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Explain That Photo: Few details about a Pan-American Exposition monument

Welcome to the inaugural #ThrowbackThursday "Explain That Photo" post.

The Buffalo News' photo archives are deep, but unfortunately, not all the photos it contains have enough information attached to explain the images they accompany. We're hoping you can help with that. Each Thursday, we'll post a different photo with all the accompanying information we have, and maybe together, we'll get the full story behind each picture.

Today's debut post is actually two pictures of an object with ties to the Pan-American Exposition.

(Some information has been found; see update at bottom.)


The hand-scrawled caption on the back says: "3 ton coal statue. Front of Tracy Coal Co. 1453 (sic) Main St., Bflo." Dated April 10, 1938. (Buffalo News archives)


tbt001 - Copy

Typewritten caption that ran with this image on Oct. 12, 1980: "A relic of the Pan Am, this huge ball of coal endured as a landmark at 1168 Sycamore St. through the mid-1930s." No date was given for the image itself. (Buffalo News archives)

It's important to note that the dates on the back of photos of such age aren't always reliable -- the "1938" on the first could have been the date it was published, rather than the date it was taken. The information accompanying the second photo otherwise calls the date into question.

So what role did this coal statue play in the Pan-Am Exposition? What role did the Tracy Coal Co. play in its creation? Where did it go after it left its Main Street post?

UPDATE: A reader by the handle of Betty Barcode found some digitized books that have a few of the answers. A photograph showing the ball of coal appeared in "The Black Diamond," published in 1917, and had this to say: "The other photograph is of the front door of the office of the Yates Lehigh Coal Company at 1168 Sycamore street, Buffalo. The picture was taken mostly to show the ball of anthracite coal. It weighs 6,300 pounds and was originally on exhibition at the Pan American exposition. It was originally the property of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, which had it hewn out of the solid in its mines."

So it would appear that A.H. Tracy Jr. did not produce the ball. It also remains unclear what happened to the ball.


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