But Altoona has a way of surprising people, even those of us who know it best. Of our city’s many identities, there’s one that not even those of us who thought we knew everything about this town would have guessed…
…Once upon a time, Altoona was a coal camp.
In 1882, at a time when coal was the country’s primary source of energy, the Altoona Coal and Mining Company was born. The business started as a rather small operation—it had three employees, who were also the owners. But, as these men dug deeper and deeper below the surface of Altoona, they discovered a large vein of black gold.
Fast forward five years, and the company now employed 63 miners, nearly 20 percent of the town’s population at the time. In Altoona, coal was everywhere. So was the coal business—literally. As an Altoona resident, there was a good chance that the local mining company was operating right under your nose. Their subterranean network of mines extended beneath several residents’ properties, who received royalties for the right to use their land.