Tuesday, February 26, 2013

King Coal - by Upton Sinclair

Free US/UK Kindle Classic

Upton Sinclair is an American writer who wrote many novels.  His best known works were about social injustice towards the working man.

Time Magazine said he was "a man with every gift except humor and silence."  

A US Amazon Reader Reviewer says, " If you have ever had a job, or ever will, this is a book you should read. The concepts explored in this book matter today as much as the day it was written to every working person. It's short, easy to get through, and I promise you'll never forget this story."

So let's see what he has to say about the coal industry in his 1917 novel "King Coal." (US Edition)  (UK Edition) 

Our hero spends the day walking up a mountain only to be told there is no work:

It really seemed an absurdly illogical proceeding, to post a notice, "Hands Wanted," in conspicuous places on the roadside, causing a man to climb thirteen miles up a mountain canyon, only to be turned off without explanation. Hal was convinced that there must be jobs inside the stockade, and that if only he could get at the bosses he could persuade them. He got up and walked down the road a quarter of a mile, to where the railroad-track crossed it, winding up the canyon. A train of "empties" was passing, bound into the camp, the cars rattling and bumping as the engine toiled up the grade. This suggested a solution of the difficulty.

It was already growing dark. Crouching slightly, Hal approached the cars, and when he was in the shadows, made a leap and swung onto one of them. It took but a second to clamber in, and he lay flat and waited, his heart thumping.

Before a minute had passed he heard a shout, and looking over, he saw the Cerberus of the gate running down a path to the track, his companion, Bill, just behind him. "Hey! come out of there!" they yelled; and Bill leaped, and caught the car in which Hal was riding.

Hard times call for desperate measures!

Driven through the mines by great fans, this air took out every particle of moisture, and left coal dust so thick and dry that there were fatal explosions from the mere friction of loading-shovels. So it happened that these mines were killing several times as many men as other mines throughout the country.

Dated you say? 

"Inadequate ventilation, uncontrolled methane gas and excessive coal dust were major factors in the Upper Big Branch explosion" in West Virginia in 2010.  Twenty-nine workers died. May they rest in peace . . .

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