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Scott, Shaun L. 1995. Two Sides to Everything: The Cultural Construction of Class Consciousness in Harlan County, Kentucky. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Salyers, Garrett, and Williams, Mike. 2015. Edkins Catalogue of United States Coal Company Store Scrip. Kentucky: National Scrip Collectors Association

Dodrill, Gordon. 1971. 20,000 Coal Company Stores in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Pittsburg: Self- published

Forester, William D. 1986. Harlan County–The Turbulent Thirties. Harlan: self published

Wilkerson, Jessica. To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice. Urbana: University of Illinois Press

Fishback, Price V. 1992. Soft Coal, Hard Choices: The Economic Welfare of Bituminous Coal Miners, 1890–1930. New York: Oxford University Press

Dotter, Earl. 1998. The Quiet Sickness: A Photographic Chronicle of Hazardous Work in America. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association

Titler, George J. 1973. Hell in Harlan. Beckley, WV: Self-published


Russell Lee and Earl Dotter



Miners were sometimes paid in scrip, tokens redeemable only at company stores. Scrip was typically issued in the same denominations (and roughly the same sizes) as U.S. coins and were usually made of brass, nickel, or aluminum. 


Ford Motor Co. owned a mine at Banner Fork

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This is a five cent piece made of brass, issued by The Black Mountain Corp. The heart-shaped cutout is for the Great Heart Mine.

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Scrip schemes are so profitable that companies use it whenever they think they can. As recently as 2008 Wal-mart was using it in Mexico. But on September 4, 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice ruled that Wal-Mart de Mexico must cease paying its employees in part with vouchers redeemable only at Wal-Mart stores.

The obverse of the Black Mountain five cent piece–PAYABLE IN MERCHANDISE ONLY. 


Mining companies are listed by coal town. For example, these three companies are listed under Evarts. The dates are the dates the company store operated, although many mines operated well beyond these dates, often under different owners. Sometimes they continued using the scrip, sometimes not. The denominations of tokens the company issued are shown.

Molus is at 1,115′ elevation, lowest in the county where the Cumberland River, just a few miles old, leaves Harlan County into Bell.


WIKICumberland Mountain, not to be confused with the Cumberland Mountains within which it resides, is a long ridge extending from northeastern Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. Its peak forms the boundary between Kentucky and Virginia in some areas. The southeastern side of Cumberland Mountain i (WIKI

The coal in Kentucky (and West Virginia and Pennsylvania) begins x long ago as trees and giant ferns that grew on a land mass called and was then located at the equator. Those plants turned into topsoil and then bottom soil and layer after layer.

That's why coal can be, in any one seam, uniform in color and strength, a seemingly endless seam of coal that goes on for miles, sometimes interrupted by a valley as the Cumberland carved down into

The soil was compressed under xxx over hundreds of millions of years

Sometimes that uniformity is interrupted by a fossil–a fish, a fern, a tree trunk. Fossils are formed when the plant or animal is trapped in mud, and the mud rapidly covered with whatever storm or landslide or earthquake was shaking at the time. Very occasionally, but often enough, an image of the animal or plant is preserved, sometimes as a cast???

map of cumberland mtn


If you know the company name and not the town, here's a listing by company.

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The coal companies would buy beans and potatoes in bulk and sell them by the pound, for scrip, often at prices 25% above area stores. Cash could have been spent anywhere but scrip could be spent only at company stores. It was a major profit center.

The use of company stores was widespread. Twenty thousand coal company commissaries operated in North America, most of them in West Virginia and neighboring states.


The unfairness of this monopoly practice was recognized in England as far back as 1775. An updated iteration, the Truck Act of 1887 was passed "to make the wages of workmen, i.e. the reward of labour, payable only in current coin of the realm."

In every country companies found their way around the law.

The Constitution seems clear that minting money is the province of the federal government, but the law has been interpreted as if it said “Minting money is the province of the government unless a corporation wants to pay its workers with scrip good only in its store.“

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