The Two Shovels

Gerrit Beneker (American, 1882 – 1934)
Oil on canvas
Frame : 40 3/4 x 31 in. (1 m x 78.74 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
Object Number

Unlike traditional underground mining, strip mining involves removing layers of earth and rock from the surface of a mining site to expose the targeted metals or minerals for easier extraction. This technique requires more investment of time and money at the outset of the mining operation, but can vastly increase the yield and therefore the profits. Because strip mining destroys all of the natural habitat around the mining site, it is also far more environmentally destructive than traditional mining. The invention of large mechanical excavators allowed strip mining to become commonplace across the US during the 20th century. This painting from 1912 by Grand Rapids native Gerrit Beneker reflects a period of transition between the old ways of mining by hand and the new ways of mining by machine. It depicts an open-pit mine with tiered sides leading down to a railway where a train is waiting to haul away the excavated material. The enormity of the environmental damage depicted in this image is softened by its cheerful pastel color scheme.

Object Type