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Coal in Illinois

I came across this interesting bit of local history in Barbara Freese's Coal: A Human History. Leave it to good, honest Midwesterners to pay for something they forcefully procured, instead of stealing it outright.

The 1902 strike was also a vivid lesson in how dependent the nation was on coal, and how deeply it could be hurt when supplies ran short. Even after the strike was settled, it was months before coal supplies and prices were back to normal, and some communities experienced great hardship. In January 1903, three hundred citizens of the town of Arcola, Illinois, politely mugged a coal train that broke down there on its way to Chicago. No coal had been delivered to Arcola for a month, half its citizens were out of coal, and businesses had been closed for a week. When the railroad refused to sell its coal to the town, the good citizens simply surrounded the train with their wagons, climbed up onto the coal cars, and began shoveling. Active members of the raid included the town's two bank presidents, two ministers, and a police officer. One of the bank presidents kept a careful accounting of the amount taken by each person so that payment could later be made.

January 16, 2004 in Books | Permalink