West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

Archives Library to Host Presentation on Saloons, Liquor, and Gunplay in West Virginia’s Early Coal Camps on Aug. 8


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Paul H. Rakes, associate professor of American History at WVU-Tech, will present the talk ”Saloons, Liquor, and Gunplay in West Virginia’s Early Coal Camps” on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Economic opportunity attracted a number of people to the southern West Virginia coalfields in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The early coal camps in Fayette and McDowell counties and along the Cabin Creek District of Kanawha County witnessed a dramatic increase in population on what was essentially an industrial frontier. The attraction of liquor, saloons and guns led to frequent violence among the predominately transient male population.

The rise in violence in the coal fields caused political problems for W.Va. Gov. Albert B. White (11th governor, 1901-1905), and found the state Supreme Court of Appeals wrestling with interpreting the cases within the change of legal philosophy from “No Duty to Retreat” to “Back Against the Wall.” Before the coal camps matured, these areas of West Virginia bore a striking similarity to the more famous tales of the late 19th-century American West.

Rakes is a third-generation coal miner of 20 years, who later earned his Ph.D. in history at West Virginia University. His research focuses on mining in West Virginia, and he has published essays including “Technology in Transition: The Dilemmas of Early-Twentieth Century Coal Mining” for the Journal of Appalachian Studies, “West Virginia Coal Mine Fatalities: The Subculture of Danger and a Statistical Overview of the Pre-enforcement Era” for West Virginia History, and “A Combat Scenario: Early Coal Mining and the Culture of Danger” in Culture, Class and Politics in Modern Appalachia. He recently co-authored a chapter in Blood in the Hills: A History of Violence in Appalachia that focused on the American common law and legal concepts that influenced violence among coal miners in the early southern West Virginia coalfields.

For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required. To register in advance, contact Bobby Taylor, library manager, at Bobby.L.Taylor@wv.gov or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163.

Participants interested in registering by email should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

– 30 –


Exit mobile version