Sam Patch: Inspiration to Society or Crazy Man

In the 1820s American was making a great change in ideas of class and status bringing many new ideas for the nation. Industrial life was creating a major impact on America transforming from the Jeffersonian agrarian ideology to Hamilton’s industrial America. Along with that stratification was brought along with the industrialization of the nation. The first half is middle to upper class focused on purely profit and the other half is the working lower class fighting to maintain the little they did have.

The book Paul E. Johnson’s Sam Patch, the famous jumper provides a few significant points to this larger theme. Born into poverty Sam Patch was destined to be a poor uneducated boy working in the mills his whole life, but he did not let that define who he was. Patch along with other boy jumped from falls for pure entertainment soon being defined as Patch’s own form of “art”. Art that he would later use as a beneficial way of bringing light to issues that were important to him as well as the “common individual”. Apart from his jumps being a form of protest Patch benefited by earning money and a celebrity status.

Patch’s first major leap was in Paterson, NJ in protest of a large portion of a forest being turned into an exclusive reserve for the wealthy. The working class would soon be charged fees making the rich richer and the poor poorer. That public jump was the first of many to come in order to bring light to very similar issues. Patch used his ability to jump to draw thousands of people to listen to his cause. Many people were just like him in the sense of being raised poor and constantly fighting to make it better. He was a hero to all the people living in impoverished towns and was praised for publicizing the issues that they themselves couldn’t stand up for. He did well at illustrating the expanding gap in income and the differing political and social views.

This book highlights the two completely different views on one person by different classes. The Democrats looked at Patch as a great man and an inspiration to society. Yet, the upper class viewed him as a crazy and unfit man. To them, he was a great example of people who didn’t know how to govern themselves. This helped illustrate the great amount of friction between the two. Patch was the representation of opposition to change that gave the lower class a sense of hope. He was a symbol of individualism, a man who was able to make something out of nothing.  

07 July 2022
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