Education: Heritage Discovery Center

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Activity: Before your visit

Larger than Life, Part 2

What Heroes Are Made Of

Find out what makes John Henry and Joe Magarac tick

  1. Review the legends of John Henry and Joe Magarac;
  2. List the kind of work that real railroad and steelworkers do and what they are like (see steelworker photo gallery for clues);
  3. List the exaggerated traits, words, and deeds of John and Joe.

Folk Hero

What's the real work like?

What are the real workers like?

Hero's physical traits

Hero's character traits

Hero's words

Hero's deeds

John Henry

  • Hard rock mountainsides
  • Steep climbs
  • Rock slides
  • Swinging big sledgehammers weighing 9 pounds
  • Strong back and arms
  • Aerobic strength: heart, lungs continuous effort
  • Work in teams
  • Tall and muscular
  • Great muscular and aerobic strength
  • Endurance
  • Used a 30-pound hammer with a 9-foot handle
  • Perseverance, determination
  • Proud of work
  • Skill with hammer
  • Self-sacrificing
  • Brave
  • "I'll die with a hammer in my hands."
  • "Get me a thirty pound hammer with that nine foot handle--I'll beat your steam drill down"
  • Worked so hard he beat the steam drill
  • Died rather than let the steam drill beat him

Joe Magarac

  • Steel mill buildings line up for miles
  • Furnaces 5 or 6 stories tall. Huge machines to cast and roll steel
  • Steel so hot it melts to a liquid
  • Hot, dirty, heavy
  • Dangers: burns, crushing
  • Careful with hot steel
  • Know how to run rolling mills, cranes, and other machines
  • Strong to handle raw materials like coal, iron ore, limestone, chemicals
  • Protect themselves from heat and things falling
  • Work in teams
  • Huge enough to use furnaces as stepping stones
  • Molten steel doesn't burn hime
  • Strong enough to bend steel without machines
  • Has endurance to work 24/7
  • Proud of his work
  • Generous; cares for other people
  • Self-sacrificing
  • Loves to work, willing to work long hours, never gets tired or bored
  • Brave
  • Doesn't say much
  • Saves workers from accidents
  • Lets "prize" wife marry her real boyfriend

Create a Coal Mining Folk Hero

  1. Look through the coal mining gallery for clues about what real mining is like;
  2. Create your coal miner hero's character (body and personality) by exaggerating what real miners do;
  3. Imagine the words he or she might say and the deeds he or she might do.

Coal Miner Folk Hero

What is real coal mining like?

What are real coal miners like?

Miner hero's physical traits (body)

Miner hero's character traits (personality)

Hero's words

Hero's deeds

Your coal miner hero's name

  • Dark, cold, damp, dirty
  • Close quarters: narrow tunnels, low roof
  • Dangers: gas leaks, coal dust, cave-ins
  • Work in a team.
  • Cautious and safe
  • Strong, skilled with tools
  • Able to work in dark, close quarters (nimble)
  • Protect lungs, limbs
  • Wears lamps, hardhats, long underwear, gloves, boots, rescue breather





Write and Illustrate the Story of your Miner Hero!

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | ©2013 Johnstown Area Heritage Association