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Heart of Gold: 1942

Heart of Gold: 1942

November 1942. "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (vicinity). Montour No. 4 mine of the Pittsburgh Coal Company. Coal miner at end of the day's work." Medium-format negative by Johh Collier for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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He's smiling because he IS happy.

Everrybody that's ever known a miner knows that regardless how hard and dangerous the work, the miner LOVED his job.

I've heard countless stories from my dad, who once was a miner and stories about both of my 'grandpaps' who were miners and they loved mining. They quit only when they retired, the mine worked out and closed, or they died.

Unlike folks in todays "careers", folks like miners, steelworkers and railroaders were/are much more in tune with their jobs, co-workers and neighbors. Coal patch town life, union brotherhood, and the Church family provided all of the culture that folks desired.

A pay envelope with enough money to feed his family and have a couple dollars left over for a whiskey or a few beers after work was all a miner needed.

Having experienced a college education with a white collar career and a simple job as a railroader, I can faithfully say that those who work dirty jobs for a living are happier, more fulfilled folks.

Great Smile

He looks like a cross between Andy Williams and Ray Bolger.

Step in time, step in time...

I think I've seen this guy in a popular Disney movie holding a scraggly broom while dancing on a London rooftop with a bunch of similar looking guys.

Am I the only one

Who caught the Neil Young reference in 0.2 seconds?

But yeah, I agree with what's been said here - he looks like a great guy, and I hope he lived a long, happy life.

Montour Mine #4

There's a ton of information on Montour mine #4 here.


If that's Shorpy Higginbotham after decades of mining, then mining certainly agrees with him! Scholars of Shorpy Higginbotham know that Shorpy had met his fate in 1928.

I do agree with other Shorpy commenters who think that the guy in this picture is a very pleasant person. His eyes tell us that he isn't stupid-friendly, but rather just friendly.


Anyone else thinks he looks like the nicest guy ever?

The Whistle

The whistle is for safety. If a miner got hurt, he would use his whistle to inform his neighboring miners (remember that it was very dark in a mine). Or if a cave-in happened, the whistling could locate a trapped miner. Because of the bad occurences associated with a whistle in a mine, it was considered bad luck to actually whistle (carry a tune while you're bored or working, per se) in a mine. Alternatively, miners believed whistling in a shaft would drive away ore or potentially cause shaft collapse. I suppose it's similar to theater folk not saying Macbeth in the theater.


Maybe he was glad to be doing his war duty in a Pennsylvania coal mine instead of some other dangerous place.

Wartime Miner

He had the benefit of a strong union, United Mine Workers (UMW). He also may have been exempt from the draft and logging plenty of overtime. He had ridden out the Depression and he wasn't getting shot at. Why shouldn't he be smiling?

Dare I say it?

This fella sure looks like good ole Shorpy Higginbotham, some 32 years later, and a bit north, eh? The only outlier is the big grin.


He has such a great smile, and sparkling eyes, yet his job and appearance show that his work was far harder than most of us have ever known. Makes me realize that we should be grateful for what we have.


Any old miners know what he might have used the whistle for?

Happy Chappie

I want to believe that this fellow is as happy as he appears to be. Thank you for this great photo, Dave.

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