September 16, 2014

Young actor plays Soapy Smith

ust a short time ago, the following video appeared on Youtube. I contacted the person who published it, but have yet to hear back. I was hoping to have some details about who the young man is and why he is portraying Soapy. Obviously it is for a school project. I wanted to tell him, "well done."

"It is possible that … some injustice has been done to Mr. Smith which should be corrected, if only out of regard for the distinguished family to which he belongs, for the sun never sets on the Smiths." [San Francisco Examiner]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1620: The Mayflower, with 102 passengers, departs from Plymouth, England. The ship arrives at Provincetown, Massachusetts on November 21, 1620 and then at Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 26 where the start the Plymouth Colony.
1630: The village of Shawmut, Massachusetts changes its name to Boston.
1782: The Great Seal of the United States is impressed on its first document, a prisoner of war agreement with the British.
1867: The 10th Cavalry fights Indians on the Saline River, Kansa. Two civilians are killed.
1880: Charles Earl “Black Bart” Bowles robs the Roseburg. Oregon-Yreka, California stage a mile from the Oregon border. At the conclusion of the robbery he leaves behind an unusual calling card: a poem.
1882: Bad man Soapy Smith purchases a street vendors license in Salem, Oregon in which to sell his prize package soap.
1889: Outlaw Bob Younger, age 34, dies of tuberculosis in the Stillwater, Minnesota State Penitentiary. He and his brothers were serving life sentences for their part in the 1876 Northfield, Minnesota bank robbery.
1893: The "Cherokee Strip" in Oklahoma is swarmed by hundreds of thousands of settlers seeking cheap land. Not to be confused with the Oklahoma Land Run on April 22, 1889.

September 13, 2014

2016 REUNION in Skagway, Alaska!

Opening 2016
(Click image to enlarge)

et's get two dupes with one bar of soap!

July 4-8, 2016

The restoration of Soapy Smith's saloon in Skagway, Alaska is set for completion in 2016. My source at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park tells me that they are shooting for a July 4 grand opening but there is always the chance that the date may be postponed due to unforeseen delays. What more of a perfect time to have a Soapy Smith family/fan reunion in Skagway! The park service says they can arrange a private tour if the grand-opening is delayed. The last time the family was there in force was in 1998 for the 100th anniversary of Soapy's demise

This idea is in the planning stages and I am creating a site devoted to this reunion trip. It is an expensive and time consuming trip so we need to plan early. Start saving your money! This will be a trip you will not want to miss!

Personally, I have an idea of my trip schedule, and I invite anyone to tag along. My trip includes a day trip to Seattle, Washington where McGinty (Soapy's petrified man) resides. There are also interesting places to visit, such as the building which held the Owl Saloon where Soapy has an altercation. This location also holds the famed "underground tour" and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park - Seattle Branch museum. Next is a stop in Juneau, Alaska where Soapy was arrested for selling his prize package soap. The state museum holds a few interesting Soapy related items, including a lock of his hair, and the only two known to exist, handbills of the famed vigilante Committee of 101, and Soapy's response handbill from the Law And Order Society of 317.

Skagway has lots to do! We will be there for the July 4th parade and on July 8 for the Soapy Smith wake (held there since 1977).


"I never knew anything about Jeff Smith only what my husband had said [about] his being the king of the gamblers, and that naturally made me afraid of him. Well, you remember that night when Parson Uzzell was giving out loaves of bread to all the hungry people? I went to the [People’s] Tabernacle one night, but I got there too late. Every loaf of bread was gone, and not a penny in the house. I don’t know what I was doing only standing alone when a gentleman came close up to me and … pushed a piece of paper in my hand, and before I could even talk, he said: Take that, lady, it will get you all the bread you want.

I turned to say thank you, sir, but he was gone…. I am only a woman, but I have got a vote and so has my husband, and anybody who does an act like that for us shows that they have hearts that are in the right place, and I think that they are better than the people who abuse them.
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 329.


1878: Outlaw, James “Frank” Towle, of the Sam Bass Gang is shot dead during a stagecoach robbery. His body was hidden by the other unknown accomplices, and was found 3 months later by stage driver, Boone May, who cut off Towle’s head for evidence in order to claim an outstanding reward. Bad man Soapy Smith had witnessed the death of Sam Bass 2 months previous.
1884: Soapy Smith purchases a street venders license in Del Norte, Colorado to hawk his cash prize package soap.

August 21, 2014

New artifacts: Four confirmed Soapy Smith playing cards.

Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)


Of course he cheated, and one of his most steady methods was the crooked poker game, called "big mitt" and "big hand" by the Soap Gang. There was nearly always a fake game going on in some back room, ready for the victim to enter into and lose. The period newspapers cover this swindle for the 17-years Soapy ran it in Denver.

Years after Soapy's demise, Mary, Soapy's widow, handed out a few cards from Soapy's deck of cards, to the children and grand-children. My father received six cards, of which were passed down to me (see lower cards in pics). All the cards I have are different, but I always wondered if the deck was one set up for "big hand." Very recently I got my answer.

Note the duplicates
Jeff Smith collection

A cousin of mine received her cards from her father, and offered them for sale to me before going to other members of the family. I purchased them and now I have ten cards from Soapy's deck. However, I was not prepared to receive what I did. I was floored to find out that this deck contained three Jack of spades and two five of diamonds! These came from the one deck Mary had of Soapy's, so obviously, the deck was set up to bunco unwary victims. I could not be more pleased!

"There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing."
— Robert Burns


1831: Nathaniel "Nat" Turner, a black slave, begins the bloodiest slave uprising in American history, resulting in 60 white deaths and at least 200 black deaths. He is apprehended in Southampton County, Virginia on October 30, 1831, convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged on November 11, 1831.
1863: Quantrill's Raiders consisting of 450 guerrillas, raid Lawrence, Kansas, killing 183 men and boys. They looted the town, robbed the banks and then burned Lawrence to the ground.
1879: Sgt. Samuel H. Gatchell, 4th Cavalry, was killed by a band of outlaws that he was in pursuit of near Little River, Chickasaw Nation. His body was brought back to Fort Sill and buried in the Post Cemetery.

May 6, 2014

Soapy Smith's shoulder holster

Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

oapy Smith's shoulder holster is another artifact that I plan to take to the Wild West History Association Denver roundup in July. The story of this holster and how I came to possess it, is a story in of itself.

After the Klondike gold rush had passed and Skagway settled down, some of the residents started collecting up some of the early artifacts. Hotel entrepreneur, Harriet Pullen, collected and displayed artifacts in her Pullen House. When there were enough people lodged in the hotel she would give a talk in the hotel parlor amongst some of her treasured artifacts and tell the story of Skagway, Soapy Smith, and the gold rush.

Shoulder holster close-up
Note the nice stamp-work
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

The pictured holster was most likely given to Harriet Pullen. for her gold rush museum, by J. M. Tanner, one of the vigilantes who was on the wharf the night Soapy was shot dead. Tanner became a deputy U.S. marshal, handling Soapy's belongings so it makes sense that he would have this, although he was supposed to have logged it with Soapy's estate for auction. He also donated other artifacts to the Pullen collection which will be discussed at a later date.

Shoulder holster close-up
Note the inked signature (center) "HSP" [Harriet S. Pullen]
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)
In 1954 the threat of losing an important historic jewel galvanized the community as residents rallied together to save the endangered Pullen Collection. Harriet Pullen had run her grand hotel until her death in 1947, and in more than 40 years of operation she had collected an enormous treasure trove of gold rush artifacts. Pullen's granddaughter reopened the hotel in 1950 but the collection had already begun to deteriorate. Bruce Black, park naturalist at Glacier Bay National Monument (GLBA), visited the Pullen House and found the hotel in a state of disrepair - he was particularly concerned with the artifact collection. Since the NPS had no official role in the city, all he could do was urge the Territory of Alaska or some other entity to take possession of the collection and care for it properly. His plea and those of many other concerned citizens were unheeded - the Pullen House closed for the last time in 1959 and the collection went to Lynnwood, Washington with its owner. Pullen's treasures were eventually sold piecemeal at auction, and the collection was lost to posterity.
- Legacy of the Gold Rush pages 53-55.

From 1959 until the early 1970s, the Pullen collection was on display in a building adjacent to a food pavilion. The owners of the property wanted to do some improvements and so evicted the Pullen collection. The owner of the collection at this time was Mary Kopanski, a great-niece of Harriet Pullen. Knowing the importance of the collection to Alaska, she gave the state the first option to purchase it for $200,000. They turned down the offer, which upset a whole lot of people in Alaska. The price was very fair. In fact, Mary made more than the $200,000 she offered to sell it for. In July 1973 a five day auction in Seattle, Washington sold off the collection piece-by-piece.

Shoulder holster
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

My uncle Joesph Jefferson Smith, was the first in my family to learn of the action plans. He contacted his brother, my father, John Randolph ("Randy") Smith about it, and my father, my mother, and I made the trip to Seattle and attended all five days. The adventures I had attending that auction are a story in itself. My father passed on the shoulder holster as he had spent $6,000 already, just for the roulette table and there was the grave marker still awaiting sale. The holster, handcuffs, saps, and a few other Soapy Smith related items went to one high bidder, and that was the last time anyone had seen those items since. Who would guess that these items would once again surface for auction, and that the Smith family would be given a second chance to obtain them? In case the thought may have crossed your mind, yes, these items are the very same items that sold in 1973. The auction house tags and catalog numbers all match up with the ones I have in my collection.   

Shoulder holster
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

I still need donations to cover the costs of my trip to Denver to put this item, and many other items, on display. You can read the story of this planned trip, as well as donate if you choose.

At scheduled intervals the Guards would exercise a neat maneuver and fire a volley into the air as Jeff would lift his hat and acknowledge the plaudits of the crowd. It was Soapy’s greatest hour.
— Rev. John Sinclair (Alias Soapy Smith), p. 522


1835: James Bennett begins publishing the New York Herald.
1851: The mechanical refrigerator is patented by Dr. John Gorrie.
1851: Linus Yale patents the clock-type lock.
1856: The Army from Fort Tejon and Fort Miller ride out to protect Keyesville, California from attacks by Yokut Indians.
1859: John Gregory discovers gold (Gregory's Gulch), “the richest square mile on earth,” near the city of Denver, Colorado.
1861: Arkansas is the ninth state to secede from the Union during the Civil War.
1868: The U.S. begins paying annuities to the Crow Indian tribes of Montana Territory.
1877: After defeating General Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Indian Chief Crazy Horse surrenders his people to the U.S. at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, whereas, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull leads 1,500 of his followers into Saskatchewan, Canada to ask protection from the Queen.
1882: Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, which bars Chinese immigrants from the U.S. for 10 years.

April 18, 2014

lease donate.
(Click to donate)

April 5, 2014

There are so many in business here … who are involved with Jeff Smith and are coining money from the sporting element, that they willingly tolerate Smith’s influence in civic affairs. His word is the law!
Thomas Whitten, Skagway hotel proprietor
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 514


1676: Sudbury, Massachusetts is attacked by Indians.
1775: American revolutionaries Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, ride though the towns of Massachusetts giving the warning that "the British are coming."
1818: A regiment of Indians and blacks are defeated at the Battle of Suwann, in Florida, ending the first Seminole War.
1846: The telegraph ticker is patented by R. E. House.
1847: U.S. troops defeat almost 17,000 Mexican soldiers commanded by Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo, during the Mexican-American War.
1861: Colonel Robert E. Lee turns down an offer to command the Union armies during the Civil War, instead, joining the Confederacy.
1877: Charles Cros writes a paper that described the process of recording and reproducing sound. In France, Cros is regarded as the inventor of the phonograph. In the U.S., Thomas Edison gets the credit.
1895: New York State establishes free public baths.

April 16, 2014

"Fry Pan:" One method of hiding a hot poker deck.

"Fry Pan" Cold deck
(Click image to enlarge)

ig mitt" or "big hand," the slang Soapy Smith used to call a rigged poker game might have been one of his most common swindles in Denver, Colorado. In fact, there are at least 31 pages in Alias Soapy Smith that mention the swindle in operation.

Soapy did not write down or describe his methods, thus we do not know exactly how he dealt out his cheating poker hands. He surely knew the art of manipulating the Devil's paste-boards (deck of cards), however, the amount of times these "friendly games of poker" are mentioned in Alias Soapy Smith, it is obvious that this was an assembly-line set up, making money hand-over-fist, as fast as the gang could gather victims and trim them of their ready cash, and perhaps a check from their bank back home. This was not a show of dexterity, but a fast version of the big-store con, done in as little time as possible. The only difference between big mitt and robbing someone with a pistol, was that the victim, if taken properly, would never know he had been robbed. This production line larceny, milking the money from dupes as quickly as possible, from one game to the next, was set up in back rooms all around the lower business district of Denver. It is not unrealistic to imagine Soapy moving from building to building, game to game, playing his role in extracting the greenbacks from the prey. What was needed was the simplest, fastest method of convincing the marks that they held a sure-thing poker hand, and could not possibly lose. Their greed would do most of the work of encouraging them to bet heavily. All that was needed was for one of the Soap Gang to produce a better hand than that held by the victim being robbed.

Without much debate, the obvious choice is that Soapy introduced a "cold deck" into the game, a cold deck being a prearranged deck that would give the dupe a sure-thing hand, while giving another member f the Soap Gang, the winning hand. There are numerous way of getting a cold deck into Soapy's hands, but today's post is centered on Soapy's chore of getting rid of the "hot deck," the poker deck currently in use at the table.  

This is where a "Fry Pan" would possibly come into use. This secretly hidden device approximates the shape of a small frying pan with a cloth bag attached. In the description for its use, an author writes, "The Cold Decker would be attached to a strip of wide elastic pinned to the operator's back under his coat. The device would be placed between the operator's legs and used as a deposit for a deck of cards after a switch had been made. When the operator stood up later, the Cold Decker shot up the back of his coat, thus concealing the presence of the switched-out deck."


Rigged poker games

Big mit: pages 66-69, 87, 122, 126, 128-29, 190, 194-197, 268, 277-78, 284, 341, 351-55, 363-64, 366, 382, 402, 505.

He is the most gracious, kindhearted man I’ve met. To know him is to like him.
— William Saportas (Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590)


1818: The Senate ratifies the Rush-Bagot bill for an unarmed U.S.-Canadian border.
1862: Confederate President Jefferson Davis approves a conscription act for white males between 18 and 35.
1862: Slavery is abolished in the District of Columbia.
1881: The “Battle of the Plaza” takes place in Dodge City, Kansas when Bat Masterson arrives after receiving word that his brother Jim was being threatened by his saloon partner, Al Updegraff, and a bartender, A. J. Peacock. As Bat exited the train he saw both men and gunfire was exchanged. Al Updegraffe is wounded and Masterson is arrested. After paying an $8 fine, the Masterson brothers leave for Colorado. It is probably in Denver at this time that Bat meets and becomes a life-long friend of bad man “Soapy” Smith.
1882: John Allen shoots and kills Cockeyed Frank Loving in Trinidad, Colorado. The fight starts at the Imperial saloon and ends at Hammond's Hardware Store.
1884: Trick-shooter, Annie Oakley is billed as a “markswoman” in Columbus, Ohio while touring with the Sells Brothers Circus.
1900: The first book of postage two-cent stamps is issued.

April 5, 2014

Save Soapy Smith's historical integrity.


harity covereth a multitude of sins

                                                                            1 Peter 4:8

Take this important opportunity to cleanse yourself of all evil! Ok, truth be told, this is going to help Soapy more than it will help you, but helping Soapy is always a good thing, right?

I don't like to talk too much about my personal health or economic issues too often, but in this case I don't see any other way around it. I need assistance for a "good cause," in a historical sense. I'm on social security, meaning I live on a very tight budget. Many people these days live on tight budgets, but if you are a fan of Soapy's and you feel you can help him out, I'm hoping you will. Let me explain what I'm talking about.

If you've been a fan for a while then you may recall reading about my adventures with author Cathy Spude. She's the one who wants to see J. M. Tanner become more famous. Tanner was the vigilante turned deputy U.S. Marshal, after Soapy was shot dead on Juneau Wharf. Over the years, Cathy has told me several times that "Soapy is in the way," of Tanner's climb up the ladder of fame. I believe that Cathy believes that if she could knock Soapy off the "ladder," Tanner will take his place. Cathy has published the anti-Soapy book, "That Fiend In Hell": Soapy Smith in Legend. She tried her best but did not convince Skagway as many of them already know the real story, some even read my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, which is for sale in some of the stores there. Cathy could give talks all over Alaska and I would hardly flinch, but at the end of July 2014 she is scheduled to give a presentation on Soapy in his beloved Denver. As many of you know, Soapy ran the underworld of Denver for as long as 16-years. Over the decades, Denver has, for the most part, largely forgotten about Soapy Smith, and not one store carries my book! They say first impressions are lasting, and the last thing we Soapy fans need is a lasting impression that states that Soapy was "nothing more than a small-time crook," whose history is largely fiction.

Do you think Cathy Spude can hurt Soapy's history?

Cathy has already did some damage, in the way of at least one National Park Service book and recently, in an episode of Mysteries At The Museum. The answer is yes, she can hurt Soapy's history. A long term example, but not associated with Cathy, is the old story that Soapy was a cowboy. This has been proven not to be true, yet, I personally have had authors refuse to change their pre-published writings to correct the error.

I need to attend the Roundup of the Wild West History Association where Cathy Spude is speaking. I need to counter her mistakes and misleads. I cannot express to you how important this is. I need donations to be able to go. Please donate!

For more details please visit the Save Soapy Smith Fund page.
(Click to donate)

Thank you!

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
— Maya Angelou

Tom "Soapy" Biss passes on.

Latest advertisement for the Days of 98 Show With Soapy Smith

om Biss passing.

Tom Biss as "Soapy" Smith
 (Click image to enlarge)

Long time friend, Ken Erickson, notified me that Thomas B. Biss, age 61, has passed away on March 28, 2014. Tom is one of the creators of The Soapy Smith Show in Skagway, Alaska, which later bought out the Days of 98 Show and became The Days of 98 Show With Soapy Smith. I met Tom in 1974 when I went to Skagway for the first time. He was still playing Soapy in the Eagles Hall. I saw Tom again previous to 1987 during the grand opening of his restaurant Soapy Smith's in Seattle, Washington.

Ken Erickson sent along the link of telling of Tom's passing in the online Stroller's Weekly.


It is with sadness that I note the “voice” of Strollers Weekly, Tom Biss, passed away today. He went painlessly and peacefully. After several years of dealing with a number of debilitating illnesses, he’s found his rest.

Tom was one of the four individuals who made up the collective voice of Strollers. For now, Strollers Weekly will quietly go into archive status.

Condolences for Tom may be sent to his mother at:

Donna Leibole
PO Box 364
Arivoca, AZ 85601

‘da Webmaster

PS: The Anchorage Daily News published Tom’s obituary 04/03/14

Thomas B. Biss died March 28th peacefully at Our Lady of Grace Home in Anchorage. His ashes will be spread at Pt. Woronzof where he often enjoyed the view of Sleeping Lady’.

Tom was born August 23, 1951 in Ithaca, N.Y. and moved to Alaska at age 9 months. He graduated from Anchorage East High in 1969. Tom was a gifted storyteller and actor. In the early 70s, along with Judy and Jim, he created the Soapy Smith show in Skagway. He was often heard reciting Robert Service to a captive audience. In the 80s, among his culinary achievements were the Great Alaska Salmon Bake in Anchorage and Bubba’s Steak House in Almira, WA. In the 90s Tom returned to Alaska, pursuing his passion for politics and public policy in Juneau.

Tom is survived by his mother, Donna and stepdad John Leibole; sister, Lee Ann Poro; nephew, Fran Byerly; half brother, Alison Biss; auntie, Anne Dalzell,; cousin, Bob Flansburgh; two step sisters, two step brothers; several nieces, nephews and cousins for whom Tom, ever the actor, loved playing Santa. Arrangements by Cremation Society of Alaska. Words of comfort can be shared with Tom’s family at

Strollers Weekly

Tom Biss

I have seen American citizens deliberately plundered before the marshal’s eyes in dens kept for that purpose…. I had to pay the marshal $20 after he had recovered stolen property, before he would make a return to the court commissioner, as he threatened to turn it back to the thieves unless I did so. [Lewis Levy, commissioner for parks, Tacoma, Washington.]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 512.


1614: American Indian Pocahontas marries English colonist John Rolfe in Virginia.
1621: The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, Massachusetts, on a return trip to England.
1792: President George Washington casts the first presidential veto, against a measure for apportioning representatives among the states.
1806: Isaac Quintard patents the cider mill.
1827: James H. Hackett becomes the first American actor to appear abroad as he performs at Covent Garden in London, England.
1843: Queen Victoria proclaims Hong Kong to be a British colony.
1859: The unofficial state of Jefferson is formed by residents in the western part of Kansas Territory (present day Colorado).
1863: 140 cavalrymen route 200 Indians during the Battle of Spanish Fork in Utah.
1869: Outlaw Benjamin Bickerstaff and his men ride into Alvarado, Johnson County, Texas, firing weapons into the air and some store windows. Irate armed citizens shoot and kill Bickerstaff and several other members of the gang.
1869: Daniel Bakeman, the last surviving soldier of the U.S. Revolutionary War, dies at the age of 109.
1872: The first Cypress Hills Massacre occurs as American wolfers and Assiniboine Indians fight in the Sweet Grass Hills, Montana Territory, near the Canadian border.
1879: Frank Loving, a faro dealer in the Long Branch Saloon, Dodge City, Kansas, shoots and kills Levi Richardson. Levi fires 5 shots at Loving, missing all 5 times. Loving fires hitting and killing Richardson with three shots. It is ruled as self-defense. Loving is shot and killed about a year later in Trinidad, Colorado.
1887: Anne Sullivan teaches a blind and deaf Helen Keller the meaning of the word "water" as spelled out in the manual alphabet.
1892: Walter H. Coe patents gold leaf in rolls.