Historical Summary of Coal-Mine Explosions in the United States, 1810-1958 Page: 1
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HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF COAL-MINE EXPLOSIONS
IN THE UNITED STATES-1810-1958'
H. B. Humphrey 2
EXPLOSIONS of gas and dust in coal mines have caused death and injury
to miners and destruction of workings in all countries where coal is mined
underground. In the United States the first reported explosion was in
1810; explosions have continued to the present. The danger to men in a mine
when an explosion occurs is not always measured by the violence created or by
their nearness to the area through which flame and violence extend. As many,
perhaps more, men have died from gases and lack of oxygen (known as "after-
damp") than have been killed by the blast and heat. Mine explosions often are
caused by a combination of factors, including concentration of methane in air,
formation of clouds of dust, and the presence of a flame or spark. These ex-
plosion factors have varied with changes in mining methods and practices over
the years, but the basic causes have always been the same. Understanding of
the causes and acceptance of ways to guard against explosions and their effects
have been slow to spread from investigators to officials and then to bosses and
miners. To a considerable extent there has been a belief that explosions were
a mining risk that might be put off but could not be prevented. Such belief is
based on the human failure to maintain and observe necessary precautions.
These failures, caused by inertia to change, carelessness, or reliance on contin-
uance of past explosion-free years, are being reduced in number and effect by
education of miners and supervisors and acceptance of higher prevention
SWork on manuscript completed September 1959.
2 Mining health and safety engineer, Bureau of Mines.
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Humphrey, H. B. Historical Summary of Coal-Mine Explosions in the United States, 1810-1958, report, 1960; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc12740/m1/9/: accessed May 24, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.