March 25, 2009

Another trip?

As the date closes in on my manuscript publication it seems I am becoming busier. Once again I am going out of town (March 26 to March 30). I won't be able to blog as I will be camping in the desert at one of Wyatt Earp's mines. My friend who owns the property is searching for the trash pit Wyatt most likely had nearby. It promises to be a fun weekend whether we find anything or not.

On Saturday (March 28) we will travel to Vidal, California where Terry "Ike" Clanton, the descendant to Ike Clanton of Tombstone, Arizona fame, will be hosting a get-together at the Wyatt Earp house he owns. I am one of the scheduled speakers.

I'll be back Monday (March 30) and will be "guest-blogging" at Petticoats & Pistols.

While I'm gone would be a great time to view some of my older posts!

Welsh's fiction...

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The following newspaper article from The New York Evening Post, October 26, 1907. is based on the so-called recollections of W. H. Welsh, superintendent of the Canadian Detective Bureau, who claimed he was knowledgeable about the events at Skagway, Alaska in 1898. However judging from this article it is seriously wondered if Welsh had ever been to Skagway, let alone in 1898. It is my guess that he read about the shootout on Juneau Wharf and claimed to have been there as so many have before.

With His Rifle He Went Down
Alone to Stop an Indignation
Meeting—Two Graves Promptly
Added to the Little Cemetery
Outside the Town.

[Special Correspondence of The Evening Post.]
CALGARY. Alb., October 19.—Many versions of the dramatic end of "Soapy" Smith and the subsequent clean-up of his gang in Skagway have been written, but it is probable that the facts have never been brought to light in all their details. Recently, W. H. Welsh, superintendent of the Canadian Detective Bureau, who was instrumental in "cleaning up" the gang, told the story this way:

The chief actor in the drama was Jeff Smith, universally known as "Soapy." His record included almost every known brand of swindle from gold-bricking to passing "phony" paper, although it is not know that he ever served time or was even convicted. His strong game was to stand in with the police in any city in which he operated. When his presence proved unwelcome he would depart for pastures new. He got his nickname as an itinerant soap merchant in Denver. He was the originator of selling soap wrapped in a $5 or $10 bill for one dollar; when the purchaser received the goods the wrapper was always missing. He also had a trick of using the soap to make a lather which he rubbed in his eyes to prove some wonderful quality he claimed for it.

"Soapy" made an ineffectual attempt to corral Cripple Creek in its boom days, but failed, and was driven out of that town. From one city to another he was invited to move until he reached Skagway. The reputation of that city, although it numbered some honest men in its population, was not then very savory. The authorities stole the land the town occupies from William Moore, and not to this day has he been paid for the land he preempted and occupied years before Skagway was ever thought of. So "Soapy" found the atmosphere congenial and proceeded to set up his kingdom of loot.


From all over America criminals flocked to his standard. They grafted on the civic administration; they mulcted the saloons; they "buncoed" travelers and miners; they operated "fixed" gambling machines and roulette wheels; they played the three-card game, and "thimble-rigged" the innocent; they flim-flammed the miners who brought in dust, and after every other scheme had been worked, they looted the bank's vaults and held up men at the point of the gun. Pokes of dust deposited in the bank vaults mysteriously disappeared, and the claimants could never get satisfaction. It was the distrust of the local bank, engendered by "Soapy's" influence with it, that made the opening for the Canadian Bank of Commerce, of which it availed itself. The town marshal was a member of the gang, and the local newspaper was edited by another member, "Doc" Hornby. They levied toll on every man that came to the town or passed through it. If a man carried his valise across the wharf they controlled, it cost him two bits; if he set it down it cost him four bits for storage, to land a trunk cost $1.

"Soapy's" saloon was the headquarters of the gang. There the miners and strangers were "rolled." There, too, the famous tame eagle was kept. The place was arranged with a convenient back door for the escape of the "con" man, when he had secured his plunder. Things had been running with such barefaced boldness, robberies, shootings, and holdups had become so frequent, that the town’s business was being injured. Threats were made by business men that they would go over and resurrect the dying town of Dyea, and thus kill Skagway. The business men, in addition to paying tribute to "Soapy's" gang, saw that their business was to be ruined by the men to whom they were forced to pay tribute. Public indignation was thoroughly aroused.


Such were the conditions in Skagway when R. Stewart, a miner, arrived with a poke containing $2,800 in dust, which he cached in the safe of Isadore Kauffman, a reputable business man. Steward then started out into the town, and encountered Slim Jim. Stewart proved easy for Slim, who at once began to talk dust, for everything was dust in Skagway then. Stewart confided to Slim that he had the $2,800 in dust in Kauffman’s safe, and Slim at once said he could sell it for him at $22 per ounce, although dust was only worth $18. Stewart, however, fell into the trap, and agreed to get the dust and meet Slim’s friends. The two went together to Kauffman’s but the merchant was unable to give the miner a word of warning, well knowing that to cross the plans of the gang was as much as his life was worth. They went to "Soapy's" saloon, where other members of the gang were in waiting, and in a back room they took turns at appraising it, while the tame eagle blinked upon his perch, watching the proceedings. Called upon to notice some strange antic of the bird, Stewart turned his head, and his poke disappeared. A few minutes after, Tripp, one of the gang, was seen running out of the back door with the missing poke partly concealed under his coat.

Stewart's protests availed him nothing, and he set out to find town Marshal Taylor, who was erecting a house, doubtless made on the proceeds of similar deals to that just enacted. The marshal gave him no satisfaction, so he appealed to the business men of the town. This was the last straw which broke the patience of the respectable element of the town. Business men had realized that miners and others had already begun to give the town a wide berth. The owner of the Gold North Hotel called a meeting for that night in Sylvester's Hall.


When the crowd assembled, it was found the hall could not accommodate them, so the meeting adjourned to the wharf owned by the same firm. Although it was nine o'clock at night when they finally gathered on the wharf, it was broad daylight, the Arctic sun lighting up the scene as at midday. Guards were put out on the wharf sides, and at the land approach Frank Reid was stationed. The chairman, the hotel-keeper, who had called the meeting, then began to address the crowd. Whatever interest his remarks may have aroused was overshadowed by the tragedy which took place a few minutes after he began to speak.

Down the trail, intoxicated and swaggering, with a Winchester rifle in the hollow of his arm, came "Soapy" Smith. Word had been brought to him of the meeting and its purport, and with the nerve for which he was noted, he had taken his rifle to go forth single handed and cow or kill those who had dared to dispute his domination and despoiling of Skagway. Scores of times in the past, both in Skagway and the Western States, he had faced death from the other man's gun. Once in Skagway, a miner got the drop on him, and facing the loaded revolver he coolly pulled out his own gun, although he had been told to hold up his hands, and shot the miner dead. No man in Skagway could shoot quicker or straighter than "Soapy."

But that night he was "up against" a man who "gun play" was so fast and sure that, given the least bit of luck, it was almost a certainty, if shooting began, that Soapy’s fate would be sealed. The man was Frank Reid, surveyor and engineer of Skagway, who had roughed it and toughed it throughout the Western States. But "Soapy" surged on until ordered by Reid to stop. His answer was a point-blank shot fired at Reid at close range. Over-confidence at such close range, or the fatal atom of luck which swings the balance one way or the other, may account for "Soapy's" failure to hit Reid at that first surprise shot. "Soapy" made a frantic effort to pump another cartridge into the chamber of his rifle. In that instant Reid's revolver swung on his hip, clicked and missed fire. Surely was the goddess of Luck equally favoring both antagonists. Reid's luck had been handed to him when "Soapy's" first shot missed him. "Soapy's" came when Reid's revolver missed fire.

Two shots, one from Smith's rifle, the other from Reid's revolver, rang out, and horrified men on the dock saw Smith spin round and pitch forward, then roll over on his back and lie still while Reid sank slowly to the ground. "Soapy's" career of crime was ended. Reid was hard hit in the hip, and was carried to his office, where he lingered for a couple of days and then died.

Word quickly reached the gang that "Soapy" was dead, and that the citizens had formed a vigilance committee to clean out the rest. That was the signal for a stampede, and the rest took to the woods.

Meanwhile, the citizens lost no time. Capt. Sperry, formerly police captain at Portland, Ore., took the leadership, and called for volunteers to hunt down the fugitives. Two men were detailed at each of the wharves to see that none escaped by the sea route, while the trails were guarded and searched for escaping members of the gang. The Royal Northwest Mounted Police at White Horse were telephoned to and in two days thirty-seven members of the gang were captured. Three were missing for some days, but starvation brought them from their hiding places. Of the forty lined up before Judge Shellberg, nearly all were allowed to leave the country which they did in bunches of six and seven. Three, including the town marshal, were convicted and imprisoned.

But the troubles of the gang were not then at an end. Their records had preceded them, and the police at Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and San Francisco refused to allow them to land. Juneau and Dawson City would not have them, and at that time there was no Nome.

Stewart recovered all his dust, with the exception of $670, which was never accounted for.

Both "Soapy" Smith and Frank Reid are buried in the little cemetery near the town, and after the tragedy Skagway became a safe and normal place. -R. F. R.
The Evening Post: New York, Saturday, October 26, 1907. p. 2.

March 24, 2009

May I be boastful?

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If I may be so bold as to toot my own horn for a minute. I received a nice letter from Sandy Harper of Cyrano's Theater Company for my services during my Anchorage, Alaska trip February 26 - March 1, 2009. I won't bore you with the contents of the letter. Those that wish to can click the letter above to read it.

March 23, 2009

Wyatt Earp...

In some of the older Soapy Smith biographies there are references that Soapy and the infamous lawman/gambler, Wyatt Earp, knew one another. While it is true that there are several instances in which they occupied the same towns together, as of yet there is no provenance. Perhaps the best link between the two men was the mutual friendship of Bat Masterson.

For decades there has been an ongoing debate as to whether Earp was one of the good guys, or one who leaned more towards the outside boundaries of law and order. On several discussion forums I partake in there is a definite hostility between some of the pro-Earp ("Earpites," "Wyatt worshipers") and anti-Earp ("Cowboy apologists") posters. I am one of those few who are stuck in the middle. Because I believe that Earp most likely had connections with Soapy, or performed the same type of illegal operations, I tend to lean towards an interest in studying Wyatt's history. In fact next week I will be camping at one of his mines in California and topping it off with a bar-b-que at his old home in Vidal, California. However, because I see him as more of a law breaker than law enforcer, I am not considered a nice person by some of the pro-Earp groupies. I tend to have more friends in the anti-Earp camps although not one of the "cowboys" of Tombstone, Arizona had any connection to Soapy and his gang.

Beyond the times Wyatt Earp was arrested for operating or being involved in bunco games and swindles there are several circumstantial bits and pieces that I find very interesting.
  • The Earp brothers were accused in the newspaper of being in league with bunco gang boss, "Big Ed" Burns. Pro-Earp historians discount this by stating that at a later date Virgil Earp arrested Burns. Being arrested by lawmen, even those accepting graft, was an expected hazard for bunco gangs. On the day of the gunfight near the OK Corral, it was Burns who approached Waytt Earp and warned him that the "cowboys" were gathering in the corral and threatening violence. Burns later joined up with the Soap Gang and Burns followed Soapy to Denver, Creede, Colorado and Skagway, Alaska.
  • "Texas-Jack" Vermillion, who rode with Wyatt Earp on his killing "vendetta," also joined up with Soapy Smith in Denver as a capper (shill). Vermillion was with Soapy at the shootout at the Pocatello train depot in 1889.
  • When Wyatt and Doc Holiday fled Arizona, one of the places they went for protection from extradition back to Arizona was Albuquerque, New Mexico. The lawmen protecting Earp were Sam and Lou Blonger, who later became Denver's number one bunco organization in the 1900s-1920s. In the 1890s the Blonger's worked closely with Soapy Smith's reign of power.
  • When Wyatt Earp died in 1929 one of his pal-bearers was Wilson Mizner, a known con man who belonged to the Soap Gang in Skagway, Alaska in 1897-1898.
Is it just me or does this all seem a little more than just coincidence.

March 22, 2009

Quick quotes...

He owns the town. A world of meaning is contained in that expression. He has it to do with it what he will in so far as all professional swindling and stealing is concerned. Denver may not be aware of this interesting fact but it is none the less true. The city is absolutely under the control of this prince of knaves, and there is not a confidence man, a sneak thief, or any other kind of a parasite upon the public who does not pursue his avocation under license from the man who has become great through the power vested in him by those whose sworn duty it is to administer the laws without fear or favor.
Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 1889.

"Cap" Light of Creede

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Main street, Creede, Colorado, 1892

Looking closely at the photograph above, at the far end of the street you can see a banner stretching across the street. To the right of that banner you can see a flag flying above a building. That building is the Orleans Club, Soapy Smith's saloon. One of Soapy's tasks was to make sure the officers of the law were under his pay so that his operations would be left free to fleece the unwary. What better arrangement could he have than to insure that his own brother-in-law, William Sydney Light, was hired onto the Creede force as a deputy.

"Cap" Light, as he was known, is now coming into his own historical fame as an old west lawman. He even has his own Wikipedia page, much of which information I added. There are more interesting details I intentionally left out to save for my soon to be published manuscript. Hint: Soapy helped Light fake his own death in the Denver newspapers to ward off a manhunt.

Light's early years, much of which was unknown to me, was published in the April 2006 issue of Wild West magazine, pp18-22. Unfortunately, the author, Larry J. Woods, did not publish footnotes or detailed sources. I wrote Mr. Woods in 2006 and received a reply that although pleasant, basically said that I was on my own to search through old newspapers in order to verify his facts. At this time his story's facts have not been confirmed.

In the March 18, 2009 online issue of the Diboll Free Press, Bartee Haile wrote an article on Light. In emails he admitted to me that he used the Wild West article as his source. Although it is great to see our family become the center of attention, the main reason for this post is to show how history can be distorted with each telling of a story. I won't copy the 2006 article here but would like to show you Haile's article and hi-light some of his additional inserted "facts." Although some call this creative writing, it becomes a crime to history if opinions are published as fact. It is perfectly reasonable, perhaps sometimes necessary, for an author to interject their opinion of how or why certain events and actions took place, however, it should always be perfectly clear to the reader that certain statements are the opinions of the writer and not necessarily fact. The problem with not doing so is that the next person writing about Light may interpret and use Haile's opinions as facts.

Here is the recent Haile article:

Frontier Lawman Earned his Reputation Shooting Drunks

"Cap" Light, Belton's new deputy marshal, got his first wanted man on March 24, 1884, with the help of a large posse.

William Sidney Light was a Civil War baby born in the Central Texas county of Bell. As soon as "Cap," a childhood nickname [sources? How does he know this?] he carried for life, finished school, his stepfather encouraged him to learn a trade. He decided to try barbering, not an imaginative choice since an older half-brother was already cutting hair for a living.

But Light quickly learned that shearing locks was too tame for his tastes. Hearing the town marshal was hurting for a deputy, the 19 year old traded in his scissors and straight razor for a six-shooter and a badge.

What part the wet-behind-the-ears lawman played in the pursuit of William Northcott, a run-of-the-mill criminal, is unclear. More than likely he kept his mouth shut and followed the lead of the more experienced members of the posse. It did not matter in the end because the teenaged deputy took credit for the killing of the outnumbered fugitive.

But Light did not have a posse to back him up several months later, when he took on a bushwhacker named Hasley. As was his habit, the incorrigible bully showed up drunk in Belton one afternoon and began picking on the terrified townspeople.

At first, Hasley did not know what to make of the baby-faced deputy, who told him to cut it out or face the consequences. But surprise to turned rage, and he reached for his gun. Light calmly beat him to the draw, and shot the homicidal lush dead in his tracks. [added filler and incorrect facts]

From then on, hard cases and troublemakers steered clear of the straight-shooting deputy. Bored with the uneventful routine of enforcing law in a law-abiding community, Light resigned the next year and went out west in search of excitement.

He apparently found it, according to the "Dallas Morning News." In a brief account that was short on details, the big-city daily reported the former deputy marshal chalked up another killing in "a fatal difficulty at some point in western Texas."

Thinking he had flushed the wanderlust out of his system, Light returned to Belton in the summer of 1887 with every intention of settling down. He married a girl, who had patiently waited for him, and went back to cutting hair.

That lasted for two years. Then he found out that Temple, a sleepy hamlet transformed into a lawless boomtown by the railroad, was in dire need of someone to make and maintain the peace. The middle-aged marshal was only too happy to delegate his more dangerous duties to a youthful eager beaver.

With Light's good looks, winning personality [source? There are no known photos of Light] and reputation for getting the job done, the residents of Temple readily overlooked his less than auspicious beginning. Like the time he placed second in a footrace with an escaping prisoner and when he lost a murder suspect in a swamp.

Light at last lived up to his advance billing in a March 1890 quick-draw contest. After refusing to go along quietly, a drunk drifter clawed at his holster, which gave the deputy the legal justification to put a bullet in him. The deceased died, a Temple editor wrote, with "his pistol in one hand and a beer glass in the other."

The fatal saloon shooting had the same effect on Temple that Light's killing of Hasley had on Belton. By the end of 1891, things had quieted down so much that the city fathers informed the deputy his services were no long required.

Ordinarily Light would not have given his ne'er-do-well brother-in-law the time of day, but jobs were hard to come by in the spring of 1892. That was why he accepted Soapy Smith's invitation to join him in a Rocky Mountain mining town, where the deputy position was his for the asking. [Sources? How does he know this to be true?]

Soapy, a gambler who was making money hand over fist fleecing miners, neglected to mention that Creede, Colo., was crawling with real gunfighters like William "Reddy" McCann. Deputy Light was still learning his way around town, when he tangled with the "Terror of Santa Fe." [Sources? Putting it inside quote marks implies it came from somewhere. It was not in the 2006 article.]

If McCann had been sober that fateful night, the Texan would not have had a snowball's chance. But alcohol was again his live-saving ally, and Light survived the lead-filled confrontation that by all rights should have been his last. [How does he know this?]

Telling Soapy Smith, "I've had enough of this," [No source states Light said this to Soapy. The 2006 article states Light said this to a newspaper reporter] Light caught the next train back to Texas. Turned down for a plum post with the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe, he got it in his head that he had been blackballed by the railroad's chief detective, T. J. Coggins.

Light took out his frustration on his nemesis with a skull-splitting pistol whipping. When the case came to court, Coggins shot his attacker twice in the head at point-blank range, but Light soon recovered from wounds the attending physician pronounced fatal.

That was what made the circumstances of his death so ironic. While riding a train on Christmas Eve 1893, Cap Light accidentally shot himself in the groin. The slug severed a major artery, and he sat there helplessly as his life drained away.

Revolution & Republic: Texas 1832-1846 - the latest "Best of This Week in Texas History" collection available for $10.95 plus $3.25 postage and handling from Bartee Haile, P.O. Box 152, Friendswood, TX 77549 or order online at

March 20, 2009

Skagway today

Photo by Andrew Cremata
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From the online site of the Skagway News a beautiful photo of a quiet tourist free morning Skagway, Alaska looking south on Broadway towards the bay, after an overnight snowfall blanketed the town and Mount Harding.

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One side of a stereo-view card shows Skagway, looking north as a White Pass and Yukon passenger train heads out of town into Canada. The buildings shown in the photo remain today very much as they did here.

March 19, 2009

Would love to see this series.

If you ever wondered what it must have been like for the Klondike stampeders in 1897-1898 then this video series is a must. Unfortunately, it has not aired on the History Channel in some time.

he video says it all...

March 18, 2009

Creede fire, 1892

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I found this previously unknown (at least to my research) photograph of Creede, Colorado's disastrous fire from June 5, 1892. The photograph was shot from Sunnyside, the route to the camp cemetery. The fire started in John Kinneavy's Sample Room (fancy name for saloon), a good friend of Soapy Smith's who came to Creede with him in 1892 when the silver rush there began. Kinneavy's place, Soapy's Orleans Club, and much of the main business district was destroyed and never rebuilt to its' previous glory. Three days later, June 8, 1892 Robert Ford, slayer of outlaw Jesse James was himself nearly decapitated with a shotgun blast from foe, Edward O'Kelley.

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A nice photograph taken in 1892 from the same hill, closer to the business district shows the camp some months before the fire, giving an idea of just how much destruction actually occurred.

March 17, 2009

Soapy's in-laws


This holiday meant little to me as a kid, except having to wear green or suffer agonizing pain at school. In fact it was not until relatively (perfect word) recently that I found that I have Irish blood coursing through my veins.

Soapy married Mary Eva Noonan, the daughter of Andrew Noonan and Mary Dalton, both of Ireland. Mary was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1872. At this time I have nothing on her parents but I imagine they had the all telling Irish accent which no doubt was partially passed down to Mary as a child.

I bid you good day lads and lassies.

March 15, 2009

Largest gold nugget watch chain in the world.

n March 2, 2009 I posted a slide show that showed me holding the world's largest gold nugget watch chain. I have since found a 1900s dated postcard from Kirmse's Curio Shop in Skagway, Alaska, where the chain was made in 1898. Looking at the two photos above it is easy to see that the chains are one and the same. I also found out that it weighs 3 pounds, not 5 as previously reported. This makes it worth around $43,000 in gold value alone.

My face was included in the original photograph but it is so hideous that I cropped it out. I'm not putting my looks down, but it was truly a Frankinstein's monster moment, lol. In my defense I will say that I was very nervious when I picked it up and placed it against my vest for a photoshoot. I was already overly careful with it as it is a museum piece at the Anchorage , Alaska museum. I was a special guest of the curator and he wanted to show it to me. As most of you already know, museums don't normally let people touch their artifacts. When I hoisted it up I was surprized at the weight of the gold, which only made me even more nervious. All I could think of the whole time was, "oh God, what if I drop it," and my facial expression speaks volumes, hence it is not included.

March 14, 2009

The Nigerian Soapy Smith.

The Nigerian Soapy Smith?

hile looking around the Net I came across the Tinbasher Blog, a metal fabrication company in the UK. It seems they had a run-in with one of the infamous Nigerian scammers. Here is what the blog writes,

Slippery Scam Artists: The Nigerian Soapy Smith

"In terms of our marketing, not only am I omnipotent but I also have a certain omnipresence. By this, I mean I track every single email as it bounces about between all concerned parties. More often than not it just means I hold an extra saved copy of an email, but every now and again I’m forced to intervene if something looks a little wonky.

I’ll let Deborah, who performs sterling secretarial and accounting services from Butler Sheetmetal HQ, take over the telling of one particular instance of such an intervention from a few weeks back. She sent me the following email about some nefarious Nigerian:

Well, it all started yesterday morning when I arrived to start my duties in the meter cupboard. Matt asked me to ring [name removed so as to protect the innocent] to take payment for an urgent job. I read the original email inquiry and it had scam written all over it, but Matt had promised we’d ring back. So, I rang Michael who told me the normal procedure for making payment was for me to give him our bank details. I told him he’d have to pay by credit card and he said he would have to apply for one! In the meantime I had to go through all the rigmarole of getting a price from TNT to deliver to Lagos to be able to do a proper quote. TNT quoted £1323.00 to deliver to Lagos Airport, but they weren’t prepared to take it from the airport to its final destination. Twas a lot of messing about. Any road up, I think we’ve shaken him off now. Suppose there’s an outside chance he could have been genuine, but my gut instinct says not.

Anyway, back to deal with more respected potential customers.

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for some of our African cousins in some respects. Especially those round Nigeria, Ghana or the Ivory Coast whose major export appears to be the scam. Let’s be fair, your average Nigerian has a worse scam rep than the notorious 19th century confidence trickster, Soapy Smith."

Thank you for at least saying that the average Nigerian has a WORSE scam rep than Soapy Smith…

March 13, 2009

Original art for Honky Tonk up for sale.

he original artwork by artist, Diane Mastel, that went on the VHS boxes for the 1941 Clark Gable film, Honky Tonk, are for sale on eBay . Honky Tonk, was inspired by the 1935 book, The Reign of Soapy Smith, with Gable playing the lead role of Soapy Smith. In order to side-step legalities with Jefferson R. Smith III (Soapy's son), MGM changed the characters name to "Candy Johnson."

Here is how the auction description reads:
"Starring: Clark Gable / Lana Turner. No video Box Included. About the art: This original hand painted art was done for MGM Studios between 1987 and 1995. At that time MGM was re-releasing many old movies on video. These paintings were the art used on the video boxes. You have probably rented some of these videos and the art may look familiar. Diane Mastel, a Hollywood artist at the time did over 500 titles. The subject matter is quite varied. I have these paintings for sale. Each is an original and each is a part of Hollywood history. You can Google up these movie titles and often see that they are still using the same art on the now released DVD's. I plan to list 10 per week until they are gone. These paintings were returned to Diane Mastel to keep, or sell but may not be reproduced in any manor without the written permission of MGM Studios. This is a common practice. Sometimes MGM would send along an unused never folded video box (no video) along with the returned art. The art is meant for collection and display. If you buy these paintings, you have absolutely no reproduction rights but they would sure be grand to hang in your home theater. The paintings are not framed. They are mounted on a backing board and are just as they came back from MGM Studios. The art averages about 11" X 16". All are signed on the back by the artist. Due to easy reproduction there are no returns."

Remember that purchases made on eBay are "protected" from fraudulent sellers but it is up to the buyer to prove that the item is not what it is claimed to be, Caveat emptor.

Kiss the ring.

f there is vigor in the law Soapy Smith will be sent to the penitentiary. He is a professional swindler and has attempted murder before. There is not a more desperate nor dangerous person than he in Colorado who is allowed to run at large."
Rocky Mountain News, June 8, 1894.

March 11, 2009

Answer to quiz: Earthquake of 1964.

During my trip to Anchorage, Alaska my wish to visit the ghost towns of Hope and Sunrise located around Resurrection and Sixmile creeks was discussed with several people. I made the comment that the area looked much the way it did in 1896 when Soapy landed there, and I was immediately corrected by several Alaskans that the area drastically changed after the earthquake of 1964.

I had read a little and saw photographs of the damage taken in Anchorage but did not know just how big and destructive that earthquake really was until just a few days ago. Here is what I found.

"The second largest earthquake of the 20th Century and the largest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, occurred in Alaska on March 27, 1964 (3/27/64 05:36:14.0 p.m., local time; 3/28/64 03:36:14.0 GMT). The earthquake had a magnitude 9.2 (Moment Magnitude) and caused extensive damage in Alaska. Local tsunami waves triggered by this earthquake were extremely destructive in Prince William Sound and other areas of Alaska. A Pacific-wide tsunami was generated which was destructive in Western Canada, Oregon, California and the Hawaiian islands. It was recorded by tide gauges throughout the Pacific. Even tide gauges in Cuba and Puerto Rico recorded sea level oscillations from that event. A Tsunami Warning was issued by the Tsunami Warning System in Honolulu for Hawaii and the West coast of United States and Canada. Regional Tsunami Warning Centers in Japan, Chile, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, issued warnings. Combined, the earthquake and tsunami took 125 lives (tsunami 110, earthquake 15), and caused about $311 million in property loss (in 1964 dollars)." [That is equivalent to $2,188,357,968.64 in today's market.]

"Horizontal Displacements: "As a result of the 1964 earthquake quake, the net horizontal movement of the Pacific plate under the North American plate was about 9 meters on the average in a southeast direction, although some sections apparently moved considerably more. For example, Latouche Island area moved about 18 meters to the southeast."

"The area where there was significant damage covered about 130,000 km2. Major structural damage occurred in many of the cities in Alaska, but primarily in Anchorage. Most of the structural damage of other coastal towns was primarily caused by the resulting tsunami waves. Also, the nearly four minute duration of earthquake shaking triggered many sub-aerial and underwater landslides, avalanches and caused ground liquefaction. Earthquake damage from the earthquake was heavy in many other towns, besides Anchorage. Towns such as Chitina, Glennallen, Homer, Hope, Kasilof, Kenai, Kodiak, Moose Pass, Portage, Seldovia, Seward, Sterling, Valdez, Wasilla, and Whittier sustained considerable earthquake damage."

"Although almost 120 kilometers away from the earthquake's epicenter, Anchorage sustained severe damage. Earthquake shock waves lasting approximately 3 minutes caused extensive damage or total destruction to buildings and houses over a large area of approximately 30 city blocks, mostly in the downtown area. All utilities were disrupted throughout the city and the suburbs."

"Some areas near Kodiak were permanently raised by 30 feet (9.1 m). East of Anchorage, areas around the head of Turnagain Arm near Portage dropped 8 feet (2.4 m), requiring reconstruction and fill to raise the Seward Highway above the new high tidemark."

* Earthquake page of Dr. George P. C.
* (Name unknown) president of Hope Historical Society

March 10, 2009

The Shooting of Soapy Smith (video)

Here is an old timey video reenactment of Soapy Smith's Demise. Part of Gold Rush Days on D street for the annual Fur Rondy. This scene is taken from The Ballad of Soapy Smith which ran at Cyrano's Theater Company of Anchorage, Alaska in February 2009. The video is produced by Dan Lee and performed by the cast of the show. I especially enjoyed the added projector noise and how it tapered off when the movie came to an end. Note too that it is snowing!

March 8, 2009

A quiz...

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The White Pass Trail


A few weeks ago I posted a photograph of Resurrection Creek near Hope and Sunrise, Alaska. I had made the comment that the area had not changed since Soapy Smith had been there in 1895. While in Anchorage I learned that the area has indeed changed considerably.

QUESTION: What event caused considerable change to the area?

p.s. "S" has to wait a few days before giving away the answer if she knows (and I imagine she does).

p.s.s. Sorry, no prize for the winner!

March 7, 2009

Soapy Souvenirs from Anchorage.

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I brought home some Soapy Smith souvenirs from my Anchorage, Alaska trip. I am keeping these because some day they will be worth absolutely nothing! Lol. Hey, to me they are priceless...

  1. The playbill for The Ballad of Soapy Smith.
  2. Handbill posted about town for Gold Rush Day which had the reenactment of the Soapy Smith/Frank Reid shootout. This is where I performed as well. During the reenactment the "vigilantes" were calling Soapy out. They were yelling "Come out here Jeff...Jeff Smith come out here." I almost walked out into the middle of the event because I thought they were wanting me to come out, lol.
  3. The neat handbill Jason Hahn put into businesses for his Poker Run. I grabbed this one from my hotel. Jason is the owner and manufacturer of the Outlaw Alaska playing cards.
  4. The poker hand packages and two cards that are inside. My package is still sealed.
  5. The Outlaw Alaska deck of cards with Soapy on the backs of each card. Soapy is the ace of spades! This deck is sealed.
  6. There is no #6, lol.

March 6, 2009

Map to the Klondike.

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Soapy joke.

Soapy Smith and four of the sporting boys are sitting in one of the back rooms of his saloon playing poker when “Iron Jaw” Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other four continue playing standing up.

Soapy looks around and asks, "boys, someone's got to go tell 'Iron Jaw’s' wife. Who will it be?" They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. Soapy tells him to be discreet, ''be gentle, don't make a bad situation any worse."

"Discreet? I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me."

Gallagher goes over to “Iron Jaw’s” house and knocks on the door. The wife answers, and angrily asks what he wants.

Gallagher suddenly loses his nerve to tell the wife the truth and declares, "Your husband just lost $500, and is afraid to come home."

'Tell him to drop dead!" retorts the angry woman.

"I'll go tell him." replies Gallagher.

March 5, 2009

Billy Crockett: Soap Gang member.

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Shellie, alias "S," is one of our Alaskan historian posters. She has been so kind to share her finds with us here. Some are on-line but very hard to locate, such as this great pre- 1924 photograph of the Yukon Order of Pioneers at Rampart, Alaska.

The second gentleman from the left is Billy Crockett who is said to have been a member of the Soapy Smith gang "out of Dawson." "Crockett lived where the store is today (August 1994). " He died on November 15, 1942 and is buried in Rampart.

This information comes from pioneer oral stories recorded and saved as apart of the Project Jukebox, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Thank you Shellie for finding this gold nugget!

March 4, 2009

RIP Rocky Mountain News...

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Quick quotes...

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I have never known just where to pigeon-hole Soapy Smith; a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde he certainly was. Meet him away from home, and what do we find,—a bunco-steerer, a tinhorn gambler, when not a proprietor where brace games were dealt, the associate of desperate ruffians, a professional bad man of the border and an adept in all lines and ways of winning the money of the unwary through nefarious schemes and devices; in short, he was a leader in the flagrant lawlessness which marked the frontier days. He had the reputation of being afraid of neither man nor devil. No one was ever more ready to draw his gun and fight to the death; death mattered little to him if while he lived none dared to dispute his courage and his readiness to do, dare and die.
George Buffum, Smith of Bear City and Other Frontier Sketches, 1906

March 3, 2009

The Rocky Mountain News closes.

The Denver Rocky Mountain News began operations in 1859. Sadly, on February 27, 2009 they closed their newspaper down. It had been for sale but no takers stepped forward.

It was the Rocky Mountain News who published the first known arrest of my g-grandfather, Jefferson Randolph Smith II.

It was the Rocky Mountain News who published the story that gave Jefferson the alias of "Soapy" Smith.

It was the Rocky Mountain News who declared war on "Soapy" and fought for 11 years to rid the city of his presence after Soapy beat and nearly killed News editor John Arkins.

It was the Rocky Mountain News who unknowingly hired "Soapy's" son, Jefferson Randolph Smith III in the 1920's and no one on the paper's staff ever became the wiser.

It was the Rocky Mountain News whom I thought would last forever.

Jeff Smith

March 2, 2009

My trip to Anchorage - slide show.

I chose 50 photographs that best represented the exciting time I had in Anchorage, Alaska.

My Anchorage trip - Saturday

Saturday: I awoke early to snow!

I had to walk a few blocks to meet Steve Stripling of the Big Alaska Show (radio show) as the streets were blocked off for Rondy events and a big parade. Steve has a great personality and was fun to talk with on the drive over to the station. I met his first guest and regular station website maintainer, Karl LeRay. Together, both men had me laughing and at ease. I was interviewed for a fun and fast half an hour (good times always go by too quickly). After the show Steve dropped me off as close as he could get to my hotel and wouldn't you know it, I walked in the wrong direction, lol. I had traveled 3 blocks before I realized it.

In front of my hotel the second day of dog sled races was just beginning, and I had my first Reindeer sausage sandwich. While waiting for the meat to be cooked I got to talking to a few people as I was dressed up in my Soapy Smith clothing. I suddenly slipped and came close to falling down. A young couple behind me piped in with, "from out of town?" We all starting laughing and I added, "What was your first clue?"

The snow increased but the weather was actually a few degrees warmer than the previous day that had no snow. Many were happy with the snow, calling it the perfect Rondy weather. I walked the block to the theater on D street and met cast members out in the streets having a grand time playing with the crowds. I met Jason of Alaska Outlaw Cards. He was fun to talk with, and gave me two more decks of his latest edition of the cards. I had met his mother at breakfast in the hotel the previous day and she told me Jason normally travels the country in the winter but the sales of the cards are doing so well that all his plans for vacation this year had to be scrapped. On this day, besides selling his cards he was operating a "poker run" for a $250 cash prize! Players just had to visit various shops and displays through-out the day and collect sealed envelopes that contained a "playing card" value. I grabbed up a few for my collection of Soapy Smith memorabilia.

Upon arriving I opened up my tripe and keister under a special awning set up for the day and went to work hustling the crowd with the shell game and three-card Monte. I had a blast! The snow was continuous which was perfect as I have always wondered how Soapy's men operated their short cons along the White Pass trail as so detailed in the newspapers of 1897-98. There were two reenactments of the Soapy Smith/Frank Reid gunfight and inbetween shows I hopped up on stage and performed the Prize Package Soap Racket. The only hinderance was the snow. At one point I had a few children come up real close to the stage just as the snow uptop the stage tent cover slid off. That caused a great roar of laughter from the crowd, but three of the kids were so engrossed in what I was doing that they hardly noticed! That made me feel real good I have to admit.

The theater held a private pizza dinner for the cast and it was at this time I had the pleasure of showing those interested some original letters and hand out a gift pack of Soapy Smith souvenirs, including authentic reproductions of the 101 & 317 handbills, the business card ad for Jeff Smith's Parlor and one sheet of the original soap wrapper paper my father made in the 1970s, which has the story of the soap racket and a facsimile of Soapy's signature in which he signed "Alias Soapy," hence the title of my book. I hope they all know to save these items as some day they will be worth absolutly nothing ...

Before I knew it the audience for Saturday nights show began to show up. On the night previous I ran my shell game and three-card Monte in the lobby as the crowd waited to enter but on this night I had several special people show up that I became caught up in conversation. I ended up bringing my tripe and keister directly into the theater and performed for the sitting crowd. I was on top of my game and everyone had a ball!

I mentioned several special people I talked with in the lobby. Before my trip to Alaska I had recieved a post on my Old West Rogues discussion forum from 'S' (alias Shellie) about a Soapy Smith photograph someone was selling on "Craig's List." I also received an email from my connection at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park about the photograph. As it turns out the photograph was not of Soapy, but rather of "Arizona Charlie" Meadows taken in the Monte Carlo in White Horse, YT. I decided to contact the seller, whose name was Sam. He immediately took the photograph off Craig's List and we continued to email one another about Alaska and my coming trip to Anchorage. He mentioned that he wanted to come over and meet with me and sure enough he and his wife did just that. He promised that when I returned to Anchorage he wanted to take me over to Hope and Sunrise, where Soapy had landed in 1896. These two locations were a hoped for destination but time was just to limited this time around. Soon afterwards a woman came up and introduced herself as the president of the Hope Historical Society. We had conversed briefly via email and she was very helpful in educating me about the area. She came to town to meet with me and unfortunately I forgot to show her the original letter I had with me in which Soapy wrote to his wife from aboard ship near Hope. Next, I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman who was born in Skagway, whose mother as young girl of 10 had witnessed Soapy ride by on his horse as grand-marshal of the July 4, 1898 parade. This gentleman played and went to school with the children of Skagway's most known residents, including Si Tanner and Harriet Pullen. His father was a good friend of Martin Itjen's. I pray he will contact me so we can talk more! I have so many questions for him.

I enjoyed the show a second time and caught a second wind at 10 p.m. when the show ended and I was invited to speak with the crowd. At about 11:15 p.m. I made my way back to the hotel and packed for an early flight. With only 3 hours sleep that night and flying back to California where a heat spell in the 80s caught me off guard, it is little wonder I am on the verge of feeling a little ill (damned Reindeer sausage ... lol).

I am hopeful one day I can return to Anchorage, summer or winter.

Coming up...
  • Photograph slide show of my trip
  • Great stories I forgot to include