Sam Patch the Famous Jumper

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In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s the United States was in a transformation from the Jeffersonian vision of an agricultural nation, into Alexander Hamilton’s vision of an industrial America. The book Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper gives a good idea of what America was like during the Early Republic period. The industrial life would turn America into a country that is dependent on the work of manufactories.

Sam Patch came from a long family history of farming and shoemaking. His father Mayo Greenleaf Patch, married into a wealthy family after his family’s name went under with their bankruptcy. The marriage would allow him to possess resources his family had lost such as land, housing, workshop, etc. Greenleaf Patch was loaned the money to open a shoemakers shop so he could continue his family’s business. According to Sam Patch, his father Greenleaf Patch had the attributes of an adult manhood, that being he was the head of his household and taking part in neighborhood affairs. Eventually Greenleaf Patch’s debts would catch up with him and force him to move his family and leave his business, to try to pursue a better life in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, a labor market town.

Pawtucket was a town where women and children supported men or lived without them, and where women reconstructed lives that had been damaged in the failure of their men. Abigail Patch, Greenleaf’s wife, is an example of one of these hard working women. After moving to Pawtucket, Greenleaf Patch became an abusive husband and a drunk that stole the money his wife and children earned while working in the mill factories. Abigail would soon divorce Greenleaf and continue working in the mills to support her five children.

Sam Patch, one of Abigail and Greenleaf’s sons, went to work at Samuel Slater’s Mill at the age of seven or eight. It was not an uncommon occurrence at this time to have children this young working in factories. Small children were good for Mill factories because they...
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