Historical Significance of The Federal No. 3 Mine

School Children
Federal No. 3 miner's children at school, 1920's

Since the early twentieth century, coal mining was an integral part of West Virginia’s capitalist transformation. No other industry shaped the Mountain State in quite the same way. Between 1880 and 1930, the coal industry transformed the state from a predominately agrarian society to an industrial society and reshaped its social, cultural, and economic landscape. The Federal No. 3 mine at Everettville serves as a poignant example of the dynamic history of industrial development in the United States and Central Appalachia. This particular mine represents the spirit of progress and development that was felt in the Upper Monongahela Region during the early twentieth century. It symbolizes the diversification of West Virginia’s population, the struggle between labor unions and industry during this era, and the search for a balance between the industry’s need for efficiency during the coal boom and the miners’ need for safety.

Major Interpretive Themes


Entrepreneurship:

Coalfield Development, Transportation of Coal, Vertical Integration, Company History, Industrialization during World War I

The Federal No. 3 mine was first created by the New England Fuel and Transportation Company. The development of coalfields in the early twentieth century was dependent on capitalist initiative. The coalfields in Northern West Virginia followed a similar pattern. The difference was that this company was not based locally like other coal companies in West Virginia. They used the big-business strategy of “vertical integration” to control all levels of production from coal to the finished product. The purpose of this type of monopoly was to reduce transaction costs and increase productivity. It also enabled companies to insulate itself from the fluctuating costs of raw materials. Using entrepreneurship as an interpretive theme, the consultants can provide a link between the company and the current economic trends in the United States.

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Labor Relations:

Company Town, Class Solidarity, Ethnic and Racial Diversity, Relationship between Worker and the Operator, Strikes, Unions

Labor is at the heart of the story of Federal No. 3. The tale of human tragedy and the need for Everettville to commemorate the event will almost certainly draw audiences to the website and the Miners Memorial Park. The consultants are using labor as an interpretive theme to provide the public with a deeper understanding of how this event fits into the broader contexts of race, ethnicity, class, industrialization, and global capitalism. Topics such as immigration and migration, labor-capital conflict, mining mechanization, and even the living conditions of miners in the Fairmont field can reveal much about our nation’s dynamic past. Immigration connects the Federal No. 3 disaster to trends in global capitalism, while the African American migration to Central Appalachia can be linked to severe social, economic, and political oppression in the Deep South. The UMWA strike that took place at the time of the disaster had both national and local implications; it was part of a much larger struggle to unionize, which had a direct influence on local mine safety. Miners’ living conditions shaped the grievances that they held against mining companies. These are but a few examples of the ways in which we can use the explosion to tell a broader story about the labor struggles in northern West Virginia.

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Mining Technology:

Hand Loading, Mechanization

Changes in mining technology during the first half of the 20th century made mines more efficient, but they also introduced new hazards. The consultants feel that this is an important interpretive theme because it speaks to broader trends in capitalism and technological development. Technology affected the safety of a mine, the numbers of individuals employed in a mine, and, eventually, the introduction of state and federal safety standards for underground coal mining.

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Disaster:

Mine Safety, Revitalization

In a coal town, there is always the possibility for an accident. There is a difference between an accident and a disaster. According to West Virginia State Department of Health, there were 129 accident-related deaths at Federal No. 3 between 1920 and 1951. Ninety-six of these reports list the date of death as April 30, 1927. Seventy-five percent of the men who died on this site perished as a result of a dust explosion. The explosion that occurred at Federal No. 3 in 1927 was not the worst disaster to occur in northern West Virginia in the twentieth century. Using disaster as an interpretive theme, the consultants are able to use this incident to convey changes in mine safety and the effects of this type of tragedy.

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Selected Bibliography and Acknowledgements