Paul H. Rakes will give a talk titled "'Don't Cuss Me': Saloons, Liquor and Gunplay in West Virginia's Early Coal Camps" on Thursday in the Archives and History Library at the state Culture Center in Charleston.
Rakes, an associate professor of American history at West Virginia University Institute of Technology, will discuss the economic opportunities that drew a number of people to move to coal camps on Cabin Creek in Kanawha County and to coal towns in places such as Fayette and McDowell countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
At the time, the attractions of liquor, saloons and guns led to frequent violence among the largely transient male population, Rakes believes.
The rise in violence in the coalfields caused political problems for officials such as Gov. Albert B. White, who served from 1901 to 1905. Before coal camps matured, Rakes argues, many areas in the Mountain State were strikingly similar to the Old West during the late 19th century.
Rakes himself is a third-generation coal miner, who worked in the mines for 20 years before earning his Ph.D. in history at WVU.
He has published articles about coalfield history in the Journal of Appalachian Studies and West Virginia History and wrote a chapter in "Blood in the Hills: A History of Violence in Appalachia" -- about laws and legal concepts that influenced violence among miners in the West Virginia coalfields.
For additional information, people may contact the Archives and History Library at 304-558-0230. Thursday's program, which will begin at 6 p.m., is free and open to the public.