April 8, 2015

Mummies Alive airs April 19, 2015

The Mummies Alive Team examines McGinty-Sylvester
(Click image to enlarge)

ummies Alive will air April 19, 2015!

In the second week of August 2014 I was hired to talk about McGinty, Soapy Smith's petrified man (mummy), for a new Canadian TV show, Mummies Alive. It was filmed in Scottsdale, Arizona for a one day shoot. I flew in from California and flew back the following day. It was a fun and educational experience, and I'm looking forward to seeing out it turns out.

New Six-Part Series Narrated by Jason Priestley
Premieres Sunday, April 19th at 10pm ET on HISTORY

McGinty (Sylvester)

When most people think of mummies, they think of Ancient Egypt. In fact, mummies have been found all over the world, from different cultures and time periods. They represent our most precious human link to our distant ancestors and are now the focus of a new, groundbreaking series, Mummies Alive, premiering Sunday April 19th at 10 pm ET on HISTORY.

The series kicks off with an episode about ‘The Gunslinger Mummy,’ a mummy that has been on display at a Seattle curiosity shop since the 1950s. According to legend, he was an American Wild West cowboy, killed 120 years ago in a saloon shootout. He’s got what appears to be a bullet hole in his stomach, but using CT imaging technology and state-of-the-art, virtual autopsy techniques, investigators discover his story may have involved much more than initially thought. A notorious con man, the sideshow circuit, and a lesson on how to turn a buck using the myth of the Old West, all become part of the investigation.

“We like to look at each episode like a classic detective story,” says Saloon Media’s series producer Steve Gamester. “It starts with a dead body and a lot of questions that need to be answered. Some mummies show signs of violence while others are found in spectacular places and linked to iconic events in history. Mummies Alive takes a close look what clues were left behind and pieces together a compelling story.”

Every episode of Mummies Alive starts out like an ancient cold case, where there is a search for clues and new leads. As the investigation unfolds, the mummies come to life in exquisite animation, using the latest motion capture technology to achieve a hyper-real look. Colour returns to sunken cheeks, lungs fill with fresh air, and ancient eyes open to stare into the camera.

Mummies Alive is produced by Canada’s Saloon Media and the UK’s Impossible Factual in association with Shaw Media, and is narrated by Canadian actor Jason Priestley.

Mummies Alive main broadcasters are HISTORY Canada and Smithsonian Channel US. Additional international broadcasters include Yesterday (UK), ZDF (Germany), and SBS (Australia).

Saloon Media video
Sylvester from Mummies Alive is
seen at minute 0:50

Mummies Alive broadcast release
Mummies Alive (Saloon Media)

McGinty: pages 82, 235, 237-45, 395-96, 407, 517, 520, 594.

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


1513: Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon claims Florida for Spain.
1789: The U.S. House of Representatives holds its first meeting.
1832: About 300 soldiers of the 6th Infantry leave Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, to confront the Sauk Indians in the Black Hawk War.
1883: A footrace in Trinidad, Colorado between men named Maxwell and Corteze D. “Cort” Thompson. Thompson, the husband of Denver brothel madame Martha A. “Mattie” Silks, wins the race. Bad man Soapy Smith would be mixed up with Thompson in the 1892 shooting death of gambler Cliff Sparks and then Silks accused Soapy of trying to have her murdered for money in 1898.
1834: Cornelius Lawrence becomes the first mayor to be elected by popular vote in a New York City election.
1839: The first Intercollegiate Rodeo is held at the Godshall Ranch, Apple Valley, California.
1862: Confederate troops abandon the town of Sante Fe, New Mexico Territory during the Civil War.
1873: Alfred Paraf patents the first successful oleomargarine.
1891: Soapy Smith shoots and wounds Jack Devine in the Turf Exchange saloon in Denver, Colorado.

February 14, 2015

Strawberry envy: Soapy Smith and Lafe Pence

Soapy Smith
Strawberry envy
(Click image to enlarge)

trawberry envy: Soapy Smith and Lafe Pence

Soapy gave his personal affairs a very low profile, especially from his enemies and competition who would target his private life if they could. Additionally, he did not want his new wife to suffer embarrassment because of him. So Soapy kept his married life completely separate from his business affairs. Even neighbors did not know exactly who lived next door. One neighbor of the Smiths was Lafayette “Lafe” Pence, an attorney and resident of Denver since 1885. Later on, after Soapy had become somewhat notorious, in an 1894 interview, Pence said of his neighbor,

"I lived next to him for a couple of years and it took me a year to find out who he was. I used to notice him carrying home an armful of strawberries when I would have to be content with wishing for some, but I supposed he was some prosperous merchant or banker."

To the very end, Soapy protected his family from his enemies and public exposure. At the time of his death, the majority of those who knew Soapy did not know he had a wife and children.

This story can be found on page 105 of Alias Soapy Smith.

Strawberry story: page 105.
Lafe Pence: pages 105, 174-75, 179, 188-89, 265-66, 292-93, 312-14, 332-334. 

With the sports with whom he associated Smith was easily chief. He was clear-headed and willing to fight if necessary to maintain his supremacy. In a big mass-meeting held in Skaguay early this year he was chosen Captain of a military company to fight the Spaniards, and the company offered its services to President McKinley. If they had been accepted, not a man would have welched on going to the front.
—R. M. Eddy
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590.


1778: The United States flag (“stars and stripes”) is carried to a foreign port, in France, for the first time, flown aboard the American ship Ranger.
1803: Moses Coats receives the patent on the apple pare device.
1849: The first photograph of a U.S. President, James Polk, is taken while in office by Matthew Brady in New York City.
1854: Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson receive the patent for the repeating revolver (The Volcanic).
1859: Oregon is admitted to the Union as the 33rd state.
1862: New Mexico and Arizona Territories are admitted into the Confederacy as territories.
1874: Missouri Governor Silas Woodson announces a $2,000 dead or alive reward for each of the bandits (Younger and James gang) who robbed the Iron Mountain Railroad at Gads Hill. The governor of Arkansas offered a $2,500 reward and the United States Postal Service added another $5,000 for a total reward of $17,500.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell files a patent for the telephone. It is officially issued on March 7, 1876.
1882: Samuel “Doc” Cummings is shot and killed by Jim Manning at the Coliseum Variety Theatre. Drinking heavily, Cummings pulled a gun on Manning, but Manning and bartender David King were able to pull their revolvers and shoot first. Cummings staggered out of the saloon and died.
1884: Theodore Roosevelt's wife and mother both die within a few hours of each other.
1884: Soapy Smith is arrested in San Francisco, California for operating the prize package soap sell racket.
1889: Oranges from Los Angeles, California are shipped back east for the first time.
1899: The U.S. Congress approves voting machines for use in federal elections.
1903: The U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor is established.
1904: The "Missouri Kid" is captured in Kansas.
1912: The first diesel engine submarine is commissioned in Groton, Connecticut.
1912: Arizona is admitted to the Union as the 48th state.

February 5, 2015

Soapy Smith and Martin Itjen invade Los Angeles, California.

Capt. Jefferson Smith and Martin Itjen
invade Los Angeles, California
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

y latest acquisition!

I remember the first time I saw a photograph of Soapy's effigy on the rear platform of Martin Itjen's Skagway Street car. It was in his book, The Story of the Tour on the Skagway, Alaska Street Car, on page 27. Not a very big photo, and only the upper half of Soapy was showing. Over time, I found larger variations, and this 1935 copy is probably my favorite. A first for me, is that Soapy has a rifle at his side!

The rear of the photograph

Jeff Smith collection
(Click on image to enlarge)

Soapy Smith, Martin Itjen, and Mae West
courtesy of Bob Wieking

Obviously an old library copy, ready for publication, but from 1935, not a modern print. This was taken in Los Angeles, California, when brilliant publicist Martin Itjen insisted on meeting film star Mae West. Had Martin come down from Skagway just to advertise the town, he would not have received much attention, so he came up with a plan. A plan that caught the attention of the newspapers. Martin demanded to see famed movie-star Mae West. Mae came to visit, and so did the reporters.

Want to read more about Martin Itjen?
(operated by Itjen descendant, Bob Wieking)

Martin Itjen (Multiple posts, not in order of importance) 

Martin Itjen: pages 11-13, 453.

The citizens have called a mass meeting to consider what steps are to be taken, and it means a fight, and they look to us to lead them.
— Samuel H. Graves
president of the White Pass and Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 556


1783: Sweden recognizes the independence of the U.S.
1846: The Oregon Spectator (Oregon City, Oregon) is the first newspaper published on the Pacific coast.
1848: Female outlaw Myra Belle “the Bandit Queen” Shirley, alias Belle Starr, is born in Arkansas. She married outlaw James Reed and joined the outlaw Tom Starr Gang.
1861: Samuel Goodale patents the moving picture “peep show” machine.
1881: Phoenix, Arizona is incorporated.
1897: Sylvester Scovel (Friend of Soapy Smith), a U.S. war correspondent for the New York World is arrested and jailed in Sancti SpĂ­ritus, Cuba. He is held on four counts, including communicating with the Cuban insurgents and traveling with forged papers. The World declares Scovel to be “in imminent danger of butchery.”

February 4, 2015

Soapy Smith's horse in 1/6 scale.

Soapy Smith rides again!
(Click image to enlarge)

fter creating my 1/6 scale Soapy Smith action figure I went on to create members of the Soap Gang. One of the fun sidelines has been to recreate events in Soapy's life. Naturally, one of these would have to be Soapy on his horse when Reverend John Sinclair of Skagway, Alaska took the famous photograph of Soapy riding north on State Street. I bought the period saddle about six months ago, and had western artist Kirby Jonas paint Soapy horse, seen in the photo above.

I sent Kirby all the known photographs of Soapy's horse to work with, such as the one below, but they were not as easy to work with as I originally thought. The reason has to do with all of them being taken at different times of the day, and in varying weather conditions. Early camera lens, film and camera quality, along with early and primitive film developing probably played a big role in the variations, not to mention the fact that most of the photographs taken were not shot by professional photographers, but by everyday people, as Kodak had successfully marketed their easy to use cameras. Even Soapy looks different in just about every photograph.

Kirby and I discussed each photograph and each patch of contrast (coloring) on Soapy's horse to attempt to come up with the most authentic representation of what Soapy's horse probably looked like. Those discussions were very enlightening, informative, and one-half the pleasure of this project, for me. 

The REAL Soapy Smith

Kirby is a long-time horseman so he was able to teach me a lot about Soapy's horse than I ever thought possible. In one of our correspondences Kirby wrote,  

I’ve been working on the horse this morning, and I THINK I have the white on the front shoulders, neck and face about like we want it. Of course, in the famous photo where the horse is being a bit unruly, we can’t see his face, but I can pretty much go by his front quarters and neck to make an educated guess how much white is on his face. I have really bad lighting here today—it’s wanting to snow. So I can’t take a decent photo of this to send, but I hesitate to go any further with the white, or the front of this guy is simply going to be a “white horse,” which Soapy’s horse was not. Technically, if you saw this horse the day after it was born you would say it’s a black horse, except that the black is more muted than a true raven or coal black horse (two different shades of “legal” black on a horse). As time goes on, white hairs begin to appear, and they start creating the dapples, etc. In the case of this particular horse, he already had two “socks” on his left feet, so those would have always been lighter colored, even when he looked black as a colt. But the rest of the white markings are all something that came later, and they just appear mostly at random. Many horses, such as Soapy’s, lighten faster above, and it slowly works down under the horse. Often, the hips are one of the last things to turn, along with the legs. Eventually, if a horse lives long enough, that black looking colt, turned dark dapple, then light dapple, will be a white horse, but with dark eyes and nose and any other place where the hair is thin and you can see the skin.

Okay, so with all that ammunition, a lot of which I may have already explained before, the reason I am halting on making this horse any white at this point is that if you want to go strictly realistic, Soapy’s horse in that famous photo is most likely around 8-12 years old, whereas in later photos where his face starts showing whiter, he appears to be older. I’m not positive of that because you still have to rely on old black and white film and questionable lighting, but that is always going to be a problem. Anyway, this long-winded letter is mostly just to let you know I feel like I should stop adding lighter gray to his neck and front quarters until you’ve had a chance to see it and approve or ask me to add more white. I could photograph it today, but I just don’t think the cloud cover would make for a reliable photo, and once he is “too light,” it would be very difficult to go back the other way.
He looks really good, though, and once his eyes are finished, and his nostrils, etc., as well as the hairs inside his ears and his hoof detail, he is going to really come to life. I hope you like him. He will look great on your shelf.

Soapy's horse and 19th century saddle and tack
(Click image to enlarge)

Soapy prepares for a ride
Wait, isn't that Soapy in the doorway too?
(Click image to enlarge)

Some people love money
Some people are in love with war
But I'm in love with your brown eyes
Yes you are what I'm living for
('Til That Moment by Marshall Crenshaw)
(Click image to enlarge)

Kirby Jonas' signature
(Click image to enlarge)

A HUGH thank you to artist Kirby Jonas 
for taking on this project.

Be sure to visit Kirby's website!

Want to learn more about Jeff Smith's Soapy Smith action figure?
Perhaps even purchase one?

They shot all night. You could hear the shooting and see the flashes in the hills when they were shooting. They weren’t shooting at anything, they were just shooting. The gang was hiding in the hills. One guy hid under our house, until dark, and then he tore out. Mother wouldn’t tell on him. We didn’t want the guy to get shot. He stayed under there until it got dark and then he beat it.
— Royal Pullen
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 563


1783: Britain declares a formal cessation of hostilities with the U.S.
1789: Electors unanimously choose George Washington to be the first president of the U.S.
1824: J. Goodrich introduces rubber galoshes.
1847: The first U.S. Telegraph Company is established in Maryland.
1861: Delegates from six southern states meet in Montgomery, Alabama and form the Confederate States of America.
1861: Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise meets Second Lieutenant George Bascom under a white flag in New Mexico Territory. Bascom detains Cochise but he cut his way through the tent and escapes.
1865: The Hawaiian Board of Education is formed.
1877: Apache Indians kill 4 settlers near Sopori, Arizona Territory.
1886: Dennis Dilda is hung for murdering a Yavapai County deputy sheriff in Prescott, Arizona Territory. It marks the last legal public hanging in Arizona.
1887: It is noted that Leavenworth, Kansas has 200 saloons.
1889: Harry Longabaugh is released from the Sundance Prison in Sundance, Wyoming Territory. It is where he acquired the sobriquet, "the Sundance Kid."
1901: "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" opens in New York City.
1903: Cole Younger is granted a pardon in Minnesota. He and his brother Jim were paroled in 1901 after serving 25 years in prison for their part in the 1876 Northfield bank robbery. Jim committed suicide in 1902 and their brother Bob died of tuberculosis in prison in 1889.

January 29, 2015

State Street: The view from Soapy Smith's eyes

Stereoview card
State Street
Skagway, Alaska
Copyright 1900
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

tate Street as Soapy Smith saw it...
moments before his demise.

circa 1900

Made a recent purchase that turned out better than I originally anticipated (see photo at top). As an off-shoot of my main collection, I seek out stereoview cards with a connection to Soapy Smith, the places he visited and operated in, gambling, crime, ships he took, hotels he stayed in, etc. They are far cheaper than cabinet cards and they give a 3-demisional look into his history. This is only the second viewcard I have found that was taken in Skagway, Alaska, most dealing with the trails and the Klondike gold rush.

Photograph "cleaned-up"
State Street looking south
The James Hotel and P. E. Kern's jewelry store on the right
The dome of the Golden North Hotel on the left.
Jeff Smith collection


The stereoview card has a 1900 copyright, meaning the photo is probably dated 1899-1900, but possibly 1898. Take note of the red, white, and blue bunting on one of the smaller buildings, possibly meaning the picture was taken in July, or perhaps in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, when patriotism was extremely popular.


My first chore was to try and figure out where in Skagway this picture was taken. I recognized the mountain range so I knew that the camera lens was pointed south, but what street? Looking at the photo, Peter E. Kern's first jewelry and watch store is identified with a sign read "P. E. K (rest of letters covered). Mr. Kern moved his store operations to Broadway Street in 1903. There is plenty of information on the second location of the store but I could not find a single notation regarding the location of the first one. I could tell that the large building on the right was no doubt a hotel, but again, I could not find a name or location.


I had some much need assistance in identifying the location, on the Skagway group page of Facebook. Special thanks go to Charity Pomeroy, Sean Layton, Averill Harp, Tim Heckmon, Colleen Rafferty, Cecilia P Matthews, Steph Sincic, and William Bigham.

Skagway, Alaska
June 1898
Taken approximately one month prior to Soapy's death.
Courtesy of University of Alaska, Fairbanks
(Click image to enlarge)

With their aid, we now know that this photo was taken on State Street, just south of McKinny (Fifth) Avenue. On the left side of the card, the "onion dome" of the Golden North Hotel can be seen, located on State Street and Keiser (Third) Avenue. It was moved to Broadway and Third in 1908 and still operates as a hotel today, looking much as it did in 1898. Charity Pomeroy, a guide in Skagway, led me to the photograph showing the area at a different angle. With a magnifying glass I was able to determine that the large building on the right is the James Hotel.

Close-up of State Street
June 1898
Courtesy of University of Alaska, Fairbanks
(Click image to enlarge)

State Street leads directly to the entrance of the Juneau Company Wharf, and it is the street Soapy took to face the vigilante, committee of 101, who were having a meeting at the end of the wharf to decide a course of action against Soapy and his gang. The stereoview photo is what Soapy saw as he made his way south on State Street that dismal evening of July 8, 1898, now referred to as the shootout on Juneau Wharf.

Jeff. Smith's Parlor. (circled)
Holly Avenue and Broadway Street
June 1898
The white dots around the Parlor are finger prints
from someone pointing out "Soapy's place."
Courtesy of University of Alaska, Fairbanks
(Click image to enlarge)

On the 11th instant, I informed you of a shooting affray which occurred in Skaguay. “Soapy Smith” attempted to murder a Mr. Reed [sic] who was organizing a party to recover money for a returning Klondiker named J. D. Stewart who had been robbed of same by some of Smith’s gang. In the struggle, etc., “Soapy Smith” was shot and killed from his own gun by a man named “Murphy.” Mr. Reed [sic] (who received two bullets from Smith’s gun) died a few days afterwards.
— Major Sam Steele, NWMP
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 547.


1802: John Beckley becomes the first Librarian of Congress.
1845: Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven is published for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror.
1850: In the Senate Henry Clay introduces a compromise bill on slavery that includes the admission of California into the Union as a free state.
1861: Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state.
1863: The Bear River Campaign ends near Salt Lake City, Utah. General Patrick Connor and 700 California volunteers attack the Shoshone Indian encampment of Bear Hunter located in Cache Valley. 224 Shoshones, including Bear Hunter, are killed. Women and children are taken prisoner. The Infantry lost 21 men and 46 are wounded. This ends the Indian attacks along the California Trail as well as Indian control of southern Idaho and northern Utah.
1879: Custer Battlefield National Monument in Montana Territory is established.
1881: In the last known armed confrontation between whites and Indians in Texas, 15 Texas Rangers surprise and kill 12 Apache Indian males and 8 women and children in Sierra Diablo, Texas.
1881: Major Guido Ilges accepts the surrender of Indian leader Iron Dog and 63 of his people at Poplar River, Montana Territory.
1886: Karl Benz patents the first successful petrol-driven motorcar.

January 26, 2015

Grand Central Hotel, Denver, Colorado, 1879

Grand Central Hotel
circa 1880-82
courtesy of Denver Digital Collections

he OTHER Grand Central Hotel.

Back on December 18, 2014 I published a post on the Grand Central Hotel, which is where Soapy was first witnessed as being in Denver in 1879 as he once testified. It is also the first recorded instance in which Soapy performed the prize package soap sell racket. At the time I published the first article I did not realize that there were two locations showing the Grand Central Hotel. Because of a 1901 photograph, I originally, thought that the hotel associated with Soapy in 1879 was located on the north-east corner of Seventeenth and Blake Streets.

Close-up crop
showing the Rocky Mountain News
courtesy of Denver Digital Collections

On eBay I came across an early business card for the Grand Central Hotel, listing the address as "Lawrence and Seventeenth," three city streets south of Blake and Seventeenth. I do not believe they were operating at the same time, rather the original proprietor (Howard Chapin) closed the one at Lawrence and a new proprietor (M. D. Van Horn) opened on the s.w corner of Blake and Seventeenth. It is a matter of correcting my mistake so future researchers do not repeat the error.

Business card for the Grand Central Hotel

December 18, 2014

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

A man's mistakes are his portals of discovery.
—James Joyce


1784: Founding father Benjamin Franklin expresses unhappiness in a letter to his daughter that the eagle was chosen as the symbol of America. He was in favor of using the turkey.
1802: Congress passes an act calling for a library to be established within the U.S. Capitol.
1837: Michigan became the 26th state to join the Union.
1861: Louisiana secedes from the Union prior to the Civil War.
1864: Outlaw “Whiskey” Bill Graves, a robber said to have been a member of the Henry Plummer gang, is hung by vigilantes in Fort Owen, Montana Territory.
1870: The state of Virginia is readmitted to the Union.
1875: Pinkerton operatives arrived at the Missouri farm of James-Samuel in the early hours of the morning. The west side of the family’s cabin was set on fire and a bomb was thrown into the north kitchen window. Although Dr. Samuel was able to extinguish the fire the iron orb exploded, killing his 8-year-old son, Archie, and severely mangling his wife, Zerelda’s right arm. It still is not clear if Frank and Jesse James were at the farm at the time.
1875: George F. Green patents the electric dental drill.
1876: Indian Chief Sitting Bull attacks the civilian post of Fort Pease, Montana Territory, located near the mouth of the Big Horn River.
1877: The Weatherford and Fort Worth stagecoach is robbed by the Sam Bass gang getting about $400-500 from the passengers. Soapy Smith would later witness the shooting death of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1882: Charles Earl “Black Bart” Bowles, robs the Ukiah-Cloverdale stage six miles out of Cloverdale California. At the conclusion of the robbery he leaves behind an unusual calling card: a poem.
1883: “Big Ed” Burns, member of the Soap Gang, is arrested in Denver, Colorado.