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Folklore in Southwestern Pennsylvania
Bituminous Coal Mining

Aaron Marcavitch, Introduction to American Folklore

Home Page

Background and History

Types of Folklore





Ghosts & Other Beliefs

Other Traditions

Conclusions Reached



Lore: N. a traditional fact.

--Webster's Dictionary & Thesaurus

Items of Folklore

The following are items of folklore that were collected. Each of the subjects filled out a survey (figure 1) and from this some personal interview was utilized. Some of these items were checked against Mr. Richard Marcavitch's personal collection of coal mining history.



Coal Mining Folklore:

a look at Bituminous Coal Miners

in Southwestern Pennsylvania


Coal miners are a occupational group that has had only superficial examination of the folklore and superstitions surrounding them. Certainly work has been done within the patch towns and retired coal miners. However, a new, different, type of miner is in the mine. These are the miners that know computers and have only operated continuous miners. Have the superstitions of their grandfathers and fathers carried down? The following questions seek to explore some of these questions.

1. Coal miners treasure the time they can eat their lunches. Do you have, or do you know of, any special traditions related to the meals you eat? (i.e. only certain types of sandwiches, or having to eat in the same place every day, etc.)

2. There have been religious ideas surrounding mining since the beginning of mining. Do you know any stories about Saint Barbara or any other religious connections to the coal mine? (Saint Barbara is the patron saint of coal mining.)

3. Ethnically, coal miners tend to be a wide range. Because of this, there are some traditions that come more from ethnic backgrounds. This is most true in celebrations. Do you have, or know of, any celebration or holiday traditions that may relate to coal mining? (i.e. certain meals at Christmas)

4. Many people know the story of the canary, but there are other animal connections. Do you have, or know of, any superstitions related to animals? (i.e. Rats in the mine.)

5. Women in the mine have always caused some trepidation. Do you have, or know of, any superstitions about women in the mine?

6. Are there any other superstitions that you know of related to coal mining, the continuous miner, the tipple, loading out, or other parts of the production? Are there any modern day "urban legends" related to coal mining? Can you remember any stories from your grandfather or father when they were in the mine?

Thank you for taking your time reading this questionnaire and taking part in the survey. The answers are valuable to me. If you would not like your name used as part of this report please make sure you note that on this paper.