By Katie Pugh
January 8, 2018 - Pennsylvania's Lackawanna Historical Society celebrated Anthracite Mining Heritage Month and the 250th anniversary of anthracite mining with a presentation on the paintings of Remo Trieste Russo at the Catlin House in Scranton.
The paintings, done over a six-month period in the 1940s, demonstrate a day in the life of a coal miner from descending the mine shafts in the morning to washing off the coal dust in the evening.
Dr. Richard Fitzsimmons, who has a deep family history in the local coal mining industry, was on hand for the program.
“The paintings are a display of a dozen paintings that artist Russo made when he worked for the Pagnotti Coal Company for six months,” said Charles Kumpas, a Clark Summit resident who presented the lecture. “They show all different aspects of what he had to do and what he was involved in from the beginning of working in the mines to after, so it’s a good cross-section of what he saw and did.
“It was definitely a hard job. If nothing else, it’s a very physical job, and you really had to be in good shape to do what they did. Plus, the lighting was always bad where they worked, so it was not a good environment to work in. I think the art captures all the cogent points of what each job focused on.”
Lillian and Joseph Caffery, of Larksville, look over mining artwork done my artist Remo Trieste Russo prior to the start of a program at the Catlin House in Scranton.
Mary Ann Savakinus, the executive director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, moderated the lecture.
“First of all, I think it’s exciting that a Scranton artist took the time to celebrate our industry,” she said. “At the time in 1948, the industry was kind of waning, so it was starting to die.
“He was an artist that recognized not just that there was a visual aspect to it, but he also recognized that it might be a story that needed to be told at that time as it started to decline.”
Charles Kumpas presented ‘A Day in the Life of an Anthracite Miner: The Remarkable Coal Mining Artwork of Remo Trieste Russo,’ at the Catlin House in Scranton.
During the lecture, Kumpas demonstrated the use of various headlamps from oil to electric and detailed the scenes in each painting.
The paintings demonstrated aspects of mining like resource-heavy timbering, the process of supporting shafts with large pieces of wood, riding small-gauge railroads to get into the mile-deep mines, and even taking a lunch break on the dusty mine floors.
The presentation was part of a larger, month-long event orchestrated by Dr. Robert Wolinsky, an anthracite mining historian and professor of history for the University of Wisconsin.
Anthracite Mining Heritage Month features over a dozen events, the next of which being a one-act play on Thursday at the Wyoming Presbyterian Church Institute at 40 Institute St., Wyoming.
For more information on the schedule of events, contact Wolinsky at email@example.com.