Lights Low: The Rolling Mill Mine Disaster of 1902

Lights Low: The Rolling Mill Mine Disaster of 1902

Date(s) - June 9, 2024
2:00 PM

Heritage Discovery Center
201 6th Ave
Johnstown, PA 15906

Join us for an illustrated presentation on the Rolling Mill Mine Disaster, presented by Dr. Barbara Zaborowski and Nicholas Lasinsky. This event is free and open to the public!

Owned by the Cambria Iron Company and located on the hillside opposite the plant, the Rolling Mill Mine was a major producer of coal needed for the local production of iron and steel. On the morning of July 10, 1902, several hundred immigrant miners entered the Main South Heading of the Klondike District of the mine. At 11:30 a.m. an explosion, caused by the open flame on a miner’s cap, rang out. Immediately, panic ensued as mining supervisors and engineers rushed to the scene to survey the damage. Caught in the deadly afterdamp caused by excessive methane, many first responders perished in their attempts to enter the mine.

When it was finally declared safe, 112 fallen miners were removed from the mine: some victims of the blast, the majority from inhalation of methane gas. This had become the single largest loss of life in a Pennsylvania mine up to that time. It became the first incident in what would become the deadliest decade in mining history. The impact of this disaster would be felt across the Commonwealth and would result in the state legislature creating the Pennsylvania Department of Mines.

“’Lights low,’ among those familiar with the interior of all coal mines where either an open or safety lamp is used, means that there is danger and that lamps must be turned down until there is just a tiny flicker, enough to prevent the miner from falling over a rail or colliding with someone coming in the opposite direction.” — The Pittsburgh Post, 7/13/1902

About the presenters: Nicholas Lasinsky is a historian born and raised in Cambria County with a passion for local stories. Currently enrolled at Simmons University in Boston, he hopes to become an archivist and published author. He is currently writing a book on three Pennsylvania coal mining disasters of the early twentieth century, and hopes to reignite interest in bituminous mining history more broadly.

Dr. Barbara Zaborowski is the Dean of Library Services and Special Projects at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. Dedicated to the preservation of Cambria County history, she manages the website, Cambria Memory. Through her efforts local history is being digitized and made available for researchers and students of history.