New Straitsville smoke from underground photograph   Save
New Deal
Description: Photograph of a man, possible a Works Progress Administration (WPA) employee, standing near smoke rising from underground. This photo is from SC 5676. Photographs from this small picture collection document smoke rising from the underground fires, men who were possibly employees of the WPA working to stop the spread of the fire, a map of the territory affected by the mine fires and a street scene in New Straitsville, Ohio. The photos were taken March 7 and 8, 1938, by Walter E. Burton. The New Straitsville mine fires are believed to have started November 13, 1884, when striking miners pushed burning cars into a mine during a strike over wages between the New Straitsville Mining Company management and mine workers. A small group of union members decided to sabotage the mines. Cars filled with oil-soaked timber were set on fire and pushed into a mine owned by the New Straitsville Mining Company. The fire quickly spread to the coal seam underground. Reportedly, the coal seam was fourteen feet across and extended an undetermined distance into the Earth. It took several days for the fire to be discovered, and by that point, it was too late to stop the fire's spread. As a result of the fire, the mine closed. The New Straitsville mine fire has raged ever since 1884. In 1936, the WPA began work to stop the spread of the fire by building barriers across burning veins of coal. In 1938, nearly 350 men were employed on the project, which then was estimated to cost less than $1,000,000. Under the direction of James R. Cavanaugh, a veteran mine fire fighter, tunnels were driven through veins in the path of the fire, and were filled with a clay-water mixture or similar non-burning material. The mines fires affected coal deposits in Hocking and Perry Counties in southeastern Ohio. It was estimated that by 1938, the coal destroyed (more than two hundred square miles) was worth fifty million dollars. In 2003, smoke began to emerge from the soil of the Wayne National Forest, 119 years after the fire began. View on Ohio Memory.
Image ID: sc5676_03
Subjects: New Straitsville (Ohio)--Photographs; Coal mines and mining; United States. Works Progress Administration
Places: New Straitsville (Ohio); Perry County (Ohio)