August 31, 2010

Stagecoach to Creede, Colorado 1892.


Fatima ("Little Egypt") in Skagway 1898.

Above photo: PEMCO-Webster and; Stevens Collection; Museum of History and Industry, Seattle /Corbis

Friends of Soapy Smith member, Rich sent in the following portion of an email.

"... Also, in the pictorial book "Great American Bars and Saloons" by Kathy Weiser...there is a similar photo to the one in your book of Jeff Smiths Parlor. However, in this photo there are 11 [possibly 12] men milling about out front. You 'probably' are aware of this photo...but just in case, I thought I would mention it."

.....there is a hand painted sign: 'Little Egypt Tonight'...on the building next to Jeff. Smiths Parlor.

[I don't know whether the duplicate photo you put on the blog was cropped and the sign was not visible.]

Apparently during that era, there were other women using the title 'Little Egypt' throughout the country.

The real Little Egypt 'may' have actually passed through Skaguay. I wonder if Jeff and the gang saw the show? :)"

In response I did a little searching. At the Skagway Historical Society blog I found a post on "Little Egypt" in Skagway. Wikipedia had an article as did the website, History of Oriental Dance (Belly Dance) which published the following.

It is believed the first major appearance of belly dance in America happened at the World’s Columbian Exposition aka the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The fair featured a re-creation of an Egyptian market aptly named “Streets of Cairo” where vendors sold Egyptian goods, and dance and music groups from countries like Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisian, Algeria, Turkey, among others, shared their cultural tradition on the stages along the “midway”. The dancer’s hip and stomach movements were considered vulgar and strange compared to the popular waltz and ballet which were acceptable forms of dance of the time. The nearly, fully covered dancers were also considered very controversial for not being corseted, which was the fashion trend and “respectable” custom of the day.

An entertainment promoter for the Exposition named Sol Bloom quickly took advantage of the controversy surrounding the foreign dancers and began billing the dance as the “hootchee-kootchee” dance in order to get more customers. This advertising tactic was a huge success. Soon, others including Vaudeville promoters, labeled its all-American adult entertainment as “hootchee-kootchee” dance in their popular shows, which later became known as burlesque, the precursor to modern day stripping or “exotic” dance. Though burlesque dancers used some of the movements they saw the foreign dancers do, it was not in part or in whole the same traditional and folkloric dance as performed by the “real” belly dancers at the World’s Fair.

The World's Columbian Exposition introduced Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, the original "Little Egypt." Afterward numerous dancers took on the style and name of "Little Egypt" to cash in on the popularity of the new dance.

During the Klondike Gold Rush Vaudeville pioneer, John Considine of Seattle hired Farida Spyropoulos to perform in his People's Theater. It would have been easy to catch a ship to Skagway and perform there as well.

The photograph above comes from the Alaska State Library and although the name is misspelled they agree that Spyropoulos, the original "Little Egypt," danced her way into the hearts and minds of the residents of Skagway. It is likely too that Soapy caught the show.

A connection to Tombstone, Arizona

In Tombstone, Arizona at the Bird Cage theater hangs a painting of "Fatima." According to the website History of Oriental Dance (link above),

At the Exposition, a Syrian-born dancer named Farida Mazar-Spyropoulos (pictured below) performed with “The Algerian Dancers of Morocco” under the name “ Fatima”. Farida later claimed to have been the first “Little Egypt”, but did not perform under this title at the Exposition. Since then many dancers, Middle Eastern and otherwise, have used the name “Little Egypt” to promote themselves, some more respectably than others.

The Bird Cage theater claims Spyropoulos was oriental and that her painting hung in the bar since 1882, however this would be 11-years previous to her "discovery."

"Little Egypt"
(But which one?)
The comments on Youtube regarding this video debate whether this is Spyropoulos or not.

*Special thanks to Rich for questioning.


August 30, 2010

Quick quotes.


Soapy Smith Wake nets $2,000 for charity.

(Click image to enlarge)
The entrance banner 

Once again the annual Soapy Smith Wake was a great success for the Magic Castle charity. The following was published in the Academy of Magical Arts Newsletter, August 2010. The photographs come from the Magic Castle website and were taken by Hal Scheie and Hocus Pocus Focus. Click images to enlarge them.

Soapy Smith collects cold cash

"German Pete" & "Minnesota Maureen" 

The Magic Castle’s 7th Annual Soapy Smith costume Party raised over $2,000 after expenses for the Dai Vernon Fund, the Magic Castle’s philanthropic community chest benefiting magicians in need.

 Karin McKechnie

The raucous party, hosted by Pop Haydn, Chef Anton, Judge Nelson, and the Soapy Smith Preservation Trust, featured turn-of-the-last century gambling, music from Professor Dave Bourne and his Medicine Show Band, speeches honoring Soapy Smith, America’s Most Trusted Con Man, an auction of collectible magic and Soapy Smith items, a trick pool shot demonstration by Chef Anton and a “Toast to Soapy’s Ghost.”

Dave Bourne and the Medicine Show Band

The Costume Contest featured three top prizes: most original, sexiest, and honorable mention — garnered by Donal Chayce, Darcy Prevost and Rachel Stoll (a duel award — honest, you should have seen them!) and Holly Beavon, respectively. Each winner received dinner at the Magic Castle and tickets to the Cabaret at the Castle event featuring Jake Broder as Lord Buckley.

 "Magill" and Jeff Smith

The AMA Trustees and the School for Scoundrels thank the Events Department, all of our volunteer helpers behind and in front of the scenes, and particularly those who traveled across the country to take part in what has become the major fund-raiser of the year for the Academy of Magical Arts’ home-grown charity. Make sure you mark your calendars next year – you’ll have a whale of a good time!




August 26, 2010

The steamer Cottage City

The above Case and Draper 1905 photograph of the steamship Cottage City  was a wooden hull built by New England Shipbuilding Company in 1890, 1 mile upriver from Bath Iron Works where it was completed. It was marked as the first ship manufactured at the New England Shipbuilding Company in partnership with what was to become the Bath Iron Works, both located on the Kennebec River at Bath, Maine. The 232-foot-long Cottage City was an important milestone in the history of American shipbuilding. Although built as a coastal steamer, with a wooden hull launched in February, 1890, and her machinery installed by the Bath Iron Works by the end of that year, the Cottage City was a successful venture and its launch lead to an order for a sister ship, the Manhattan. After that came contracts for the iron and steel-hulled warships. She ran between Portland and New York City for 7-1/2 years. Then sold and used to transport passengers and freight between Seattle, Washington and Alaska. It serviced Alaska from 1898 until  January 26,1911.

This is the same steamer that in 1898, after Soapy was killed, transported the four Soap Gang members (Foster, Bowers, Jackson and Triplett) who robbed miner John Stewart, out of Skagway for trial and prison. Bowers and Foster were charged with larceny, or theft, and assault and battery while Triplett was charged with larceny only. They were all found guilty, sentenced, and taken aboard the steamer Cottage City for transport to Sitka to serve their sentences.

January 26, 1911 the steamer wrecked in a severe winter gale along the Canadian coast. The details of the wreck are sketchy at best. From the best information the Cottage City was caught in a blinding snowstorm and heavy fog and went on a reef off Quadra Island, North British Columbia. The ship was equipped with radio telegraph equipment so an S.O.S. call brought help from Victoria, British Columbia, and Port Townsend, Washington. Everybody on the wreck was rescued, but the Cottage City was lost.

Source: True Stories Of Ships And The Men That Sailed Them


Quick quotes.


Frank Reid

I came across a nice write-up for Frank Reid over at the Skagway Historical Society blog.

The famous or infamous Frank Reid died on this day July 19, 1898, having been shot in the groin by Soapy Smith on July 8, 1898. He was born in either 1850 or 1844, but it was 1850 in the 1880 Linn County census with his brother, D.V.S. Reid. Both were born in Illinois. His grand-neice came to Skagway and said that the H. in his name stood for Harold.

Frank was a graduate engineer and a teacher in Linn County, Oregon District 29 in the 1870's. In 1898 he came to Skagway and created the Map of Skagway which was adopted on March 6, 1898 by the City. He had worked with W. Thibaudeau to plat the streets. Earlier, he had been a Lt. in Mart Brown's Company of Oregon Volunteers.

Klondike Stampeders Register p80; Mission Klondike, Sinclair; photo above - Eloise Short and Kathryn Baker (right) stand by grand uncle Frank H. Reid’s monument during a visit to the Gold Rush Cemetery in 1990. Photo by Jeff Brady.

Frank H. Reid: pp. 10, 439-41, 447, 477, 529-42, 544, 547-53, 555, 574, 576-77, 579, 585.


August 21, 2010

Who should star as Soapy Smith

I have a link at the top of the page, What actor should play Soapy? Earlier this week I received an email from Ashley Bowman of Skagway, Alaska who suggested Jim Richards, owner and retired actor who played Soapy for literally decades. I thought it was a great choice and posted it with the rest of the choices sent in. Ashley knows Jim as I do so we began emailing back and forth. The I received this one from her.

This question of who would play Soapy has started quite a few hot debates here-- my friends and I have been surveying the town and gotten a lot of great responses. Thanks for the conversation starter!

That peaked my interest and curiosity so I asked her for more details. Here is what she has sent thus far.

Well here's a few of the responses from myself and the women I work with-- important to note these are all coming from women because naturally we picked all the hottest actors--
  • Hugh Jackman (Wolverine meets Kate and Leopold)
  • Christian Bale (if only he didn't have such a baby face)
  • Viggo Mortenson (ok, maybe, maybe not)

A few others that came up later at the Elks:

  • Daniel Day-Lewis (pretty perfect, I think, in light of There Will Be Blood)
  • Sam Elliott (also a good one)
  • Val Kilmer (I don't see it)
  • Tom Hanks (ala Road to Perdition?)

If I get any more I'll let you know :) As soon as I read "Paul Newman" I thought right away that a young Paul Newman or a young Robert Redford (with dark hair) would be a great Soapy. For that matter maybe Bogey as well... now my mind is entirely taken up with thoughts of Hollywood Soapys.

Thank you so much Ashley!


Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Soapy Smith in Creede, Colorado


August 20, 2010

Discussion board forum

A reminder that we do have a discussion board (link at top of page) to use for any sort of discussion regarding Soapy Smith and his associates, family, history, etc. The board is slow right now but any posts there will be announced here as well, so that everyone knows when talks are taking place.


Rocky Mountain Profiles covers Alaska

Our friend Mike Sinnwell over at Rocky Mountain Profiles posted some history and photographs of his trip to Alaska this year. Locations relating to Soapy include Dyea, Hope, Sunrise, and of course Skagway.


August 19, 2010

Morgan Earp and bunco man "Doc" Baggs

One of my on-going research projects involves Soapy's time spent in Tombstone, Arizona. This led to another research project which entails just how much control and political clout the local bunco men had in Tombstone and the surrounding towns. It was when I found that the Tucson Daily Citizen accused police officer Morgan Earp of being in league with a bunco gang in 1881 that I started participating on the Tombstone History Discussion Forum to learn more. 

From the very start I was not popular with some of the posters who believed the Earp's were not capable of operating on the wrong side of the law. Soapy and Wyatt Earp knew one another, as did some of those who associated with Wyatt, such as "Big Ed" Burns and "Texas Jack" Vermillion.  The research I was working on uncovered bits of history that put dings in Wyatt Earp's shiny armor. My goal was not to hurt the Earp's, but rather to find out the truth about who controlled Tombstone's underworld, to what extent, and who were their allies and enemies. Unfortunately for those historians who believe the Earp's were incorruptible I began uncovering clues that indicate the Earp's might have been directly involved with the bunco gangs. Past blog posts I've written dealing with this research can be found at the following links: Nov 13, Sept 25, Mar 23, Jan 7.    

In the October 2010 issue of Wild West magazine Earp historian Lee Silva published the article, The Mysterious Morgan Earp. In that article I found another clue. It may mean nothing but it belongs in the files none-the-less. Lee quoted the following newspaper article.

Daily Pioneer, July 25, 1878
“Mr. Morgan Earpt [sic] arrived last evening from the Tongue River, which he left about three weeks ago. At Miles City, he found Doc Baggs, Jim Levy and Mike Smith. They did not appear to have any objective point but said they were going in the direction of Bear Paw and would not stop so long as anyone led the way. On the trip, he estimates that his party passed 500 stampeders, most of whom were not well armed and provisioned for the expedition, and some were quite destitute.”

With the determination to find out more I posted the following on the Tombstone History Discussion Forum and received some interesting replies.

Jeff Smith
Morgan Earp and Doc Baggs?
Mon Aug 16, 2010 16:10

“In the article is a reference that Morgan met up with "Doc Baggs." Does anyone have any more on this? Was there another "Doc Baggs" or could it actually be Charles "Doc" Baggs, the famed fake gold brick bunko man?”

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith
Wed Aug 18, 2010 13:11

Years before you came to the boards I connected Morg Earp with Doc Baggs. They would have met in Deadwood the year before (1877). In the 1878 article (which was partially quoted) Baggs, Leavy and Mike [sic Ed] Smith had just come from Deadwood.


Jeff Smith
So what's the connection?
Wed Aug 18, 2010 13:16

Why was Morgan Earp connecting with a well-known and successful confidence man?

Jeff Smith

Re: So what's the connection?
Wed Aug 18, 2010 15:37

When I use the word “connection” it is a general term. I am known for having dissected Deadwood and environs inside out, and six ways from Sunday. I could put together a very long list of gamblers who were there during the period specific interest - the boom years of 1876 - 1878. Make that a humongous list. I’ve studied their comings and goings from the passengers list on coaches back and forth to Sidney, Cheyenne, Pierre, Bismarck, and even Chicago coming and goings. Any gambler like Morgan Earp would know who the big names were in Deadwood, like Baggs, “Shang,” Billy Nuttall, Ed Chase, Storms, “Dublin,” Mulqueen; just to name a few. I also know why Baggs and Ed Smith needed a timely vacation from Deadwood because Judge Burke was trying to nail them in Justice Court - for you know what - nutshell swindling.

Upon arriving at Miles City the trio mentioned would have gone to check out the finest sporting joint in town, where Earp served as guardian up until July 5 or 6. But no bunko was carried on in that high-class place - just the basic variation of layouts plus sample room.


You can read more about "Doc" Baggs on this blog in a six part expose I wrote, at the following links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

"Doc" Baggs: pp. 61-62, 72, 75-76, 80, 82, 85, 88, 90, 135, 242, 254.

Wyatt Earp: pp. 74, 78, 84-85, 91-92, 163, 176, 224-25.
Morgan Earp: 78, 92.