Francisco began working on the sly as a teenager in order to learn all he could about business. While still a student at /PatrickHenryUniversity, he began working at a copper foundry, and investing in the stock market. By the time he was 20 he had made enough to purchase the foundary. He began working for /DAnconiaCopper as assistant superintendent of a mine in Montana, but was quickly promoted to head of the /NewYork office. He took over D'Anconia Copper at age 23, after the death of his father.
When he was 26, Francisco secretly joined the /Strikers and began to slowly destroy the D'Anconia empire so the /Looters could not get it. He adopted the persona of a worthless playboy, by which he is known to the world, as an effective cover.
His full name is Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d'Anconia.
Francisco D'Anconia appears or is mentioned in:
/SectioN132 /SectioN141 /SectioN144 /SectioN151 /SectioN152 - This section includes a detailed history of his life.
Ayn Rand was always in love with Frank O'Connor. Even during her passionate intellectual and sexual involvement with Nathaniel Branden, Frank O'Connor was always Ayn Rand's great lover.
As is frequent among actors, Frank O'Connor's personality was bland, a blank canvas on which to paint his roles. His roles were of men born to pleasure. Frank could stand in rags on a garbage dump and look like he belonged in a ballroom. Ayn Rand was in love, not so much with Frank O'Connor himself, as with the roles he could play. And she wrote roles for him into every one of her books.
At first, it was easy for Ayn Rand to write Frank O'Connor into her books. Frank had been born for the role of Lolya, Alissa Rosenbaum's first lover, Leo of "We the Living", aristocratic, tragic, Dionysian and Nitzschean. Unity5-3000, of Anthem, stands above the crowd in both features and stature.
With "The Fountainhead", putting Frank into the novel became more difficult. Ayn Rand was writing about "a man of self-made soul", so it was necessary that Howard Roark come from nowhere, and Frank's aristocratic presence was the opposite of that. To fit Frank O'Connor into The Fountainhead Ayn Rand had to give Gail Wynand, also a self-made man and therefore of proletarian birth, an obscure aristocratic ancestry. As it turned out, Gail Wynand's tragic character flaws were beyond Frank O'Connor's acting range, and Frank missed out on the only role he could have had in Ayn Rand's film.
John Galt, in "Atlas Shrugged", was a follow-up on Howard Roark, and had to come out of noplace for the same reason. But the plot required that Galt stay under cover for the first two-thirds of the book. The male lead would be there the whole time. It would be a man moving in the same social circles as Dagny Taggart, so an aristocrat was a plausible choice. Ayn Rand would write Frank O'Connor into the role of his lifetime. And she would make sure that the male lead bore some variation on Frank's name.
Ayn Rand's Father
The idea of the "Secret Striker" in the midst of Dagny's circle had, as its essential figure, a man of singular ability to create wealth, compelled by a crazy world to refrain from exercising that ability. At some point, Ayn Rand realized that she knew the character of such as man from her own life: her father.
Educated in chemistry and working in pharmacy, Ayn Rand's father made his own way to Saint Petersburg, a city hundreds of versts beyond the Pale, where no Jew was permitted to live unless he paid bribes greater than the entire income of an ordinary man. Rosenbaum was wealthy enough to settle his family in a Crimean resort for the duration of the Russian Civil War. Then, after returning to Saint Petersburg, Alissa Rosenbaum's father became, in words remembered by Nathaniel Branden in Judgement Day, "unable to adapt, a self-made man now in an impossible situation."
Alissa had no understanding of her father's character and predicament until decades after she left home. Alissa was fascinated by aristocracy, by men who believed themselves entitled, by birth, to a life of pleasure and privilege - proper Nitzscheans, who had no qualms taxing and terrorizing lesser beings into paying for the life of pleasure that the aristocrat considered his birthright. Alissa's father, who insisted that good life was to be earned by effort and reason, was a living demonstration of what effort and reason led to in a tragic world: a former industrialist living with his family in a tenement room that smelled of their neighbors' cabbage.
An essential part of Rosenbaum's character was that he was an alienated Jew, who saw in Communism the fulfillment of Russia's Christian mysticism, of its insane cult of sacrifice, flagellation and selflessness. He was a Jew who had lived by the creed of Sanhedrin 4:5 - (Every man and every woman should say to himself or herself every day,) "The world was created for my sake" - and he saw his world destroyed by the demented opposite of that creed, by the altruist's belief that the world existed for everyone's sake except one's own. Ayn Rand's challenge was to create a figure who was, simultaneously, that alienated Jewish intellectual, and a man of natural joy, an aristocrat whom Frank O'Connor could credibly play.
The Jewish Grandees
Until modern times, there were no Jewish aristocrats in Christendom, and New Money just didn't look like Frank O'Connor. There was only one exception: under Moslem rule in Spain and Portugal, a small number of wealthy Jewish families had been promoted into the aristocracy. During the expulsion of 1492, most of these families chose to convert to Christianity rather than leave their estates. After that they practiced Christianity in the open and Judaism in secret. The primary job of the Inquisition was to investigate these "New Christians" and test the sincerity of their conversion. The method was to torture suspects until, guilty or not, they confessed. They were then burnt at the stake. At this point, the Inquisitors believed, the sincere Christians among them will have been done the favor of being sent to the Bosom of Christ, while the secret Jews were expedited to "their father the Devil".
To Jews living despised and discouraged in northern and eastern Europe, Sepharadim - former Spanish Jews - had the status of a mythic aristocracy, even those of them whose families were not particularly distinguished in Spain itself. The highest cachet was attached to descendants of former conversos who had fled from the Inquisition - to Netherlands, England, Italy, South and North America - and resumed the practice of Judaism once they were free. In their history, Ayn Rand found the fusion she was looking for: Jew, aristocrat, hero. That hero still needed a business and a name.
Anaconda, D'Ancona, D'Anconia
The secret striker for the plot of Atlas Shrugged needed a business that had to be deliberately destroyed, and not just cease to function when abandoned, like a railroad or a factory. Mineral mines, located to bring their owner to New York (where the plot has him meet Dagny, American businessmen, and American socialites) suggested South American copper. The main company mining South American copper was Anaconda, which sounds like an anagram of D'Ancona, the family name of a distinguished line of Jewish Mediterranean intellectuals and businessmen with several entries in the Encyclopedia Judaica. The family looks of the D'Anconas are reminiscent of ancient Roman nobility, and Ayn Rand first saw Frank O'Connor in the role of a Roman centurion in "King of Kings".
The name D'Ancona sounded aristocratic enough (although in fact it wasn't) and familiar to educated Jews, and yet not common enough to be readily identified as Jewish by the typical non-Jewish reader. Ayn Rand, at that point in her life, was beginning to write for Nathaniel Branden, and for "the Collective", and may have enjoyed putting in a secret gimmick just for her friends. Ancona, though, was a city in Italy, not Spain, and Rand put in an "i", perhaps because she thought "D'Anconia" sounded Spanish. It doesn't - to the Spanish ear "D'Anconia" still sounds Italian - but the Mediterranean is a small sea, and "Francisco D'Anconia" had the right ring to Ayn's ear.
A Grandee's Hannukah
Atlas Shrugged begins on September 2. One learns from Dagny's flashbacks that Francisco's ancestor Sebastian had been a Spanish aristocrat who fled from the Inquisition to the New World. This, and the fact that he first established himself in Argentina, and only then sent for his beloved - as so many Jewish immigrants to the New World had done, well into the twentieth century - is a hint, to be confirmed when we meet Francisco in person. By then it is the start of winter: "A few snowflakes came down, past the dark windows of empty stores, to melt in the mud of the sidewalks." Hannukah time.
"Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d'Anconia sat on the floor, playing marbles." Playing a child's game on the floor is a celebration of the Maccabee revolt. The Maccabees were guerillas, and chose carefully the few battles they fought. They hid for years in caves and wadis, and fought boredom with games played on the ground. The reader who knows the origin of this custom now also knows that Francisco must be, in some sense, the soldier of a rebellion, fighting from cover behind enemy lines.
In Jewish custom, one commemorates one's ancestors by re-enacting their practice. Francisco's Converso ancestors could not keep Jewish objects, such as spinning tops with Hebrew letters, since such objects would have immediately marked them as secret Jews. They played, instead, with marbles unstrung from a rosary. If a curious neighbor or servant wandered in, all he would see would be an accidentally broken rosary, and children helping to pick beads off the floor. Francisco is hiding his true self, and things are not what they seem.
From this point on, whenever Francisco D'Anconia appears in the novel, there is a pointedly Jewish, often specificly anti-altruist and anti-Christianity subtext. Dagny, not being Jewish, clearly has no idea why Francisco is playing with marbles, and is too well-brought-up to ask. Frank O'Connor, Ayn Rand's non-Jewish spouse, must have been in on many occasions when Ayn did something Jewish and _he_ didn't have a clue. Thus, another perversely distinctive Randian joke: In the role of Francisco D'Anconia Frank gets to play the role of a Jew, and Dagny is the clueless one.