Dunlap Jamison McAdam.

Coal, government ownership or control; online

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furnace door. When he came back later the heat was so
great that the furnace was in danger o fmelting. The
proof that the coal would bum was complete, and White
and Hazard afterward engaged extensively in anthracite
mining.

(2) The early difficulty in getting the coal to market.
From the southem end of the Wyoming Field shipment
was made by the Susquehanna River.

They shipped their coal in arks holding sixty tons, but about
one ark; out of every three either sank to the bottom or was
grounded on the rapids.

Also, as it was not possible to go up the river, they
had to knock their arks to pieces and sell the wood for
fuel. As only fine timber could be used in building the
arks, and only firewood prices could be realized in market.



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GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OR CONTROL 147



it was expensive to build an ark for every sixty tons
started to market, one-third of them to be wrecked and
two-thirds sold for firewood. From the northern end of
the Wyoming field, the Wurtz Brothers tried to ship their
coal from the Carbondale Mines by way of the Lackawaxen
and Delaware Rivers to Philadelphia ; but the cost of haul-
ing from their mines to the' Lackawaxen, together with the
cost and danger of river transportation, was too great.

The Lehigh field experienced the same difficulty in get-
ting coal to market. Out of six arks of coal sent down
the Lehgih River by the Lehigh Coal Mining Company in
1803, only two reached their destination.

(f) Efforts to cure these difficulties finally bring waste-
ful competition. Gradually the people began to under-
stand how to burn the coal, and a ready market was found
in the cities.

It-^as impossible to reach the markets with the present
means of transportation. The first attempt at a solution
was by a combination of gravity, railroads, canals, and
rivers.

(1) To reach New York from the northern basin, the
combination was a gravity railroad sixteen miles long from
Carbondale to Housedale, a canal to the Hudson, and by
the Hudson to New York.

(2) To reach Philadelphia from the Lehigh field the
combination gravity railroad nine miles long, a canal forty-
six miles long, a canal forty-six miles long to Easton, and
the Delaware River to Philadelphia. A curious mistake
was made in the last link of that combination. The Dela-
ware locks were smaller than the canal locks, and coal
for Philadelphia had to be transshipped at Easton.

(3) To reach Philadelphia from the Schuylkill field
there is but one link in the transportation: a canal one
hundred and eight miles long, from Pottsville to Phila-
delphia.

These lines of transportation, which were based wholly
or in part on water transportation failed at the most criti-
cal times. Floods washed away dams, and when demand



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148 COAL



was greatest in winter, freezing water cut off transporta-
tion. Then came railroads; until the entire field was cov-
ered with a network of trunk lines and switches.

Now that transportation was equal to every demand,
and that difficulty has disappeared, the great bane of the
whole coal field began to work its ruin, — overproduction
a'nd reckless price-cutting.

At that time it cost little to open. a mine. The coal
outcropped along the slopes of the rims of the basins.
The railroads that were then sending out spurs in all
directions were eager for freight, and encouraged the
opening of a mine wherever it gave promise of furnish-
ing more freight. Over development and price-cutting
brought their usual crop of financial distress. To add to
the distress, many purely speculative companies were or-
ganized.

They paid high wages, opened mines wastefully, over-
developed the industry, claimed large profits and on the strength
of their large output and inflated profits, sold out just when
overproduction was beginning to bring its inevitable result,
ruinous competition and with it waste.

Operators could not stop producing, as overhead and
interest charges would drive . them into bankruptcy ; but
the more they produced the worse. Because the Civil
War, — when it came,— caused temporary relief. Anthra-
cite prices advanced to two and three prices of normal
times. Profits were large. Then came the usual result, —
many new mines were opened and railroads built to them.

When the war ended, prices collapsed and fell to half
their normal rate.

11. Methods Adopted By Miners, Operators and Rail-
roads to Bring Order and Stability Out of This Chaos

(a) Miners voluntarily reduce production until demand
catches up. The miners would not have their wages re-
duced to meet the reduced price of coal. They didn't call



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GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OR CONTROL 149

it a strike but just a suspension of work until the surplus
was used up and a demand came for inpre coal, then they
resumed work at the old wages.

This prevented further decline in the price of coal, but
it did not much help the operators; cost of idleness had
to be paid and no profit. Then began the. movements that
by many devious ways have reached the present monopoly
by the railroads.

(b) Pool of Railroad freight. This was the first
experiment in control. The railroads (1) made an esti-
mate of the amount oi\ coal that would be needed at com-
petitive points, as at tidewater. (2) They divided this
amount among themselves according to the amount of coal
produced on each road. (3) They fixed prices at these
competitive points which gave operators and railroad^ a
profit. (4) They fixed *a fine of $1.50 for every ton that
any railroad shipped beyond its quota. This pooling ar-
rangement worked fairly well for three years, at the end
of which time it was dissolved. Then followed a renewal
of former conditions of overproduction and waste.

Prices fell very low; four railroads suspended divi-
dends, and the others paid small dividends. For twenty-
five years, up to 1898, the anthracite field was the scene
of successive pools, "gentlemen's agreements," followed
by dissolutions, disaster, and waste. Operators saw their
coal wasted and themselves in a constant state of incipient
bankruptcy. The railroads saw the freight upon which
their life depended being wasted and their patrons im-
poverished. These temporary expedients have proved in-
efficient; some radical change must be made.

(c) Purchase of coal lands by the railroad combine.
It would do the railroads no good to own coal land, if
they cannot mine and sell the coal.

The present Constitution of Pennsylvania prohibits a
railroad from mining and selling coal, except where its
charter granting it that right antedates the Constitution.



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150 COAL

The Lackawanna and Western is the only railroad in
that field that could own and mine its own coal, since its
charter granting that privilege antedates the Constitution.

The only way open to the other railroads was to do by
indirection what they could not do directly. That indirect
way was to own in combination a corporation with charter
rights broad enough to enable the roads through it to buy
land, mine coal, and market it. The history of the way
in which that object was accomplished is very interesting
but it would carry us too far from our present purpose.
A most interesting account of the whole transaction is given
by Elliot Jones in "The Anthracite Coal Combination."
the y formed the Temple Iron Company, whose ameilded
charter gave the right

to purchase, lease, hold, mortgage real estate and mining
rights, prove and open mines, prepare and transport coal to
market, and dispose of the same, and do all such acts and
things as a successful and consistent prosecution oi said busi-
ness may require.

By use of this company they gradually bought coal land
and mines until they owned ninety-three per cent of the
anthracite field.

(d) Make with independent operators a perpetual con-
tract to buy all their output at a fixed percentage of the
selling price.

This is what is generally called the "sixty-five" per
cent contract, because all coal above a certain size called
**pea" coal is to be paid for at sixty-five per cent of its
selling price near New York, though smaller coal carries
a less percentage.

The principal terms of the contracts are as follows:

(1) The seller sells and agrees to deliver on cars to the
buyer all the anthracite coal hereafter mined from any of its
mines now opened or hereafter opened or operated.

This Section is like the proposed contract with the
selling agencies in the bituminous fields



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GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OR CONTROL 151



(2) Shipments to be made from time to time as called for
by the buyer. The buyer to arrange to take coal, as nearly as
possible, in equal daily quantities. To try to find buyers so
that each mine shall have as many days work as other mines
similarly situated.

This Section limits output to demand, aims to cure the
industry of its spasmodic production, and to spread the
production over the entire field.

(3) The buyer agrees not to discriminate in favor of one
mine over the other, but shall order monthly a just propor-
tion from each, of the entire quantity agreed upon by the buyer.

Our proposed selling agency in the bituminous field is
required to do like justice to each mine.

The next Section is the sixty-five per cent Section, and
is the price controlling contract. It appears, therefore,
that the railroads, (a) have a monopoly of the anthracite
mining industry, (b) In doing indirectly what, if done
directly, is illegal, mining and selling coal through the
mining companies whose stock they own or control or
through the holding companies which nominally own both
the roads and their affiliated mines, (c) They limit and
control output. (A certain Mayor some time ago wrote to
the President and charged that anthracite mines were not
operating to capacity, and asked for an investigation to see
if they could not be compelled to operate full time. He
is representative of the many who want all our resources
used up as fast as possible whether they are demanded for
economical use or not.) (d) They regulate and fix prices.
No great industry, like the anthracite mining, can con-
tinue to live if it does not return a fair compensation to
producer and a fair wage to labor. The cut-throat prices
that ruled at times in this field ruined operators, made them
unable to pay decent wages to labor, did not, in the long
run, benefit consumer, and wasted the coal.

Any fair-minded man, after comparing the past with
the present in the anthracite field will agree that railroad
control has been its salvation.



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152 COAL



(1) The railroads are benefited both in the stability
of freight conditions, and in the increased life of the in-
dustry and longer continuance of their profit from freight.

(2) The independent companies are benefitted, since
they have a well-regulated production, a fair price for
their coal, are saved the cost of a selling agency, and have
their coal marketed without worry.

(3) The public is protected. The railroads have their
coal mined carefully and skillfully, and thus conserve it.
The independent operators mine their coal economically
without wacste ; they get a price for their coal that enables
them now to take out air the coal which can be mined at
all. The consumer does not pay on the average as much
as he would have to pay in an unstable market.

Mining anthracite coal now is a science. Only men
skilled in meeting the special conditions here can do the
work at all. Only strong companies under most capable
men can afford to mine in this field. Are these powerful
companies doing all that can be done to conserve coal?

The three causes of waste which were mentioned in
connection with mining in the bituminous fields and which
were present in the anthracite field in the beginninj^ are
absent now:

( 1 ) The coal land is too valuable to be wasted. "We
are mining coal almost regardless of cost," says one Super-
intendent.

(2) The operating companies are strong financially,
and are not forced to mine easy coal to keep out of the
hands of the Receiver.

(3) By agreement to limit output, prices are kept
at a high enough rate to justify economical methods' in the
mine.

The following are some of the difficulties in anthracite
mining and the various sources of cost, which have to be
met:

(1) The expense of sinking and equipping a modern
mine. Most of the field can be worked from mines al-
ready sunk, but when a shaft has to be sunic. It has now



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GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OR CONTROL 153

to be located in the most difficult and hazardous site. The
difficulty encountered in sinking a shaft now is illustfated
by the experience of a company which sunk a shaft a^ few
years ago in the flat lands of the Susquehanna River, which
are only a few feet above water level and are overflowed
every year. The borings showed that ;theyt must go
through sand, gravel, and quicksand. After going a little
below the surface they found that water stood in the
shaft at the river level, and that water coming in through
the gravel and sand could only be kept out by a concrete
lining seven feet in thickness and one thousand feet deep.
After the coal is reached, the expense is by no means ended.
Millions of dollars are now needed to reach the lower
veins, where thousands were enough to reach the shallow
veins that are now exhausted.

(2) The difficulty and expense of mining the thin
veins. Thin veins, which would not have been touched'
in the early mining, are now being mined. In veins two-
and-a-half feet thick the gangways and main haulage- ways
have to be made of standard height and width. This
necessitates the mining of large amount of rock and tak-
ing it up out of the mine. Rock mining is very expensive.
About thirty per cent of the coal that is bemg mined in
the northern field is in veins two-and-one-half feet thick.
Another large increase in the cost of mining thin veins
is in the large labor cost. The output from a thin vein
is much less in a day than from a thick vein. The miners
have to be paid more per ton. Operators can only afford
to mine such veins at all by mining at the same time
thicker veins and averaging the cost.

It is mine the thin vein now or never! They cannot
afford to come back ^fter the thick veins are mined and
take the thin veins ; besides, they will probably be wrecked
in mining the thick veins alone.

Mr. . Dorraiice, Superintendent of the Hudson Coal
Company, said:



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154 COAL



I went into a mine near Scranton to look it over with ref-
erence to spending some money to clean and prepare the coal
from that mine. There is nothing left in that mine except one
vein of coal, and we walked the whole morning, looking at the
quality of that vein. Out of the six feet which would have
to be mined, there was a foot and a half of coal. Out of the
six feet which had to be mined, less than twenty per cent
was coal which could be sent to market. The cost of pro-
duction is five times what it would be if the vein were all coal.

(3) Taking care of the water in the mines. To pump
the water from the mines, nine hundred powerful pumps
are at work, some of them costing $30,000.00. They are
capable of hoisting five hundred billion gallons a year. In
addition to the pumps, some of the mines use immense
tanks holding from two thousand to three thousand gallons
each, which may be hoisted every forty seconds. After
a vein is exhausted, the water originating in it must be
pumped out continuously, because it finds its way to the
lower veins that are being worked, or may Dreak through
and swamp veins on the same level. For every ton of
coal, now mined, on the average thirteen and a half tons
of water must be hoisted. In times of heavy water from
melting snow or flood, mining is suspended, and all the
steam-generating capacity is used on water alone. Suffi-
cient horsepower is used at the anthracite mines to drive
at full spfeed continuously all the battleships of our navy.
One-eighth of all the coal mined is used up to make steam.
In addition to the pumps, the drainage pipes that bring the
water to the pumps are an enormous expense, not only
first cost but cost of renewal, since they are constantly
being eaten up by the sulphur in the water.

(4) Taking care of the water after it is out of the
mine. It must not pollute watersheds, streams, or rivers.
Settling tanks must be provided so as to reduce the sedi-
ment. Enough water has to be taken care of in a year
to fill a river one hundred feet wide, ten feet deep, and
reaching from New York to the Rocky Mountains and
back.



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GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OR CONTROL 155

' (5) Cost of props and supports for the roof. Timber
near the mines is exhausted so that timber has to be
brought from the South. It costs at least $10,000,000 a
year to buy and haul the timber, and $20,000,000 to put
it in place. They are now putting in steel props that cost
four times as much as wood. Tunnels long enough to
reach through the earth have to be kept propped, to keep
haulage ways and air ducts open, and to protect the sur-
face from subsidence. Even at that, the problem of sur-
face support is now a very serious one. Where the
"mammoth" vein, 40 to 60 feet in thickness lay near the
surface and has been removed, it has been impossible to
sustain the surface. In Scranton, schoolhouses and other
buildings have collapsed. The only remedy seems to be
to flush the mine full of culm, or sand, at a cost of about
$2,000 an acre.

If government control had been properly exercised, two
things would have been in force. First, pillars in the
different veins would have been columnized, — that is, the
pillars and props in the lower veins would have been placed
directly under those above, which they were not. Second,
the city of Scranton would have been located on one side
of the coal field instead of on it. Such location is said
to be e(]ually adapted for a city.

(6) Supplying water for the boilers. The water from
the mine cannot be used in the boilers on account of the
impurities, which would destroy them. The pure water
has in many cases to be brought long distances at great
expense.

(7) Ventilating the mines. Air has to be carried
through all parts of the mine, even the parts which have
been exhausted, to sweep out the gases and to supply a
sufficient quantity for every living being in the mine. The
mine law requires that the anthracite miner be furnished
with two hundred cubic feet of fresh air per minute. In
order that no part of the mine may become charged with
gas, double that amount is often furnished. In order to
provide against accident and to keep the current moving

/ -



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156 COAL

while repairs are being made, triplicate systems of fans
are installed. Two fans may thus become disabled, and
ventilation be kept up by the third.

(8) Fighting mine fires. The Lehigh Coal and Navi-
gation Company spent during six years $460,000 fighting
fires. In one mine a concrete dam eighty feet long, forty-
five feet high, and eight feet thick was built, in order to
flood the fire regions.

(9) Manufacture of the coal after it reaches the sur-
face. The coal at the surface is by no means fit for mar-
ket. It is a mixture of coal, bone coal, and slate. A
writer says of one mine:

Two boxes of straight impurities were hoisted from the
mine for every box of coal. Even of the coal that was dumped
forty-eight per cent was eliminated by the breaker as slate
and refuse. The coal finally reclaimed was only one-sixth of
the material that was hoisted out of the shaft. The pile of
"gobs" from the mine was simply tremendous. It extended for
several thousand feet to the height of three hundred to four
hundred feet, and was several hundred feet broad.

Fully one-fifth of the cost of mining and preparing this
coal for market comes after it is above ground. For the
"manufacture" of the coal in the anthracite region there
are about three hundred breakers. These breakers crush
the coal into the various sizes that are put upon the mar-
ket, and in course of the breaking remove the impurities
by washing, or picking, or screening until it will pass the
inspector. Each size of coal is inspected, to see if it has
more than the prescribed percentage of slate. If it has,
it must be sent back to the breaker and recleaned. These
breakers cost from $300,000 to $500,000 each. The life
of a wooden breaker is about eight years; the iron posts
may be eaten up by the sulphur in a year.

(10) Cost of workmen's compensati6n. Anthracite
mining is very hazardous. Men may be caugnt in the rim
of a vein on a steep slope. Reclaiming pillars anywhere
means many falls of roof, but on the steep slopes it is
doubly dangerous. Men, too, become careless and take



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GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OR CONTROL 157



chances; eighty per cent of the accidents are due to care-
lessness or disobedience of direction. One company, which
mines eight millions tons a year, estimates its compensa-
tion insurance cost at $500,000 or 15 to 2U cents a ton
of coal mined.

(11) Cost of modern convenience about a mine.
Above ground: wash-houses, dwelling houses, probably of
brick or cement, with hot and cold water, bath rooms, and
electric lighting. It is not uncommon to hear speakers
berate operators for the hovels they rent to their men at
a high rate, and condemn the cesspools and unsanitary
surroundings that endanger life and health. These violent
speakers have probably never visited a modern anthracite
mine, or else do not care to tell the truth.

In the mine is the greatest change from the olden times.
Fire-proofing, haulageways, fire engines, hospitals and ap-
pliances for first aid, and men trained to use them. Tele-
phones are everywhere for call; one company has fourteen
hundred of them.

The syndicalist who proposed to operate these mines
needs gird himself to do a big man's job.

The accompanying map shows the way the veins lie
in most of the mines, especially in the Southern field.

Life of the Anthracite Field

Various attempts have been made to estimate the orig-
inal content of the anthracite field and the number of years
until the coal will be exhausted.

The method of making the estimate is to take each of
tiic various veins and compute the amount of coal it orig-
inally contained, then add the results.

The data for the computation of the content of each
\w, I are average thickness of the vein and its area.

The average thickness of a vein is found by taking the
u^ :kness of that vein in all the bore holes, shafts, and
iui*nels that cut it, and assuming that the average found
Hum these is the thickness over its entire area. The area



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158 COAL



16 found by finding the limits of the vein at the outcrop,
or at the edges of it, as shown by borings and shafts.

One of the most complete estimates is that made by
J. P. Lesley in 1893. He estimated the original content
of the Northern basin to be 5,700,000,000 tons; Eastern
Middle, 600,000,000 tons; Western Middle, 4,000,000,000;
Southern, 9,200,000,000, or a total of 19,500,000,000 tons.

He estimated that, counting that one and a half tons
had been lost for every ton produced, the depletion up
to 1893 had been 2,255,000,000 tons, leaving in the ground
17,245,000,000 tons. The output since that time has been
1,950,000,000 tons, so that the depletion has been about
4,000,000,000 tons, leaving now 13,245,000,000 tons in the
ground. Lesley assumed that forty per cent would be
recovered from his estimated amount. If we assume fifty
per cent recovery, the possible future production will be
6,622,500,000 tons.

The annual production has been more than 80,000,000
tons in the last few years. Assuming that rate for the
future, the field would be exhausted in eighty-three years.
It seems that the peak of the production has been reached,
and the output will soon gradually decline. The decreased
annual output will lengthen the life of the field, but can-
not increase the ultimate quantity of the coal. Every
ton of annual anthracite decrease will throw that much
greater demand upon the bituminous fields.

The railroad mines are conserving their coal by tak-
ing about twenty per cent of the output from the inde-
pendent mines. At that rate the independent mines will be
exhausted in about fifteen years. One large railroad com-
pany estimates that it has a supply for one hundred and
sixty-three years. If so, it will be mining its output of


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Online LibraryDunlap Jamison McAdamCoal, government ownership or control; → online text (page 12 of 15)