November 1, 2009

Andy Thomas' The End of Soapy Smith

(Click image to enlarge)
The End of Soapy Smith
by Andy Thomas

I am very proud to announce the release of the awaited masterpiece painting by artist Andy Thomas, The End of Soapy Smith. On September 17, 2009 I posted the information regarding the artists plans to paint the Gunfight on Juneau Wharf at his Maze Creek Studio in Carthage, Missouri.

Andy Thomas and I poured over the historical information provided in my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel and my large collection of photographs of the area and the people involved. This historic and monumental portrayal of the shootout between Jefferson Randolph Smith, alias Soapy Smith and Frank Reid is the most authentic portrayal I have ever seen. I said it before and I'll say it again, I can hardly contain my excitement for this painting! The terrible and fateful moments before my great-grandfather's empire in Skagway, Alaska on July 8, 1898 is reduced to history as Soapy Smith's criminal career as well as his life abruptly expires when a bullet pierces, his heart, is magnificently captured by the artist Andy Thomas. The painful agony in Frank Reid's face is felt and the jolting shock of instantaneous battle fully engulfs Soapy's face.

I am extremely proud to be a part of this project and very pleased to see the historic detail the artist chose to include, right down to the known position of all those involved and the illumination of gunfire upon the planks of the wharf directly below the combatants feet. The Irish employee of the newly arrived White Pass and Yukon Railway, Jesse Murphy, begins his advance towards the center of action and makes his own history seconds later by wrestling the rifle away from the wounded Soapy and shoots the unarmed "king of Skagway." At the same moment in the painting Soapy's men in the far background are stunned at the turn of events. W. H. Jackson can be seen to begin a rush to aid his fallen leader. Seconds later he aims his revolver at J. M. Tanner before fleeing the scene with the rest of his cohorts.

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Juneau Wharf

The historic detail that Mr. Thomas is evident to this historian. The wharf woodwork and railings took some close-up study. I would not be surprised to see the proper plank count. The back ground mountains as well as the frontier structures of 1898 Skagway are matched through the use of numerous period photographs.

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Jeff Brady as Soapy Smith and Ashley Smith,
the great-great-granddaughter
of Soapy begin
the trek towards a reenactment
of the gunfight.

The night-time sky appears to have been closely matched from a photograph I supplied the artist, taken at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 8, 1998, the centennial of the gunfight.

In painting the historic characters Mr. Thomas used period photographs of the men involved. The only one that could not be properly depicted accurately was the Irishman, Jesse Murphy as no known photographs of the man exist. Frank H. Reid and Jefferson Randolph Smith II are nicely rendered, right down to Soapy's Spanish-American ascot tie received as a patriotic gift from an admiring Seattle woman. Comparing photographs clearly reveals the artist did his homework.

(Click image to enlarge)
J. M. Tanner

(Click image to enlarge)
Van Triplett



  1. I was just there a few days ago and read about Soapy Smiths gun fight.... I saw the monument in the cemetary....... Wish I could have spent more time to learn more of the details. Very interesting part of Skagway history.
    Dick Snitkin

  2. Hi, Dick.
    Thank you for your comments. The Shootout on Juneau Wharf has become one of those murder theory mysteries of the nineteenth century. You said you wished you "could have spent more time to learn more of the details." Well you've come to the right person for them.

    My book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, is the absolute best for details of that fateful gunfight, if you wish to know the details. After that I would suggest my one website page on the fight here, and then there is the Wikipedia page.

    I hope these help you envision what occurred.

    Jeff Smith

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. My grandfather and his brother were there, followed Soapy as he headed for the wharf, and watched this event. My great uncle remains at rest at the cemetery there, Frank Reis. One day I hope to get there and see the re-enactment event myself. Thanks for all this great info.
    Robert Cook

    1. Hello, Robert. Thank you for commenting. How exciting to know that about your great-uncle! Thank you for sharing that with us! Are there details to this story? A photograph of Frank? I would love to do a story on it. A quick search in my records does not show "Frank Reis," but that only means I personally don't have anything on him.


Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions asap. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith