In search of improved working conditions and livable wages, mine workers in two major coal producing states resorted to violence against coal mine owners and managers. The militants in one of those states are celebrated as heroic fighters of America’s industrial age. In the other state, the miners’ campaign for human progress is omitted from state history books.
In Pennsylvania, the state contributed funds to build a monument to honor the Molly Maguires, a secretive Irish organization that allegedly killed coal company officials as retribution for their treatment of miners. In museums and gift shops in the state’s anthracite coal region, visitors can purchase t-shirts and other memorabilia honoring the Mollies, 20 of whom were hanged after they were found guilty of murder and other serious charges in the late 1870s.
A big-budget Hollywood movie, titled The Molly Maguires, was released in 1970 with a radical coal miner, played by Scottish actor Sean Connery, as the hero and a Pinkerton detective, played by Irish actor Richard Harris, as the anti-hero.