According to the Reports of the Inspectors of Mines of Pennsylvania for the year 1891, the Leisenring Shaft #2, also known as Bute or West Leisenring, sported a new steel head frame and coal bins built by the Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh. Completed in January 1892, the height of the new head frame was 84 feet, with capacity of the coal bins measuring 500 tons. Electric lights were also installed at the bottom of the shaft and in other mine buildings above the ground. “To the best of our knowledge,” reads the Report, “this was the first structure of the kind west of the Allegheny mountains.”
Attached to the mine/patch complex was a company store. The mining/coking towns owned by the H. C. Frick Division of United States Steel usually operated a Union Supply Store (USCO). These stores were versions of the general store and the early department stores in the area. They sold meat, foods, clothes, furniture, appliances, work supplies, sundries, seeds for the gardens, and later even gasoline and tires. Most patch inhabitants spent a substantial portion of their bi-weekly paychecks in these stores. Although many of these building were constructed with similar features, the store pictured is believed to be located in Leisenring #3, or Monarch. By the 1950s, most of these stores were closed as the mining industry moved further west and south. The buildings were often converted into other businesses.
Mine Safety was a continuing concern for an industry plagued by statistics that made it the most dangerous job in America for most of the 1870-1950 period. But working amid the coke ovens also was a hazardous occupation, where men were exposed to scalding temperatures and heavy machinery. It required workers to be quick thinking and take notice of what was happening around them. Having medical attention immediately in the case of an accident was imperative. This is the first aid team for the Alicia Coke Works, which was first organized in 1942. In 1951, they posed for this picture, while competing in the local first aid competitions.
Death was no stranger to the early inhabitants of southwestern Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal region. Life was short. Childbirth complications for women and work accidents for men were common causes of death. Religion was the comfort of many in these trying times. Note the holy picture of the Blessed Mother and the crucifix, reminders of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds of many of the ethnic peoples in the coal patches. The viewing of the body and the wake or deathwatch was often done in the home of the deceased. This photo is dated 1922, in United, Pa. The grieving woman lost both her husband and her son, pictured, in a mining accident.