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Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper Hardcover - $8 (Salinas)
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st edition (June 25, 2003)
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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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