Soapy traveled all across the United States in his early career following fairs to swindling the unwary. Several city street vendor licenses he saved show that he legally paid for the privilege. We know some of the cities he visited and operated in and I am always watchful for hints and signs of all places he stopped over for a day or two. Considering we know that he worked all holidays, it is a safe bet that he worked nearly all the towns he stepped foot in.
One such place I always wondered about is Dodge City, Kansas. Did Soapy visit and possibly operate there for one or more days? I hoped a new book, Dodge City: The Early Years, 1872-1886 by William B. Shillingberg (1999) might give me the answers, or even a few hints to keep me searching there.
The book is a well done history and I encourage anyone interested in Dodge's history of corruption, gunfights, and not so angelic facts about Wyatt Earp and "Bat" Masterson to find a copy. Unfortunately for me, because of the many exciting gunfights, the author, like many before him, did not seem to find much interest in the secret doings of the bunco gangs.
When searching locations for possible Soap Gang activity I always take note of the criminal names listed. Many times they are a clue, especially if Soapy is associated with the name in some form. Shillingberg did mention a few names and hints of bunco activity but not nearly enough. On page 183 he wrote,
"Marshal Larry Deger faced troubles of his own with Robert Gilmore—the ubiquitous Bobby Gill, a member of Mayor Kelley's gang and a man described by Bob Wright as 'one of the most notorious characters and...the best all-around sure thing man that ever struck Dodge City.'"
Another hint of bunco activity is on page 276 that reads,
"To the relief of many, Mayor Webster issued a strongly worded proclamation: 'To all whom it may concern: All thieves, thugs, confidence men, and persons without visible means of support, will take notice that the ordinances enacted for their especial benefit will be rigorously enforced on and after to-morrow, April 7, 1881."
Page 389 mentions for the year 1886 that,
"More and more citizens wanted some sort of reform. A rash of robberies and an invasion of confidence men forced the city to hire six extra policemen."
Could Soapy have visited Dodge? I will keep searching for the answer.