In 1869, Hughie Jennings became the ninth of 12 children born into a Pittston, Pa., coal mining family.

At age 12, Jennings dropped out of school to work as a breaker boy in the mines near Scranton, Pa., where he picked slate from coal for 90 cents a day. Amid clouds of coal dust and the machinery’s rushing roar, breaker boys bent over backless wooden benches to perform their 10-hour-a-day tasks. A 1900 Bureau of Mines report found that colliery accidents killed 411, injured 1,057, and made 230 widows and 524 orphans.

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