Coal Miners and Coal Camps
Established in 1937 as part of the New Deal, the Farm Security Administration sought to help needy farmers during the Great Depression. As part of the agency’s efforts, FSA photographers traveled the country, capturing images that called attention to rural poverty. This online exhibit is based on earlier work by Betty Rivard, who created an exhibit with funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council to the Coal Heritage Highway Authority. This exhibit features the work of two photographers, Ben Shahn and Marion Post Wolcott, whose work is preserved at the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
In 1935, Shahn traveled through West Virginia, starting in the northern coalfields and then visiting the model community in Eleanor, Putnam County. He then visited Logan and Mingo counties before crossing into Kentucky. Three years later, Wolcott followed part of Shahn’s trail, starting in the northern coalfields before traveling to Omar, Logan County, then to Bluefield and along the Tug River from Mohegan to Davy. Both photographers focused on the everyday life of coal miners and their families, and their photographs offer insight into the resiliency of West Virginians during hard times. Many of the images endure as masterpieces long after the era during which they were made.
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