The Wonderful Leaps of Sam
America's First Daredevil
Had he not leapt to his death over the
in 1829, it’s likely we would never have heard of Sam Patch – but he was
one of the first daredevils in the young United States.
Sam Patch was not a Rochestarian, but
Rochester, more than any other city, honors his memory. From the
tour boat that
bears his name to his
in Charlotte, Sam Patch and Rochester are forever tied.
Patch was born in 1799 in
northeastern Massachusetts, and moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island when a
young boy. Sam began working in the area knitting mills at the age of only
7 or 8. His father, Greenleaf, was a heavy drinker and abandoned the
family when Sam was only 12.
The Pawtucket Falls, with more
than a 50-foot drop, provided the local mills with power, and the local
boys with a source of fun. Sam and his friends learned to jump over the
falls, much to the horror of onlookers, and they stayed underwater just
long enough to scare the crowds. When the boys would finally emerge from
the water, they were met with relief, applause and sometimes coins.
It was in Pawtucket that Sam
Patch learned the technical skills he would need to survive his later
jumps; but equally important, he learned how to involve his audience in
the drama of his leaps and it was this talent that would develop into the
showmanship he would maximize during his brief but meteoric fame.
The above article copyright
2010 by Linda Frank. No part of this article may be reprinted or
referenced without permission and/or attribution. All rights reserved.
On Wednesday October 7th 1829,
Sam Patch became the first daredevil to challenge the Niagara River. The
22 year old from Rhode island dove into the churning waters of the Niagara
River from a height of 85 feet. Mr. Patch chose Goat Island between the
Luna Falls and the Bridal Falls to erect his diving platform. He survived
this headfirst high dive unscathed. On October 17th 1829, Sam Patch made
the second successful high dive at the falls from a height of 130 feet.
Following his feats at Niagara
Falls, Sam Patch went to Rochester where he attempted a 100 foot dive into
the Genesee River. During this dive, Patch died by drowning.
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