Hunger Games - PANEM - THE SEAM

PANEM - THE SEAM (Illustration) Civil Rights Film Geography History Social Studies STEM Ethics Fiction Dystopia or Science Fiction

Teach Sloan was an Appalachian coal miner who worked very hard to earn a living for his family. In this image we see him with his son. Image online, via Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection, Ms89-025 - Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.  Copyright, Virginia Tech, all rights reserved.  Image provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the Earl Palmer Collection.


People have known about coal since ancient times.  Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, wrote about it in one of his books - Meteorology - during the 4th Century B.C. 

By the 13th century, people in Europe were commonly using this natural resource.

By the 14th century, Hopi Indians had discovered its value.  Archaeologists believe these Native Americans were among the first people to use coal in North America. 

Living in an area later known as Arizona, the Hopi used coal for cooking, heating and baking their clay pots.  (In the fictional world of Panem, however, the Hopi's territory - located south of Panem's District 4 - was obliterated by an apocalyptic event.)

Explorers found coal at Cape Breton Island, in Canada, during 1672.  By the following year, another explorer - Louis Joliet - noted it on a map for an area later known as Illinois.

Coal-mining became an industry during America's Industrial Revolution.  More and more coal was needed to fuel the steam engines (and the locomotives, like the famous John Bull) which drove industrial production and output.

The North American region of Appalachia - including Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - produced much of the coal which fueled the U.S. Industrial Revolution.  In the fictional country of Panem, all (or parts) of those states are included in District 12.

Katniss Everdeen and her family live in the poorest area of District 12, called the "Seam."  Does that name have anything to do with the district's most-significant natural resource?

During the early years of mining, people saw a coal layer - among other geological layers - on the sides of various hills.  As they began to remove the coal from that layer - called a "seam" - miners of coal could follow the seams deeper and deeper into the ground.

In the Everdeens' neighborhood, where coal-mining is the predominant occupation, miners crowd the streets every morning.  On their way to work, these worn-out men keep following seams of coal, into the depths of the earth, despite bad working conditions.  Throughout this part of the district, everything is covered with coal dust. 

What is it like to mine a seam of coal?  Let's take a look at these videos:

  • Men working mostly with picks and shovels spent long days doing their best to dig-out the coal.
  • Part of the reason for the increased speed is a piece of equipment called the "continuous miner."  It literally devours the coal inside the seams of a mine.

Even with modern equipment, coal mining is still a very dangerous job.  Miners breathe-in the coal dust, causing them to get sick.  Because they descend deep into the mines, they are always at risk of mine explosions and collapses.

One such mine explosion killed the much-loved father of Katniss and Prim Everdeen.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 01, 2012

Updated Last Revision: Dec 14, 2015

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"PANEM - THE SEAM" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 01, 2012. Feb 28, 2020.
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