June 7, 2010

Artifact #10: Letter to Soapy Smith from C. G. Van Horn.

(Click image to enlarge)


click image to enlarge)
Great Northern Hotel

Artifact #10 did not make it into the book. There is just too little information about the connection with Soapy Smith at this time. It is a letter from C. G. Van Horn in Chicago addressed to Soapy. As there were several "Great Northern Hotels" across the country, including Chicago and Washington, it is not certain whether Van Horn was writing from the hotel in Chicago or to one located where Soapy was. The hotel to the right is the one located in Chicago. Van Horn was obviously a friend  (or considered himself one) of Soapy's. The letter is dated March 1898 and Soapy was known to be in Skagway at this time but it is also known that he traveled back and forth between Skagway and the state of Washington.

Here's the text of the letter.

Great Northern Hotel

Friend Jeff.
    I enclose a clipping, good reading material. Why don't you answer my letters?

    I am very well, all closed here. Chief Kipley leaves for the coast in a few days, & they may open then. I am attending to business here strictly.

C. G. Van Horn

The stationary is from the Department of Public Water Works with Van Horn's name stamped on, indicating that favors were attended to and Van Horn no doubt received a cushy city government job for his loyalty.

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Joseph Kipley
Chicago police chief

Police Chief Joseph Kipley mentioned in the letter was a Democrat involved in a hiring scandal in 1897. More information on Kipley can be found on the website Alchemy of Bones. by author Robert Loerzel. I emailed Mr. Loerzel in hopes he might be able to add more information. Stay tuned.

On Mr. Loerzel's website it is noted that the Republicans and Democrats fought for control and generally only those affiliated with the victorious were allowed new city positions. In the private sector saloons and gambling halls not associated with the reigning powers were forced to go underground. In January 1898 state senators were meeting in Chicago and the police were ordered to close down the gaming halls and arrest the gamblers. In the above letter Van Horn may have been figuring that once Kipley was out of town the gamblers and the old ways would return for a spell.


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