|"Old Man" Triplett on his way to Sitka and trial|
after his capture in Skagway.
Van B. Triplett was one of the main members of the Soap Gang in Skagway in 1898. After Soapy was murdered the gang hid in the nearby hills. Triplett being to old for eating roots and sleeping on the cold ground walked back into town and gave himself up. He was the three-card monte operator who took John Douglas Stewart's sack of gold. He is also one of the gang who did time in prison after being deported to Sitka in handcuffs. Three years after Soapy's death and Triplett's death still made the front pages!
The Evening News(Washington D.C.)
May 2, 1901
VAN B. TRIPLETT DEAD.
Originator of the Gold Brick Swindle Expires in Poverty.
CHICAGO, May 2—Van B. Triplett, the originator of the gold brick swindle, who is said to have swindled people out of a million dollars by different kinds of confidence games, died yesterday at West Belso [look up cities in Chicago] in poverty. Money is now being raised by friends to give him a decent burial. Triplett, who was also known as John V. Tripp and “old Tripp,” was born in Virginia sixty years ago and came of a good family. He began his life of crime when he was young and for more than forty years had been pitted against the police.
Although the origin of the gold brick game is sometimes credited to Bill Train who is said to be responsible for the death of “Red” Leaky [spelling ?] in New York, it was Triplett who first made the game a financial success. The police say he sold he sold hundreds of gold bricks and made a fortune out of them.
He served time for an action of this kind but once, and that was when he and “Big Ed” Miner sold a brick to Chinamen in Dayton, Ohio. Both he and Miner were sent to the penitentiary for the crime and Triplett was released in 1894. After that he went to the Klondike and made a companion of “Soapy” Smith, “Kid” Bowen and “Kid” Eddie Fresh. They were accused of buncoing a miner out of a sack of gold dust. In the events that followed Smith was killed, after he had shot Frank Reid, the district attorney at Skagway. Triplett was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment at Sitka. When he was in jail a mob gathered about the jail to lynch him. Officers dispersed the mob, however, and Triplett served out his term. He was often subjected to arrest in Chicago, and detective Marnane[spelling ?] is said to have taken him to the central station more than 200 times. At last John D. Sheas[spelling ?], then chief of detectives, gave orders that he was not to be molested unless there was proof that he had committed some crime.