A collier is a person whose occupation is to procure or sell coal. Formerly, the term applied to a person who made and traded in charcoal. For centuries, charcoal was fuel of choice for many cottage industries. Charcoal is mostly pure carbon, made from wood whose moisture content and impurities have been removed through a particular process of slow-burning. This is often done by creating a “pile,” which allows the collier to carefully control the supply of oxygen to the burn. The benefit of charcoal is that it allows for hotter fires with a smaller amount of material than does raw wood. This made charcoal highly desirable for household use such as cooking and heating, and for industrial uses such as smelting, forging, and glassmaking.
Featured image: A collier (charcoal seller) from the 1960’s on the island of Mauritius. Photo courtesy of Vintage Mauritius.