On Nov. 9, 1910, Clinton Weaver of Summit Hill, a 16-year-old laborer at the No. 6 mine, had gone to the top of the shaft to fix some displaced rigging when his clothing got caught in the machinery.
After being freed from the whirling machine, the badly-injured teenager was rushed to the Panther Valley hospital where, within the hour, he died. Death was due to multiple injuries, including fractures to both arms and legs, burns of the chest and abdomen caused by the friction from the spinning machine, as well as numerous cuts and bruises.
That same day Roy Henninger, a 17-year-old laborer at the No. 5 colliery, was also involved in a frightening accident when his right hand was caught in a motor and badly crushed. He too was rushed to the hospital but his injuries were not life-threatening and he survived the close call.
The two accidents within hours of each other not only proved the obvious – that mine work was very hazardous – but it also showed that the younger workers, many in their teens, were subject to as many job dangers as the adults.
Twenty-five years earlier an 1885 Pennsylvania law prohibited boys under 14 and girls of any age from working inside a coal mine.
In 1887, the legislature mandated a minimum age of 12 for any type of employment in coal mines, mills, and factories. In 1895 the General Assembly enacted a Compulsory Education Act, mandating that children between 8 and 13 years old attend school for at least four months per year.
Enforcing the new laws was a problem, especially in the coal region, where some parents even lied about their child's age in order to retain another wage earner for the family.
Factory owners also fought to preserve their young labor force. One owner admitted that "much of the prosperity of Pennsylvania is owing to the fact that it has a lower age limit than any of its neighbors."
Certain industries, such as glass manufacturing, eased up on hiring youngsters, but children continued their work in silk mills and around coal mines.
Lawmakers in Harrisburg were criticized for not passing more stringent measures. One critic pointed out that "year after year the legislature has been begged to raise the age limit for employment to 16 years, and always is the lobby powerful enough to continue its unholy purchase of children's lives for a weekly pittance."
Just two weeks into the new year in 1911, Fred Hall, secretary of the Pennsylvania Child Labor Association, said he was proposing that the state legislature adopt stronger measures to amend the current laws. Hall, a long-time proponent of child labor, had served as secretary of New York's Child Labor Committee where he spearheaded a m