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The true history of a legendary American folk hero In the 1820s, a fellow named Sam Patch grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, working there (when he wasn't drinking) as a mill hand for one of America's new textile companies. Sam made a name for himself one day by jumping seventy feet into the tumultuous waters below Pawtucket Falls. When in 1827 he repeated the stunt in Paterson, New Jersey, another mill town, an even larger audience gathered to cheer on the daredevil they would call the "Jersey Jumper." Inevitably, he went to Niagara Falls, where in 1829 he jumped not once but twice in front of thousands who had paid for a good view. The distinguished social historian Paul E. Johnson gives this deceptively simple story all its deserved richness, revealing in its characters and social settings a virtual microcosm of Jacksonian America. He also relates the real jumper to the mythic Sam Patch who turned up as a daring moral hero in the works of Hawthorne and Melville, in London plays and pantomimes, and in the spotlight with Davy Crockett—a Sam Patch who became the namesake of Andrew Jackson's favorite horse. In his shrewd and powerful analysis, Johnson casts new light on aspects of American society that we may have overlooked or underestimated. This is innovative American history at its best.
The true history of a legendary American folk hero In the 1820s, a fellow named Sam Patch grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, working there (when he wasn't drinking) as a mill hand for one of America's new textile companies. Sam made a name for himself one day by jumping seventy feet into the tumultuous waters below Pawtucket Falls. When in 1827 he repeated the stunt in Paterson, New Jersey, another mill town, an even larger audience gathered to cheer on the daredevil they would call the "Jersey Jumper." Inevitably, he went to Niagara Falls, where in 1829 he jumped not once but twice in front of thousands who had paid for a good view. The distinguished social historian Paul E. Johnson gives this deceptively simple story all its deserved richness, revealing in its characters and social settings a virtual microcosm of Jacksonian America. He also relates the real jumper to the mythic Sam Patch who turned up as a daring moral hero in the works of Hawthorne and Melville, in London plays and pantomimes, and in the spotlight with Davy Crockett-a Sam Patch who became the namesake of Andrew Jackson's favorite horse. In his shrewd and powerful analysis, Johnson casts new light on aspects of American society that we may have overlooked or underestimated. This is innovative American history at its best.
Traces the achievements of waterfall jumper Sam Patch, noting his famous jump in Paterson, New Jersey, which led to his being dubbed the "Jersey Jumper;" as well as his two-time jump in Niagara Falls, in an account that offers an analysis of American cultural history in the 1820s.
It's time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Talk about a bucket list: here are natural wonders—the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that's so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan's 40-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell, a graveyard for decommissioned ships on the coast of Bangladesh, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England. Created by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, ATLAS OBSCURA revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book to enter anywhere, and will be as appealing to the armchair traveler as the die-hard adventurer. Anyone can be a tourist. ATLAS OBSCURA is for the explorer.
Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz brilliantly recapture the forgotten story of Matthias the Prophet, imbuing their richly researched account with the dramatic force of a novel. In the hands of Johnson and Wilentz, the strange tale of Matthias opens a fascinating window into the turbulent movements of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening--movements that swept up great numbers of evangelical Americans and gave rise to new sects like the Mormons. Into this teeming environment walked a down-and-out carpenter named Robert Matthews, who announced himself as Matthias, prophet of the God of the Jews. His hypnotic personality drew in a cast of unforgettable characters--the meekly devout businessman Elijah Pierson, who once tried to raise his late wife from the dead; the young attractive Christian couple, Benjamin Folger and his wife Ann (who seduced the woman-hating Prophet); and the shrewd ex-slave Isabella Van Wagenen, regarded by some as "the most wicked of the wicked." None was more colorful than the Prophet himself, a bearded, thundering tyrant who gathered his followers into an absolutist household, using their money to buy an elaborate, eccentric wardrobe, and reordering their marital relations. By the time the tensions within the kingdom exploded into a clash with the law, Matthias had become a national scandal.
A quarter-century after its first publication, A Shopkeeper's Millennium remains a landmark work--brilliant both as a new interpretation of the intimate connections among politics, economy, and religion during the Second Great Awakening, and as a surprising portrait of a rapidly growing frontier city. The religious revival that transformed America in the 1820s, making it the most militantly Protestant nation on earth and spawning reform movements dedicated to temperance and to the abolition of slavery, had an especially powerful effect in Rochester, New York. Paul E. Johnson explores the reasons for the revival's spectacular success there, suggesting important links between its moral accounting and the city's new industrial world. In a new preface, he reassesses his evidence and his conclusions in this major work.
With Amusement for All is a sweeping interpretative history of American popular culture. Providing deep insights into various individuals, events, and movements, LeRoy Ashby explores the development and influence of popular culture -- from minstrel shows to hip-hop, from the penny press to pulp magazines, from the NBA to NASCAR, and much in between. By placing the evolution of popular amusement in historical context, Ashby illuminates the complex ways in which popular culture both reflects and transforms American society. He demonstrates a recurring pattern in democratic culture by showing how groups and individuals on the cultural and social periphery have profoundly altered the nature of mainstream entertainment. The mainstream has repeatedly co-opted and sanitized marginal trends in a process that continues to shift the limits of acceptability. Ashby describes how social control and notions of public morality often vie with the bold, erotic, and sensational as entrepreneurs finesse the vagaries of the market and shape public appetites. Ashby argues that popular culture is indeed a democratic art, as it entertains the masses, provides opportunities for powerless and disadvantaged individuals to succeed, and responds to changing public hopes, fears, and desires. However, it has also served to reinforce prejudices, leading to discrimination and violence. Accordingly, the study of popular culture reveals the often dubious contours of the American dream. With Amusement for All never loses sight of pop culture's primary goal: the buying and selling of fun. Ironically, although popular culture has drawn an enormous variety of amusements from grassroots origins, the biggest winners are most often sprawling corporations with little connection to a movement's original innovators.

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