The Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum captures the history of anthracite coal workers, from their immigration from Europe to the harsh and difficult lives of working in the coal mines and mills in the region. Located in McDade Park in Scranton, the Heritage Museum takes visitors on a journey through the daily lives of the region’s coal, mill, and railroad families, and from galleries on the ethnicity of Northeastern Pennsylvania to trips inside a real iron furnace, this museum has everything related to anthracite coal.
Beginning in 1792 with the Lehigh Coal Mine Company, anthracite coal in Pennsylvania stood a major source of commerce, and as the Industrial Revolution came to the United States in the mid 1800s and anthracite coal grew in demand, thousands of workers and immigrants came to Pennsylvania to carve a life out for themselves and their families.
The Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum remains dedicated to accurately displaying and preserving the stories and lifestyles of anthracite coal workers and their families. Through guided and self-guided tours, museum-goers can explore the lives of men, women and children of the Anthracite region as they went about their daily activities as well as the tools and conditions prevalent throughout the dangerous mining experience.
Heritage Museum Exhibits
The most popular exhibit, titled “Anthracite People” tells the story of immigration and ethnicity in the Anthracite Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Featuring the region’s first arrivals, the Paleo-Indians, as well as the modern melting pot of ethnicities from Southeast Asia to Europe, these exhibits highlight both themes of life and work.
Some of the items on display in the exhibits include artifacts from the Native American tribes in the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valleys, tools and machinery used in mining coal, silk and silk machinery that was used in the once-booming Scranton silk industry, and much more.1
Located away from the museum headquarters and near the Steamtown National Historic Site, the Scranton Iron Furnaces presented an essential facet of iron production in Pennsylvania.
Dating back to the 1840s, these four massive iron furnaces display the history of the booming Lackawanna Iron & Steel Company, and visitors can enjoy an interpretive tour of the antique plant, visit the exhibits on iron and steel making, or enjoy a picnic on the site during the summer months.2
Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum Library
In addition to the massive collection of artifacts at this museum, it is important to remember the importance of oral history, books, periodicals, journals, and other written materials of the time.
Located within the Heritage Museum, the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum Library features thousands of source documents, vertical file items, and periodicals, while the library’s archive contains everything from maps to ephemera. Both scholars and the public are welcome to explore the library and archives, though they must call ahead for an appointment.3