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Coal Scrip

"If a coal miner survived a month of work in the mines, he was paid not in U.S. currency but in metals and paper (called coal scrip), which was printed by the coal company. Because only the company that printed the coal scrip honored it, or would redeem it, the coal miner had to purchase all his goods–his food, clothing, and tools–from the company store. Hence the miner paid monopolistic prices for his goods. Journalists and U.S. senatorial investigating committees repeatedly revealed the the region's coal company store prices were substantially higher, sometimes three times higher, than the local trade stores."

–David Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion

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This collection of 300 scrip tokens is arranged first by town and then by company with the years of operation of the company store and the numbers of employees at the mine.

Photographs are high-contrast close-ups to bring out worn lettering. Click to enlarge.

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Chevrolet, KY was named because the mine owner's brother abandoned a broken-down Model 490 Chevy near the Blue Diamond mine.

Robert M. Rennick has collected the stories behind many Harlan County place names.

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