Anthracite Heritage Program


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In 2009, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland began a heritage program in northeastern Pennsylvania. The research focuses on archeological excavations, documentary research, and oral histories with the goal of providing a material dimension to understanding historic and contemporary issues related to work, labor, gender, and immigration in the anthracite region.


The Anthracite Region of Pennsylvania stretches across about 500 square miles of the northeastern corner of the state. The geological presence of anthracite coal served as the original motivation for the rapid development of the region beginning in the 1840s. Geographically isolated, but in close proximity to rapidly industrializing cities, the coal industry in the region reached its peak around the First World War. This industry employed labor reflecting the long history of American immigration. English and Welsh immigrants were followed by Germans, Irish, then by Eastern Europeans, and Italians.  Workers lived in the small company-owned towns known as "patches". In the late 19th century, manufacturing industries including textile mills moved into the region employing women and children. "Patch" towns are unique places where people from a variety of backgrounds interacted, sometimes resulting in tension and even violence, such as the Lattimer Massacre of 1897. With the industry on the decline by the end of the First World War, the region offered one of the first examples of deindustrialization.


The Anthracite Heritage Project uses an interdisciplinary method collecting oral histories, historical archives, and archaeology to examine the heritage of the region. The Anthracite Region has always been an area of immigrants. The diverse and ever-shifting social environment sometimes lead to tension between longer established residents and newer immigrants. The issues surrounding immigration, past and present, have made this a compelling place to work.


Since 2012, we have excavated several archaeological sites. As historical research, oral histories and archaeological analyses are completed these data will be posted on this web page.





Sponsored by the University of Maryland Department of Anthropology

1111 Woods Hall, College Park, MD 20742


(c) 2015 V.C. Westmont

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