Kentucky is almost as well known for its coal production as it is for its horse and bourbon industries. When one thinks of Kentucky coal, the mountains of the state's eastern counties most often come to mind.
But, the Commonwealth's western coal fields have a long history, too. Coal's influence has been and continues to be felt across the state.
Coal mining has been a part of Kentucky's story since its earliest days of settlement. However, it was in the late-nineteenth century and into the twentieth century when coal began to be extracted in vast amounts. This era saw the rise of the railroad as a more efficient means of moving coal to newly emerging markets. In addition, the need for ever increasing amounts of household electricity, which often came from coal-burning plants, escalated the demand for Kentucky coal.
On this tour you will be introduced to some of the state's coal mining towns—many of which were started by corporations that needed local and immigrant labor for the difficult and dangerous work of mining.
This tour also discusses some of the tragic disasters that have occurred in the state’s mines. These stories are illustrated with images that help one envision what life was like for those who made their living by mining. We hope that this tour provides you with a better understanding of Kentucky’s coal mining history as it is displayed on the historical markers across the state, because it is a story that has affected, at least in some small way, almost all of Kentucky.