Why one miner drew attention that 71 didn’t

“[Three months later] there was a cave-in in a North Carolina mine in which 71 men were caught and 53 actually lost. It attracted no great  notice. It was ‘just a mine disaster.’

“Yet for more than two weeks the plight of a single commonplace prospector for tourists [near Mammoth Cave] had riveted the  attention of the nation on Sand Cave, Kentucky. It was an exciting show to watch, and the dispensers of news were learning to turn their spotlights on one show at a time.”

–“Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s” (1931) by Frederick Lewis Allen

Allen was contrasting the failed cave rescue of Floyd Collins in 1925, perhaps the first news media sensation of the century, with the Coalglen explosion that hastened the decline of North Carolina’s once-thriving coal industry.

Not that North Carolinians didn’t show their own appetite for the morbid. The slow removal of bodies from the Carolina Coal Mine, the News & Observer reported, was dishonored by “an indecent exposition of the picnic spirit by a truckload of heedless students who came over from the University.”

2 thoughts on “Why one miner drew attention that 71 didn’t”

  1. “Ace in the Hole” (1951) is a first-rate knockoff of the Floyd Collins story, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Kirk Douglas as a cynical newspaperman desperate to resurrect his career. Formerly known as “The Big Carnival,” which certainly describes the circumstances.

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