Title: Author digs up history of state's coal, iron police
Author: Randy Wells
Publisher: Indiana Gazette
While thumbing through a book a few years ago, Spencer Sadler saw an old photograph of members of Pennsylvania's Coal and Iron Police, a private police force created under state legislation to protect company property but which later became better known for their often heavy-handed, strike-breaking tactics.
"The concept struck me so oddly," Sadler said. He asked himself, "How could I have family who worked in coal mining and not have been aware of the C&I?"
His curiosity led to three years of research and writing, and Sadler is now the author of a new book, "Pennsylvania's Coal and Iron Police," available from Arcadia Publishing.
Sadler is an Indiana native who graduated from Indiana Area Senior High in 1987. He taught in Virginia Beach and was a communications skills specialist at Indiana Senior High. He's now teaching freshman English and journalism at Indiana Area Junior High as a long-term substitute.
"Unchecked and untrained, Pennsylvania's company police forces were the manifestation of political pull and elaborate conflicts of interest" from 1865 to 1931, Sadler wrote in the introduction to his book. "What started as a legitimate form of company and property protection morphed into a controversial form of vigilante law enforcement. Company police could act with little concern for workers' rights because they knew that the miners were little more than indentured servants whose livelihood depended on the company. ... The C&I could conduct daily business knowing that they were virtually untouchable."
Originally, Sadler planned on writing a traditional book.
"I initially had 35,000 words" in a prospective manuscript, he said. Then Arcadia showed interest in the work and Sadler began revising his material to fit the pictorial history format of Arcadia's Images of America series. Arcadia is the largest publisher of regional history books in North America, and the Images of America books chronicle the histories of communities and focus on regional historical topics.
Sadler's 127-page book has more than 200 vintage black-and-white images with lengthy captions.
"I tried to make it as academic as possible without being too stuffy," he said.
The photos and captions touch on many of the turbulent highlights of life and work in early Pennsylvania coal towns, including the Molly Maguires, the Homestead strike, the Lattimer mines "massacre" near Hazelton in 1897 and the C&I's role as strikebreakers. The book also notes that the Pennsylvania state police was formed as a direct result of the C&I's abuses of power, and mentions the roles played by the United Mine Workers of America and the American Civil Liberties Union in the uneasy years in American mining history.
Sadler began researching and selecting old photos at the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration, then worked down to more local sources, including the Special Collections section at the Stapleton Library at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County.
"I'm a library rat," Sadler said, adding that much of his research involved "a lot of legwork, flipping through documents."
But the Internet was invaluable, too: "Without a doubt," he said. "I could reach out to so many people. ... Online you can cover so much more ground so quickly."
"Pennsylvania's Coal and Iron Police" is $21.99 and is available at area bookstores, independent retailers, online retailers and through Arcadia Publishing at (888) 313-2665 or at www.arcadiapublishing.com.