My book ad!
PLEASE NOTE: The book does not come out until late August
PLEASE NOTE: The book does not come out until late August
Legend and Fact
Sun Jun 28, 2009 09:21
Jeff is right. My next book, the one on Soapy Smith, deals with Smith's last days in Skagway, but more so the creation of his Legend, the evolution of fact into a powerful story and the growth of tourism in Skagway. I have long been interested in the subject. I suspect that Jeff and I will actually differ little in actual content, although I may have found some information about city politics that he may not have had, and I know his access to family sources far exceeds my capabilities. That is why I have waited to see what he has before finishing my book to add to my analysis of local politics and the development of tourism in the decades after J. R. Smith's killing.
I recently decided to change the title of my upcoming book to SOAPY: WHEN FACT BECOMES LEGEND. I mean it to complement, not compete with Jeff's thorough and well-researched biography.
As before, I congratulate Jeff on his and his family's long endeavor to get this important story told.
Jefferson Randolph Smith, the Uncrowned King of Skagway in the spring of 1898 saved bartender Ed Fay from a lynching by an unruly band of vigilantes in February;
He organized the first Alaska Guard and a grand memorial Day Parade in May;
He led the Fourth of July Parade, and stood on the podium with Governor Brady, to hear his praises sung;
On July 8, he was gunned down in cold blood by Frank Reid, leading a gang of vigilantes after Soapy's colleagues conned a gold miner out of almost $3,000 in gold dust behind Soapy's saloon. His body lay neglected on the Juneau wharf while the vigilantes hunted down dozens of Smith's gang.
It's a Legend, all of it. Want to learn the Truth? Here it is told, unadulterated, for the first time since it happened over a century ago. Dr. Spude exposes who really ran Skagway between January and July 1898; the truth about the Alaska Guard and the two parades; how the Committee of 101 and the Skagway police force became confused with a vigilante force; how Smith and his friends started a legend and how tourism and town promotion prompted it to grow; and how a petty con man became something of an anti-hero in the wake of a political satire and in the hands of writers eager to discover eccentric characters of the wild old west. Finally, the fascinating truth of Soapy Smith is revealed, without all of the idolatrous hero worship of family and friends.
"LET THE BUYER BEWARE"
In the 1880s and 1890s Denver was the nation's headquarters for "con" men, a dubious honor that it maintained into the early years of the 20th century.
The most famous con man was "Soapy" Smith who sold $5.00 bars of soap from 17th Street, claiming that some had one hundred dollar bills inside the wrappers.
Here is an important collection of material from Juneau Judge Hiram Folsom's estate. Included is a genuine piece of Soapy Smith memorabilia, with the important historical context of scandal between Soapy Smith and the U.S. Commissioner’s office in Juneau. The highlight of the collection is a letter from the young, newly hired attorney Hiram Folsom, Alaska Department of Justice, to his wife back home. She was waiting for him to get settled in Alaska before she would join him in Juneau, where they would make their home for a number of years. The 6 page letter was written on the stationery of the "Department of Justice, Office of the United States Commissioner, Territory of Alaska, J. Y. Ostrander, U. S. Commissioner."
The letter is dated June 5, 1898 , from Juneau. In the letter Judge Folsom states: "I have just returned from the world renowned Dyea and Skaguay.... I became acquainted with the notorious 'Soapy Smith' of Skagway the 'Mayor' as they call him. He is at the head of the gamblers fraternity. He took quite a fancy to me and asked me to locate there and said he would bring me lots of business. He bestowed upon me a red, white and blue badge- one of his most courteous and favored acts. Many people talk against him but want his assistance. He is a model of his kind. Generous, frank and faithful to his friends; a college man, refined in his manner, and intelligent."
The red, white and blue badge came pinned to the letter. The pin is now in the lap desk. This patriotic badge that Soapy himself gave Judge Folsom is included!
It's not surprising that Soapy wanted to take Hiram Folsom under his wing. In Melody Webb's book "The Last Frontier: A History of the Yukon Basin of Canada and Alaska" (page 145), she states "When one of his [Soapy's] bartenders killed a deputy marshal and another man, Soapy adeptly hid his employee but headed a subscription drive for the deputy's widow. Then he convinced the United States Commissioner, a good friend, to deputize ten guards to escort the accused murder (sic) to a steamer ready to debark. To no one's surprise, the man escaped while in their custody." Webb, in her fine book, further discusses the corruption, including that of the U.S. Commissioner, that allowed Soapy Smith to operate.
So, Soapy was in cahoots with the very law officials in Juneau that should have been working to stop his criminal activities in Skagway.
The letter also has other interesting observations, such as the statement that “About 400 men are building the railroad (Most people think it is a fake). I do too.”
A great lot of early Alaska history. Genuine Soapy material is so rare that even in Skagway there is very little.
Also included in this collection is the Hiram Folsom Family lap desk. It's in poor condition but would look great when restored. The original purple felt writing surface is intact (maybe the letter was written on it), and the wood is lovely rosewood veneer.
In the desk is a Rexall fountain pen that says "Elf-Filler", and some sewing things.
A gem tintype album with 22 gem tintypes of people. Inside front cover says "Edith Jacka by her friend Evadne A. Shirly". Title page by album manufacturer "Lovewell's Gem Album, 198 Maine St, Stockton, Cal." At the end of the album is written "Edith Jacka, Stockton". Perhaps the Folsom's were from Stockton before moving to Juneau.
A cabinet card portrait of Hiram Folsom by Lanier of San Francisco. Another portrait of a well dressed man (with a mining pick in his tie) by Winter & Pond of Juneau. Folsom had mining interests in Juneau and perhaps this man is one of those partners. A SF cabinet of a woman (Mrs Folsom?), a picture of a family outing by a waterfall, a picture of people in Juneau at Folsom's office(?), A picture of the interior of the Folsom home (Tlingit baskets on top of the china cabinet). An 8 X 10 (mounted 11 X 14) by W. H. Case titled in the negative "RES'D H. H. FOLSOM, JUNEAU, ALASKA".
A pair of silhouettes of the Folsoms (4X5). A great photo of a baby in a wicker stroller with parasol on the dock in Juneau (6X8, corners off).
An early Juneau photo album with 21 snapshots, including Tlingit Indians in a canoe, fishing at Sheep Creek, interior of their house, corduroy road, cows, ladies on a boat with a large box camera, a family outing, people along a trail that looks like it could be what we call Perseverance Trail today.
Judge Hiram Folsom's fur hat.
Three days after this letter was written, my great grandfather, John Wood, passed through the NWMP check point at the top of the Chilkoot Pass on his way to the Klondike. A few weeks later Soapy Smith was killed.
"Soapy" Smith's desire to be Chief of Police of Alaska may be merely his expression of belief in the old idea that getting a thief to catch a thief is good detective policy. If there is any virtue in this scheme it follows that the bigger the first thief, the quicker the second will be caught. Then with "Soapy" in the former role there would be absolutely no show for escape. I have known "Soapy" for many years. There was never a queerer compound. He is genial and generous, enjoys a fight, pays his debts, gives his last dollar to whoever wants it and steals the first dollar the next man is rash enough to expose to view. I cannot regard it as probable he will attain the honor he seeks. He is asking too much. If the people in a community not beyond the vigilance committee period refrain from hanging him he should regard their consideration as a distinguished favor.The San Francisco Call, February 27, 1898.
As many of you know there has been a law suit against the Foundation by the ex-Mayor B.J. Myers & a few citizens in Creede attempting to overturn the rail line purchase by the Foundation from Union Pacific. This suit has been going on for over three years and has drained the foundation of tens of thousands of dollars that was needed to be put into the rebuild of the line not into lawyers pockets. This case was carried through local courts, to federal courts and into the Surface Transportation Board.
My first project in to do research on a the Jeff Smith's Parlor Museum. Originally this building was a saloon and gambling spot run by Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, probably the most famous person in the history of Skagway although he only lived there for just under two years. My job is to show the distinguishing characteristics of this historic building and present it to the Park so they will preserve and restore it. If you have any questions just google Soapy Smith and Martin Itjen and you will learn more than you ever wanted to about what I am reading in these next couple of weeks.
So I have a draft of that proposal type thing due June 15, pretty damn professional for a bullshitter like me, but hopefully I can pull it off. The good thing about this first project is there is already a ton of research on this topic availible to me, so my job is just to put it all togehter in a concise and formal manner.
So that's what I am doing. If you got any other questions (why would you, right?) just leave a comment under this post and I will clear it up for you.
Training for the Klondike - Before going to the Klondike it is necessary for the tenderfoot to be specially equipped physically to stand the rigors of the cool atmosphere, hardship and probable hunger. For those who contemplate making the trip to round up all the gold that lies concealed under the Arctic circle the following rules in hygiene are suggested:
- Spend two hours a day in the "zero" room of a cold-storage warehouse.
- Keep your head cool
- If you play cards at all, confine yourself to freeze out.
- Give your friends a cold stare when you greet them.
- Bathe in water in which ice is floating.
- Partake sparingly of the following menu once every other day:
- Cutlets of dog
- Snowflake muffins
- More Ice
- Tallowla la mode
- Lard frappe
- Some more ice
- Frosted pine cones
- Fricassee of icicle
- Chipped iceberg
- Sperm candle chilled
- Glacier puffs.
After a month of this diet, two more months should be spent in fasting. If at the end of that time you still yearn for sudden wealth you will be in condition to go, barring, of course, accidents and sickness. If you do go, before starting don't forget to take in a sufficient number of coal oil cans in which to convey your wealth.
Dalton Post was a trading post built in 1895 by Jack Dalton close to the First Nation village of Neska-ta-heen. The North-West Mounted Police also had quarters there. Thompson describes the interior of the trading post in April, 1898 "-the shelves being piled high with calicoes, and ginghams, shoes, hats, tin pans, plates, and cups, while from the roof-beams depended kettles, pails, steel traps, guns and snowshoes." During the summer of 1898, Dalton Post was robbed of several thousand dollars, while Jack Dalton was away on a guiding trip. Members of Soapy Smith's gang, from Skagway, were blamed for the incident.Gregory Skuce
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Coon are now engaged in the saloon business in Seattle having purchased a finely fitted up establishment from Mr. Frank Clancey. The location of Mr. Coon's saloon is on Washington street, between Third and Fourth street.
August 14, 1897 - The steamer Queen came into parrot Tuesday evening with 300 tourists on board and seventy-one miners and others bound for Skaguay and Dyea. The cabin passengers were: B. M. Garside, B. Hall, J. A. Pearce, D. M. Wasson, Miss C. B. Atkinson, Allan R. Jay, E. J. Rosen, Geo. H. Sewell, John Richards, Alex Dunn, H. J. Coates, E. Rice, A. G. Schuatz, Jas. Allmash, John McIllree, George Service and fifty-five second class. The steamer was delayed at this port on account of a strike among the longshoremen who demanded fifty cents an hour for their services. The Queen sailed for Skaguay Wednesday evening.
August 21, 1897 - The steamer Utopia, Captain O'Brien, came into this port Thursday on its way to Skaguay. There were about 100 Yukoners on board and a full cargo of freight and livestock.
Notes from Skaguay - Quite a number of mama-boys have lost their grip and are selling their outfits at a sacrifice.
The city seems to be overrun with “bunko men,” highway robbers, common thieves and cutthroats. Their tricks are seldom made known to the public, except in cases of a very glaring nature where secrecy cannot be maintained, and if anything, the boldness of their operators has become much greater and their scene of operations much extended. In nine cases out of ten the victim himself pleads for secrecy, for be it known, these are men caught in these nets who would rather die than be found out.~Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 29, 1880
Played a Missourian for $45.Willliam Johnson, a tall, gawky Missourian, on his way to the Puget sound country, fell into the hands of bunco steerers yesterday and was relieved of $45. The old bank-draft game was played on Johnson after he was enticed into one of the gambling rooms over the Tivoli saloon, Seventeenth and Market streets.Rocky Mountain News, July 14, 1893.