Talk:John Henry (folklore)

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The article is not correct. In all the versions of the song that I have come across John Henry is challenged by a steam drill boring holes presumably for blasting rock in tunnels and cuttings (note the reference to the mountain caving in). The steel is the drill rod or 'drill steel'and the shaker he speaks to is an assistant who turns the steel a little bit between each hammer blow. I can think of nothing more exhausting than hammering a drill steel at shoulder height for more than a few minutes at a time. Boring with a modern compressed air hammer drill was hard enough for me. Knocking track spikes in as described in the article is a light job that does not need a folk hero.


All versions I have encountered depict the version descirbed in the article. Find sources for this version you speak of, and we can add it to the article. --b. Touch 15:37, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Ask almost any folk singer who was active during the last 100 years (Seeger, Dylan, Felix, Carters, Leadbelly or whoever) Or see:- , ...etc.

It looks as if the other version developed later possibly for publicity or propaganda reasons.

P.S. how can anyone know it was a heart attack ?


P.P.S. I never thought he was a black man till wikipedia said so. I think he was a human being like everyone else of all races.

P.P.P.S. Someone wrote about 'driving' blasting holes. You don't drive holes you drill them or, more commonly in this context, you bore them. 22:48, 31 October 2006 (UTC)mikeL (who can also be boring)

I've cleaned up the sloppy formating in the external links section. In doing so, I eliminated the following links: and . The later link is dead and I couldn't find anything in the former that justified its inclusion . That line that says "... BUT see ' discussion'" needs to be changed to reflect the story varients in the article, rather than self-reference Wikipedia. ~CS 21:03, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I reverted recent edits which added information about a band called "The John Henry Band." They appeared to be vanity additions. Their webpage indicates that they are unsigned and recruiting members, which indicates to me that they are not notable enough for inclution here. If anyone can provide information otherwise, I'd be happy to re-insert at least some of the information. ~CS 23:25, 10 November 2005 (UTC)

rejection of work ethic[edit]

It seems odd to me to say that John Henry himself rejected the 19th century work ethic. Isn't it the story that rejects the work ethic, not the character? --Allen 15:14, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

No response, so I'll be bold. --Allen 21:55, 15 January 2006 (UTC)

Goings-on with women[edit]

I've removed the following paragraph, added today by an anonomous user:

"Whilst most of the songs written about John Henry have a similar melody, and often similar lyrics, many have focused not on the story of the fight with the steam drill but on John Henry's tumultuous goings-on with numerous women of varying repute, and the (admittedly one-sided) brawls they would get him into."

I'm not certain if this is true, or vandalism. If it is true, it would be usefull to be more specific, citing particular renditions of the song that deviate from the normal story. Certainly, any songs about John Henry's "goings-on with numerous women" are not the norm. ~CS 19:11, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Disney Film[edit]

I would question the use of the phrase "thoughtful and beautiful" to describe the Disney version. I think the mention of the various awards the film won are adequate assertion of the film's quality.

Myth v Reality[edit]

John Henry is not a mythical folklore hero, he was a real person. I saw posted the question "P.S. how can anyone know it was a heart attack ?" Because if you check the web you can find scan images of the actual death certificate finding the cause of death a massive heart attack. The only thing they don't have actual proof of is as to whether or not he actually raced a steam powered drill; I believe he did. here's a site that has much information - John Henry

Wheather John Henry was a real person or a mythical amalgamation of the issues of the time period has been a point of contention between scholars for some time, with no final determination possible. Many of these theories are good leads -- your link is a facinating one -- but I'd use caution when regarding any source that claims that claim actual proof. ~CS 23:51, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

It may be worth noting that [Alan Lomax] stated that it was his opinion that this song originated among African-American railroad workers not as a ballad, but rather as a humerous tale of a man's sexual prowess, and later was adopted by whites who saw John Henry not as a comical figure, but rather as a heroic one.--messor 00:15, 4 October 2006 (UTC)


While it is true that no proof exists for the Leeds connection, that is equally true for the Talcott story, so it is not MORE craven for Leeds to capitalize on it. (Also, Garst is a Mississippi native living in Athens, Georgia and has no particular vested interest in promoting tourism in Leeds.) Presumably better references could emerge from the planned symposium next week. --Dystopos 14:36, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

Leeds vs. Talcott[edit]

While it is true that Talcott, W. Va.’s “proof” and right to the promotion of the John Henry legend is no more or no less substantial than that of Leeds, AL; Talcott does have 10 plus years prior claim on the J. Henry tourist money maker. One might speculate as to why Leeds could not be more original than having to “rip off” someone else’s claim, valid or not. Particularly when the Leeds claim is just as questionable. But then again, it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well I guess Talcott should just feel flattered and so should any other local folklore promoter in case Leeds decides to flatter them.--vett69 01:41, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

Please stop adding the accusation that Leeds is ripping off tourists to this article. The article is already clear that claims of a historical John Henry are wide and often dubious -- there is not need to single out Leeds. This kind of content does not meet Wikipedia's Neutral point of view policies, and editors will continue to remove this line because of this. You may also want to not Wikipedia's Three-revert_rule which you violated yesterday. If you want, you can discuss how to impropve this section of the article here. Thanks, ~CS 15:59, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
  • It should be clear that Leeds did not set out to flatter or to rip off Talcott's "tourist money maker". They are proposing to include an educational exhibit on John Henry within their planned historical museum based on claims made by an independent researcher who has no ties to Leeds or its tourism industry. --Dystopos 17:10, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

They are also planning a "John Henry Days" festival and possible statue similair to Talcott; there have been discussions of a possible movie or docudrama.--vett69 18:45, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Take This Hammer[edit]

This is best regarded as a different song where the singer is part of a work gang (presumably a prision chain gang) dreaming of escape to freedom or to death..hence 'take this hammer, carry it to the captain, tell him i'm gone'. John Hirt includes the name John Henry in his version but this is not usual.

Other related recordings:-

'John Hardy' Carter family, 1928 similar name and tune but about a shooting.

'Gonna Die with my Hammer in My Hand' Williamson brothers and Curry 1927

'Spike Driving Man' Missippii Joe Hirt 1952 08:49, 21 September 2006 (UTC)mikeL

"Take This Hammer" refers to "making big ones into little ones", typical chain gang hard labor, making crushed rock for railroad beds (the gravel that railroad ties sit on). A related song, Swannanoa Tunnel is likely to be a drilling song. Pustelnik (talk) 21:07, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Mules and Men[edit]

Seems there should be something here about Zora Neale Hurston's report of the folktale in her ~1935 book Mules and Men. Anyone know of other early records of the story. Her's would be significant as it gives an early African-american version of the song. Also, the song's lyrics are public domain and might be discussed directly (various versions and what not). -MrFizyx 21:04, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Disney Film Question[edit]

In the article it says that Disney was uneasy about releasing the film becasue of the nearly all white production team. I'm looking for more details about this and not having any luck. Can someone point me in the right direction?


I just added Pete Seeger to the list of singers who've recorded the John Henry folksong - it seemed odd that Bruce Springstein's cover of the Seeger version was listed while Seeger's own version wasn't!

Rosie O'Donnel?[edit]

Quite possible that this is just a coincidence and there really is a "big man" by the name of Rosie O'Donnell. More likely, methinks, someone put that in there as a wisecrack and it ought to be rubbed out. Consider that my recommendation. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 22:08, 6 May 2007 (UTC).

Fair use rationale for Image:Johnhenry1996.jpg[edit]

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BetacommandBot 14:46, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Include Gary Kasparov???[edit]

In the "See Also" heading of the article there is a link to chess Grand Master Gary Kasparov. Does anyone know of the link between John Henry and Gary Kasparov? Kasparov played chess against computers so there is a man vs. machine dynamic at play. However, the link seems strenuous at best. Thoughts about removal? VirginiaProp 12:15, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

  • I removed the wikilink. If someone wants to make that connection it should be explained with some context (and should be cited to avoid original research). --Dystopos 15:01, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

"Big Men"?[edit]

The list of "Other Big Men" includes many men of high legend who none the less were not noted to be "big." More or less this same list is present on many of the referenced pages. Is there a "Big Men Project" or something? Should these lists be otherwise titled? Or should they be pruned down to just the "big" men? Jackrepenning (talk) 15:03, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

Moved some paragraphs around[edit]

So that it made more of a logical progression from topic to topic in the "history" section. Also delted the section that referenced the Terminator TV show because that shit was irrelevant as fuck. (talk) 03:50, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Why are you using such hard words, and why is a TV show less relavant then a song? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:44, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

Song Section[edit]

I was thinking the song section might need a face lift. The 'one giant paragraph' is a little hard on the reading eye and doesn't seem to flow well. Perhaps a list or table and move some of the information around to other places or smaller paragraphs? Operator873 (talk) 09:29, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

First mention in print?[edit]

When and where exactly is John Henry first mentioned in print? It is strange that such pivotal (for a folklore hero) information is absent. --CopperKettle 07:40, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

Bascom, Louise Rand. "Ballads and Songs of Western North Carolina." Journal of American Folklore 22. Apr-Jun (1909): 238-50. Two lines of "John Henry" appear on pp 249-50. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:32, 15 April 2010 (UTC)


I realize that this was just restored, but I removed it and am bringing it here for discussion. I do not know why this was removed in the first place, but my reasoning is that it is unreferenced and original research. All of the following may be true and accurate, but without references, it is simply an editor's opinions. ---RepublicanJacobiteThe'FortyFive' 23:12, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Like other "Big Men" such as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, John Henry also served as a mythical representation of a group within the melting pot of the 19th-century working class. In the most popular version of the story, Henry is born into the world big and strong weighing 33 pounds. He grows to become the greatest "steel-driver" in the mid-century push to erect the railroads across the mountains to the West. When the owner of the railroad buys a steam-powered hammer to do the work of his mostly black driving crew, to save his job and the jobs of his men, John Henry challenges the owner to a contest: himself alone versus the steam hammer. John Henry beats the machine, but exhausted, collapses and dies.
In modern depictions John Henry is often portrayed as hammering down rail spikes, but older versions depict him as being born with a hammer in his hand; driving blasting holes into rock, part of the process of excavating railroad tunnels and cuttings.

In almost all versions of the story, John Henry is a black man and serves as a folk hero for all American working-class people, representing their marginalization during changes entering the modern age in America. While the character may or may not have been based on a real person, Henry became an important symbol of the working class. His story is usually seen as an archetypal illustration of the futility of fighting the technological progress that was evident in the 19th century upset of traditional physical labor roles. Some labor advocates interpret the legend as illustrating that even the most skilled workers of time-honored practices are marginalized when companies are more interested in efficiency and production than in their employees' health and well-being. Although John Henry proved himself more powerful than the steam-drill, he worked himself to death and was replaced by the machine anyway. Thus the legend of John Henry has been a staple of American labor and mythology for well over one hundred years.
It was removed by a vandal on 6 November 2009, and the initial corrector of said vandalism simply erased the profanity the vandal had put in its place, without actually undoing the deletion. I'm putting this back in with a tag - as it stands now, the article contains no description of what the story actually is or what John Henry does. Ergative rlt (talk) 16:30, 19 May 2010 (UTC)


It seems to me that there should be a separate article for the song of the same name. It's just as notable, and there's an entire other history behind the song itself. There could be a lyrical article on Wikisource of the most notable version, probably Lead Belly's, if it's in the PD. Of course, information would be left on this article, but it seems better to create another article about the song than to just have the pittance of information found here. BootleggerWill (talk) 19:54, 27 May 2011 (UTC)


The opening paragraph of this article gives me the impression that this person is a well-defined historical individual. However, the rest of the article is less clear on this point, talking of a "mythical representation", citing different versions of the "story", and leaving me overall slightly confused about his historicity. I would like to see this crucial point made clearer in the lead section. Is he real, myth, or an uknown/confused mixture of both? (talk) 02:25, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

Page rewrite -- reverted[edit]

Was there any particular purpose to rewriting the page? Part of a project? Didn't conform to some arcane wikism laid out by a committee of bizarre usernames years ago without reference to the propriety of such guidelines in regard to any given subject? Got bored?

Can we at least have the part about the rubber ducky race back? It's fun, it's a real thing, and it's related to the legend a lot more closely than the inevitable list of big men in folklore someone's going to come along and add later. Pretty please? (talk) 21:09, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

I just reverted the whole thing. The loss of the narrative was particularly un-nerving; I was about to complain about this here, when I noticed that the old article had this. This is rather central to the myth! To have an article about it without actually mentioning it is .. freaky bizarre. I would like to see the whole thing expanded: John Henry is, among other things, a story about the dangers of hubris in resisting the advent of modern technology: you can't fight a machine and win: this is the standard elementary-school interpretation; this article should elaborate. More vital than ever, since machines (viz computers) are taking over the world, and one must be careful not to enter into John-Henry competitions against machines (whether chess-playing or jeopardy-playing). Surely this stuff is citable and not "dubious-discuss", its in children's textbooks, after all! linas (talk) 04:08, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Editing at Wikipedia is not about taking out everything that isn't referenced. Section tags can be added, citation needed notes can be placed. Article creation works as a collaborative process. Span (talk) 01:59, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but as a factual matter, you're mistaken. I sat on it for a while and thought about what you said, but you're just way off base.
Whatever you may think editing at Wikipedia is about, the verifiability policy requires that all contested material be removed until cited. That's just a fact. Section tags and the like may be added, but when material is disputed, it has to come down until cited. It's OK if you don't agree with the policy, but it's not OK for you to make up your own, or to just add large chunks of uncited material and original research that doesn't appear to have any basis in fact.
Furthermore, your admonition to "go gently" when editing is in total opposition to actual Wikipedia policy, which is to edit boldly.
If you could explain to me why you think all of the rules don't apply to this page, or if you could point me to some actual, for-real, written-down-and-agreed-to rules that you think justify your position, we could probably come to some sort of agreement. Until then, unverified information is coming back down.
Bdb484 (talk) 21:59, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
By asking that you go gently, I was thinking of WP:EDIT: "Be cautious with major changes: consider discussing them first. With large proposed deletions or replacements, it may be best to suggest changes in a discussion, to prevent edit warring and disillusioning either other editors or yourself (if your hard work is rejected by others). One person's improvement is another's desecration, and nobody likes to see their work "destroyed" without prior notice." and WP:BASICS "Most discussions are ultimately settled by "consensus" ...A large number of users donate time, knowledge, skills, and effort to help the project and other users. Users should act towards other users in a generally helpful manner even if disagreeing with their views or tone. This often means listening and trying to find common ground, avoiding inflaming disputes or polarizing discussions, and working from unselfish project principles. A generally calm, productive, collegial style is looked for." Span (talk) 03:21, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
I feel like you're overlooking the fact that the demands you're making have already been met: Users have been coming to the talk page for quite some time with questions and disputes about material throughout the page, and they have generally been met with silence. The Folklore section is particularly problematic, as it has been tagged as needing sources for more than year, and no one has seen fit to add any.
This discussion that you and I are having is one that I've been through more times than I can count (you are just one of a large community of editors who object to the way I edit), so let me make a prediction on how it plays out. (1) Some IP editor repeatedly reverts my changes. (2) He is banned for edit warring and adding uncited material. (3) The ban discourages registered users from restoring the disputed material, as well. (4) Very shortly afterward, some ambitious editor decides to deal with the problem more productively than you or me, by doing the legwork required to find citations. (5) The page ends up with more information and better citations.
It's counter-intuitive, but but I can assure you that deleting large chunks of uncited text almost inevitably leads to a more thorough, better-sourced treatment of the topic. I'd encourage you to abide by the verifiability rule and let it prove its worth.
Bdb484 (talk) 22:04, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I cannot as a matter of principle take your assurances at face value without citation. Your actions have been questioned and you continue to cleave to your own sense of purpose rather than engage in any debate on the value of said actions. I really must insist on factual evidence to support the claims you make about your approach, or that you back down and engage in genuine discussion with other wikipedians, primarily by raising the matter of this page with any or all of the wikiprojects listed at the top of this talk page.
Furthermore, your comments in the following section of this talk page appear to breach guidelines on original research. John Henry's historicity is clearly disputed, and this page is in any case clearly labelled (folklore). His existence or nonexistence is a side issue at best to this page, which deals with the folklore aspect, and necessarily deals with the cultural impact of that body of folklore, much of which you have removed as unsourced material rather than seek existing sources to add to the article.
Again, I must insist you step back from editing this page and deliberately open it to debate and consensus rewrite at the relevant wikiprojects. Thankyou for your time. (talk) 17:36, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry. I don't read rants from sockpuppets. — Bdb484 (talk) 00:08, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

So, Bdb484, even though you have got substantial opposition to your edits on this page and have "a large community of editors who object to the way [you] edit" you continue to mass revert text. If, as you say, you have been through this discussion more times than you can count, isn't it, perhaps, time to back up and reflect on your practice? You seem to be suggesting you are "trying to find common ground, avoiding inflaming disputes or polarizing discussion" as WP:BASICS recommends. WP:PRESERVE says we should fix or flag problems if we can, removal being a last option. It seems like you are making a point. It seems like you are saying (above) that if anyone reverts your edits they'll get blocked, everyone else gets put off and 'you win'. If someone adds new sources in order to restore text, 'you win'. This is the way it always 'plays out'. I can't say that this is my idea of a collaborative editing community.Span (talk) 19:21, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

I hope you'll forgive me if I decline to let you divert attention from the fact that you are continuing to restore contentious, uncited material that has been tagged and brought to the talk page repeatedly. Although attributing fake quotes to me might make you feel as though your argument is stronger, it doesn't explain why -- after all your conditions for removing uncited material have been met -- you persist with this behavior.
I'm not interested in "winning" anything here. I'm interested in seeing the material cited. If that means I win something, I hope you'll forgive me for not clearing a place on the mantel.:— Bdb484 (talk) 00:08, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

Er, what material have I restored exactly? My last edit was Aug 1st. I have no interest in an edit war. Span (talk) 00:34, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

I apologize for my careless wording; it appears I was lumping you in with those who have been making reversions. What I should have made clear is that it sounds as though you are advocating for the inclusion of material that is contested and uncited, and that has been so tagged for some time, and that has been brought to the talk page for discussion, only to be ignored.
If that's an inaccurate characterization, please correct me. — Bdb484 (talk) 20:33, 9 August 2011 (UTC)


Hi all. It's come to my attention that there were questions about my edits. In case anyone who knows enough to come to a talk page doesn't already know the verifiability policy, it's available here: WP:V. The policy requires that disputed material that has not been verified with a reliable source must come down, and that it must not be restored until a reliable source has been provided in the form of an inline citation.

In accordance with this policy, please do not restore any of the deleted information, all of which I am disputing, except to the extent that you've added citations.

Bdb484 (talk) 01:55, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I think you are confusing the idea of John Henry as folklore, with the idea of John Henry as a real person. The possibility that someone once existed, who vaguely resembles the John Henry of folklore, is immaterial to the importance of John Henry to American history. It seems appropriate to delete the section on history, no matter how well referenced it is, right? linas (talk) 02:56, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't agree. The fact that this is folklore does not mean that John Henry was not an actual person. If he was, then his story is relevant to the folklore.
Bdb484 (talk) 20:47, 3 August 2011 (UTC)
The article, as it currently stands, does not even say what the the John Henry folk-lore is. It does not discuss the importance of the folklore to American politics, history, society or culture. Instead, is has some drivel about a supposed "real person". Cut out the drivel, add something real!! linas (talk) 13:13, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't object to adding something real. However, whatever added should include citations to verify that it is real.
If there is notable folklore, there will be reliable sources documenting it. If that folklore is important to American politics, history, society or culture, there will be reliable sources documenting it. As it stands, it appears that the only notable aspect of this (measured by the availability of reliable sources) is the debate over the identity of the legend's source. You may think it's drivel, but until you start publishing reliable sources commenting on the issue, that opinion is not entirely relevant. — Bdb484 (talk) 20:36, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

This will be my only comment on this page, but I would like to add my voice that Bdb484's recent edits have been, overall, detrimental to the page. That John Henry is important to American folk culture is the kind of common knowledge claim that he seems to want a citation for. That the song has been covered by dozens of Delta blues artists, especially in the early 20th century, is the kind of claim he seems to want a citation for. That John Henry is used in newspaper op-eds, conversations on the street, or anywhere else needs a citation. Examples: John Henry is an American folk hero, notable for having raced against a steam powered hammer and won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand.[citation needed] --Listen to Leadbelly! Or an Alan Lomax collection. Or: He has been the subject of numerous songs, stories, plays, and novels.[citation needed] If that sentence needs a citation, then Wikipedia better take down the (literally) almost every single article that doesn't belong to a tv show or sports season. My apologies if I am not adding anything new to the conversation.

Vincent Moon (talk) 22:10, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

If John Henry is as important as you say he is, there shouldn't be much of a problem finding a reliable source to back up that assertion. In fact, if you think the information should be on the page, you probably could have done a lot more for the page by taking the time to find that source and include it, rather than coming to the talk page to gripe about the edits but refuse to engage in a constructive conversation. — Bdb484 (talk) 12:27, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Hey BDB484, the fact remains that people come to this article for treatment on the subject. I was/am one of them. If you aren't going to "take the time" to find your own sources and contribute in a constructive way (lmao while, I might add, lamenting that others could have "done a lot more for the page"), then I ask you to at least exhibit some class in the manner you "dispute" the relevancy/accuracy of the article's content I.E. add "citation needed" at the end of every objectional paragraph rather than every sentence OR exhibit some conviction and delete the fucking content entirely. The way it stands now makes it unreadable, and also reflects poorly on your motives/good taste. Btw, John Henry did die with a hammer in his hand. :)

I definitely appreciate your willingness to come to the conversation and demonstrate your lack of awareness of the process leading us to the situation we have today. Thank you also for verifying that John Henry died with a hammer in his hand. If trolling were a reliable source, we could add a citation. — Bdb484 (talk) 01:43, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
P.S.: Sweet F-word! It really drives home the point! — Bdb484 (talk) 01:44, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

My point(s) remain. Perhaps that's why you did not address them? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:49, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Your points do not remain, as they never existed. You have been ill-informed of the background of this debate, which is why you don't understand how the page got to the point it's at now. Read up and check the edit history, and I'm sure we can have a more productive discussion. — Bdb484 (talk) 20:15, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

serves? Are we the boss of him? I don't think so.[edit]

John Henry is a black man and serves as a folk hero for all American working-class people

Is "serves" the right word? I think it has a condescending tone.

I suggest John Henry is a black man, a folk hero of American working-class people

The "all" is questionable since you could find ignorant people who have never heard of John Henry.

It might be interesting to compare with other working-class heros like Stakhanov.

September 2011 changes[edit]

Two changes:

1) the second line in the introductory paragraph does not need to cited per WP: YOU DON'T NEED TO CITE THAT THE SKY IS BLUE. 2) Despite the well-meaning edits of some contributors, I have removed the distracting plethora of "citation needed" requests from the folklore section, for two reasons: a) as Wikipedia has proclaimed in numerous places, the first and formeost purpose of any article is to be read and b)there are protocols for dealing with problematic sections; and those protocols should be followed so as to not vandalize the aesthetic of the existing (albeit hitherto unverified) material. I have included those protocols below. (XX) I think that more of this article needs similar treatment, but I don't have the time to make those changes at this moment. thanks.

(XX) "Wikipedia has several templates for tagging material that need verification: inline templates for particular lines, section templates, and article templates. See Wikipedia:Template messages. Sometimes editors will go through an article and add dozens of the inline tags, along with several section and article tags, making the article essentially unreadable. As a rule, if there are more than 2 or 3 inline tags they should be removed and replaced with a section tag; if there are more than 2 section tags they should be removed and replaced with a single 'Multiple Problems' tag. If there are more then two or three sections tagged, those tags should be removed, and the entire article should be tagged." — Preceding unsigned comment added by ALI GOAT (talkcontribs) 00:11, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I strongly agree with your assessment. The page is in its current state because we have a passionate editor or two who insist on leaving uncited material up, despite numerous, longstanding questions about its verifiability, notability, etc.
As we still haven't gotten any help from them in citing the offending passages, I'm going to revert the page to a point where both the readability and the verifiability concerns were addressed. I'm hopeful that anyone adding more material afterward will include sources. — Bdb484 (talk) 20:27, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I have more-or-less rewritten this article (diff here), reinstating and sourcing much of the content that was deleted. As I stated at ANI, if more time had been spent verifying the questionable content rather than deleting it, some of the unfortunate edit-warring and aggravation could have been avoided. — Scientizzle 16:24, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Awesome work. Thanks for taking the time to put all that together. — Bdb484 (talk) 15:05, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, thank you very much; what I see now is very much as I would expect. FWIW, It was IBM's Jeopardy-playing Watson (computer) that evoked thoughts of this article -- the lore is as relevant as ever. linas (talk) 17:41, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Reference in pop-culture[edit]

There is a reference in the tv series sarah connor chronicles:

-- (talk) 23:08, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

John William Henry[edit]

I motion that this section should either be renamed "Nelson" or removed and replaced with a couple sentences in another section. (talk) 13:23, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

Inappropriate Reversions by User:Bdb484[edit]

User:Bdb484 is constantly reverting additions inappropriately. Primary sources are acceptable when the "Primary sources may only be used on Wikipedia to make straightforward, descriptive statements that any educated person—with access to the source but without specialist knowledge—will be able to verify are directly supported by the source" criterion is met from WP:PRIMARYNOTBAD. Clear, explicit references to John Henry in songs, television shows, movies, or even comic books clearly meet this criterion. Any educated person can very these sources with reference to the sources, and many acceptable contributions to this page are being eliminated by a single person. User:Bdb484 should not be constantly making these reversions. (Smallvillefanatic (talk) 17:07, 15 March 2014 (UTC))

Cheers Reference[edit]

There is a reference to John Henry in Cheers (Season 7, Episode 1, 'How to Recede in Business', 1988, from 14:30 to 15:00). Simon Kidd (talk) 15:06, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

For me, it's a bit too trivial for the article. In any case, reference to a source would be needed. Willondon (talk) 15:23, 22 September 2015 (UTC)