The history of coal mining goes back thousands of years. It became important in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was primarily used to power steam engines, heat buildings and generate electricity.
As a comparison, annual coal mining deaths numbered more than 1,000 a year in the early part of the 20th century in the U.S. They decreased to an average of about 450 annual fatalities in the 1950s and to 141 in the 1970s.
Coal Miner Records . The Pennsylvania State Archives hold numerous collections which pertain to persons either employed in or in some way associated with the anthracite (hard coal) and bituminous (soft coal) mining industries of the Commonwealth.