100 Years Ago: Dec. 1907 was most disastrous month in U.S. coal history





Like the grimy, black dust that coats coal mines, grief and misery blanketed a West Virginia town and two Western Pennsylvania communities in December 1907.

That was the U.S. coal mining industry's darkest month because during those 31 days, five disasters extinguished the lives of more than 700 men. In Pennsylvania, two separate explosions, one at the Darr Mine in Westmoreland County and another at the Naomi Mine in Fayette County, killed 273 men.

But the deadliest coal mine explosion in the United States occurred 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in Monongah, W.Va., where 361 men perished on the morning of Dec. 6, 1907. Some men were blown to bits; the dead included Fiorangelo DiSalvo, a 12-year-old boy. Two other explosions, one in an Alabama mine and another in New Mexico, added to the month's high body count.

"The Darkest Month," an exhibition about the grim side of America's Industrial Revolution, opens Saturday at the Senator John Heinz History Center. The show, which runs through June 8, features 65 photographs, miners' artifacts, illustrations, mementos from a Hungarian miner's home life and a 10-minute video about Monongah by Argentine Productions of Mt. Lebanon.


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