Your Portal to the Past
Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus has been the home of the Coal and Coke Heritage Center since 1977. The project developed and expanded following the publication of what is now considered the classic work on coal and coke: Patch/Work Voices: The Culture and Lore of a Mining People, written by former campus instructors Drs. Evelyn A. Hovanec, Dennis F. Brestensky and Albert N. Skomra. The focus of the project is centered on the bituminous coal and coke industries of southwestern Pennsylvania, with particular attention to the Connellsville Coke Region.
Tucked along the base of the Chestnut Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, the Connellsville Coke Region was world famous for its abundant, high quality bituminous coal and beehive coke. Geographically speaking, this area is situated in a long narrow strip of land averaging three and a half miles wide and nearly forty miles long, stretching from Latrobe in Westmoreland County to the area around Smithfield in Fayette County. The heyday of the Region spanned roughly the century from 1870-1970. During this period of phenomenal industrial growth throughout the United States, the Connellsville Coke Region fueled the blast furnaces of the steel industry in nearby Pittsburgh.
Elaine H. DeFrank serves as the oral historian.
Referred to as “the classic work on Coal and Coke” by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Patch/Work Voices was originally published with limited production in 1977. This first printing was made possible with a grant from Fayette Bank and Trust Company, in celebration of its Thirtieth Anniversary. In 1978, the second printing was published by the University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh, which utilized the same cover.
In 1991, The University of Pittsburgh Press reprinted Patch/Work Voices, with this blue/gold color cover. “The stories, culled from a series of oral history interviews, evoke a unique and vanished way of life in the coal patch,” reads the review from a University of Pittsburgh Press release. “The authenticity and immediacy of oral history make this a book for general readers as well as scholars.”
The fourth printing of Patch/Work Voices was commissioned in 2003 by Patch/Work Voices Publishing, part of the Coal and Coke Heritage Center, and all proceeds from sales benefit the heritage center. A coda, written by Dr. Evelyn Hovanec, is included in this edition, which brings readers up-to-date on the advances and physical growth of the Center since the initial publication. “The work begun with Patch/Work Voices,” writes Dr. Hovanec, “continues, and so do the lives of the people who remain in the area creating their own unique version of the American way from the debris of a once vibrant economy built around coal/coke/steel.”
To purchase your copy of Patch/Work Voices go to the Gifts/Books Section of this Web site.