OTTAWA, Ill. – Illinois’ Cherry Mine Disaster ranks as the third most deadly in American coal mining history. Of the nearly 500 men and boys (as young as age 11) who reported for work on Nov. 13, 1909, 259 perished. Matthew Bullock Auctioneers is offering a cache of 60 different Cherry Mine Disaster real photo postcards – many with low minimum bids – during its Feb. 18 Winter Ephemera Discovery Auction. Absentee and Internet bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
Shortly after noon the day of the disaster, a coal car loaded with hay to feed the mules caught fire from a kerosene lantern. The blaze quickly spread to the mine and shaft support timbers. All efforts failed to extinguish the blaze.
Approximately 200 men and boys made their way to the surface. Some returned to try to rescue the miners who were still trapped.
A testament to their will to survive, a group of 21 miners shut themselves off in the mine by building a wall to protect themselves from the fire and poisonous gases.
Without any food available, they sustained themselves with water leaking from a coal seam. Amazingly, after eight days, they tore down the wall and escaped. One of the men died two days later from respiratory complications.
Among the more than 10,000 total postcards on offer at Matthew Bullock Auctioneers are several single-card Cherry Mine postcard lots starting at $20, including card No. 59 in a series documenting the tragedy. This heartbreaking example, taken by Masters Studio of Princeton, Illinois, illustrates “Property found on victims,” consisting of pocket watches, pipes and coin pouches.
Call Matthew Bullock Auctioneers at 815-220-5005 for more information.
By KAREN KNAPSTEIN
Karen Knapstein is editor of Antique Trader, produced by F+W Publications.