U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, PA-11, has introduced a House Resolution asking the U.S. Postal Service to produce a stamp that pays tribute to the millions of workers who have toiled in the nation's coal mines.
Barletta said the stamp is particularly appealing to Northeastern Pennsylvania residents because so many of their ancestors worked in the anthracite coal industry.
"It is about time that the American coal miner is recognized for his contribution to our nation," Barletta said. "The coal miners played such a critical role in America's Industrial Revolution and in the cultural and economic development of our region. There is so much history here, from Jesse Fell's discovery in Wilkes-Barre, to the tales of the breaker boys and the Molly Maguires."
The resolution, which has the bi-partisan support of 31 co-sponsors, asks the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend the Postmaster General consider, approve, design and produce a first-class postage stamp commemorating the American Coal Miners.
In a letter drafted by Rep. Barletta and signed by 36 of his colleagues, the congressman notes the American coal miner came from around the world seeking a better life in our coal fields. "The tremendous influx of immigrants filled the melting pot of the United States, and it helped create the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the population we have today," the letter states.
Coal miners risked life and limb to feed their families, powered the Industrial Revolution, ushered in an era of invention and discovery and helped the United States win two world wars, Barletta said.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to these workers," Barletta said. "Their legacy is the strong work ethic they passed on to generations of Americans."
Since 1900, almost 108,000 coal miners perished in mining accidents. Many more contracted a wide range of debilitating diseases, including black lung disease. Others were seriously injured, maimed or crippled.
Coal mining remains a vital part of the nation's economy; almost 1.1 billion tons of various types of coal were mined in 2010 and coal fuels more than 40 percent of the nation's electricity.