Using the life and times of Sam Patch as a starting point, describe what industrialization was doing to the institutions of freedom and equality in America during the Early Republic period (1800–1837). Construct a 2–3 page paper that describes how industrialization is changing the country during this period and how working-class Americans are responding to it. 

Sam Patch is an archetypal example of an American mythological character, the self-made celebrity showman and daredevil populist hero. He is the inspiration for a canonical American literary type like the Great Gatsby and Horatio Alger protagonists, who remake themselves in their own image and whose sheer will and imagination attains them riches despite their humble beginnings. At a time when industrialization was transforming traditional social and economic systems, Patch represented an everyman who created his own opportunity for success.

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We can't write your paper for you, but we can give you some useful context and suggest some connections that you could explore in longer form on your own.


Let's start by considering Sam's father, who is a very early casualty of the nascent American industrial revolution's dislocating effects on traditional organization of life and work. As with today, new technologies and efficiencies have always had a disruptive effect on the existing economic and social structure. Smaller-scale competition with the factories is essentially eliminated and so formerly self-sufficient farmers and tradespeople lose their livelihoods and their autonomy, as industrial labor becomes the dominant form of work with factories providing the only economic opportunity in places like Pawtucket. These are the conditions that Sam is born into, and it's clear to him at a young age that the only way to avoid the exploitative toil of the textile mill is to create his own opportunity using his born resourcefulness and audacity.


It's a cliché and a controversy by now to talk about America as a place where the humblest born or castoff can find fame and fortune if they dream big and accept no self-imposed limitations. The mythological concept of the "American Dream" and the Patch-inspired character were themselves cultural products of the Early Republic period, and complemented the the populist Jacksonian policy of expansion of democratic rights to non-landowning white men on the Southern and Western frontiers. Like Northern industrialization, Jacksonian expansionism transformed American society by giving the vote to a previously disenfranchised class of the uneducated poor and thus widening the common white citizenry's participatory stake in the American Republic.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 24, 2020
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