The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library has accepted a digitized collection of original and fresh source material about the 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster in Bureau County, Illinois. It is an invaluable supplement to the existing Cherry Mine Disaster collection at the Lincoln Library, which includes oral histories and 150 photos, according to a Lincoln Library press release.
Edward Caldwell of Princeton, Illinois, is the donor. His years of research into the mining disaster, has been compiled on DVD’s. It includes newspaper articles, diaries, coroner’s inquest notes, legal documents, mine commission reports, books, and a collection of more than 500 photographs.
“This collection about the 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster greatly enhances what we can offer researchers looking into one of U.S. history’s worst mine disasters,” said Rick Beard, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “I am pleased to announce that we are in the early stages of planning an exhibit on this topic which will open in 2009, the 100th anniversary of the disaster.”
It was the St Paul Coal Company Mine that established the mine in 1905 in the mining town of Cherry. The mine produced 300,000 tons of coal a year to power the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad.
On November 13, 1909, about 500 feet underground, a load of hay in the mine accidentally caught fire from a torch. The fire and the resulting poisonous gases left 259 men and boys dead, more than half of the 490 miners underground at the time.
Efforts to save the miners took the lives of 12 of the rescuers. In one instance, a group of 21 trapped miners became known in newspaper accounts as the “eight-day men” who sealed themselves off from the blaze to be rescued eight days later by a team that was retrieving bodies.
The Cherry Mine Disaster led to new industry-wide safety regulations and a liability act that would one day form the basis of the Illinois Workmen’s Compensation Act.
Copies of the DVD collection were also donated to the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign and the Princeton Public Library.
The Lincoln Library is Illinois’s chief historical and genealogical research facility covering all periods of state history. The collection includes 183 published materials, 10.8 million manuscripts and 462,000 photographs, as well as 5,000 newspaper titles on microfilm.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is located in downtown Springfield, Illinois. It’s current featured exhibit is “Mary Todd Lincoln, First Lady of Controversy,” closing October 28, 2007.