Samuel Adams Hammett, humorist, son of Augustus J. and Mary (Wright) Hammett, was born at Jewett City, Connecticut, on February 4, 1816. His parents moved to New York City, where his father operated a wholesale grocery. After a good public-school education Hammett became a member of the first class of the University of the City of New York, but in the summer of 1834 he withdrew from the university to devote himself to his father's business. Late in 1835 he moved to Texas, where he remained until 1848, working as a surveyor and peddler in and around Montgomery and as part owner of a wholesale produce and flour firm in Houston and Galveston. Upon his return to New York City he went into business and began writing both serious and humorous magazine articles about Texas. In 1853 he published these articles and others as A Stray Yankee in Texas. Two years later he issued a second volume, The Wonderful Adventures of Captain Priest, a collection of sketches and humorous tales with a down-east background. In his third book, Piney Woods Tavern, or Sam Slick in Texas (1858), which was published in Peterson's Illustrated Uniform Edition of Humorous American Works, he returned with obvious delight to the Texas scene. Meanwhile, he had moved from New York to Brooklyn.
In his day Hammett was extremely popular as a humorist and teller of Texas tall tales, a fact well illustrated by the inclusion of one-half of Stray Yankee in Die Illustrierte Familien Biblioteck, a sixteen-volume anthology of representative world authors published in Dresden and Leipzig. Like other books of their genre, Stray Yankee and Piney Woods Tavern are full of horseplay, frontier dialect, and amusing anecdotes based largely on personal experience, but they also contain a wealth of factual details on Texas life during the republic. Hammett wrote under the pseudonym of Phillip Paxton, sometimes signing his articles "P. P." The author confessed to having borrowed the sobriquet "Sam Slick" from Thomas C. Haliburton. Hammett died in Brooklyn on December 24, 1865.