December 21, 2009

Soapy Smith's bloody ascot

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Soapy Smith's blood stained ascot

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Ashley and Jeff Smith at the ascot display
in the Skagway City Museum 1998.

t the Skagway, Alaska City Museum rests an ascot on display. It is said to have belonged to Soapy Smith, given to him by a female admirer in the summer of 1898. The story is that Soapy wore this tie the night he confronted the vigilantes and was killed. Blood stains seem to confirm this yet in the city museum the ascot is folded to hide the blood stains. There is another story that goes along with the neck-piece, that the blood is not human blood but rather the blood of a chicken, intentionally splattered upon the ascot for the benefit of tourists.

Is the ascot Soapy's? Is the blood his?

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Soapy's blood stains

The latter question can most likely be easily solved. First test to see if it is human, then if it passes that mark a DNA profile can be obtained from the Smith family. Personally I can only guess but I do sincerely believe the ascot is the same one given to Soapy in June 1898.

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Patriotic pin-back, circa 1898

With the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine off the shores of Cuba Americans demanded and received revenge in a declaration of war starting the Spanish-American War of 1898. The crossed flags of the U.S. and Cuba became one of the many patriotic symbols that addressed everything from envelopes and letterhead to pin-back buttons.

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Soapy dove into the opportunity to create a private army, The Skaguay Military Company, offering his services to President William McKinley for the war effort and then to Governor John Brady of the District of Alaska for any future services he may desire. It is certain Soapy created this mercenary army to include the legal crushing of any vigilante uprising against him and his growing empire. On May 1 and July 4, 1898 "Captain" Soapy paraded his army around Skagway for all to see and recognise his new authority.

The ascot was first reported in a Skaguay News Supplement page on June 17, 1898.

"Yesterday afternoon Jeff Smith received through the mail, a box containing a white, silk piquet ascotte cravat, with a hand-worked American and Cuban flaf above the scarf pin. On the back of the cravat was written the words: "From Miss A. A. Stevens, Seattle, to Capt. Jeff Smith." Jeff has no acquaintance with the young lady, and can not understand the matter."

At least one photograph contain a hint that he wore the new ascot during the July 4 parade. It appears to be the only known photograph and time that Soapy had a white tie (ascot) on. Unfortunately detail of that neck-ware is lacking.

Surely someday in the future tests will be made to confirm or deny whether the blood is Soapy's or not. You can bet the results will be posted here on this blog.

Details of Soapy's adventures as Captain of the Skaguay Military Company, along with the original letters, documents, and minutes sent in to the president and governor and all the other details can be found in Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of as Scoundrel.


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