From Publishers Weekly
Little is known of daredevil Sam Patch (1800-1829). When he was seven, Patch, his mother and siblings were working in the mills of Pawtucket, R.I. The waterfalls that powered the mills attracted working boys like Sam, who'd compete at jumping from the heights. In his mid-20s, Patch moved to Paterson, N.J., where he worked as a skilled mule spinner. In September 1827, he made his first spectacular jump-right over Paterson's Passaic Falls-which he repeated the following July 4, declaring his motto: "Some things can be done as well as others." After Paterson, Patch jumped from a high cataract in Hoboken harbor, over Niagara Falls and over the Genesee Falls in Rochester, N.Y., where on a second leap, probably intoxicated, he died. Johnson, a history professor at the University of South Carolina, warns readers in his preface that Patch is a "front-porch story"-there isn't much of a story, but some interesting meanders. While Johnson makes a strong case that Patch was thumbing his nose at the capitalists with his Passaic Falls jumps, he admits that after Paterson, Patch was more interested in being a "showman and a celebrity" than in knocking anyone's politics, unless staying drunk can be interpreted as a political statement (which Johnson sometimes implies). In the end, Patch's handful of spectacular jumps just can't carry so much political baggage. Still, readers interested in shifting class dynamics in early Pawtucket, Paterson and Rochester may find some suggestive material here. 12 b&w illus.
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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Nudged forward by Paul Johnson's consummate storytelling, the reader plunges headlong into the raging torrents of antebellum America, where manly artisans thrash about with scheming capitalists, incorrigible wastrels with prim reformers. Having taken the leap, the reader will find, as did Sam Patch, that you cannot go back. This is a wonderful, clever book. (Mark C. Carnes, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History, Barnard College, Columbia University
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 hero--and an entire era in our past--while operating at the highest levels of subtlety, wit, and seriousness. Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper
contains the kind of genius one expects from fine literature as well as from fine history. It is stunning. (Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
On Friday, November 13, 1829, a cheering crowd watched a drunken factory hand named Sam Patch step bravely off the top of Genesee Falls at Rochester, New York--and vanish into legend. In this compact masterpiece of historical detective work, Paul E. Johnson manages both to bring this unlikely early American hero back to vivid life, and to say a good many fresh and provocative things about Jacksonian America, the industrial revolution and the cult of celebrity. (Geoffrey C. Ward, author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin D. Roosevelt