Sam Patch

Sam Patch

Sam Patch (1807-1829), known as "The Yankee Leaper," was the first famous U.S. daredevil.


Sam Patch was born in 1807 in Pawtucket, Rhode Islandcite journal |last=Rosenberg-Naparsteck|first=Ruth|year=1991|month=Summer |title=The Real Simon Pure Sam Patch|journal=Rochester History |volume=LII |issue=3 | publisher=Rochester Public Library | issn =0035-7413 |url=|accessdate=2008-01-06 ] where he began working as a child laborer spinning cotton in a textile mill. When he was not working, he entertained other boys by jumping off the mill dam. By his early 20s he was working at a mill in Paterson, New Jersey, and was jumping off ever-higher spots. He was beginning to attract crowds for his well-advertised stunts. On September 30 1827, he jumped off the 70-foot Passaic Falls in New Jersey, pleasing a large crowd that had gathered. He repeated this jump at least two more times. On August 11, 1828 Patch jumped 100 feet at Hoboken, New Jersey. He became known in the press as "Patch the New Jersey Jumper".

Patch continued his career jumping from bridges, factory walls, and ship's masts. In the fall of 1829, Patch became the first person to successfully jump into Niagara Falls' (following an earlier unsuccessful attempt by a man named Morgan). Patch was the star attraction at an event designed to draw visitors to the falls. A 125-foot ladder was rigged for Sam's jump over the gorge below Goat Island opposite the Cave of the Winds. Less than an hour before the scheduled noon jump, a chain securing the ladder to the cliff wall snapped, breaking 15 feet from the ladder. Rescheduled for 4 PM, Patch jumped on time. A boat circled near the entry point, but Patch did not appear. When he was finally spotted on the shore, a great roar went up from the crowd.

Bad weather and the delay in his arrival drew a disappointingly small crowd for this jump, so Patch announced he would repeated the feat a second time October 17. A few days later, 10,000 gathered to watch him keep his word. His slogan, "Some things can be done as well as others," became a popular slang expression across the nation.

Shortly after, Patch went to Rochester, New York, to challenge the 99-foot High Falls of the Genesee River. On Friday November 6, 1829, in front of an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 spectators,cite journal |journal=New York Times |date=August 12,1883 |title=Sam Patchs Last Leap |url= |accessdate=2008-06-22] Patch went out onto a rock ledge in the middle of the falls. He first threw a pet bear cub over the falls and the cub managed to swim safely to shore. Patch then successfully jumped after the bear.

Last jump

His first jump into the Genesee River raised a disappointing amount of money, so he decided to repeat the stunt one week later on November 13, 1829 (Friday the 13th). This time, he increased the height of the jump to 125 feet by constructing a 25 foot stand. Accounts from the 8,000 present differ on whether he actually jumped or fell, but he did not achieve his normal feet-first vertical entry. A loud impact was heard and he never surfaced. Rumors were passed that he had hidden in a cave at the base of the falls, and was enjoying all the excitement he had created. But his frozen body was found in the ice in Charlotte (Rochester) early the next spring by Silas Hudson. Local ministers and newspapers were quick to blame the crowd for urging him to jump, and put the guilt of his death on them.

He was buried in Charlotte Cemetery, near where his body was found. [ [ Sam Patch (1807 - 1829) - Find A Grave Memorial ] ] [cite journal |last=Thomas |first=W. Stehpen |coauthors= Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck |year=1988 |month=October |title=Sleep City The Sesquicentenneial History of Mt. Hope Cemetery|journal=Rochester History |volume=L |issue=4 | pages=4 | publisher=Rochester Public Library | issn =0035-7413 |url= |accessdate=2007-12-31 ] A wooden board (now gone) was placed over his grave::: Sam Patch – Such is Fame.

Literary references

"Sam Patch's Fearsome Leap," a tale in "Grandfather Stories" by Samuel Hopkins Adams, is a reconstructed first-hand account of the day of Patch's last leap. It is not clear whether Adams based the tale on a real first-hand account, or wrote it as historical fiction.

Patch appears as a "daring immoral hero" in the works of Hawthorne and Melville [Johnson, Paul. "Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper" (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003) ISBN 0-8090-8388-4.] , and also appears in the poem "Paterson" by William Carlos Williams.


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