Coal definitely made a brighter, warmer, and less smoky fire than wood, and in Jane Austen’s day, had become a preferred source of heat. The Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 1700’s was fueled by coal and though it had been a prime energy source for centuries, the oldest continuously worked deep-mine, Tower Colliery, was opened in Wales, in 1805. Prior to that coal had been gathered “at the surface” or in private mining endeavors. The first commercial coal mines in the United States were started in 1748 in Midlothian, Virginia, near Richmond, Virginia. The following excerpt from The House Servant’s Directory, was written by Robert Roberts in 1827. Mr. Roberts had been butler to the governor of Massachusetts in 1809 and drew upon his work in that great house, to offer this advice to his fellow laborers. Directions how to make a fire with Lehigh coal And now, Joseph and David, I must address a few ‘last words’ to you on the subject of making coal fires. Having put down all that need be said in respect to employers and servants in their conduct towards each other, I wish to add some very superior directions for making fires of what is anthracite coal, otherwise called Lehigh, Rhode Island, or any hard coal. Very few servants at first understand the method of kindling and continuing a fire of Lehigh coal, many will never learn, and many more from erroneous instructions, whilst they think they understand is, make but a
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