The Monongah Mining Disaster, the worst mining accident in U.S. history, left more than 1,000 widows and children. Here, families wait for news from Monongah, West Virginia, mines after the colossal explosion.
Photograph by U.S. Bureau of Mines, courtesy Mine Safety and Health Administration

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  • On December 6, 1907, more than 350 miners died in an explosion in a connected series of coal mines in Monongah, West Virginia. It remains the worst mining accident in United States history.
    The huge explosion destroyed most ventilation shafts and timber supports in the mines. Few miners were able to climb to freedom, and rescuers quickly fell ill due to the mixture of “blackdamp” and “whitedamp” fumes. Blackdamp is a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, while whitedamp contains carbon monoxide.
    Most victims of the Monongah Mining Disaster were recent immigrants to the United States. The overwhelming majority of workers were Italian and Eastern European. Many immigrants were specifically from the region of Molise, Italy. In 2007, the 100th anniversary of the event, local officials from Molise presented the town of Monongah with a bell to commemorate the disaster
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    blackdamp Noun

    air that is low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide due to an explosion in a mine. Also called chokedamp.

    coal Noun

    dark, solid fossil fuel mined from the earth.

    commemorate Verb

    to honor an event on a specific date.

    destroy Verb

    to ruin or make useless.

    disaster Noun

    terrible and damaging event.

    explosion Noun

    violent outburst; rejection, usually of gases or fuel

    fume Noun

    vapor from a substance that usually has an identifiable odor.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    mine Noun

    place dug in the earth where ores are extracted.

    mining Noun

    process of extracting ore from the Earth.

    recent Adjective

    new or happening lately.

    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    rescue Verb

    to free or save from danger.

    shaft Noun

    underground tunnel.

    timber Noun

    wood in an unfinished form, either trees or logs.

    ventilation Noun

    movement or circulation of fresh air in a closed environment. Also called air circulation.

    victim Noun

    person or organization that suffers from the act of another.

    whitedamp Noun

    toxic mixture of gases, including carbon monoxide, created by the combustion of coal.