2005 Mining History Association Field Trip


Anthracite Region Tour

Avondale Mine Disaster Site, Plymouth, PA

June 10, 2005

Tour Leader: Joe Keating,  AMDSPS

It took the September 6th, 1869, fire at the Avondale Colliery in Plymouth, PA, and the deaths of 110 anthracite miners to focus the public's attention on mining safety.  From 1839 to 1914, over 53,000 coal miners were killed.  In response to the deaths in the Avondale disaster, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in 1870, created the first inspection law for anthracite mines.  The law was extended to Pennsylvania bituminous coal mines in 1878.  Other states followed suit with their own laws and through 1880 the horrific rate of fatalities in coal mines began to decline.

From 1870, U. S. coal production climbed steadily, reaching 570 million tons in 1913.  Anthracite accounted for 92 million of the total tonnage.  As production increased, so did the number of fatalities.  After the initial reduction of the fatality rate from 1870 to 1880, little additional improvement was made.  In 1907, the number of coal mining fatalities spiked upward to 3,242, including 918 miners who were killed in 18 major disasters. Once again, the carnage in the mines caught the attention of the public.  There was a need to address mining safety on a National scale.

In 1907, the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), Technologic Branch was formed to improve mine safety, reduce fatalities, and test coal purchased by the government.  In 1910, the 61st Congress finally passed the Organic Act creating the U. S. Bureau of Mines (USBM).  The USGS Technologic Branch was incorporated into the Bureau





Historical marker near the Avondale Mine Disaster site.  Many of the victims were buried in the Washburn Street Cemetery in Scranton.


Ruins of the shaft location at the Avondale Colliery.

Poster identifying the key features at the time of the 1869 fire and where they are located today.

Joe Keating from the Avondale Mine Disaster Site Preservation Society (AMDSPS) describes the deadly mine fire.

Southern view of a pan of the Avondale site from the shaft location (right) toward the breaker location (left and in subsequent photos)

Center view of the pan of the Avondale site showing the location of the breaker.

MHAers standing on the old railroad bed get an overview of the Avondale Disaster site.

Northern end of the pan of the Avondale site showing the location of the railroad siding for loading coal from the breaker.

Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson and Mike Kaas



The [Report of the] Great Disaster at Avondale Colliery, September 6, 1869,  (Accessed 2, January 2012).


Historical Coal Mine Disasters in the Anthracite Region, (Accessed 2 January 2012).


Avondale Mine Disaster Site Preservation Committee (AMDSPS),  (Accessed 2 January 2012).


The Avondale Mine Disaster,  (Accessed 2 January 2012).





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