150 People Who Made Scranton Great - Thomas J. Foster | Penn Foster News

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150 People Who Made Scranton Great - Thomas J. Foster

Thomas J. Foster

Published by TheTimes-Tribune.com

April 19, 2016

By David Singleton

A revolution in education had its roots in the mining tragedies Thomas J. Foster witnessed almost daily as a newspaper editor and publisher in Shenandoah in the 1870s.

Aghast at the coalfield carnage, the Pottsville-born Mr. Foster advocated for better working conditions and stricter mine regulations, leading to Pennsylvania’s adoption of the Mine Safety Act of 1885. However, the new law, which required miners and inspectors to pass a safety exam, created a new problem: how to prepare the workers, many with only a basic education, to take the test.

To try to help them, Mr. Foster published an advice column in The Colliery Engineer, a mining journal, but found it to be inadequate to the task.

The solution he finally hit upon would establish him as a distance education pioneer and make Scranton one of the globe’s most popular return addresses.

In 1890, two years after moving to the city, he founded the Colliery Engineer School of Mines, America’s first and the world’s most successful mail-order educational institution. It enrolled its first students the following year.

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