Carl Axel Peterson papers, 1866-1972

1719

Collection Overview

Title:
Carl Axel Peterson papers
Dates (Inclusive):
1866-1972
Dates (Bulk):
1923-1972
Creator:
Peterson, Carl Axel
Abstract:
Carl Axel Peterson (1903-1986) was a coal-mining foreman, inspector, engineer, and executive. This collection documents Carl Axel Peterson's work at Hudson Coal Company, Northwestern Mining & Exchange Company, and mining associations to promote worker safety, combat black lung disease, and increase efficiency.
Collection Number:
1719
Size:
12 linear ft.
Location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the  library catalog.
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

Mining engineer and labor specialist Carl Axel Peterson (1903-86) was born and reared in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The son of Swedish immigrants, he attended the Pennsylvania State College, earning a mine engineering degree in 1925. Following graduation Peterson entered the student engineering program of the Hudson Coal Company, a large anthracite concern headquartered in Scranton. During an intensive two-year training program he gained practical experience in virtually every phase of anthracite mining.

Between 1927 and 1946 Peterson served successively as a section foreman, mine foreman, safety inspector, and engineer at Hudson Coal. In these engineering and supervisory positions he acquired expertise in two main areas, mine mechanization and mine safety. Peterson supervised one of the company's few fully mechanized mines, the Marvine Farm Mine and directed a training program in the use and maintenance of mechanical mining equipment. As safety inspector, Peterson became concerned with the problem of anthraco-silicosis and Black Lung disease. Heading the company's mine dust control program, he investigated methods to reduce miners' inhalation of harmful dust and silica particles. His work entailed the designing of dust control equipment and overseeing the Hudson Coal Company's dust and silica analysis laboratory, one of the pioneering programs in the anthracite mining industry.

During his final four years with Hudson Coal, Peterson served as a labor specialist. In this capacity he compiled data on wage rates and employment practices in connection with the negotiation of labor contracts, anthracite wage agreements, and hearings before the Anthracite Conciliation Board. Peterson assisted in formulating the company's bargaining position and advising the vice president and general manager on labor matters.

Concurrent with his work at Hudson Coal, Peterson participated in the workers' education movement. He taught evening classes in mine engineering offered through Penn State's Extension Services and devised special courses to prepare mine workers for supervisory positions.

From 1947 to 1960 Peterson held engineering, managerial, and administrative posts with the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company, a bituminous mining subsidiary of the Erie Railroad with properties located in Jefferson and Elk Counties. As an assistant to the vice president and general manager, he planned and directed the complete mechanization of Northwestern's mining operations. In conjunction with this work he modified existing mining equipment and devised special procedures to achieve greater safety and productivity. He also developed an innovative mobile roof support system using aluminum beams and introduced a safe method of multiple mine-blasting which found widespread application in the bituminous mining industry.

Peterson was appointed vice president and general manager of Northwestern Mining in 1952. In this post he administered the company's mining properties, leases and made marketing arrangements for the output from its principal operating mine, the Kramer Mine, at Brockway, Pennsylvania. Peterson also presided over the company's transition to a commercial market fuel producer when its chief customer, the Erie Railroad, converted to diesel fuel in the early 1950s. To enhance the marketability of Northwestern coal, he reorganized and modernized coal preparation facilities and established stricter processing standards. These reforms, coupled with mine mechanization, enabled Northwestern Mining to remain competitive in the bituminous coal industry until the depletion of its coal reserves in 1959. Under Peterson's stewardship, Northwestern's Kramer Mine received national recognition in mine engineering journals for its excellent labor and safety record.

From 1960 until his retirement in 1971, Peterson divided his time between independent consulting work for mine engineering firms and the Pennsylvania Department of Mines. His work ranged from planning the mechanization of underground mines in India to ameliorating the environmental hazards caused by strip mining and mine subsidence in Pennsylvania. During retirement Peterson was engaged in developing a patent for a dry fly ash injection system to prevent underground mine fires.

Throughout his career Peterson was an active member in the following professional organizations: the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers, the Coal Mining Institute of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He presented professional papers on mine mechanization and safety and worked closely with Penn State's Earth and Mineral Sciences College in conducting research on various aspects of coal mining.

Peterson died in 1986 at the age of 83. He was married to Flora Bromer in 1930. Their family included two daughters, Sara and Flora.

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Collection Overview

The Carl Axel Peterson Papers measure 2.20 cubic feet and date from 1899 to 1974, with the bulk of the collection falling within the date span 1925 to 1959. The papers document the career of Peterson as a mine engineer, manager and executive with anthracite and bituminous coal companies in Pennsylvania, particularly the years of Peterson's employment with the Hudson Coal Company and the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company during 1950 and 1960.

The Peterson collection highlights the economic and technological transformation of one of Pennsylvania's key industries during the twentieth century. Included in the papers are Peterson's personal and business correspondence, office memoranda, pocket diaries and notebooks. Company reports, graphs, production charts and cost sheets comprise a substantial portion of the collection. These materials chronicle the daily operations of coal companies and the responsibilities assumed by their mine engineers and managers. The collection contains much primary source material on the following topics: mine mechanization and technology, health, safety, working conditions and workers' education.

The collection consists of business correspondence, memoranda, and production cost sheets from his career at Hudson Coal Company and Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company. The collection also includes correspondence and pocket diaries pertaining to labor management relations, work and mine safety in Pennsylvania's anthracite and bituminous mining industry.

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Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged into four series: A. Hudson Coal Company; B. Northwestern Mining & Exchange Company; C. Special projects; D. Personal Documents and Photographs.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Carl Axel Peterson Papers, HCLA 1719, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.

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Controlled Access Headings

Genre(s)

  • Cartographic
  • Photographic

Personal Name(s)

  • Peterson, Carl Axel

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Collection Inventory

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Scope and Contents

The papers included in this series pertain to Peterson's tenure (1925-1959) with the Hudson Coal Company. Monthly reports filed by Peterson during his training period with the Coal Company constitute the best source of information regarding the mine crews, foremen and safety inspectors. These provide detailed first hand accounts of the nature of specific mining occupations and the conditions under which miners labored. Foremen and safety inspector's reports (scattered for the years 1956-1959), work rule pamphlets and state mining regulation booklets (1954 and 1958) provide supplemental information on mining conditions and job tasks. The series also includes numerous safety bulletins, memoranda, and reports issued by the constituent committees of the Hudson Coal Company's Safety Key Men organization, the agency which spearheaded the safety-first campaign in the mines. The decisions by the Anthracite Board of Conciliation provide valuable information on wage patterns and job classifications. There are a few notebooks that provide additional safety information for roof support systems and mine ventilation. References to Peterson's work with the Hudson Coal Company's dust laboratory can be found in his diary book entries during the 1940s.

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Scope and Contents

This series contains a variety of sources documenting labor-management relations in the coal mining industry. The historical files of the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company contain over 120 pages of correspondence concerning tonnage rate negotiations in the Blossburg Fields (1899-1928) between Local Union #865 (Arnot, Pa.) of the United Mine Workers and officers of the Blossburg Coal Company. Wage rate tables, agreements governing the Central Pennsylvania bituminous fields, and decisions by the Anthracite Board of Conciliation contain valuable information on wage patterns and job classifications. There are also abstracts of grievance and complaint decisions rendered by the Central Pennsylvania Coal Commission around 1954-1959 that documents the adjudication of miners' disputes with management. The Northwestern Mining Company's mechanized extraction of coal and transition from hand to conveyor loading methods is documented in memoranda, reports, and numerous cost and productivity sheets contained in Northwestern central office files. There are also related files on various technological aspects of underground mining. Subjects include mine explosives, power consumption, and classification of mining equipment. The administrative history of the Northwestern Mining & Exchange Company can be traced in the company's office correspondence files, 1947-59. Items contained therein chronicle the company's daily operations and methods of conducting business. Also, tonnage and cost data found in the Eastern Bituminous Coal Association file (1943-58) provide evidence of the relative decline of Pennsylvania's once preeminent industry. The series also includes papers on labor's education and Peterson's tenure as a Penn State Extension Services instructor in mine engineering (1929-43). Items include lecture notes, course syllabi, grade sheets, and registration cards which provide demographic information on class registrants. These files also contain newspaper clippings on night education classes for miners in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area. The Peterson Papers contains several diaries, pocket notebooks, mine engineering clippings, personal correspondence, and memorabilia. Newspaper clippings concerning his retirement from Northwestern Mining and his application for a state mine engineering license are the best sources for tracing Peterson's career. The collection contains very little documentation on his life before 1925.

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Scope and Contents

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Scope and Contents

The series also contains photographs of Northwestern Mining's Kramer Mine facilities, its employees, and salvaging operations undertaken at the mine as well as various personal and family docusments for Carl Peterson.

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