“Extracting Appalachia brings together two great traditions of inquiry—history and geography. By creatively interpreting a rich collection of coal company photographs, Buckley helps us better understand the power and meaning of mining in everyday early twentieth-century life.”
Richard Francaviglia, author of Hard Places: Reading the Landscape of America's Historic Mining Districts
“Buckley shows vividly how seemingly dull institutional photographs produced to chronicle the construction of mines and company towns may also be read as haunting images of early twentieth century environmental degradation....a rich exploration of how historical photographs may be mined for clues to the complex contexts in which they were produced, reproduced, and circulated.”
Journal of Appalachian Studies
As a function of its corporate duties, the Consolidation Coal Company, one of the largest coal-mining operations in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, had photographers take hundreds of pictures of nearly every facet of its operations. Whether for publicity images, safety procedures, or archival information, these photographs create a record that goes far beyond the purpose the company intended.
In Extracting Appalachia, geographer Geoffrey L. Buckley examines the company's photograph collection housed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Included in the collection are images of mine openings, mining equipment, and mine accidents, as well as scenes of the company towns, including schools, churches, recreational facilities, holiday celebrations, and company stores.
Although the photographs in the collection provide us with valuable insights, they tell only part of the story. Using company records, state and federal government documents, contemporary newspaper accounts, and other archival materials, Professor Buckley shows that these photographs reveal much more than meets the eye.
Extracting Appalachia places these historic mining images in their social, cultural, and historical context, uncovering the true value and meaning of this rare documentary record.
Geoffrey L. Buckley is a professor in the department of geography and the Program in Environmental Studies at Ohio University. He is the author of Extracting Appalachia: Images of the Consolidation Coal Company, 1910–1945 and America’s Conservation Impulse: Saving Trees in the Old Line State.
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