In my office I keep a basket with two medium-sized pieces of anthracite coal from Pennsylvania. They come from a very large piece that sits in my father's yard. The coal reminds me that whatever I do for a living, and how much it may suck on any given day, I do NOT have to be a coal miner. Is there any other profession more dangerous, gloomy, and hard? Yet, my two Slovak great-grandfathers were coal miners in Pennsylvania. That was the new world for them and the American Dream. Here's the 1910 U.S. Census for both of them with my grandparents listed as toddlers:
Here's a website devoted to the history of Slovak coal miners. It was a very common immigration story. But the American Dream came true for these men. Their sacrifices enabled their children not to be coal miners. Their grandchildren went to college. And their great-grandchildren went to graduate school and got to work at Harvard University, among other places. Thank you, thank you, thank you.