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In 1938, James B. Turnbull (1909-1976) was living in Maplewood, Missouri, and visiting his home state's mining areas. Missouri was the first state west of the Mississippi to produce coal commercially in 1840. Missouri's coal deposits are in the northern and western parts of the state and most of the early coal mines were underground operations. Surface mining began in the mid-1930s and production reached a peak during World War II. Turnbull visited a tiff (barite) mine in Washington County as well as lead mines in the State as he was planning to depict mining in his 1939 mural The Lead Belt for the Fredericktown, Missouri Post Office. As a result of Turnbull's research into Missouri's mining, a number of fine watercolors were produced such as Miner's Locker Room. In 1938 and 1939, Turnbull exhibited three mining subjects at the annuals of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York: Company Houses, 1938, Tiff Miner, 1938, and Scrapping Tiff, 1939.

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