Publication Details

The Appalachian coalfield in historical context

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​Zipper, Carl E.; Adams, Mary Beth.; Skousen, Jeff​​

Year Published

2021

Publication

In: Zipper, C.E.; Skousen, J., eds. Appalachia's coal-mined landscapes. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature: 1-26.

Abstract

The Appalachian coalfield occurs within the eastern United States (US). This mountainous landscape is formed from natural dissection of sedimentary geologic strata with interbedded seams of coal and serves as headwaters for multiple rivers. The region's natural ecosystems, with a primary vegetation of mostly deciduous forest, are among the non-tropical world's most biodiverse. After first humans arrived more than 10,000 years ago, the first Europeans came to Appalachia as fur trappers and traders; agriculturalists and merchants came soon after. The region's diverse forests and rich mineral resources supported economic development as settlements expanded and populations grew.Coal mining began in the mid-1700s to supply commercial and residential users. Large-scale timber harvesting and coal mining stimulated railroad expansion in the mid-1800s, which improved transportation linkages to more populated areas and further increased coal demand. The American nation's industrial development increased usage of iron and steel, further expanding coal demands. Coal was essential to American electrification during the twentieth century. With numerous and thick coal seams accessible by both surface and underground mines, Appalachia was the US's primary coal-producing region from the 1800s through the 1970s. Appalachian coal mining has influenced the region's landscapes, forests, water, and people over more than two centuries.

Keywords

Coal; Forests; Industrial development; Railroad; Steel; Timber

Citation

​Zipper, Carl E.; Adams, Mary Beth.; Skousen, Jeff​​. 2021. The Appalachian coalfield in historical context. In: Zipper, C.E.; Skousen, J., eds. Appalachia's coal-mined landscapes. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature: 1-26. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-57780-3_1.​​​

Last updated on: June 22, 2021