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 Post subject: Huber breaker: Kingdom of Coal’s dying legacy
PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 5:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 8:00 pm
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Location: From Schuylkill County, PA living in Phoenix, AZ
Huber breaker: Kingdom of Coal’s dying legacy

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In the early years of the 20th century, there were about 300 coal breakers in northeastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite region. These large wooden buildings, reminiscent of medieval castles, processed raw anthracite ore into marketable fuel.

Today, the only breaker that remains in the Wyoming Valley is the Huber Colliery in Ashley, once part of the now-defunct Blue Coal Co.

Unless the dilapidated structure is renovated and opened as a museum in the near future, it will be claimed by the wrecking ball, and with it will go more than a century of anthracite history.

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Huber’s story begins in the early 1890s when the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad built the first breaker at Ashley. The DL&W not only transported coal to major metropolitan markets in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, but was the dominant producer of anthracite in the northern field.

Wanting to expand its operations in the Nanticoke area, the DL&W opened Ashley’s Maxwell Breaker in 1895, naming it in honor of Roger Maxwell, company president.

By 1904, the wooden, fortress-like structure was one of 26 breakers owned by the DL&W, which was collectively producing more than 8 million tons of coal annually and employed 15,000 workers. Three years later, DL&W’s production rose to 10.5 million tons.

But hard times were just around the corner.

In 1915, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the DL&W’s ownership of coal properties constituted an illegal monopoly. Six years later, the railroad divested itself of its mining operations, selling to the Glen Alden Coal Co.

Glen Alden faced a formidable challenge. Coal production peaked in 1917, resulting in intense competition among the various mining companies in the anthracite region. To distinguish its product, Glen Alden sprayed its coal with a blue iridescent coating and embarked on an aggressive advertising campaign for “blue coal.â€

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