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Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper

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Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper by Johnson, Paul E., 9780809083886
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  • ISBN: 9780809083886 | 0809083884
  • Cover: Paperback
  • Copyright: 6/16/2004
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The true history of a legendary American folk hero In the 1820s, a fellow named Sam Patch grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, working there (when he wasn't drinking) as a mill hand for one of America's new textile companies. Sam made a name for himself one day by jumping seventy feet into the tumultuous waters below Pawtucket Falls. When in 1827 he repeated the stunt in Paterson, New Jersey, another mill town, an even larger audience gathered to cheer on the daredevil they would call the "Jersey Jumper." Inevitably, he went to Niagara Falls, where in 1829 he jumped not once but twice in front of thousands who had paid for a good view. The distinguished social historian Paul E. Johnson gives this deceptively simple story all its deserved richness, revealing in its characters and social settings a virtual microcosm of Jacksonian America. He also relates the real jumper to the mythic Sam Patch who turned up as a daring moral hero in the works of Hawthorne and Melville, in London plays and pantomimes, and in the spotlight with Davy Crockett-a Sam Patch who became the namesake of Andrew Jackson's favorite horse. In his shrewd and powerful analysis, Johnson casts new light on aspects of American society that we may have overlooked or underestimated. This is innovative American history at its best. Paul E. Johnson, professor of history at the University of South Carolina, is the author ofA Shopkeeper's Millenniumand coauthor, with Sean Wilentz, ofThe Kingdom of Matthias. In the 1820s, there was a fellow named Sam Patch who worked (when he wasn't drinking) in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, as a mill hand for one of America's new textile companies. He made a name for himself one day by jumping nearly one hundred feet into the tumultuous waters below Pawtucket Falls. When in 1827 he repeated the stunt in Patterson, New Jersey, another mill town, an even larger audience gathered to cheer on the daredevil they would call the "Jersey Jumper." Inevitably, he went to Niagara Falls, where in 1829 he jumped not once but twice in front of thousands who had paid for a good view. The distinguished social historian Paul E. Johnson here assigns to this deceptively simple story all its deserved richness, revealing in its many characters and social settings a fresh, well-rounded portrait of Jacksonian America. He also relates the real jumper to the mythic Sam Patch, a folk hero who turned up as a daring moral hero in the works of Hawthorne and Melville, in London plays and pantomimes, and in the spotlight with Davy Crocketta Sam Patch who became the namesake for Andrew Jackson's favorite horse. In his shrewd and powerful analysis, Johnson casts new light on aspects of American society we may have overlooked or underestimated. This is innovative American history at its best. "With this little masterpiece, Paul Johnson proves yet again that he is one of the greatest artists currently writing history anywhere. Scholar, stylist, and intellectual daredevil, Johnson brings to life a forlorn and intrepid American heroand an entire era in our pastwhile operating at the highest levels of subtlety, wit, and seriousness.Sam Patch, the Famous Jumperis stunning."Sean Wilentz, Princeton University "A fascinating book to read, not just for the story that it stupendously tells about Patch's exploits and his motivations, but also for the vivid portrait that it paints of early American life . . . A rewarding overview of early 1800s New England society, and a fascinating look at a unique, and unforgettable, aspect of Americana."Rochelle Caviness,History in Review "An elegant and dramatic picture of a man whose purchase on respectability was small but who seemed to move happily outside it . . . [The book offers] some fascinating insights into American culture."&

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