August 30, 2009

Soapy Smith in Fort Worth, Texas, 1881.

(Click image to enlarge)
1881 letter to Soapy Smith
Jeff Smith collection

Above is a response letter Soapy Smith wrote to the state of Georgia. In February 1881 Soapy was operating in Fort Worth, Texas with John "Fatty Gray" Morris and others. At some point he desired to travel back to Coweta county, Georgia for a visit to his old homestead and family he had left behind when his parents moved to Round Rock, Texas in 1876. He obviously planned to make a little money during his venture home so he wrote to the state offices in Atlanta to find out the proper fees to operate within his old home state.

The letter Soapy received in response comes from Georgia Comptroller General W. A. Wright on stationary from his office. It reads.

March 3, 1881
J. R. Smith Esqr.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 24th [27th?] to hand lender the uses of this state you will have to pay a sum of twenty-five dollars for each days exhibition in every city or town of five thousand inhabitants; twenty dollars in city or town of four thousand & under five thousand inhabitants; & fifteen dollars in city or town with less than four thousand inhabitants: Said tax to be paid to the tax collector in each county when the exhibition takes place.

Yours Respectfully
W. A. Wright
Comp. Genl.

From the actions taken by Soapy one can see that he considered himself a business man. He actually saw his confidence games as a legitimate enterprise and treated it as any proper businessman of his day would. He made and kept his records. In my collection are copies of numerous city license documents in which Soapy paid each city he operated in the necessary fees. It should be noted that the state of Georgia fees are very high compared to states in the west.

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