About this image
This picture had no given location or date. It was just titled 'Coal Mining - Leaving the shaft', but there is something not quite right about the suggestion that this is a coal mine. They have no knee pads used when kneeling down, also they are too clean ie. no coal dust on them. One contributor has commented that the miners' are not standing inside a cage the UK coalmines used, and if they had been coming out of a coal mine it must have been clean coal, due to their cleanliness and lack of dirt. (Suggestion kindly supplied by Gerry Dawson). The miners could perhaps have been coming from a fluorspa or lead mine?. A contributor has suggested the railway gauge on the bank and on top of the cage is too large for fluorspar another suggests the mine is an anthracite mine in Pennsylvania, possibly in the Scranton area and probably dates from the early 1900s. Apparently, the lamps are carbide lamps. These, or similar, have been used in the UK.
In 1815 Sir Humphry Davy (1778 - 1829) received a letter from some Newcastle miners, who told of the dangers they faced from methane gas. The gas often filled the mines, and could be sparked off by the candles miners had in their helmets to light their work. The resulting fires and explosions caused many deaths and several people had been searching for a solution. An Irishman called Clanney had produced a complicated lamp a few years earlier, and George Stephenson, the railway engineer, invented one quite independently at the same time. Davy separated the flame from the gas, and his lamp later became widely used, and known as the Davy Safety lamp.
This photograph was published by Raphael Tuck and Sons and on the back of the postcard it says 'Publishers to their Majesties the King and Queen'. This probably refers to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra (King from 1901-10), but could be from the early reign of King George V (1910-36). It cannot be from Queen Victoria's reign before 1901 because Albert, her husband, was never allowed to be called a King. The picture therefore was taken after 1901, by which time the use of candles would have been unlikely. (If anyone can give any advice about these details, please contact the Picture The Past Web-site).