How did they get along without it? Why did it take them so long to learn how to use it? How did they happen at last to make use of it? Let us see.
Men got along without coal very simply. They did without many things that we today think we have to have.
They did without comfort in cold weather. In winter people shivered on one side and roasted on the other before the blazing logs of the fireplace-- if they were lucky enough to have either fireplace or blazing logs. Wood was scarce and costly in many places. Poor people often could not afford it.
Many Europeans did not even know that coal could burn. Two hundred years or so before Columbus discovered America an Italian merchant named Marco Polo traveled into unknown China. He brought back many strange tales. One that the people at home found very hard to believe what that the Chinese made good fires of black rocks!
Of course, it was not quite so easy to burn coal as to burn wood. Hard coal is especially hard to set on fire. Soft coal may give off ill-smelling gases if burned in open fires-- and stoves and furnaces were long unknown. In very early times chimneys were not in common use even in castles and palaces.
Then, little by little, people found out how to use coal to keep warm, and even to bake bread and cook dinner. They had to use it when wood grew scarce and expensive.
People still had no steel pans, much less any typewriters. Women treasured steel needles and had no sewing machines. Farmers reaped their grain and mowed their hay by hand. As for locomotives and automobiles and airplanes, if any such things could have been seen then they would have passed for sheer magic.
Yes, you say, but what has all this to do with coal? It has everything to do with coal. If it were not for coal, you and I would still be writing with quill pens. We would wear no clothes sewed by machines or made