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The Wilkes-Barre Glass Negatives - Part 2

As soon as Paul Holbrook's glass negative collection from the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania area hit his Facebook page, I knew they were special. I immediately recognized scenes from my region. I live in beautiful northeastern Pennsylvania. Luzerne County is a short drive from my home, and Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities boast beautiful views, interesting businesses, and a rich history nestled in the Pocono mountain region of Pennsylvania.


After connecting with Paul, I discovered that he wasn't able to purchase all of the images that the seller on eBay had from this collection. But thumbnail images could be downloaded, and they painted a clear picture of the time and place of the historic images.


I knew that this glass negative collection was indeed from northeast Pennsylvania when I identified the coal mining pictures.


The following images are from eBay sold images that I confirmed with Paul came from the same seller. They were accessed publicly on eBay through a search for "Wilkes-Barre PA" or "Wilkes-Barre Glass Negatives."


Unless otherwise noted, the following images were restored by Paul Holbrook. Used with permission.






The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania was once known for its rich anthracite coal resource. Thirteen counties in Pennsylvania included anthracite mines, and together, they were the largest producers of anthracite in the world.


The picture above shows a large mound of anthracite. Anthracite is a hard coal, black in color, with a metallic luster. Because of its high carbon content, anthracite was cleaner than other coals available in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Coal was used to power trains and other engines and heat homes.


As a little girl, I remember digging for coal in my family's backyard in Scranton, Pennsylvania. My brothers and sister and I were pretending to be coal miners. It left black coal dust on our hands and dark marks on our clothing but my siblings and I loved the gems we found.


This piece of anthracite coal came from Hazelton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.




The first coal industry pictures from the collection I identified were of the Ashley Plane, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The seller had already guessed, correctly, the location. The following two images were beautifully restored by Paul Holbrook:






The Ashley Planes connected coal to the railroad. This video provides a better explanation than I ever could and gives you a tour of what part of the Ashley Planes look like today:





The following pictures may be a massive coal mining operation or stone quarry in Pennsylvania.








There are numerous museums and historical organizations devoted to preserving the history of anthracite coal mining. For more information visit the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, or the Luzerne County Historical Society.


There are plans underway for a historical site and museum in Ashley, PA.




Although the image above isn't the best quality, it gives us a glimpse into the life of a coal miner in the early 20th century in Pennsylvania. It was hard work and a very long day. Many miners were immigrants. The men and the mine in the picture are unidentified.


They may have worked on this coal breaker located near Wilkes Barre. This is an image from the Wilkes Barre glass negatives that I was able to identify:




I went through hundreds of pictures of coal breakers and collieries. I found this one and knew I had a match!  It is the Nottingham Coal Breaker in Plymouth, Luzerne County, PA.



From Wyoming Valley Anthracite Coal Mining Facebook page at accessed on 3/10/2024.



The Nottingham #15 coal breaker in Plymouth, PA, began operating in 1863. Owned by the Nottingham Coal Company on lands leased from the Reynolds family, it operated until 1936, when it was demolished.


Nottingham Breaker via Wikipedia. Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nottingham_Breaker.jpg on 3/10/2024.


I have another mining picture, and the photographer and his family to identify. Stay tuned!


For now, I'll leave you with these images of Luzerne County coal mining from the early 1900s:


The Dodson #12 from Plymouth PA. From the Wyoming Valley Anthracite Coal Mining Facebook page, accessed on 3/10/2024



Map for the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, Northern Coal Field, Mine Sheet No. V. showing Jersey, Reynolds & Nottingham Collieries, accessed at Wikipedia.com.



Pine Ridge Mine opened in the 1860s. It was located in Miners-Mills. Photo accessed at the Wyoming Valley Anthracite Coal Mining Facebook page on 3/10/2024.


To read the next post in this series, click here:



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5 Comments


Can't believe how much I learned about coal in Pennsylvania in your article. Julie! Thanks for every thing you do!

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Very interesting info! Thank you!

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Great job. Very interesting history. I'm glad I could contribute to this.

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Absolutely beautiful photos Paul! When I was young, we could still find pieces of unburned coal along the abandoned RR tracks.


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Wonderful - I have digitized glass plates from Dansville, NY.

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