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New book examines Pennsylvania coal and coke communities in detail

Another Time Another World Cover
Book cover photo by Rev. Edward C. Tajc of Leisenring II (Bute) circa 1950.
12/9/2010 —

The Coal and Coke Heritage Center at Penn State Fayette has just published a book by John A. Enman, Ph.D., that examines Pennsylvania coal and coke communities in such detail as to bring to light a great deal of information that was nearly lost. The book, titled “Another Time Another World: Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal, Coke, and Communities,” will be available Dec. 10 at the Coal and Coke Heritage Center, in the lower level of the Penn State Fayette library.

The book grew out of what was Enman’s 1962 dissertation on the Connellsville Coke Region, at which time he discovered puzzling discrepancies in information as he was researching the work. As Enman explains, “Much useful information about the Pennsylvania coal and coke period has disappeared with the destruction of company records, destroyed government documents, and incomplete surveys, especially those created by state and federal legislatures that were given enormous tasks but too little time for communities to complete more than a small fraction of the assignment.” His search for information took him back to the beginning of coal mining in the Pennsylvania bituminous field. From there, Enman was able to sort through the literature, conduct research in the field and arrive at new insights to what was previously known about the industry, the people and the communities involved.

Dr. Evelyn Hovanec, a co-founder of the Coal and Coke Heritage Center and primary book project coordinator, notes that “Another Time Another World” provides a broader context for the earlier publications “Patch/Work Voices: The Culture and Lore of a Mining People” and “Uncommon Lives of Uncommon Strength.” These earlier books focused on the Connellsville Coal and Coke Region and southwestern Pennsylvania. Hovanec explains, “‘Another Time Another World’ weaves the story into the broader mosaic of the bituminous coal industry of western Pennsylvania. This book also provides a more detailed look at the physical aspects of the story—types of coal and uses, production, transport, patch and housing design, and other material and statistical aspects of the industry, the people and the land affected by the industry. ‘Another Time Another World’ completes another chapter of the story of coal and coke, people, land and resources, and an industry that dominated the lives of millions of western Pennsylvanians.”

Enman began transferring his dissertation manuscript and research materials to the Coal and Coke Heritage Center in 1994. Dr. Dennis Brestensky, a co-founder of the Center, initiated contact with Dr. Enman in the 1980s and invited him to speak on his research at several conferences sponsored by the Center. A few years later, former Center Curator Pamela Seighman, Oral Historian Elaine DeFrank and Dr. Hovanec began editing and adapting the text, as well as gathering and selecting illustrations and photographs to complement the dissertation text. Additional reports and information from a variety of sources enlarged the scope of the work. What emerged after several years was the 340-page book now available to the public.

DeFrank observes, “This book is the result of a lot of work and love of the topic by many people. It is a reference work that will be extremely useful for historians, educators, and people who just want to learn something about their ancestors and how they lived.”

Part 1 of “Another Time Another World” examines the history of the bituminous coal mining industry, including Pennsylvania coal seams, mine information, transportation and the coke ovens. Part 2 of Enman’s work explores the people, including immigrants and native-born miners, the miner’s plight and family life, and the importance of religion and churches. Part 3 provides details about the rationale of Pennsylvania coal towns, the housing of coal towns and “patches,” and the design of “patches.”

Enman earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Maine, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in geography from Harvard University and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively. From 1948-59 he was a professor at Washington & Jefferson College in southwestern Pennsylvania and, from 1959-85, he taught at what is now Bloomsburg University in north-central Pennsylvania. Enman’s travels and research into the coal and coke communities of Pennsylvania have spanned many years and his work on this subject is a valuable addition to existing historical records.

Publication of “Another Time Another Place” was funded by contributions from the family of Max Nobel, Dr. Evelyn Hovanec and John Enman. The book is available at the Coal and Coke Heritage Center (www.fayette.psu.edu/coalandcoke) and costs $30. For more information, call 724-430-4158.

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