Coal and Coke Curriculum

Old King Coal was a merry old soul...but only in a nursery rhyme.  In real life, King Coal wasn't so merry.

Coal mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.  The working conditions are dark, dirty, and mining accidents often result in injury or death.  Prior to unionization, workers received low wages and worked in unsafe conditions with no attempt being made to ensure safety.  Health care for miners and their families was nonexistent.

Even after the establishment of the union, coal mining changed very little.  The workers received better pay.  Miners and their families were entitled to some health care benefits.  But, even under the watchful eye of union leaders, safety continued to be a major issue.  Today mines continue to be dangerous places in which to work as demonstrated by newspaper headlines.

Nonetheless, this vital resource, found in abundance in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, fueled the Industrial Revolution.  Cheap and plentiful, the demand for coal grew in-sync with the United States' rise as an industrial power.  Transportation networks, especially railroads, depended on coal.  Coal was the source of heat in many homes throughout the difficult northeastern winters.  As the steel industry boomed, there was more need than ever for large quantities of coal.  Today, cities across the United States continue to generate electricity at coal-fired power plants.

Coal mining, even with its dangers, provided jobs for uneducated workers and immigrants with few job skills and a poor knowledge of the English language.

With the decline of the steel industry and the evolution of transportation systems, the demand for coal fell.  Alternate sources for the production of electricity and the increased cost of mining less profitable mines further reduced the demand for coal and many mines have closed.  Nonetheless, King Coal has taken its place in history as an important factor in the industrialization of southwestern Pennsylvania and the United States.

Curriculum Topics

The following pages of information and activities are designed to assist teachers and educators in the preservation of our steel heritage.  All activities have been designed to be adapted for classroom use.  The activities can be altered, as needed, for age, ability level, curriculum area, or for any other reason necessary to make them useful within the classroom.

The activities below are in pdf format.  Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view these documents.  You have permission to print out the information and activities you want to use, and you may adapt anything to meet your needs.

The curriculum topics include:

Coal Mines and the Coking Process

Coal Mining Disasters

Creative Writing

Economic and Industrial History

Flow Charts

Geography/Social Studies

Industrial History: Dates and Events

Maps for Reference

Math Problems


Suggested Reading




Our Rivers: Yesterday and Today

Our Rivers
The story of the Monongahela River is one of our nation’s history, our industrial revolutions and one of the men and women whose labors, previously and presently, earned the Monongahela River the title of “Ruhr” – The River of Sweat.

The Monogahela: River of Dreams, River of Sweat

The history of the hardest working river in America.