“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
Paul E. Johnson, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina, is the author of A Shopkeeper's Millennium (H&W, 1978) and co-author, with Sean Wilentz, of The Kingdom of Matthias. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and Onancock, Virginia.