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Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(INDUSTRIAL DISASTER--HAWKS NEST TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION) A pair of albums with 100 photographs documenting construction of the infamous tunnel and nearby dam, the result of which is known as one of the worst industrial disasters in American history when more than 760 mostly African American laborers died as a result of poor working conditions. Including views of workers under and above ground, using various modern construction machinery; multiple ominous shots looking directly down the huge, dark tunnels, both before and after lining; and construction scenes and functional images of the nearby dam, powerhouse, and hydro-power plant. Silver prints, the images measuring approximately 8x10 inches (20.3x25.4 cm.), linen-backed, many with a typed heading, caption, and date on verso. Oblong 4tos, black leatherette; twin-bolt binding; 5 prints loose. 1930-37
The Hawks Nest Tunnel tragedy is one of the worst industrial disasters in America to this day. Migrant underground workers were subjected to copious amounts of poisonous silica dust while boring through Gauley Mountain for days on end.
The project was undertaken during the height of the Great Depression, when working class families were desperate for a daily income. In an effort to keep costs down and production moving, the project employed migrant workers at a shameful rate of 25 cents an hour, with some men working up to 60 hours a week. The primarily African American workforce was not provided with suitable safety equipment, and the drilling was performed dry, causing clouds of silica dust to circulate.
Within 5 years of the project inception, at least 760 of the migrant workers had died, with countless fatalities far sooner. The true toll was unrecorded. It remains unkown, and is thought to be much higher. Many of them worked for less than 6 months on account of the acute Silicosis they contracted so rapidly, and the harsh symptoms that coincided.