The canary in the coal industry: Home coal delivery

An ad for MM. J. Zeh, a coal man. Published in The Washington Times, June 30, 1901.

The job: Starting in the second half of the 19th century, coal helped fuel U.S. factory growth as well as many homes with coal furnances. Coal mines were abundant in Midwest states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, and railroads made transportation of coal to population hubs easy. Those in the coal delivery business would haul coal from railroad stations to local markets, factories and individual homes.

Killed by: Natural gas and other alternative fuels. In 1940, 54 percent of U.S. households used coal to heat their homes. But according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, that number dropped rapidly as fuel oil and natural gas became more widely available. By 1970, just 2.9 percent of the population relied on coal for home heating. Naturally, the number of people delivering coal dwindled as well.

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