My great - grandfather died of a lung ailment attributed to Black Lung - a miner's occupational hazard. I never knew him but heard stories about his death and even saw a picture of him with his blackened face in a line-up of coal miners holding lunch pans at a mine near Windber, Pennsylvania. Coal mining was usually the first employment a young man immigrant could locate because the agents for the companies recruited them near the harbour in the New York ports. Joe Nagy did a couple years of mining in late 1890's in Pennsylvania and then moved out to Detroit to work in a factory. He ended up working in a lime quarry in Clay Center , Ottawa County, Ohio so the dust he breathed continued to build up in his lungs . In those days , the workers had no guarantee of a pension or social security was not implemented in time for him to take a rest. Lawsuits against companies for occupational hazards were nonexistent so his two sons eventually built him a small cottage with a garden to putter in until he took his last breathe on a day off from work at the age of 79.
Mining - whether it be anthracite in Pennsylvania or coal in Hungary - was not a pretty picture for the workers in the mines. They crawled in through shafts and holes, with a lamp and an axe , and sometimes with bare hands, retrieved the coal to heat up the homes above grounds .
In reading records for a family who ancestors came from Roznava, in Gomor , Hungary, I discovered that Roznava was once a prosperous town found on the mining in gold, silver and copper . Today, there is a mining historical mueum there that displays the wooden chutes, the water pumps, the lamps, workers' tools - even back to the middle ages. Roznava is in the area of the National Park of Slovensky Kras which has over 1000 caves and abysses which have been listed in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage center. This is an interesting website with a nice pictorial about the mining history of Roznava : http://www.muzeum.sk/?obj=muzeum&ix=bmrv