December 18, 2014

Grand Central Hotel: Denver's bunco bosom.

Grand Central Hotel, Denver
circa 1901
Call number MCC-9
(Courtesy of the Denver Library Digital Collection)

he Grand Central hotel in Denver, Colorado resided on the north-east corner of Seventeenth and Blake Streets, 1/2 block from Union Station, which made it one of the prime hotels utilized in a great many escapades by Soapy Smith and his Soap Gang of bunco sharps between the years 1879 to 1895, largely due to it's location, between the train station and Soapy's saloon and gambling house, the Tivoli Club. It's history of criminal association with the infamous gang of swindlers is still largely unknown. There are only a few key instances and examples, possibly due to graft, the payoff Soapy handsomely paid the hotel for its selective and occasional use.

The earliest account of Soapy performing the infamous prize package soap sell occurred in Denver in 1879. George T. Buffum was the witness, and he recorded what he saw in a 1906 collection of sketches of his frontier experiences.

I first saw him in the spring of 1879. Standing in front of the old Grand Central Hotel one day, I saw approaching me a man driving a bay horse hitched to a light buggy. He stopped by my side and lifted a box from the bottom of the buggy seat, and I noticed that it contained several cakes of soap. Looking at me squarely in the face, he said, “Will you allow me to present you with fifty dollars?” I declined with thanks, though such benevolence might have received more consideration had I been more familiar with his game.

— Alias Soapy Smith, p. 37.

The Grand Central Hotel
(Building on the right)
Courtesy Denver Library Digital Collection

The hotel was the probably the perfect residence for numerous members of the soap gang, although at this time only Ned "Banjo" (and "Professor") Parker is known to have been listed as living there in 1877 (Rocky Mountain News 08/23/1877).

William Relue, one victim of Soapy, sent him the following note:

Jan. 15th, 1887

Sir, if you will call at the Grand Central hotel, Room 7 and return to me that money you took from me on the 11th on the corner of Blake and 17th streets all will be well. If not I will see what can be done with you. If you comply with this [request] call between 2 and 3 p.m. this afternoon. Yours respectfully,

Wm. Relue

— Jefferson R. “Little Randy” Smith col.

The bottom floor of the Grand Central Hotel held street front businesses. Soapy opened a cigar store at 1531 Seventeenth Street, placing his young brother in charge and calling it the Bascomb Smith and Company Cigar Store. The whole setup was just a front for swindles, for travelers just getting off the trains. In the back of the store there was small room with a poker table, always waiting for the next victim of the "big hand" con, an illusionary innocent game of poker that never saw the dupe win. Bascomb listed the business address as his residence for a time. 

The Smith cigar store was located next to the saloon complex of George B. Fisher at 1535, 1537, and 1539 Seventeenth. A letter from Fisher to Soapy dated 1896 shows that the men were personal friends and that Fisher was well-acquainted with members of the Soap Gang. It is most probable, therefore, that victims were often brought to the Fisher saloon complex as prelude or finale to a swindle. All this information adds to the theory that the Grand Central Hotel was at one time a key instrument of the Soapy Smith criminal empire. I will report new findings as they turn up.

Grand Central Hotel: pages 34, 37, 88, 114.

There is not a man on the Denver police force who did not breath a sigh of relief when he read that “Soapy” was dead. It was bound to come, and all realized that, but the question bothering the police officials was how long “Soapy” was to go about killing other men.
Rocky Mountain News
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 584.


1787: New Jersey becomes the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
1796: The Monitor of Baltimore, Maryland is published as the first Sunday newspaper.
1856: Lieutenant James Witherell of Company C, 2nd Cavalry, and two officers from the 8th Infantry, battle with a party of Apache Indians while scouting by the Rio Grande from Ft. Clark, Texas.
1862: The first orthopedic hospital, the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled, is organized in New York City.
1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
1894: Soapy Smith and John Bowers are arrested in Denver on complaint from Thomas Moody. Soapy pays a $300 bond to get them out of jail.
1898: A new automobile speed record is set at 39 mph.
1899: President McKinley commutes the sentence of Soap Gang member “Slim Jim” Foster in the robbery of John D. Stewart in Skagway, Alaska, after one year due to his having contracted consumption.
1903: The Panama Canal Zone is acquired 'in perpetuity' by the U.S. for an annual rent.
1912: The discovery of the Piltdown man in East Sussex is announced. It will be proved a hoax in 1953. Bad man Soapy Smith had a petrified man found in 1892. It was not proven to be a hoax until 2012, when it was determined that the corpse was intentionally mummified. 

December 8, 2014

Holly Street (6th Street) Skagway, Alaska

Holly Street
Skagway, Alaska
Circa 1899-1900
(Click image to enlarge)

olly Street

Skagway, Alaska 1899.

Oh, to be able to go back in time and walk down this street.  - Jeff Smith

A great photograph by Eric Hegg, of Holly Street (now 6th Street) looking west from Broadway. In 1897-98 Holly was the main business street in town. This was taken in 1899, about a year after Soapy Smith was shot dead. His saloon, Jeff Smith's Parlor is now Clancy's Cafe, owned by John and Frank Clancy, business partners of Soapy's, who were oddly let out of any vigilante actions against the Soap Gang, even though they were very involved. The old sign bracket can still be seen on the front of the building in this photo.

Also in the photo are the Hotel Mondamin, where Soapy lived (room #61), and where John D. Stewart stayed the night before he was robbed by the Soap Gang. According to personal accounts, Soapy also owned the small building in-between the Parlor and the Mondamin, which was used as a restaurant and gambling room. In this photo it is the Skaguay Oyster Parlor, under proprietorship of Frank Clancy.

Down the street is the People's Theater, where Deputy Marshal James Rowan was shot and killed by gambler John Fay January 31, 1898. The vigilante committee of 101 wanted to perform their own trial and punishment of the killer but Soapy did not want them to take over control of the town so he hid Fay until the US Marshall could come in from Sitka and make the legal arrest of Fay and take him to Juneau for trial. Although Soapy had ulterior motives, what he did was the "legal" law and order thing to do, as opposed to taking the law into their own hands. Hiding Fay caused a lot of mixed feelings among the residence of the town, but surely Soapy made numerous "law and order" speeches that worked in his favor. Fay has been accused of being one of the Soap Gang, but more likely, this was Soapy doing his part as a "fixer," no doubt receiving a nice monthly sum from most, of the gambling houses, for his efforts.

Across from the Mondamin was the Pack Train Saloon, which is rumored to have been in alliance with Soapy.

Mondamin Hotel

Mondamin Hotel: pages 461, 525-26.

He was sprawled out with his Stetson lying there, but nobody dared put his feet together or place his hands over his heart. They didn’t dare show sympathy for fear somebody would pull out a gun.
— Bobby Sheldon
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 537


1765: Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin and the concept of interchangeable parts, is born in Westboro, Massachusetts.
1776: During the American Revolution General George Washington moves his retreating army across the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.
1863: President Lincoln announces Reconstruction, a plan to punish the southern states for the Civil War.
1863: American boxer, John Heenan, is defeated by Tom King of England in the first world heavyweight championship.
1869: The first 32 prison cells of the Colorado State Penitentiary are completed in Canon City, Colorado Territory.
1874: An unknown gang of men stop and rob the Kansas Pacific Railroad train near Muncie, Kansas, of a reported $30,000 and personal effects from the passengers. William "Bud" McDaniel, an associate of the James-Younger gang, is arrested in Kansas City, but he escapes from jail and is killed shortly afterward.
1874: A Comanche Indian camp in the Mushaqua Valley of Texas is attacked by soldiers under Lieutenant Lewis Warrington. Two Indians are killed, one is wounded, and one taken prisoner.
1879: “Big Ed” Burns is arrested with three men for stealing a gold watch and chain. Burns eventually becomes a member of Soapy Smith Soap Gang in Denver. Burns stays with the gang until Soapy’s death in 1898.
1883: John Heath and four masked men rob the store of A. A. Castanada in Bisbee, Arizona. Shooting erupts and several townspeople are killed in what newspapers call the Bisbee Massacre. The robbers rode away with $3,000 but are eventually captured and lynched.
1886: The American Federation of Labor is founded during a convention of union leaders in Columbus, Ohio.

December 7, 2014

The earliest (first) known soap sell racket (1856)?

"Vox Populi" Print,
Lowell, Massachusetts.
courtesy of Capitalism by Gaslight

hen researching the prize package soap sell racket for my book, Alias Soapy Smith, one of the mysteries I wanted to solve, was whether Soapy Smith had invented the scam, as some earlier biographies suggested. I sought out the earliest examples of the swindle I could find, and quickly learned that Soapy was not the first to use the con, although there is no doubt that he is the most famous of the soap spielers. In searching old newspapers I found a few, but none earlier than the 1870s. I am thrilled to have accidentally come across this newspaper ad for the confidence trick, dating way back to 1856!

The following is from the Capitalism by Gaslight page.

“Grand gift distributions” and “prize packages” awarded cash and gifts to people who purchased tickets through the mail, attended special theatrical performances, or purchased products. Similar to lotteries (some charged they were too similar), gift distributions promised people would qualify to receive amounts of money and luxurious goods that were otherwise out of their reach.

Using a variety of techniques, prize package operators were swindlers by degrees. Major Ross induced customers to buy more bars of soap than they needed by entering into drawings for everything from handkerchiefs and gold watches to tracts of land. The fine print, however, reveals that people had only a one-in-20,000 chance of winning the grand prize – a house – if it existed at all.

Following is the text from the ad.

"Let those now wash who never washed before,
And those that often wash, now wash the more!"

Is in town with pints, quarts, gallons, hogsheads, tierces of soap. Yes, any quantity of soap:
Ranging from 25 cts to $500, for only $1. WHO WILL BUY!
The Major may be found at town hall,
Thursday, March 27, at 7 o'clock, P.M.
Admittance Free. Ladies respectfully invited.
Come, See, and Hear
Ross, Soap Man.

The list of prizes given is hard to decipher from this digital copy, but it includes a plot of land, gold watches, gold and silver charms and jewelry, all the way down to handkerchiefs. All told, over $1000 in merchandise is offered up as prizes. Below the list of prizes is the "remarks," which unfortunately are too small to read and be able to copy faithfully, but enough of it can be partially made out to form the opinion that it is a "warning" that not all who buy a chance will win a prize. It also explains that with each sale of soap, an envelope is given, in which contains a slip of paper. That slip of paper informs the purchaser if there is a prize to be awarded. Naturally, as in Soapy Smith's soap racket, Major Ross surely had shills and boosters working with him, hidden in place-sight within the crowd, who would expertly play the part of purchaser who "won" a prize. These bunko-sharps would make a spectacle of themselves, loudly proclaiming, and then claiming their prize in front of all to see. At this point the soap man would announce that certain larger prizes still remain unclaimed, which always excited the crowd to purchase up the remaining cakes of soap. 

Capitalism by Gaslight

Prize Package Soap Sell Racket
(There are numerous posts and they're not in order of importance so make sure to scroll) 

Prize Package Soap Sell Racket: pages 8, 15, 37-39, 41, 43, 45-56, 48, 52, 55-56, 58, 75, 95-97, 106, 119-20, 149, 159, 163, 410, 464, 485.

Not the least amusing trait of “Soapy” Smith’s character is the eager interest which he takes in the preservation of law and order. The interest is, of course, not purely unselfish, for he realizes that crimes of violence create a sort of public opinion likely to be unhealthy for his own peaceful, if peculiar, industry. He feels that there are times when fine distinctions get confused, and therefore he is always foremost for law and order coupled with life, liberty and the pursuit of a sure thing.
San Francisco Examiner
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1787: Delaware is the first state to ratify the U.S. constitution.
1796: John Adams is elected the second president of the U.S.
1836: Martin Van Buren is elected the eighth president of the U.S.
1863: George Ives, a member of the “innocents” outlaw gang, robs and kills Nick Thiebalt in Ruby Valley, Montana Territory.
1868: The outlaw James-Younger gang robs the Gallatin, Missouri bank. John W. Sheets, a former captain in the Union Army, is shot and killed by Jesse James.
1871: The town of Kit Carson, Colorado Territory is surrounded by thousands of buffalo, who are ranging 200 miles farther west than usual. The Indians of the region say that it is a prediction of a bad winter.
1874: Twenty-six Indians surrender to Captain Keyes and the 10th Cavalry at Kingfisher Creek, Indian Territory.
1874: Four men rob the Tishomingo Bank in Cornith, Mississippi. Newspapers and some historians say it is the work of the James-Younger gang.
1875: John Clark brings the first flock of sheep into Arizona Territory.
1878: The first train to enter New Mexico Territory comes from Colorado via the Raton Pass.
1888: Buffalo Bill Cody visits Cheyenne, Wyoming.

November 9, 2014

Soapy Smith and the First National Bank of Denver.

First National Bank of Denver
circa 1879-1883
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Denver, Colorado

Pictured at top is a very nice color rendition of the Tabor Block in Denver, Colorado. Once located on the north-west corner of Larimer and 16th Streets, it was built in 1879. By 1883 two more stories were added. It was home of the First National Bank, which played a small but vital part in Soapy Smith's wild west.

The bank was owned and presided over by D. H. Moffat, one-time president of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, investor in vast Denver Real Estate, owner of vast mining interests, and principle investor in the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific Railroad.

Inside the First National Bank
circa 1886
Courtesy of Denver Public Library

On March 30, 1889 famed outlaws, Tom and Bill McCarty, and Matt Warner robbed the First National Bank. It is believed by some historians that Butch Cassidy accompanied them. According to one story Tom McCarty approached the bank president and with his odd sense of humor, stated: "Excuse me, sir, but I just overheard a plot to rob your bank."

The bank president appeared visibly shaken and managed to ask "Lord! How did you learn of this plot?"

"I planned it," McCarty said, pulling his gun. "Put up your hands." The men rode out of Denver with $20,000.

Although Soapy Smith probably dealt with the bank for a good number of years, having arrived in Denver about 1879, the bank is not reported in Soapy's history until 1895.

Tabor Block
after addition of two stories
circa 1883-1900
Courtesy of Denver Public Library

(The following paragraphs come from ALIAS SOAPY SMITH: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL)

"Four days later, on Wednesday May 15, 1895, the day of his arraignment, Jeff went drinking with gunman Joe Palmer. Obviously he was upset over the legal proceedings. By mid-afternoon they were, in the words of the TIMES, 'as jolly as a pair of pirates.' Notified of the inebriated men, the police were on the lookout for them. It was mid afternoon when officer Kovsky located Jeff leaning wearily against a pillar of the First National Bank. Upon being searched and found to be carrying a large revolver, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. At headquarters he was released with a warning to go straight home. Instead he procured another pistol, and using a belt and holster, Jeff strapped the gun on his waist in full view of the community. He then linked up again with his drinking buddy, Palmer.

Around six that evening, Jeff and Palmer were parading Larimer Street. They stopped in front of the Arcade to voice opinions on recent events. Officer Kimmel approached the men and tried to talk them into going home, but they resisted. Sergeant Lew S. Tuttle arrived, and the two policemen were placing the pair under arrest when Jeff grew quarrelsome. He argued that his gun was not concealed and that city gun laws allowed him to have it. With brazen deliberateness, Jeff drew his pistol from its holster and began cocking the hammer and slowly releasing it back down. Then he began pointing the revolver towards the crowd of on lookers that had gathered. Palmer grew panicky and said, 'If yer goin’ to shoot’er up, Jeff, I’m widge,' and made a dive for his own pistol. Officer Kimmel grabbed Palmer’s arm just in time to stop him and probable bloodshed. Jeff and Palmer were arrested. Both men were held until shortly before midnight and released on bonds of $1,000 each."


"In mid November Jeff made a daring return to Denver. Among reasons for coming, one was to secure a loan. On November 18, 1895, he borrowed $1,725 from the First National Bank of Denver."


"Jeff was back in Denver on February 19, 1896, to visit The First National Bank of Denver. He borrowed $1,750—$25 more than in November 1895. Records show that seven month’s later, Jeff paid back the amount in full. On the day Jeff took out the loan, he was leaning against a building’s stone pillar on the corner of Larimer and Sixteenth streets when Parson Uzzell walked by. The parson gasped and extended his hand in friendship. The following day’s Evening Post reported their conversation.
'I never drink—no more.' Said Soapy.
"The Lord be praised,' said the parson.
'Where you hail from?' asked Soapy.
'The vineyard of the Lord!' said the parson.
'Your breath don’t show it.' Remarked the pseudo gambler. 'Dear parson, you must excuse me, I’m in a fearful hurry—mining business. I’ll call on you at the tabernacle in the very near future. Goodbye. May the Lord bless you. Amen.' And Soapy hurried up the street."


"That August [1896] from Spokane, Jeff attempted to defraud J. Hugh Bauerlein of a mining claim. Jeff sent Bauerlein of the Denver Stock & Mine Exchange an unsigned check for $2,500. Hoped for, probably, was that the claim papers and unsigned check would be returned for signature. Bauerlein responded on his letterhead stationary:
Newlin’s Gulch Gold Camp, Aug 13, 1896

Mr. Jeff R. Smith
Spokane, Washington

My dear sir,
Your registered letter with enclosed check for $2500 (not signed) received. I herewith return the same to you for your signature.

A big strike has just been made in the adjoining property owned by the “Covade” company.

I am pleased to learn that you have been so successful. I am sure you will be well pleased with the investment you are making with me.

Yours truly J. Hugh Bauerlein
You can return it to me signed, to room 4 'Denver Stock & Mine Exchange' care of 'Covade Mountain Gold Mining, Tunnel & Milling Company.'

The printed check was on the First National Bank, Denver Col. It seems doubtful that Jeff had funds there. The check might have been one in his possession from when he had an account there."

Artifact #9.
Soapy borrows $1725.

According to the information I received from the Deputy Marshal, a man named Murphy is credited with the killing of Smith and not Frank Reid as reported in the newspaper.
— Major Sam Steele, NWMP
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 547.


1857: The Atlantic Monthly began publishing. Its first issue featured the first installment of The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
1865: Soldiers from Fort Owen, Montana Territory ship 12,000 pounds of cabbage to mine workers.
1871: The White Mountain Indian Reservation is established in Arizona Territory.
1872: A fire destroys about 800 buildings in Boston, Massachusetts.
1875: Indian inspector Watson makes the recommendation that all Sioux be forced onto reservations by January 31, 1876.
1881: Bill “Russian Bill” Lintenburn and Sandy King, arrested for dealing in stolen cattle, are grabbed by masked vigilantes from a Shakespeare, Montana hotel where a makeshift court was in session. The men were hung in the lobby of the hotel and left hanging for the townspeople to see.
1890: Joe “Gambler Joe” Simmons, proprietor of the Tivoli Club is reported to have wounded W. M. Shuck of Lyons, Colorado with a glancing shot from his .45 Colt. The reason is unknown.
1898: Trials begin for Soap Gang members, Bowers, Jackson, Triplett, Foster, Wilder and Taylor for the robbery of John D. Stewart.
1906: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt left for Panama to see the progress on the new canal. It was the first foreign trip by a U.S. president.

October 25, 2014

Did Soapy Smith donate money to the Union Church?

Skagway, Alaska January 1898
Reverend John Dickey (left)
(Click image to enlarge)


The photograph above shows the Union Church, with Reverend Robert M. Dickey (far left) and Reverend Grant (next to Dickey) preparing to head into the Klondike, January 1898. The photo was taken by photographer Eric A. Hegg.

We know by his recorded history that Soapy was very generous with his money when it came to charity and civic projects. Although there are various accounts that Soapy donated funds towards the construction of Skagway's first church, there is no provenance. One big favorable piece of information is that the church was created as a non-denominational church, and these were exactly the ones Soapy is known to have preferred, as they did the most to aid the poor, not caring which denomination the poor catered too. The probable reason there is no proof of Soapy's donation is that there was likely no hoopla made over it. In those early days of Skagway camp, Soapy did not announce who he was. Even when arrested in Juneau, he did so under the name John Rudolph, as he no doubt wished his nefarious activities and criminal record of Colorado, to stay in Colorado, not following him to Alaska. At the time, few knew who he was, and he preferred to keep it that way for as long as he could.

Dickey is well-known in Alaska and Canadian history for the churches he built. If you would like to learn more about this fascinating old west man of the cloth, you will enjoy Art Petersen's book Gold Fever: A Narrative of the Great Klondike Gold Rush, 1897-1899, The Reverend R. M. Dickey. You can find the book at

Photograph courtesy of the University of Washington.

(be sure to scroll down after clicking the link)
Rev. Robert Dickey

Rev. Robert Dickey: pages 13, 451-60, 462-63, 513-14, 580.

You see, nobody would touch Soapy after he was shot. … They were just scared to touch him. This woman came down … and she offered one hundred dollars a piece if they’d carry him off, and they did. They took him down to the morgue. Cost her four hundred bucks according to the story…. That was the story that went around. I don’t know how much they got.
— Royal Pullen
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 537.


1812: The frigate United States captures the British vessel Macedonian during the War of 1812.
1853: Paiute Indians attack and kill U.S. Army Captain John W. Gunnison and 7 other men in Utah, Territory. The men and 37 soldiers were a part of a transcontinental railroad survey near Sevier Lake, Utah.
1860: Adventurer Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton is born in Hartford, Connecticut.
1864: The Battle at Mine Creek takes place. The only major battle fought in Kansas occurs at Mine Creek in Linn County, Kansas. The Union Army defeats the Confederate Army, ending the threat of a Confederate takeover in Kansas.
1870: The first U.S. trademark is given. The recipient is the Averill Chemical Paint Company of New York City.
1873: A detachment of Sixth Cavalry from the Indian Territory attack a party of Indian raiders near Little Cabin Creek, Texas, recovering 70 stolen horses and 200 heads of cattle.
1877: Famed Lincoln County War combatant, Dick Brewer, and posse, catch up with Tunstall's stolen cattle in New Mexico Territory, 10 miles from the Texas border.
1878: Cheyenne Indian Chief Dull Knife and 150 of his tribe reach Fort Robinson accompanied by 75 soldiers. The soldiers provide the Indians food, medicine, and blankets.
1881: In the early morning hours, Tombstone, Arizona Territory residents John “Doc” Holliday and Ike Clanton spew threats at one another while in the Alhambra saloon. The following day both face one another in the famed gunfight behind the OK Corral.
1886: the Texas State Fair opens on a section of John Cole's farm in north Dallas. A rival organization, the Dallas Exposition, opens its first fair the following day. Both fairs are successful and eventually merge to form the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition, which eventually becomes the State Fair of Texas.
1891: Jacob Walzer, of the "Lost Dutchman Mine" dies without revealing the secret location. People have been hunting for the mine ever since.
1921: Bat Masterson, famed lawman and gambling figure, dies at his desk while writing a column for the Morning Telegraph where he was sports editor in New York City, New York. Masterson was a good friend of Soapy Smith.

October 21, 2014

Skagway's first train.

First locomotive in Skagway
and all of Alaska!
(Click image to enlarge)

July 20, 1898

It was railroad employee Jesse Murphy who put the final bullet into Soapy Smith's body that sent him to his final resting place, wherever that may be. Twelve days later, July 20, 1898, the White Pass and Yukon Railway ran their locomotive engine up Broadway for the first time.

First passenger cars in Skagway
and all of Alaska!
 (Click image to enlarge)

No 2 was not only Skagway's first train, but Alaska's. The engine was a small 2-6-0 built in 1881 by Brooks Mogul and purchased by the WP and YR in 1898. It was the railroad's No. 2 until it was renumbered "52" in 1900. The locomotive is restored and on exhibit in Skagway.

First passenger train to White Pass summit
February 20, 1899
 (Click image to enlarge)

On September 10, 1898 the first passenger cars made their way out of Skagway. Five months later the first passenger train brought miners to the White Pass summit and the Canadian border.

Photos courtesy of the University of Washington.

Reid carted an old Smith and Wesson six-shooter, an ancient gun he had used in the rip-roaring days of the west and which he considered the best gun in Skagway. He said it never failed him but its failure finally cost his life.
—Matthew M. Sundeen
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 533.


1797: the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution is launched in Boston harbor. During the War of 1812 it is given the nickname of "Old Ironsides" when people witness a cannon ball bouncing off its side.
1849: The first recorded tattooed man, James F. O’Connell, is put on exhibition at the Franklin Theatre in New York City.
1860: William F. "Billy the Kid" Claiborne is born in Yazoo county, Mississippi.
1866: Construction is completed on Ft. Phil Kearny in Wyoming Territory.
1867: The Medicine Lodge (Kansas) Talks take place. Leaders of the Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa-Apache Indian tribes sign the peace treaty. Comanche Chief Quanah Parker refuses to accept the treaty terms.
1871: “Coal Oil” Jimmy and 2 other men rob a stagecoach near Trinidad, Colorado Territory.
1872: A penitentiary opens in Laramie, Wyoming Territory.
1873: George A. Custer's command arrives in Lincoln, Dakota Territory.
1876: Chief Sitting Bull's camp on the Big Dry River, Montana Territory is attack by Colonel Nelson Miles. 5 Indians are killed and 2 soldiers are wounded.
1878: “Billy the Kid” and 4 accomplices steal 8 horses from the Grzelachowski ranch in New Mexico Territory.
1879: Thomas Edison invents the electric incandescent lamp. It stayed lit for 13-1/2 hours before it burnt out.
1889: A Butte, Montana newspaper reports that a funeral procession became disoriented in thick smelter smoke and somehow ended up in the Centennial Brewery.
1889: William Alexander is convicted of murdering his business partner, David Steadman in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. He is spared from the sentence of hanging by Isaac Parker, ironically given the moniker of "the Hanging Judge."

October 20, 2014

Two photos of the Soap Gang round up.

(Click image to enlarge)

Skagway, Alaska, July 9, 1898

Two photographs taken by the photographers Webster and Stevens, within minutes of one another, in front of the Skagway city hall where members of the Soap Gang were being held after their capture the day after bad man Soapy Smith met his demise on the Juneau Company Wharf in a shootout with the vigilante Committee of 101. Three armed vigilantes or deputy U.S. Marshals can be seen in the door way blocking the entrance. Some of the more radical vigilantes outside, seek to obtain custody of the prisoners to serve their own brand of justice.

Photos courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, Washington.

The criminal element had the advantage of being thoroughly organized and armed, and skillfully led by a man named “Soapy” Smith, who was the uncrowned King of Skaguay. He was not a constitutional monarch, but his word was all the law there was. [Thus,] the criminal element … had things all their own way, until the railroad builders began to oppose them on behalf of decency and order, and to form a nucleus round which the law-abiding element could rally.
— Samuel H. Graves
president of the White Pass and Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 524.


1774: The Continental Congress passes a proclamation that citizens "discountenance and discourage all horse racing and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainment."
1803: The U.S. Senate approves the Louisiana Purchase.
1818: The U.S. and Great Britain establish the 49th parallel boundary between the U.S. and Canada.
1870: The town site of Phoenix, Arizona Territory is established.
1871: Bad man “Coal Oil” Jimmy and two others rob a stage near Vermeho, New Mexico Territory.
1873: Phineus. T. Barnum opens his Hippodrome in New York City.
1877: Dick Brewer, Charles Bowdre, and Doc Skurlock arrive in Las Cruces, New Mexico Territory with arrest warrants for Jesse Evans and his gang.
1880: Charles Earl “Black Bart” Bowles holds up the Redding, California-Roseburg, Oregon stage 1 mile from the Oregon state line. At the conclusion of the robbery he leaves behind an unusual calling card: a poem.
1889: Oil is discovered in Douglas, Wyoming.
1890: General Nelson Miles recommends that the U.S. government turn its abandoned forts and military posts into schools or reservations.
1892: The city of Chicago dedicates the World's Columbian Exposition. Soapy Smith takes his wife in October 1893.
1894: Crawford “Cherokee Bill” Goldsby and his Cook Gang, rob a train north of Wagoner, Oklahoma. The train is crashed into a line of empty boxcars, where it is riddled with bullets. All of the passengers are robbed, including 2 U.S. marshals and 2 railroad security officers.
1903: A Joint Commission made up of Great Britain and the U.S. rules in favor of the U.S. concerning a dispute over the boundary line between Canada and the District of Alaska. The U.S. legally gains the ports along the coast of southeast Alaska that it already possessed.