Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2013
Jesse Fell

Jesse Fell

February 11, 1808: Judge Jesse Fell in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania first uses anthracite coal to heat his home. The coal had been used prior to this date, but not for this purpose. Anthracite needs a draft beneath it in order to burn properly. Judge Fell invented a grate that allowed for the proper air circulation. While already in use industrially for over a decade, the coal’s high heat levels were known, but the then insurmountable problem of keeping a fire burning needed to be addressed.

By the spring of 1808, anthracite coal was being mined and shipped down the Susquehanna River. During the next century, more than 100 million tons had been mined. Between the late 1800s and the 1950s, anthracite was the most popular fuel for heating both homes and businesses in the US. Eventually heating oil and then natural gas replaced anthracite as the fuel of choice.

Today there are many types of fuel. We have biofuels – with wood being the earliest used form of this fuel type. Biofuels are carbon based and liquid, solid, or gas. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons such as coal and petroleum. Nuclear fuels are created either by fission (breaking the atoms apart for energy, such as our nuclear power plants) or by fusion (as energy produced by stars such as our sun, but not yet within the bounds of human production). There are also at our disposal other sources of power: solar, wind, wave and tidal, geothermal, and hydrothermal.

Coal formation began between 250,000,000 to 400,000,000 years ago, during the Carboniferous Geologic Period when Pennsylvania was flat, hot, and moist, covered by steaming swamps. Layers of deposits coalesced into anthracite and was first mined in 1775 near Pittston, Pennsylvania. It was used industrially in 1788 for melting iron to make nails. By 1820, the first anthracite coal mining company, Lehigh Coal Mining Company, began shipping. The first documented mine strike occurred in 1842 with 2,000 miners affected. Safety in the mines has always been an issue and on September 6, 1869 the Avondale Mine Disaster claimed 108 lives, the largest anthracite area mining disaster.

“As a people, we have the problem of making our forests outlast this generation, our iron outlast this century, and our coal the next; not merely as a matter of convenience or comfort, but as a matter of stern necessity.” – William Howard Taft

“It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition. There was once a man who, not being able to find any other fault with his coal, complained that there were too many prehistoric toads in it.” – Mark Twain

“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.” – Bill Watterson

“Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.” – unknown

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Mankind heated his environment using fire since pre-history. At first, fire pits were used and evidence of them in caves and old huts can still be found. One of the chief problems is that fire creates smoke which can be uncomfortable to toxic, depending on what is burning. Chimneys were invented to let the smoke escape. In 1678, the grate for the fire was raised which improved airflow and improved the efficiency of fireplaces in use. Ben Franklin invented a convection chamber for the fireplace which again improved the amount of heat produced. In the late 1700s, Count Rumford changed the shape of the firebox and it helped draw smoke away from those being heated by the fire. Today, fireplaces are rarely used simply to heat a home, but are usually decorative.

Also on this day: Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.
Science Fiction – In 1938, television first showed a sci-fi film.

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Bobby Dias said, on February 12, 2013 at 8:23 am

    At the original 2010 publication and at the update this article was already badly out of date. 80% of the coal mines and 60% of the coal-fired electric power plants in China have been closed in the last 15 years because of the switch to the hydro-electric power from the Three Gorges Project I designed 50 years ago which now serve two billion people. Six coal-fired electric plants have been closed due to the Aswan High Dam I engineered 50+ years ago.People such as the one who wrote this article are becoming extinct due to the demand of accuracy.

    • patriciahysell said, on February 12, 2013 at 8:49 am

      You have had such a productive and exciting life. I have tried to find you on Wikipedia because it would be a wonderful testament to a great life and I’m sure full of interesting tidbits. Could you link me to your Wiki page?

      • Bobby Dias said, on February 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm

        I do not have a Wiki page,yet- probably never on because I changed something to the true fact which got me banned. Most of my life I was an advisor to most of the world leaders,non-partisan, so I got into a habit of not speaking about those people so that I would not say anything that they would be embarrassed or whatever. A couple of years ago I realized that most have passed so I am opening up. I have started with some basics on my website bobbydias dot com in a form that I can link full stories on separate web pages of many people I have worked with when I find the time. Most of the interesting parts started when I was being driven around the Los Angeles area showing and explaining how I organized the moving of 141,000 citizens of Mexico to the area in two years time to President Eisenhower and Mexico’s President Cortines. The next week Harry Truman called me and asked me if I wanted to act as a kind of helper to many of the people in Central and South America because I knew the languages of those different peoples. I said yes. The US State Department set me up with a three phone line set up which started me. One note here is another reason I stayed in the background- I was 10 years old at the time- not very good to tell presidents and high officials my age, as a general rule. By their ways it was ok but they often said that because I was an American I and young I should not be engaging in such important events because they had heard that Americans were always telling each other what to not do because of age or sex or race or whatever- look at the or a newspaper in America there are always people talking about what others should not do..
        Three times in the Middle East and the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis and for ending the Vietnam War I used Henry Kissenger as a pawn to show that the trouble was over so that the news media would be satisfied. Henry Kissenger was so greedy that I had an easy time telling the others involved what to say to him to make him believe that he was in charge. On the other hand there was myself who never gained anything so I was trusted more and more as I did more and more. And with my experiences as Kissing Bobby I have had a very eventful life. Especially when the 7 foot 4 inch UCLA bear mascot Josephine kissed me during the 1962 Rose Bowl Game- the kiss seen by billions. Elvis said to me that he was jealous of me because I was what he pretended to be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: