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A History of Coal and Gas



PICKS BY Danielle Petrak, Eliza Newland and Aaron Hollis

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West Virginia is a state with deep roots in the coal and petroleum industries. The Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is dedicated to preserving and promoting the social, cultural and technological history of these industries.

The Watts Museum collection includes items ranging from minerals once housed at the Smithsonian to a variety of glassware made in West Virginia. Its current exhibit, “Man Power/Mine Power: The Evolution and Impact of Coal Mining Machines,” explores the mechanization of West Virginia’s coal mining industry, from late 19th-century coal mining with picks and shovels to the huge longwall mining machines used today.

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surveyor's compass

PICK: Surveyor's compass 

Coal companies rely heavily on surveyors to provide accurate property measurements both above ground and below. Though technology has advanced over the years, the role of surveyors in the mining industry has remained fundamentally the same. Much of a surveyor’s work ensures that mines comply with safety regulations and industry standards to help keep miners safe.

Phoenix lamp

PICK: Clifford's Phoenix mining lamp

Designed by mining engineer William Clifford, the Phoenix lamp is part of the Watts Museum’s Clifford-Beard collection of mining lamps. It is the only known Phoenix lamp in the U.S. Around 1915, WVU’s School of Mines acquired the collection, which consists of 103 lamps. At the time of its invention in 1888, the Phoenix lamp was considered safer than all other styles. Its use did not catch on and very few were made.

Pit pony shoe.

PICK: Pit pony shoe 

After electric locomotives were introduced in the mines in the late 19th century, many mines used a combination of both motor- and animal-powered haulage systems to move coal out of the mines. This horseshoe was made for a pit pony by Angelo Organtini. Born in Italy, Organtini arrived in the U.S. in 1910 and worked as a blacksmith for the coal industry in Cascade, north of Masontown in Preston County, W.Va.