple times, which has been exciting. Otherwise, I will have to go back to taking a break for a couple of days and coming back to the cards.

In addition to this project, I am researching what religious or spiritual beliefs miners might hold across the globe. After reading articles about conditions in the mines and hearing stories, I wondered if there was any belief that propelled the miners to endure such harsh conditions.  The mines are extremely dangerous and miners risk their lives and health every time they go down. With this side project, I would like to find out if the conditions of mining are similar worldwide and if there are any religious, spiritual, superstitious attitudes consistent across them.

Employee Record Cards

One of the most exciting research sources we found this summer are employee record cards from the Lattimer Coal Company.  These cards span the early twentieth century, in the period after the massacre and the Big Strike of 1902. There are 2,685 cards in total.  They contain a huge amount of information about each employee including name, date of employ, age, nationality, country of birth (not always same as nationality), church, doctor, occupation, wage rate, and whether they have a miner’s certificate. Some cards include  the word  “Dead” scrawled across the front of the card. Some of these include notes on the back describing the cause of death for miners.  Other notes include health issues identified by the company doctor.

An example of a card can be seen here.  The name on the card is Manus Gallagher, Jr., a resident of 799 Alter Street.  He was born in Lattimer, PA in 1900.  He began work at the colliery on the July 7th, 1917. He attended a Roman Catholic Church. The collection also includes a card for Manus’ father, who appears to have been killed in the mines.

We are in the process of transcribing all of the data on the cards to a searchable database.  We hope to present it to the public.  Ideally, members of the public could add details, stories and photographs of their family members to the project. In the next post, student Katherine Chen will describe a bit about the process of  transcribing the cards,a project she has taken on for the semester.  We will also report on a visit to Lattimer we made this past week and the discoveries we made.

A Couple of Documents from Lattimer’s Past

This summer project researchers Paul Shackel, Mike Roller and Justin Uehlein spent more than two months living in Hazleton, each day spending about 8 hours in a collection of mining operator company archives in the Heights area of Hazleton. Joe Michel, the owner of the archive, was a generous host. Along the way we had lots of visits from local historians who contributed their knowledge of local history and lore to our proceedings. We also began a series of interviews with people in the area who taught us much about local history.

In a way, digging through archives like this was much like my experience of archaeology; there is no way to prepare for what you might find.  Of course we had ideas of what we wanted to find, but things rarely behave this way.  Besides, that would spoil the fun of it!

We went through 17 boxes of material, and many volumes of mining reports, binders of letters, boxes of photographs and shelves and shelves of maps.  Even then we only scratched the surface.  Here is a description of two things we collected and documented. We will be updating this section throughout the next few months as we catalog our material. You can click on each image to view a higher resolution version.  There is more to come, lots more!

Doublehouse, detail

The first item is the blueprint of a miner’s double house from Lattimer drawn in August of 1889. The description of the drawing is “Standard Mine Dwelling Houses”. It is hand drawn in ink on velum.  This example is just a detail from the blueprint, which also includes  plan (top) views of first and second floors of the houses.  We are interested in the building sequences of the company houses in the area.  We know that houses of different sizes were rented to those in different positions throughout the division of labor at the coal mines.  Eckley Miner’s village has a variety of these houses to view. How about Lattimer? What did the other houses look like? Were they built and maintained by the company as well? How did coal miners and their families alter or customize these houses throughout time to make them livable or to accommodate them to different and evolving lifestyles of various immigrants to the area?

It has been suggested that Northeast Pennsylvania provided some of the first examples of company housing in the coal fields. The style of the double house spread from here to the bituminous coalfields of Western Maryland and Southwestern Pennsylvania, and eventually to parts of the West.

The second item is a propaganda brochure from the Second World War. It urges coal miners to consider the importance of anthracite mining to the war effort.  Note the fantastic drawing at the bottom right corner comparing a coal miner with a pneumatic drill with a soldier and his machine gun.  The text urges miners to “Make it hot (as hot as hell) for Hitler!”  Anthracite coal was understood to be essential to the war effort, fueling factories and troop ships and maintaining the warmth of houses as petroleum supplies were being diverted into the war effort.  For this reason the federal government was dependent on workers to maintain productivity. Companies, furthermore, were pressured by the federal government to maintain stability. The result was tension upon the workers, trapped between the poles of organized labor, company pressure, and now federal intervention. On several occasions in the mid 40s the federal government seized control of the mines, making company personnel employees of the federal government.  Many items in the archive date to this period and represent aspects of this complex situation.

Hazleton Standard Speaker article about summer work

The Standard Speaker wrote a great article about our summer work.  The text from the article, written by Kent Jackson can be read here:

Local man’s collection a researcher’s windfall

By KENT JACKSON (Staff Writer) Published: August 13, 2011

The letters show that Charles Brown was getting attached to a coal company’s mule. Brown, who lived in Nescopeck, wrote fondly in 1935 of the mule loaned to him by the Pardee Coal Co. of Lattimer. “He is like a child, and my wife bathes his back like a child,” Brown wrote in one of his letters, which Michael Roller read aloud.

Roller, a researcher from the University of Maryland, stood in an office in Hazleton where retired engineer Joe Michel stores the documents and mining equipment that he collected throughout his lifetime. While gathering information about life in coal towns around Hazleton for his doctoral thesis, Roller has been combing through coal company records and other documents in Michel’s collection. The collection includes mine maps, blueprints and coal company invoices that Roller and Justin Uehlein, an undergraduate student assisting him, already have spent a month reading.

Letters like those mailed between Brown and Pardee Coal give them pause. “The personal letters are really touching,” Roller said. Letters explain how families worked together to survive tough economic conditions, and they describe devastating accidents and injuries in the mines. The writers detail relations between union workers and mining companies. One detective, in reports to the coal company, wrote of efforts to catch bootleg miners and recover pilfered dynamite. Other letters just tell stories like that of Brown and his mule. “The mule has been injured. You can tell he wants to hold onto the mule,” Roller said. But the coal company replied to Brown’s neatly scripted letters in brusque tones written with a typewriter. A mule, after all, was company property, Uehlein said.

When Roller and Uehlein first entered Michel’s building, they were overwhelmed by the amount of material. “The only way to approach it is to go little by little, piece by piece,” Roller said. His specialty is everyday life in the coal towns, how people survived and how their experiences helped shape what Hazleton has become today. But Michel’s collection includes troves of information on labor history, World War II, engineering and mining technology – subjects that others might wish to study.

Previously, Michel made his collection available to anyone from surveyors looking for landmarks to people researching family history. He displayed some of his collection at Penn State Hazleton and loaned table-size maps to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, which scanned them so they can be shared by the public via computer. “Joe always said history belongs to everyone,” Roller said.

To advance his host’s goal of sharing information, Roller plans to post what he finds on websites. Although he focuses his interest in daily life in the coal towns, he wants to help make others aware of the types of information available in the collection.

For example, Roller hopes to create a computerized database from a card catalog that he and Uehlein found. Each card in the catalog, which fills two boxes, contains information about a separate employee of a coal company in Lattimer. Roller withdrew one card at random. “That’s a lucky one,” he said, realizing that the employee listed on the card, Peter Polanski, shared the surname of Lattimer’s most famous son, Walter Polanski, who went on to play college football, box professionally and win an Academy Award under his stage name, Jack Palance.

According to the card that Roller held, Peter Polanski was born in Russia in 1884, was married, had previously worked in Lattimer and in Syracuse, N.Y., and his mining certificate was on file. Roller said he wants to recruit a younger student to put the cards into a database on the computer. Then he would like to compile basic statistics on ages, nationalities and other information about the miners.

“We’d love to have people add stories,” he said. Roller and Uehlein also are seeking out personal stories by interviewing folks with mining backgrounds whom they meet while living in the Hazleton area this summer. During the interviews, Roller asks his subjects what aspects of Hazleton’s history interest them. He hopes to share information he uncovers about those topics with the public.

He also digs for history below ground. Next summer, in conjunction with Penn State University, he wants to organize an archaeological dig, perhaps at Lattimer. Already, he participated in the excavation that Dr. Paul Shackel, the chairman of the Anthropology Department at the University of Maryland, led last year at the site of the Lattimer Massacre. In Lattimer on Sept. 10, 1897, approximately 19 striking miners on a march to gain union members were gunned down by deputy sheriffs.

Roller has examined bullets found at the site, and read newspaper accounts of the massacre and the trial in which the sheriff and deputies were acquitted. But he also wants to bridge the gap from 1897 to the present to consider how life evolved in Lattimer. In Michel’s archives, he found blueprints of a typical house owned by the Calvin Pardee Coal Co. and rented to miners in Lattimer in 1889. The houses sold to Hazle Realty in 1930 for $60 to $80, Roller found out. He would like to know when water, sewer and electricity became available to the residents to get a notion how and when they improved their lives. One letter he found from 1940 said the company was going to shut off water to homes in the evenings because the water was needed for mining.

Documents found in Michel’s collection, interviews with long-time residents and excavations each tell part of the region’s history. “Between these three, the truth is very complex. I don’t think we’ll come up with steadfast answers,” said Roller, who hopes to inspire others to keep peering into Hazleton’s past.