June 19, 2010

Artifact #15: 1896 Soapy arrested in Juneau, Alaska.

(Click image to enlarge)

I love this piece. A newspaper clipping with a personal note at the top written in pencil by Soapy and sent to his wife Mary in St. Louis. It is the first and last of several things. It's his first visit and arrest in Alaska and it's the last recorded use of the prize package soap sell racket. This does not mean he did not do it again, only that any future instances were not recorded. This piece has a closer personal meaning to me as the name Soapy used during his arrest was John Rudolph. Soapy's son named none of his male children Jefferson Randolph but he did name my father John Randolph. It was passed down that this news clipping was the deciding factor however the son's wife did not like the name Rudolph so it was changed to Randolph.

Soapy arrived in Juneau, Alaska in April 1896. On April 24 he was arrested for running the soap sell racket. An undated April issue of the Alaska Searchlight carried the story.

John Rudolph was brought before Commissioner Mellen on the 24th charged with gambling. His mode of procedure was what is termed by the “profesh” as “flim-flaming the guys”—or he would pretend to wrap up ten and twenty dollar bills with a cake of soap and sell it for five or ten dollars as the case might be. Juneau has a number of “guys” who are eager to bite at the scheme, and had it not been that an officer took the “flim-flamer” there is no doubt he would have reaped a rich harvest. And yet they say there are no suckers in Alaska.

Soapy tore the page from the small newspaper and sent it to Mary in St. Louis with the following note inscribed at top.

"The money I wrapped up was borrowed. I have nothing. Fined $25.00 cost and stopped from work."

(Click image to enlarge)

The clipping Soapy sent contained news about the gold being discovered and miners heading to Cook Inlet and into the interior of Alaska where it had been found. A rush was believed imminent and Soapy naturally wanted in.

When it came time for the steamship General Canby to continue its journey north, someone in Juneau recognized Soapy and sent word to the Rocky Mountain News that he had been seen boarding the steamer with prospecting miners, destination Cook Inlet, where the city of Anchorage would be built. Soapy was now on his way for several exciting adventures with one of Alaska's most famous sea captain, Johnny "Dynamite" O'Brien, but that's a story for another day.  

The arrest and newspaper story:  p. 410



  1. Love it!
    Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"


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