Friday, February 10, 2017

Peter Francisco & Ann the Huntress

One of the joys of my new job in archives is coming across bits of information while conducting research. Often as I am looking to track down a bit of information or history for someone, often something I know little about, I come across completely unrelated but fascinating information. Going down rabbit holes I call it.

Most recently, I was looking for information concerning history of Greensboro, NC. After looking through several archives boxes, I was checking through some of the history books in archives. In one a photograph caught my eye of a man from the Revolutionary War. The photo was of Peter Francisco but it was the billing of "Hercules of the Revolutionary War" that further drew me in. Also called the Giant of Virginia and Hercules of Virginia, he fought valiantly at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse among other conflicts. His life story reads like one out of myth and later Americana tall tales. As a boy, he was discovered on foreign docks and spoke Portuguese. He gave his name as Pedro Francisco, that his family lived in a mansion and that he and his sister were kidnapped. She escaped but he was taken away by ship and later abandoned.

He was taken to America and grew up in Virginia. When he was old enough he apprenticed as a blacksmith. Peter grew to be somewhere between 6 foot 6 to 6 foot 8, a giant of a man, especially for those times. As a soldier, he participated and was wounded in several notable battles. In addition to stories of his prowess as a soldier, stories of his strength spread. When a wagon was stuck in mud and two mules could not pull it out, he did. Another time, he was loathe to leave a cannon to be recovered by the enemy and the horses that were to pull it had been killed. Supposedly he hefted the heavy cannon on to his shoulders and carried it. This feat was immortalized on a stamp. To add to the mythos of the man, he had a special broadsword made, commissioned for him by General Washington. The sword was six feet long, five feet of it being the blade. The mental image of this fighting giant on the battlefield with a sword longer than the height of many men is striking. Sadly, his sword was lost at some point after being donated to a historical society by his daughter.

With these stories of strength and fighting ability, it is no surprise that the moniker of Hercules would be attached to him. I cannot help to wonder if such stories around a man of historical record somehow inspired later fictional heroes of tall tales, folklore and various supermen of late 19th and early 20th Century pop culture. More can be found out about him at

Ann the Huntress

I came across this story in another book, Greensboro North Carolina: The County Seat of Guilford by Ethel Stephens Arnett, University of North Carolina Press, 1955. For a little context, Mrs. Arnett writes that in the late 1700s in order to increase agriculture harvests, legislation passed a law that each man in the region would kill a quota of crows, blackbirds and squirrels or pay a fine. Out of this grew a celebration and shooting match as the men would turn in their quotas and show off their marksmanship skills to their women. Quoting Mrs. Arnett:

At one of these meetings, about 1790-1791, "an incident occurred... of such a character that it had an influence of North Carolina... the United States, and the world," wrote Addison Coffin in his "Early Settlements of Friends in North Carolina" And this is the story he recorded:
There was a shooting match about one mile east of where Guilford College now stands, in a forest. [A large company of noted riflemen were performing wonderful feats of marksmanship]. In the midst of the exciting contest a beautiful young woman suddenly made her appearance coming up the road from the northwest. She was dressed in a neat walkng dress with ornamented Indian leggins and moccasins. She carried a small rifle highly ornamented with silvr mountings, and the usual shot pouch and belt, with hunting knife and small hatchet, a complete hunting outfit. After the excitement had somewhat subsided and shooting began again, she modestly asked permission to take a shot with the contestants; the request was granted and she stepped lightly out of the line, raised her rifle, took quick aim and fired, the ball drove the center to a hair's breadth sixty yards away. A shout of applause from the hunters made the forest ring. Again she loaded and fired, again the ball drove the center. Astonished and bewildered the old hunters gathered around her, doubting whether they were seeing a vision, or were in the presence of flesh and blood, but her bright intelligent face, respectful language, and lady-like bearing convinced them that whe was a mortal, and one of the highest types of sacred womanhood, but to the inquiry who she was, from whence she came and why thus alone among strangers, she respectfully declined to answer, but gaver her name as Ann, the huntress. Richard Dodson, a Friend, invited her to go home with him... she accepted the invitation and as they walked away her form was so graceful and her step so light and springing that the old veterans shook their heads again doubting or no all was really human.
The story could end there. It makes for a great tale from folklore or legend. But, it does not simply end there. As Paul Harvey, now for the rest of the story. According to Arnett, she stayed with the Dodson family working as huntress for the family and teacher for the children. In addition to be a crack shot and hunter, Ann was highly educated for her time and she changed the language of the region.
Everybody said "goin" "doin." She taught the children to sound ing to all words with that termination - some of the old ones had trouble retwisting their tongues to talk "politely" but before she left a half generation had grown up under her magic instructions...Her cheerful smile, bright face, and gentle ways [were] a light in every household; so much so that many began to seriously believe there was supernatural about her, but alas, the scene suddenly changed. In the winter of 1807-8 Ann disappeared as suddenly as she appeared and no trace of her was ever found. It is said that her teachings were engrafted [by emigrants from North Carolina] into the school systems of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa and the language and the pronunciation is that of all the great Northwest and Pacific coast." (Arnett).
 She is not to be confused with Mad Anne Bailey, another interesting woman.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Leadership and superheroes

Cannot believe it has been so long since I last wrote. It has been a busy year. During the summer, I processed collections, researched bios, and created some finding aides for the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at UNCG. An interesting project and in looking at the military careers of WACs and such, it gave me some context concerning Wonder Woman. While much grief and disdain has been given concerning her secretary status for the JSA, this was actually common and considered a bit forward thinking for the time, especially as she also accompanied the men on adventures! The other option for secretary (which was more than just taking notes) would have actually been the Flash or the Atom (one being freshly college graduated and the other with some college courses, but neither established professionally). Johnny Thunder would never have been considered a serious candidate and the others were all established professionally and probably with advanced degrees. The other thing that occurred to me that I've never seen mentioned, Wonder Woman would be considered a spy if her secret identity was ever discovered! She is a foreign national, using an assumed name and rank that is not really hers to infiltrate the US military.

In the Fall, I did an internship with the Carrboro Public Library and obtained a temporary part-time job with the Center for Creative Leadership performing copyright research for program materials. December, I graduated with my MLIS from UNCG. At the start of the year, my temporary part-time job got extended into being a temporary full-time job (ie a full-time contractor position), with me maxing out my hours probably some time in May.

What can comics like Fables and characters like Ash of "The Evil Dead", and Xena and Gabrielle teach you about leadership?

My current job as a contractor at the Center for Creative Leadership has me researching copyrights and trademarks of third party IP in our various lessons, presentations, and documents. Which has me looking up strange things from time to time (did you know the man who brought the duck-rabbit graphic to the English speaking world also helped develop the APA citation style? Or that there was such a thing as dead mice wine?). A recent search brought this website to my attention. Cummings combines reviewing comic books and pop culture with lessons on leadership and management, something that makes up a big part of my life right now.

This would be unusual enough except for another search lead me to this blog discussing heroes of various stripes including Superman (and even looks at the Superman song by the Crash Test Dummies).

Superman not a good role model for charity giving?

Grant, Adam M. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. New York, NY: Viking, 2013. Print.

Another search lead me to this interesting book on different factors that influence people giving to charity. It talks of a study where people were asked to give attributes for superheroes vs. attributes for Superman and how that influenced subsequent behavior. To be fair, this study would have probably been true if they used almost any specific superhero by name, not just Superman.

Consider an experiment by psychologists Leif Nelson and Michael Norton, who randomly assigned people to list either ten features of a superhero or ten features of Superman. When invited to sign up as community service volunteers, the group that listed superhero features was nearly twice as likely to volunteer as the Superman group. Three months later, Nelson and Norton invited both groups to a meeting to kick off their volunteering. The people who had written about a superhero were four times more likely to show up than the people who had written about Superman. Thinking about a suphero three months earlier supported giving. In comparison, thinking about Superman discouraged giving. Why? 
When people think about the general attributes of superheroes they generate a list of desirable characteristics that they can relate to themselves. In the study, for example, people wrote about how superheroes are helpful and responsible, and they wanted to express these giver values, so they volunteered. But when people think specifically about Superman, what comes to mind is a set of impossible standards, like those popularized in the TV series The Adventures of Superman: "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." No one can be that strong or heroic, so why bother trying?

A Look at Murphy Anderson

This one isn't work related. Pretty good article from Yes! Weekly, a local free paper, although the writer commits the all too common sin of trying to show his maturity by being condescending towards superheroes by referring to the underwear on the outside... Don't know how I didn't know Murphy Anderson was from my home town and actually did some of his work from there while moonlighting as a cab driver. Sadly, this is not touted anywhere in town that I know of though cannot avoid references to O'Henry who did not live here when he did his writing.

Ok. Lunch break is over. I'll try not to be so long between my next visit.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Returned from Vegas Vacation

Been awhile. Last fall I started back to school to get a Master's in Library Science. Then early this year, I got a full-time job. I had been working part-time on the weekends for my old employer, The News & Observer, putting in 20+ hours on Fridays and Saturdays in addition to going to school.  The full-time job is with the book conservation company, The HF Group. The pay is considerably less, but the hours plus not having to commute to Raleigh every weekend evens it out. However, between going to work 40 hours a week AND going to school puts a strain on time and sanity. Doing a session of summer school even moreso.

Thankfully, I got a brief break by not going to second summer school session. My wife and I went to Las Vegas for a week, to meet up with her sister and kids on vacation from Alaska. I like to scope out local comic stores, but was limited by not knowing the city. The ones closest to The Strip even seemed a couple of blocks off, thus not easily accessible when you're hoofing it most of the time in over a hundred degree weather. Although the heat is not too bad considering the low humidity. Eighty-five degrees with high humidity in NC can sap your strength more than the dry desert heat.

I had pretty much given up going to a comic store when we took a bus down to the Freemont Street district and stumbled upon Jesse James Celestial Comics store almost immediately off the bus. Apparently, it is a fairly new store and most of the comic selection is geared towards current and recent stuff. I was mainly looking for a copy of Alan Davis'  "Savage Hulk" which just came out and once I found where the actual "this week's" comics were, I was set.

What was cool about the store is that up front and center as you enter is a table of comics featuring female characters as leads. Also at the front and to the side are the comics suitable for children. When my niece of 12 came in, she found the section immediately. The young woman running the store was extremely helpful, aiding in selecting various comics that would interest her. My niece ended up leaving with more comics than I did, several issues of "Princeless", a trade collecting the first story as well as a collection of the Power-Puff Girls. The employee also tried to help my 16 y.o. nephew pick out a suitable horror comic, but I feel he was feeling a bit "too cool" to be seen reading comics even when its something like "Hellblazer" or "30 Days of Night".

Also while in town, saw a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows. It was my first experience with their shows. I am not a big Michael Jackson fan, but he is of my generation and hard not to have associations with his music and certain ages and times of my life. The "Michael Jackson: One" show is absolutely amazing though.  The storyline/setting is a bit surreal, that some of Jackson's artifacts are being held by some kind of aliens and you have four stowaway kids who over the course of the show each comes across one of the artifacts (his glasses, glove, shoes, jacket) and are transformed into greater versions of themselves against a backdrop of some of his most popular songs ad a few of his more philosophical ones. The dancing/acrobatics are incredible and the effects amazing. Especially when the performers interact with holograms of a singing Michael Jackson on stage. The only thing that bothered me was the near deification/sanctification of Jackson. The message of the narrative through the dancing and music is positive, but it also lifts the singer up as something much larger than life and more than he was.

The second Cirque show we aw was Ka. Like "One",there is a story narrative, told through pantomime and music. The story is a fantasy where a pair of twins, a brother and sister, are at a celebration which is attacked by a rival nation of pirates. In trying to escape by boat, they are separated and the ship is also attacked and half the group is stranded. Each sibling discovers new dangers, allies and finds love before being re-united.

The show is aimed more at families with children, my niece loved it and talked about it for days and had a bit of a crush on the bad guy of the story. Again, there were some wonderful effects especially in the movement of the stage that moved and rotated. In addition to the boat is a flying machine and a large wheel with cages containing prisoners that spins.  The man-sized crab costume was very convincing considering it being a stage production. Much of the humor is aimed at the young, some almost slap-stick in nature. Although, the woman on the other side of my wife apparently does not get out much or she simply still has the wide-eyed wonder and humor of a child. She laughed at each appropriate part, ooh-ed and ahh-ed at each wonder and gasped at each twist. I pride myself on having maintained my sense of fun and wonder, able to enjoy animated children movies like "Up", "Bolt", etc and I enjoyed this show. Just not quite as much as this woman. The one chief let-down in the show came near the end. After so many great acrobatic and dance segments moving the story alone as well as the expensive sets, costumes and effects, the climactic battle is not done live on stage but projected against the vertical stage. The projection was fuzzy and hard to make out, although this may have been partly because we had otherwise good seats close to the stage. It felt like they finally ran out of money and/or time and had to wrap things up quickly

To bring this a bit on topic for this blog, the shows reinforced my opinion that Hollywood and current comic creators really just do not get it when it comes to superheroes. Both of these shows  These shows are bringing in large numbers celebrating wonder and colorful costumes and action. Hollywood directors, the companies and their defenders would have us believe that people won't take colorful costumes seriously, that they are not realistic. Yet, these shows celebrate that. The Olympics and sporting events attract millions with their players wearing colorful outfits that make them easily distinguishable from others also in colorful outfits. The Michael Jackson show basically had four kids becoming superheroes through Michael Jackson artifacts. It's the creators and fans that are embarrassed to be seen enjoying reading or working on superheroes that are actually out of touch with the larger populace.