September 15, 2010

Almost a new photo of Soapy Smith

(Click image to enlarge)

Every once in a while I run across photographs of Soapy Smith that I have never seen before. I thought I had found one recently on eBay in an auction by Steve Rush. Steve did not advertise it as a photo of Soapy, that was strictly my first response. It is a beautiful cabinet card of Upper Creede, Colorado and although there is handwriting on the back dating it 1895, this is clearly a photograph from early winter/spring 1892, right at the start of the town. A truly worthy piece of Colorado history worth having.

Steve was kind enough to send me an enlarged scan of the people on the sidewalk.

Unfortunately for me what looked like a beard is shown not to be one in the above scan. However, in looking through the Denver Public Library digital collection I found some nice additions that I wanted to share with you.

I have some more very interesting photographs of Creede coming up in the next few days. Stay tuned!



  1. The crowd is obviously watching some action taking place on the other side of the street. [possibly watching a key part of the construction of the building referenced in a later photo].[stacks of lumber can be seen at the far right].
    The man that may be JRS II...certainly seems like he may have a stake in whatever is going on. His stance and demeanor is that of someone important, and who is in charge.

    If I were to bet...I would bet that...that is JRS II.
    Just look at the photo on the cover of the book "Alias Soapy Smith" and remove the beard in your minds eye....see...told ya ! :)


  2. It was the lack of a beard that settle the question for me, however, on page 230 of my book Creede newspaper man Cy Warman states that Soapy did not have "whiskers" when he first met him there. But, all the drawings of him at Joe Simmon's burial show him with a beard. There are no known photographs of Soapy in Creede. He first grew his beard in 1889 and except for Warman's comment Soapy is known to have carried "whiskers" until his death.

  3. Friend Jeff: The photo in question is supposedly from Winter/Spring 1892. According to your reference in your book [p. 226-230], Mr. Warman made his comments in March 1892.
    Could it be possible that JRS II shaved to cover himself from any allegations from the nosey newspaperman?

    This would certainly fit the behavior of a 'sure thing man'.

    Also,some guy's can grow a full beard in a relatively short will [not me] my postman...he was clean shaven at mid August...and now he looks like Abe Lincoln. lol

  4. Friend Rich: You may an interesting case. Sure it's possible. However, Joe Simmons died March 18 and the burial drawings of the March 22 show him with a beard. That they are drawings is not secure provenance that he had a beard. He had a lot of control over the newspaper men in Creede and could have "asked" them to publish him with a beard. Then again, there were Rocky Mountain News reporters writing about him and I don't recall any of them mentioning Soapy shaved off his beard. That may mean little as those newsmen sent to Creede to cover the excitement may never have seen Soapy before.

    Jeff Smith

  5. Notice that everyone present on the street seems very they have been watching the action or whatever is taking place across the street[construction]....for a while.
    However,the man in question is fairly animated...sort of like he was dining in the restaurant [behind him] and decided to get up,exit,and move forward on the boardwalk to see what was going on.
    The man appears to be 'well dressed'. After greatly enlarging the photo in 'My Pictures' I am even more convinced that this 'may' be JRS II.

    The man appears to be the right age [about 32],and the hairstyle is quite similar to the one JRS II is sporting in the photo on the book cover.The ear shape also seems consistent.

    Jeff,do you know what building is being constructed?

  6. Rich, you are correct that there are numerous similarities. The photograph on the cover of the book has been stated in my family to have been taken in 1890. That's two years difference so the hair coloring is right.

    I don't know the building, but for the sign in the bottom photograph that reads "REAL..." which I assume is "REAL-ESTATE."

  7. The following,like most of my comments is pure speculation. :)

    A crowd has gathered. How did they know to gather?

    The man at the left leaning against the building appears to be holding a large school type bell.
    Perhaps he is an associate of the 'man in question'. The 'man in question' may be making some comments or even giving a speech.

    Why the bell? Probably to get the attention of the crowd that the speech was about to begin.

    The man in question may or may not be JRS II,but he most certainly seems to be someone with gravitas.

    Several in the crowd appear to be looking directly in the direction of the 'man in question' if intent on hearing what he has to say.

    The dog seem totally disinterested. :)

  8. BTW...I may be pushing it...but the man with the bell looks a bit like John Bowers.

  9. Rich, it seems you think a lot like I do.

    A lot of history is speculation, especially in regards to Creede. We already know Soapy held great power over the camp and newspapers. The fact that the business district only last months before it was burnt down, destroying much, if not most, of Creede's records with it.

    I like your crowd analyzation. I did see the man with the bell in his hand and forgot to mention it. Before reading your comments I figured he was preparing to call the crowd into his restaurant for lunch or something like that, but I like your theory better. The man that may be JRS II appears to be the center of attention. I would think that if something of interest was happening across the street the photographer would have centered, or at least included it. The photographer thought enough of what was taking place to take two photographs! I have yet to see this in other photos of Creede. Something of great interest was definitely taking place. Perhaps it could have been Soapy making a "Creede is growing" speeches.

    It's hard to tell if Bowers is standing there but man some of those men sure look rough. Did you note in the photos how many businesses appear to be saloons?

    Jeff Smith

  10. The eBay auction ended with the sellers reserve not being met. The highest bid was $533. Cabinet cards are indeed big collectibles.


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