The first recorded discovery of coal in the United States is believed to be on the Illinois River in 1679 by French explorers. Historians, though, believe that the Chinese discovered coal more than 3,000 years ago.
The first commercial mining operation began in 1748 in Virginia and in 1750 in Kentucky by Dr. Thomas Walker. Coal served as one of the earliest sources of light and heat once the English discovered that coal produced fuel that burned hotter and cleaner than wood charcoal. Coal was a key component of new technologies during the Industrial Revolution and served as a worldwide energy supplier.