America is famous around the world for being the land of opportunity, and in many respects it has been for the nearly 400 years since its colonization. However, that opportunity has always come at some sort of price. In the times of wooden sailing vessels, men and women risked life and limb to sail across the Atlantic on small, creaking ships, but later, transportation became safer and easier with the invention of the coal powered steam engine. Over time, coal came to be used to power other advances in industry and technology, such as plants that produced steel and electricity. By the dawn of the 20th century, it seemed that there was nothing that the country could not accomplish, and that the future was brighter than ever. But then, as always, there was the price. The vast majority of people burning coal to heat their farms and homes, and those watching skyscrapers rise over the city's landscape, likely never stopped to think about the price thousands of miners across the country were paying for these and other conveniences. Many never knew that coal had to be dug from the ground, typically in dark mines where dust poisoned miners' lungs, and that these men barely made enough to feed and clothe their families despite their hard days of toil. The people using the coal wanted it to be cheap, the miners wanted to earn enough money to survive, and the companies wanted to turn a profit. In some ways, it seems safe to say that conflict was inevitable, but while there were numerous labor disputes during the early decades of the 20th century, few were as violent as the one that erupted in the hills of West Virginia in 1912.
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