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Opinion :: Wise to the word: John Hancock vs. John Henry
· 10:40am March 2nd, 2011
"Put your 'John Henry' here."
My dad used to say that.
I used to think he was the only one.
But I have heard that phrase twice in recent weeks from people who never met my dad.
They, of course, were referring to a signature, basing the phrase on a man whose signature is a big part of American history. But they got it wrong.
John Henry was a great American hero.
But he was not known for his signature. That was John Hancock.
John Hancock, one of the Founding Fathers, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. Knowing the risks he would face if King George III saw his name on the paper announcing that the colonies are and ought to be free from his rule did not discourage John Hancock from leaving a large mark on that historic page.
In fact, he did just the opposite. Knowing that KG3 had problems with his vision, Hancock signed his name in huge letters. As he wrote, those around him recalled that he said, "There, I think King George should be able to read this."
For more history on John Hancock, click HERE.
It's' easy to see why many would mistake John Henry for John Hancock. The names are similar, and there was a famous John Henry in American history.
The real story of John Henry remains a mystery, although many people believe the historical evidence is strong enough to support his story as fact. The legend is that John Henry -- perhaps a prisoner -- was born a slave and grew to be one of the strongest men of his day. The legend says he competed in a contest with a steam-powered hammer, and died with his 9-pound hammer in his hand. The town of Talcott, W.V., still has John Henry Days each July.
But John Henry was never known for signing anything.
So, the next time someone asks you to "Put your 'John Henry' there," tell him it's John Hancock.
Unless, of course, your name is John Henry.