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Cataloging Artifacts: West Virginia Mine Wars Museum

February 26, 2015


We’re moving forward with the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum over in Matewan, WV. This community-driven, people’s history museum opens to the public on May 16 (in the midst of the annual Matewan Shootout reinactment!). There’s still work to be done getting the building, and our exhibits, in order – but we’re moving quickly, and it’s invigorating watching it all come together.

Last month several of us took on the task of cataloging the collection of board member Kenny King. Kenny’s been scouring the known battlefields where skirmishes occurred during the Mine Wars era (~1912-1921) and picking up whatever artifacts he finds. His collection is the foundation upon which our burgeoning museum is built, and I was personally very excited to catalog and photograph his extensive collection – the first time his work has ever been assembled and documented in full. Below are some choice images from last month’s work, all of which will be on display when the museum opens in May…

Miner’s cap with oil-wick lamp.

Carbide headlamp.

.30-06 bullets.

.45 ACP cartridge cases, from Thompson submachine guns.

Kenny has bags and bags of “check tags”, individual identification tags which miners used to mark the cars of coal they had loaded before they were pulled out of the mines. ID numbers on the tags were used to log miner’s pay.

Child’s shoes.


Examples of company scrip – coinage that was the primary (and illegal) method for paying coal miners of the era, redeemable only at stores run by the same companies which ran the mines.

Fork, bent into a hook to hang from a belt.

Miscellaneous items from the collection.

New York Times, September 5, 1921


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