January 7, 2009

A letter to Soapy Smith...

Here is a letter & envelope from bunco man, John Taylor, to Soapy Smith (January 17, 1887). This artifact belonged to my cousin, Jefferson Randolph "Little Randy" Smith and was copied by me in 1990.

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The envelope addressed to Soapy at 1711 Larimer was not his residence. He had all his mail delivered to another location, this one being the J. F. Chatard & Company, a merchant cigar manufacturer.

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Here is my rendition of the letter contents.
Jan 17, 1887
Friend Jeff
I write these few lines to let you know that I am going away for a few weeks. I leave this afternoon for Los Angeles. I am going to try and work the lower country. They close Bank on Friday. I heard Buckley had them stop on account of Lew [sic] Rickerbaugh [sic]. I hear that he tried [sic] to have Dublin kill [killed?] in Arizona and they say that is the reason he [Buckley] had them stopped.

Valentine has not-showed up yet. The Bucket shop is running all right. You can write and if I stay any time in Los Angeles I can have it forwarded to me. Yours truly.

John Taylor

The contents of this letter can only be speculated on at this time. This is what we know so far.

John Taylor: The author of the letter was a good friend of Soapy Smith. This is possibly the "Old Man Taylor" often regarded as Soapy's mentor in biographies. The Smith family has several letters from Taylor to Soapy but obviously we do not have Soapy's responses so the conversations are one-sided.

"Bank:" this refers to the gambling game of faro.

Buckley: Unknown. It is possible Rickabaugh was pressuring him to shut down the gambling. It will be interesting to find out who he is. Perhaps a law figure?

Lew Rickerbaugh: This may well be Lew Rickabaugh, A well known gambling king-pin who partnered with Wyatt Earp in the gaming concession at the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona in 1880.

Dublin: Possibly the same man Rickabaugh had ousted from Tombstone during the "Gambler's War" there in 1881. According to this letter Rickabaugh tried to kill him.

Valentine: Currently unknown but it is possible Soapy sent Valentine but he had not arrived as of the writing of the letter.

"Bucket shop:"
An unauthorized office for the sale of stocks or other transactions regarding them: originating as a colloquialism in the U.S. about 1881. Also to bucket, meaning to swindle. From the bucket into which falls the cards, recording-tape, or ticker-tape of this establishment. A big store operation. A fake stock market office, also known as the Exchange.

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