The low volatile coal of the New River,
Winding Gulf, and Pocahontas coal fields of Southern West Virginia, came to be commonly
referred to and widely marketed as smokeless coal because it produced very little
smoke when burned. In addition to the coal's nearly smoke free qualities, the overall
characteristics the coal of the New River Coal Field placed it in a category that was
separate and distinct from all other classes of bituminous coals.
The desirability of coal that was nearly smokeless during the early
1900's was very great. During this period of time, most coal was burned in fire loaded by
hand. Because modern methods of controlling the burning of the coal, to control the amount
of smoke and waste produced were not yet common, most buyers of coal wanted coal that
burned as clean as possible. This was especially true in the nation's larger cities, many
of which had strict laws that restricted the amount of smoke allowed from its railroads,
factories or other industries. In general, the less volatile matter the coal contained,
the cleaner it burned. While the sellers of anthracite coal could boast of its 6 to 8
percent volatile matter, the smokeless coal of Southern West Virginia provided a very
close match to anthracite coal.