Close to 300 images of the anthracite coal fields filled the walls inside the Schuylkill County Historical Society and the exhibition had 700 visitors raving.

'The Deep Miners,' the second of seven primary shows honoring the anthracite coal industry and its people, opened Saturday, drawing hundreds to the 1863 Female Grammar School, 305 North Centre Street, Pottsville, society headquarters.

Many of the attendees were current and former miners and their families.

The images are the lifetime work of Tamaqua native Scott Herring, 54, a photographer who was given unprecedented access to local mines. Herring spent 40 years photographing the mining and railroad industry.

His first show of 'The Hardcoal Chronicles 40th Anniversary,' debuted in January with a soft opening at the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce gallery. Called 'A Portrait in White,' the scenes showcase Herring's hometown.

The official opening of that show will take place June 13, sponsored by the Tamaqua Historical Society and Chamber, presented through the generosity of the artist.

In Pottsville, many of the images are reflective of the central and western portions of the county and other areas.

All of the featured photos were hand-picked from Herring's collection of 160,000 images, the largest single collection of anthracite photography ever produced.

Herring's priceless collection depicts mines, railroads, people and towns that not only forged a heritage and solidified a culture, but essentially built America.

Many of the coal breakers and train panoramas are no longer in existence, a reality which has led Herring to be known as "the last anthracite photographer."

His collection is non-commercial. The images, he says, belong to the people whose pride, work ethic and rich heritage have made the project special and meaningful.

It is only by making the collection a valued public asset that the yeoman effort will have reached its goals, he says.

"The pictures have no value sitting in my files," says Herring.

Herring spent his childhood on Dutch Hill. His grandmother was Dorothy Hassan of Pine Street, an early proponent of animal rights who worked side-by-side with Miss Ruth Steinert in creating the Tamaqua SPCA.

His grandfather, Quentin C. Hassan, operated Hassan's Cigar Store at the Five Points.

Herring is the sixth man in the past 150 years, and many say the final, to thoroughly document the coal regions of northeastern Pennsylvania. It is doubtful anyone can follow in his footsteps to the extent of his mission and accomplishments simply because the subject matter has been depleted; the assets and resources have largely disappeared.

Gone are the towering coal breakers, prolific strip mines and bootleg coal holes, and a once-burgeoning railroad industry that carried the black gold to market.

In fact, due to the loss of the legendary anthracite railroads - fully one-half of the cultural and industrial story - and the rapid disappearance of anthracite cultural landscape evidence, it has been impossible since 1976 for there to be another true anthracite photographer to follow Herring in succession.

The Hardcoal Chronicles is the formal name of the body of work and has been in continuous use, along with the German name "Starkkohlenfelder of Pennsylvania," since January of 1975, 13 months after the first image was made.

The exhibit is open to the public and is offered free of charge

Herring told the TIMES NEWS that he is in the process of moving back to Pennsylvania from his home in Red Oak, Texas.