Archaeological evidence indicates that the Romans in England used coal in the second and third centuries (A.D. 100-200). Native Americans used it in the 1300s for cooking, heating and baking pottery.
280 to 345 million years ago – The “Carboniferous period,” fossil fuel formation begins.
1300s – The Hopi Indians in what is now the US southwest use coal for cooking, heating and to bake the pottery they made from clay.
1673 – Coal rediscovered in the US by explorers.
1720 – The first commercial coal mine in North America begins production at Port Morien (Baie de Mordienne) in Canada.
1748 – The first documented mining of coal in the US 50 tons is dug.
The first US commercial coal production begins from mines around Richmond, VA. Coal was used to manufacture shot, shell, and other war material during the Revolutionary War.
1769 – Scottish engineer James Watt invents the steam engine. It used coal to make steam to run the engine.
1770s – The English find that coal could produce a fuel that burned cleaner and hotter than wood charcoal.
1800s – The Industrial Revolution spreads. People used coal to manufacture goods, and to power steamboats and railroad engines. Coal was used to fuel their boilers.
1882 – Thomas Edison builds the first practical coal-fired electric generating station, supplying electricity to some residents of New York City.
1961 – Coal becomes the major fuel used by electricity utilities to generate electricity, and becomes the largest source of electricity.
Today – Coal provides 41% of the world’s electricity, according to the World Coal Institute.