As coal mines in West Virginia opened for thousands of immigrant laborers in the late 1800s, a stream of peddlers brought the pots, pans and cottons of the outside world to the mining hollows. The more enterprising door-to-door men opened small stores of their own. Many were practically just off the boat. They learned English buying and selling.
Hard work, long hours and customers who were grateful to be "carried" through bad times -- it was a foothold in the golden land.
"They were drawn to Appalachia by economic opportunity," historian Deborah R. Weiner said in Wheeling the other day. "If one man was responsible for this trade, I think it would be Jacob Epstein of Baltimore."