In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World

By Dan Rottenberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

“A Rock That Burns”

In his film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the director Stanley Kubrick conjured a world in which the sudden and inexplicable appearance of a supernatural black slab on Earth or in space periodically causes momentous changes—transforming apelike cave dwellers, for example, into rational beings capable of organizing communities and working together cooperatively. Yet true human history is stranger and certainly more complex than Kubrick’s 1968 flight of fancy suggested. The resources available to sophisticated humans of the twenty-first century are no different from those that were available to the first Neanderthals. No external intervention was ever needed to change the world—only the human mind’s ability to find those natural resources and devise uses for them. “The thing called man had once been a shrew on a forest branch, ” the anthropologist Loren Eiseley has remarked. “Now it manipulates abstract symbols in its brain from which skyscrapers rise, bridges span the horizon, disease is conquered, the Moon is visited. ”

As early as the 1930s the Soviet geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky made a more startling observation: People—by virtue of their technology as well as their sheer numbers—were themselves becoming a geological force, shaping the planet and its atmosphere just as rivers and earthquakes had shaped its past. Over the ensuing seventy years many scientists and people of conscience routinely held their species responsible for overheating our planet, polluting the atmosphere, threatening the ozone, and otherwise tampering with the balance of nature. Yet by any commonly accepted definition of disorder and change, the turmoil produced by humans since their arrival on the planet remains tiny compared to the anarchy that reigned

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In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Leisenring and Givens Family Trees ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Part I 11
  • Chapter 1 - A Rock That Burns 13
  • Chapter 2 - A Passage from the Mines 21
  • Chapter 3 - Holy Trinity 29
  • Chapter 4 - Boy Wonder of the Anthracite 37
  • Chapter 5 - Souls in Darkness 47
  • Chapter 6 - A Road Not Taken 57
  • Part II 65
  • Chapter 7 - The Ambitions of Henry Clay Frick 67
  • Chapter 8 - At War in the Coke Fields 75
  • Part III 99
  • Chapter 9 - Starting Over 101
  • Chapter 10 - The Rise of John L. Lewis 115
  • Chapter 11 - Utopia Goes Union 135
  • Chapter 12 - Be Careful What You Wish For 165
  • Chapter 13 - Prelude to Murder 187
  • Part IV 207
  • Chapter 14 - The Age of Uncertainty 209
  • Chapter 15 - Riding the Roller Coaster 231
  • Chapter 16 - Nowhere to Hide 245
  • Principal Characters 267
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 315
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Index 321
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