Although the current coal strike that plagues President Carter is the longest in the 27 years of negotiations between the United Mine Workers and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, these strikes have been almost a rite of passage for presidents since World War II.
And this one is merely an infant in impact, bitterness and rhetoric when compared with the granddaddy of coal strikes, the crippling walkouts of 1946.
The energy shortages of today came to life briefly 32 years ago for Americans only recently emerged from World War II.
In a nation that used coal to heat its homes, power its trains, produce 62 percent of its electricity and provide 55 percent of its industrial power, the coal strikes of 1946 were a disaster.
The walkouts, precipitated by a wage dispute, lasted eight weeks. They caused dim-outs in 22 states, forced auto makers to close, produced a 50 percent power cutback in Chicago, and led to a takeover of the mines by the Army.
The roles that Jimmy Carter and UMW President Arnold Miller fill today were played far more dramatically by the irascible Harry S. Truman and John L. Lewis, the Brobdingnagian Iowa-born miner who dominated the UMW for decades.
Truman took over negotiations from the mine owners, and 59 days after the strike had begun lewis signed a contract with the federal government at the White House. The government was running the coal mines.
But it fared little better with the union than the owners had. Four months after the agreement was signed, Lewis accused the government of violating the contract. He called a new walkout for Nov. 21.
The administration obtained a restraining order imposing a nine-day delay, but to no avail. On Nov. 21, a new walkout began.
The impact was swift. An estimated 250,000 non-miners were laid off. Steel plants began closing. Major cities, short of power, lived in shadows.
The issue was finally settled in the courts rather than at the bargaining table.
Truman obtained a contempt of court ruling against Lewis for refusing to obey the restraining order. Lewis was fined $10,000 and the union $3.5 million, the largest fine in U.S. labor union history.
When the case reached the Supreme Court, Lewis sent his men back to work to, he said, keep the court "free from public pressure superinduced by the hysteria and frenzy of an economic crisis."
The court upheld the conviction, but reduced the UMW fine to $700,000.
The strikes of 1946 were union-sponsored. Since then, coal mine shutdowns have as often been wildcat strikes, carried out without union sanction.
In 1959, several miners were killed, mines were destroyed by dynamite, and mine owners pleaded unsuccessfully with president Eisenhower to send in troops to break a union strike.
A wildcat strike in 1964 shut down mines in six states and idled 10,000 miners. The next year wildcat strikes in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia prompted comments that the issues underlying the 1964 dispute had not been properly resolved.
More than 58,000 union miners went out in 1966 and stayed away even after their then-president, A. W. (Tony) Boyle, ordered them back.
There were strikes in 1970, in 1974, when celebrated violence came to Harlan County, Ky., a wildcat strike in 1975, and a strike that kept 80,000 workers home in 1976.
Money and mine safety are the issues over which most of the strikes have been fought. Whatever the resolution of this year's strike, it appears likely to achieve no more than previous attempts to resolve the bedrock differences between miners and mine owners.