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Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  143 ratings  ·  17 reviews
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 Pat
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 16th 2004 by Hill and Wang (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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A FANTASTIC book, which I would recommend to almost anyone interested in Jacksonian-era history, landscape studies, drinking culture, the social costs of industrialization, or the history of celebrity. Johnson's book is a wondrous work of history, but reads like a novel; it is one of the most pleasurable books I've read in a long time. [spoilers from this point!]

It tracks Sam Patch, 1820s-30s America's famous waterfall jumper, through his short, booze-soaked, but illustrious career. Not a true b
This story looks at the effects of industrialization on the working class in America through the life of the dare-devil of the time: Sam Patch. It can be pretty dry in parts, but all in all it does a magnificent job of showing how industrialization had an effect on alcohol use, women's roles, and the rise of the middle class. I highly recommend reading this.
What in the Sam Patch?! Remember that bit of Americanized profanity? Yeah, me neither. Still, Johnson's book is a great popular history of American fame woven into the fabric of an early democracy struggling with modern progress, Old Money elites, and the individual tenacity of those who'd rather throw themselves into the Niagara than live by the standards of either. Johnson wonderfully contextualizes what might otherwise seem a bit of drunken daredevilry by elaborating on the factory conditions ...more
A biography on the life of America's first dare-devil, Sam Patch. In the 18020's Patch worked a mill and traveled in the Northeast jumping from waterfalls and becoming something of a celebrity. The author uses Patch's life, that of his family and the people he meets to demonstrate the beginning of commericalzation what he sees as the destruction of the small yoemen farmer and simple craftsmen. What really intersted me aboue this book was when the author began to talk about art and mastering a se ...more
Really there is something else going on here. This is not really a book about a famous jumper. This book is a short biography about the America of the 1820s. Some chapters and scenes from the eloquent narrative are almost perfect. The description of the mill town of Paterson brings to life the beginning struggles to capitalize on two of this country's great assets: nature and labor. Sam Patch becomes a emblem of the rights of the workers and the man's right to unfettered wilderness as a place of ...more
Felt a bit padded at times -- historians can be good at spinning grand narratives out of scraps of historical evidence, drawing on subsidiary information. But this big-picture pageantry was overdone in places here, as in the step-by-step description of the streets of Rochester. Perhaps the Patch story can't quite bear as much historical explanatory weight as Johnson wants it to support, or perhaps the links are too casually and quickly drawn here. Still, I think it will be a good teaching book a ...more
I liked this book. Historical novels aren't really my forte, but I enjoyed the story of Sam Patch. I wish that the author had given more of Sam's actual story instead of going onto so many tangents, as with the chapter about Niagara where he gives such a detailed description of the falls and of the perception of the falls. I didn't really care about the subjects of his sidebars, and would have preferred to keep the focus of the story on Sam. However, on the whole I enjoyed this book, and found i ...more
Sylvia Lam
This can be a horrible book if you're not into history, but it's still somewhat entertaining. Johnson does a great job at describing life during the Jacksonian era.
Madison Greer
I don't know how many times one can use the word sublime and get away with it. Paul Johnson, sir, you did not simply get away with that overuse. Not my cup of tea but then again what historical book is.
Katie Wilson
Micro-history at its finest. Johnson tells a narrative of the industrial revolution, the rise of modern celebrity, and Jacksonian Democracy all through the story of famous daredevil Sam Patch. Easy to read and engaging, highly recommended.
Josh Sinclair
Absolutely the dumbest, most pointless, boring, piece of trash book that my retinas have ever pained through. If you value your time in the slightest, don't ever read this book.
Great writing, lots of interesting speculation but firmly grounded in historical fact. A very entertaining read and an enlightening exploration of Jacksonian America.
Great writing. Occasionally Johnson's comments are condescending, but it's all part of the experience.
Ashley Cale
Nice historical read about Jacksonian America and commentary on the market revolution.
David Haugen
I liked to picture Adam Sandler as I was reading this
Mar 23, 2011 Melissa marked it as to-read
Recommended in the 2011 Booklover's Calendar.
This is one of my favorite books on life in early America. It's truly Darton-esque!
Sarah Gray
Sarah Gray marked it as to-read
Jul 18, 2015
Michael Cyrocki
Michael Cyrocki marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2015
Janice CA
Janice CA marked it as to-read
Jun 04, 2015
Priscilla Moreno
Priscilla Moreno marked it as to-read
Mar 26, 2015
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