April 30, 2011

Toy tells of Soapy Smith's death.

Where in the world can you see and own a toy that advertises Soapy Smith's shootout with vigilante, turned "hero," Frank Reid?

Ask eBay seller Douglas Mackney! I located his auction of the above box car (G scale) and he was gracious enough to send me a bunch of photographs of the item, some of which you see here. It's not a new item, in fact I looked all over the net and could not find another one! If you are interested I suggest you note the ending date of the auction and bid. I wouldn't mind having it in my own Soapy collection. Note that this is a "G scale" train. The box car is about 16" long!

I believe this design comes from a real painting that once existed on the side of a box car. I note that both dates on the tombstones are wrong. Soapy died on July 8, not July 9. Frank Reid died on July 20, not July 9.  

Jeff Smith


New links on website.

The following links about the Klondike gold Rush have been added to the main website's link page.

Government sites (United States and Canada)

The United States Federal Park Service for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and the Canadian equivalent for their Klondike National Historic Sites of Canada, join forces to cover the history of the Klondike gold rush. from Seattle, Washington to the Yukon. The sites below cover the starting point in Seattle, Washington, the ports of Skagway and Dyea, and finally the Klondike towns and gold fields. Very educational with lots of historic photographs. Be sure to take the Skagway tour.

Seattle, Washington
  1. Gold Fever! Seattle Outfits the Klondike Gold Rush
  2. Seattle Unit: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Skagway, Alaska
  1. Skagway Unit: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

The Klondike
  1. Klondike National Historic Sites of Canada

Jeff Smith


April 29, 2011

Selection from Tara Kane.

Another selection from the book Tara Kane. Once again Tara and Soapy debate his choice of occupation.

“Jeff Smith, you know, I think you’re a crook. You take advantage of innocent people.”

“And what are all the others doing?” he demanded, his eyes steely. “Everyone here has come to use someone, something, somehow. The sourdoughs are here to tear the Territory apart so that they can make themselves rich on its gold. The city slickers are here to cash in on the sourdoughs. The railroad’s coming to profit from the sourdoughs going to the gold fields. And I’m here to entertain those poor suckers. But they needn’t be entertained by me or by any other rogue, as you so charmingly put it, unless they want to.”

“And you think that makes you decent? You believe you’re doing them a service, cheating them before anyone else has a chance?”

“Tell me, Tara,” said Smith very softly, regarding her from under his heavy lids, “haven’t you ever used anyone? I seem to recall a certain incident when the use you made of some poor, unsuspecting Mountie cost him his stripes. But that didn’t occur to you at the time, did it? You know why. Because you wanted to get to Dawson. You wanted to get there so badly you didn’t mind whose neck you trod on.”

“That’s not true,” she retaliated, blushing at the memory. “I never wanted Sergeant Campbell to lose his stripes. I didn’t hurt him on purpose.”

“But you did,” pointed out Smith. “He was a means to an end, so that sort of puts you in my league right away.”
“Your league! How on earth do you think that my one mistake puts me in with the likes of you? I’m not a cheat. I’ve never swindled or stolen from anyone!”

Smith made no reply for a while. Instead, he picked up a paperknife from his desk and toyed with it. “Whatever I’ve done I’ve thought, in that situation, at that moment, was the right thing to do.”

“So that makes it OK, does it? You make me laugh, Jeff Smith, you really do. You’re always right, aren’t you? Always above suspicion, always within the law!”

“Of course, Tara,” agreed Smith, “especially when the law doesn’t exist.”

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
April 28, 2011

Jeff Smith


April 28, 2011

Tara Kane: Historical novel based around the gold rush and Soapy Smith.

Tara Kane, the book by George Markstein and Jacqui Lyons, was published in England and the United States in 1978. The storyline takes place in the Klondike 1897 and involves the adventures of a young woman who falls in love with Soapy Smith while searching for her husband.

Tara Kane had never got over the sudden disappearance of her husband and so resolves to track him down. Leaving the comforts and safety of her San Francisco home, her quest takes her to the icy wilderness of Klondike during the Gold Rush. But she finds Klondike is no place for a lone woman, and the harsh conditions and savagery are almost more than she can bear. Determined to find the truth once and for all, Tara battles on, and finds herself on a painful journey of self-discovery.

In the mid 1980s my father discovered the novel and shared copies with the rest of his siblings. In January 1987 while researching for my own book I wrote a letter to George Markstein. I received a reply from his co-author, Jacqui Lyons that George had passed away just a few days before my letter arrived.

... Sadly, it arrived a few days after George Markstein's untimely and premature death. However, as you may have noticed, I was closely involved in the writing of this book, so I hope you won't mind me replying on George's behalf. I know, if he'd lived, he would have been fascinated to read your letter and would have hastened to answer. Both od us grew to 'love' Jeff during the preparation of the manuscript, though during all our researches, I don't recall reading that he was married, so your letter is all the more interesting. One of the things that so inspired us was that no fiction could ever be written about Jeff - according to our research, he'd done it all.
Jacqui Lyons

Jacqui Lyons signing my copy of Tara Kane.

In January 1988 Jacqui Lyons arrived in Los Angeles from England and came to visit me. Sadly my father had passed away in December of 1987 and could not join us. We spent the afternoon talking about the book,  Soapy, George, and my father.

Signed last page of Tara Kane

Upon her return to England Jacqui sent me a thank you gift. The autographed last page of Tara Kane. What an honor it is to have received this. I framed it, thus the blurry copy you see above. My book was completed digitally so there is no "last page" to sign.

The whole point of this post was only to introduce some passages from the book now and again, but in preparing for the write up I brought back so many memories and bits of information that I wanted to share with you that it's now getting out-of-hand!

Tara Kane was published in several editions until 2001. The book can be obtained very economically online for those who wish to read the book.

ISBN-10: 0755102959
ISBN-13: 978-0755102952

Oh! I almost forgot. As promised, a selection from the book...

Tara confronts Soapy Smith...

“I guess you’ve heard the most terrible stories about this scoundrel Soapy Smith. How he runs all the rackets. How he owns dives and saloons. How he takes advantage of people. What a rogue he is. Correct?”

You believe you’re playing a really disarming game, don’t you thought Tara. Aloud, she said, “Why should I listen to stories about you, Mr. Smith? I’ve seen you in action. I know how you operate.”

Now he was smiling broadly. “Sure. I’m a businessman. An entrepreneur.”

Tara pushed her plate away. “Businessman? Selling people ten-cent bars of soap for five dollars? Rigging up fake telegraph lines? Fixing roulette wheels? You call that doing business?”

“You really don’t understand, do you? I’m a kind of educator. I teach people lessons they badly need. Hell, I put them wise, don’t you see? Show them how easy it is for a sucker to be parted from his dough. I figure that’s more a public service than some folks realize. There’s many a guy walking around watching his money after a course of instruction from me.”

Jeff Smith


April 27, 2011

Whit Haydn on Soapy Smith

The three-card monte man

Pop, alias friend, Whit Haydn came up with one of the simplest explanations of Soapy's ways and means that I have ever heard. I repeat it here for your enjoyment, thought, and comment.

Note: Whit is speaking in first person, as if he is actually talking to Soapy. (This is done with Whit's character "Pop" and my character, "Jefferson Randolph Smith II" profiles on Facebook)  

Well, I think you represented in many ways the man of your times. People had a get rich quick mentality. Get while the gettin' is good. Do unto others before they do unto you. Everybody is responsible for himself. If you bought a bad horse,... you shoulda' knowed better. If you lost money in a card game to a professional gambler and cheat, "you went and got yourself skinned." If someone was goaded into a fight with a professional gunman, "He went and got hisself killed." The attitude was that you had to be smart, know what is going on, and be able to take care of yourself. This is a world for survivors and rugged individualists. Soapy was in many ways, an expression of everything around him. I think in many ways, his was the spirit of the times.

Want to talk to Soapy Smith?

Create Your Badge

Jeff Smith


April 26, 2011

Will, The Floor of Heaven, by Howard Blum introduce Soapy Smith to the masses?

Howard Blum's book, The Floor of Heaven, is being released today. According to Black Bond Books his book made the top ten list for Most Ordered Nonfiction Hardcovers.

The following were the most-ordered upcoming spring/summer nonfiction hardcovers on Edelweiss during the last 60 days.

  1. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Crown, May 10) *Random House Adult Blue Omni, Su11.
  2. Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? by Steve Tyler (Ecco, May 3) HarperCollins Adult Summer 2011 Compilation.
  3. The Maine Summers Cookbook by Linda Greenlaw (Penguin/Studio, June 30) Adult Hardcover Summer 2011.
  4. What? by Mark Kurlansky (Walker, April 26) BLOOMSBURY WALKER ADULT SPRING 2011.
  5. Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff (Harper, April 26) HarperCollins Adult Summer 2011 Compilation
  6. Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich (Doubleday, July 12) *Random House Adult Green Omni, Su11.
  7. The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria (Norton, May 31) Norton and Affiliates Spring 2011 Combined.
  8. Alphabetter Juice by Roy Blount, Jr. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 10 2011 FSG ADULT - SPRING 2011.
  9. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Holt, April 26) HOLT ADULT - SPRING 2011.
  10. The Floor of Heaven by Howard Blum (Crown, April 26) *Random House Adult Blue Omni, Su11

* This means a whole bunch of people are about to be introduced to Soapy Smith.

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
April 13, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 9, 2011
March 8, 2011
February 24, 2011

Jeff Smith


April 25, 2011

Ed Gaffney: Seattle battleist of of the Soap Gang 1897

That's Ed Gaffney in the above cabinet card from 1896. Gaffney, a Seattle athlete dangerously tangled with Jimmy Dugan and Soapy Smith and nearly paid for it with his life.

On October 1, 1897 during one of Soapy's numerous visits to Seattle, he and Jimmy Dugan were entertaining themselves in the Horse Shoe Grill Room, a saloon located at 614 Front Street (later became First Street) where they became involved in a sizable affray in which two groups of men began fighting inside the saloon. The Rocky Mountain News of Denver covered the affair.

Jeff Smith and Jimmy Dugan Badly Beaten Up in a Saloon Row.

Special to The News. SEATTLE, Wash., Oct. 1. —Jeff Smith, Jimmy Dugan and Elmer Maybury, formerly a Denver sport, engaged in a fight to-night in the Horse's Shoe saloon, during which Maybury was stabbed once in the arm and his clothes cut several times. Ed. Gaffney, a local athlete, who took Maybury's part, narrowly escaped a deadly thrust from Dugan's knife. Smith and Duggan were badly beaten up. An old grudge on the part of Smith toward Maybury was the cause of the row. The saloon floor was covered with blood. A plate glass mirror was broken and guns were in sight all around.

No record of arrests or other details have been located as of yet, but they will someday. I  would have liked to have been a fly on the wall as surely this fight has details not printed in the newspaper.

In December 2009 I published a post about the Horse Shoe saloon brawl and some time later Scott Forrest wrote me stating that he had recently acquired a photo of a cyclist named Ed Gaffney, dated 1896, taken in Seattle. He had found me while search for information on Gaffney on the internet.

Scott writes,

Hi Jeff,

I am using Edward Curtis pre-1900 cabinets photos as research for a paper I plan to write this Spring, and found this one on ebay. By 1896, "Curtis and Guptill" were considered the premiere photography studio in Seattle. The biking craze in Seattle started this same year. This particular image has a cyclist on the front with an athletic uniform and an "S" on his shirt. On the back it has written in ink: "Ed Gaffney Sep 9/96". There was an Ed Gaffney who wrestled for the Seattle Athletic Club in the early 1900's and later became a wrestling referee.

This is all I could find on the name "Ed Gaffney" and it's all circumstantial, but makes sense. I did some research on the 'Horseshoe Saloon' mentioned in your article, and I think the Rocky Mountain News got the address wrong - there was a Horseshoe saloon at 614 Front Street (later 1st Ave.).

Interesting stuff - if you ever need any research done in Seattle, let me know and I'll be glad to look around.


How I love getting more details about the people who came in contact with the Soap Gang. It is probably that never never found out who he had tangled with.

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Scott is correct about the address. In fact, the complex that held the Horse Shoe saloon is still standing, in the historic district of Seattle (see above).

Thank you very much for everything Scott!

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
December 22, 2009
March 21, 2019

Horse Shoe Grill Room: pages 443, 502.

1898: The U.S. declares war on Spain and then backdates it two days so that it appears that the U.S. declared war on Spain first.

Jeff Smith


April 24, 2011

160 arces of Denver land once belonged to the infamous Soapy Smith.

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The above artifact #33 is a Denver city receipt that Soapy paid the necessary fee of $3 on February 21, 1887 to purchase 160 acres that he had apparently been living on since January 28, 1887.  Also apparently, this property did not belong to anyone and so by paying the fees and following the rules, which included placing a legal notice about his plans in the local newspaper, Soapy, within a certain period, would become the official owner of the property. It is believed he did so after encouraging letters from friend and associate bunco steerer, John Taylor, to invest his money in property so that his future would be secure.

The writing is hard to read but it looks to me like the land location is south-east 1/4 section, 22 Township, 4 north, of range 60 west It is not currently known where this land is located in Denver. I know that these location figures can be read and pin-pointed by a professional genealogist who has studied the process. I belonged to a local genealogical society based at my local library and I remember hearing a presentation on how to read and locate these figures. It was very confusing and I did not take home with me the needed knowledge to figure it all out on my own. If you, or someone you know is qualified  then perhaps I will soon be posting a number of photographic and satellite maps of the Denver area showing this property once owned by this bad man. How fun!

document: page 112.

Jeff Smith


More on Skagway attorney John G. Price.

The above photograph shows attorney John G. Price soon after his arrival in 1897. Back on April 6, 2011 I published a post on Price, and at the time I could not locate this photograph. The man in the rear, next to the tent opening holding a cigar is believed to be Price. Comparing with a later photograph is difficult due to the quality of the copy.

John G. Price

John G. Price: page 480, 521.

1896: Soapy arrested in Juneau, Alaska for operating the prize package soap racket. 
1898, Spain declares war on the U.S, two months after the sinking of the USS Maine. The U.S. declares war on Spain the following day and then backdates the declaration two days so that it appears that the U.S. declared war on Spain first.

Jeff Smith

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April 23, 2011

Wolfgang's joke.

Juneau Wharf
September 6, 1898
(2 months after Soapy's death)

Friend Wolfgang pulled a good joke on me over on the True West forum. Go to the forum here and follow the posts in chronological order (should be top to bottom) and find out what Wolfgang's great find is!

1892: At the Republican convention Soapy is elected alternate delegate from the fourth division.

Jeff Smith


April 22, 2011

Fantasy magazine

Mild case of writers block. In the mean time enjoy this month's issue of Bad Boy. The issue is so rare you won't be able to find a copy anywhere!

Jeff Smith


April 21, 2011

The masculine Soapy...

This is for Friend Rich, who asked if I could balance out the day with a 'true' masculine image of JRS II. Here you go Rich...enjoy!

Jeff Smith


Was Soapy Smith Gay?

Was Soapy Smith gay?

No, he was not, but you’ll get the opposite answer if you ask Paul Constant, who in response to the poem, Jeff and Joe, wrote that it is “pretty clearly about two gay men.”

Here's the story from the start.

I was eBay surfing and ran across a copy of one of William Devere’s books for sale. Devere is the gentleman who wrote the sentimental poem, Jeff and Joe, that pertains to the funeral of “Gambler Joe” Simmons and Jeff’s graveside send off of his friend in Creede, Colorado March 1892. In the auction it mentioned that the poem was used in research for the film Brokeback Mountain. Well, this is not entirely true. I contacted the seller and did a little Google research and found the sellers only source for the  comment was Paul Constant.

I looked up Mr. Constant and found that he had written an article entitled, Brokeback Mountain: The Prequel, on SLOG, an online news and arts site based in Seattle.

I treat the poem in detail in Alias Soapy Smith on pages 225-229. Not once in all my years did I ever once consider that Jeff and Joe might be lovers. They weren't, but the confusion is one of definition of  Devere's nineteenth century poetry slang. Paul had no idea who Soapy Smith was. He simply came across the poem and mistakenly believed it was about two cowboy lovers.

Here’s Paul’s article

Last week, the Poetry Foundation published an essay I wrote about cowboy poetry. The thing I was most excited about in the writing of this article is the discovery (thanks to the good folks at Horizon Books) of a poem from 1892 titled "Jeff and Joe. A True Incident of Creede Camp, Colorado" that was published in an 1897 collection of cowboy poems titled Jim Marshall's New Pianner and Other Western Stories by William Devere, the self-described "Tramp Poet of the West." The poem is an exceptional artifact. Devere writes of a pair of cowhands he knew at Creede Camp:

Jeff, yer see, thought well of Joe—
Knowed him thirty years or so,
Pal'd together down below.
Joe liked Jeff and Jeff liked Joe,
An' through all the changin' years,
Sheered each other's smiles and tears.
Worked together, tooth and nail,
Punchin' cattle up the trail;
Dealt the old thing; tackled bluff;
Each one blowed the other's stuff,

The cowboys enjoy a fairly open, long-term committed homosexual relationship. Joe gets sick and dies, after being assured by Jeff that he lived a good life, as a cowboy should, and that there'll be no “gospel sharks” preaching or praying at his funeral. Devere pays tribute to the grieving Jeff:

An' as for Jeff—well, I may say,
No better man exists to-day.
I don't mean good the way you do—
No, not religious—only true.
True to himself, true to his friend;
Don't quit or weaken to the end.
An' I can swear, if any can,
That Jeff will help his fellow man.
An' here I thank him—do you see?
For kindness he has shown to me.
An' This I'll say, when all is o'er,
An' Jeff has crossed to t'other shore,
I only hope that you and me
May stand as good a chance as he.

The last stanza is Devere's statement on Jeff and Joe's relationship and repudiation of all those people—especially religious people—who would dare to judge them. People who claim that homosexuality is against American traditions need to read this poem. People who claim that America has always been a conservative, religious country need to read this poem.

I wrote to Paul and found him unwilling to accept the facts. He is positive that Jeff and Joe were gay.

Hi, Paul.

I just found out this morning about Jeff's (Jeff of Jeff and Joe) association with the film Brokeback Mountain. Jeff is Jefferson Randolph Smith II, alias "Soapy" Smith the nineteenth century bad man. I can assure you Jeff and Joe were not gay. I responded on your "Prequel" page although it is years old. I would love to clear this up, strictly for historical purposes as I am not anti-gay. My brother was gay and it made little difference to me. But I imagine some people will go on believing what they want to. I invite you to visit my websites if you are interested in learning more about Jeff and Joe, criminal associates.

Jeff and Joe were not gay. In fact, they weren't even cowboys. William Devere knew both men in Denver and Creede and took great literary license in writing the poem. When Soapy was made aware of the poem, probably by Devere himself, he was so pleased with the poem and the light in which it painted him that he made Devere a present of a thousand dollars. Here on this blog most of my regular readers know how politically and socially powerful Soapy was in Denver, Creede, and Skagway. Just for a moment let's pretend that Soapy was gay. If that fact were ever to get out his political and social world would have crumbled. His life would have been in great danger. Soapy read the poem and no where, from anyone, is there a hint  of someone mistaking the poems meaning. Had there been such a hint Devere's life would no doubt had met a quick and violent end. Instead, Soapy clipped out the poem from a newspaper and saved it for the rest of his life. It was found in his trunk in his saloon up in Skagway in July 1898 after his death. That very clipped out newspaper section now resides, framed proudly on my office wall.

I told Paul,

Try to imagine a local Chicago author writing a gay poem about mafia crime boss, Al Capone or some other big time gangster in history. Whether true or not such an author would find themselves embedded in cement shoes, and resting on the bottom of the ocean.

Paul’s proof lay in two sections of the poem. The latter half of his argument regards religion, which  has nothing to do with whether one is gay or not so let’s stay with the first sentence that Paul believes proves Jeff and Joe were gay.

Jeff, yer see, thought well of Joe—
Knowed him thirty years or so,
Pal'd together down below.
Joe liked Jeff and Jeff liked Joe,
An' through all the changin' years,
Sheered each other's smiles and tears.
Worked together, tooth and nail,
Punchin' cattle up the trail;
Dealt the old thing; tackled bluff;
Each one blowed the other's stuff,

First, Jeff nor Joe were ever cowboys. The details can be found in my book. Devere simply took literary license to show a long term friendship. Soapy met Joe in Denver in the 1880s so they could not have possibly known each other for “thirty years or so” as described by Devere.

The main line is the very last, which states that “Each one blowed the other’s stuff.” That's a pretty powerful sentence, if it were written today, but it wasn't. It was written in 1892. It's irresponsible to assign the definitions and connotations of modern slang and jargon to words that were employed over 100 years ago., by a poet. Further, reasonable, probable, and clear nonsexual interpretations of each line and each word are easily produced. Taking into consideration that the words came from a slang-versed poet the most logical meaning to blowed the other's stuff would be that they shared their money and perhaps some of their belongings while out on the fictional trail as cowboys.

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
October 17, 2008

Jeff and Joe poem: pages 89, 227-29, 448.

Jeff Smith


Graham Wilson's video: The Klondike Gold Rush: Photographs from 1896-98.

Graham Wilson, alias "YukonGraham" produced the wonderful video of the Klondike history below. Well done Graham!

1888: Frank “Blue-Jay” Brown attempted to shoot the man his wife had been seeing, but his gun misfired and the man returned one shot striking Brown in the face. He lives, following Soapy to Alaska in 1898.
1895: Soapy and Bascomb go on a rampage assaulting numerous people, including the chief of police and John Hughes, the latter bringing charges that put Bascomb in prison and make Soapy a fugitive.
1898: The U.S. declared war on Spain on April 25, but backdates the declaration to April 21.

Jeff Smith


April 20, 2011

Andrew Cremata's photography

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Andrew Cremata took the above photograph of Frank Reid's memorial. He has that special talent  for photography. He should, he works for the Skagway News!

1924: Louis C. Blonger, Soapy’s successor in Denver, dies.

Jeff Smith

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April 19, 2011

New photo of Jeff Smith's Parlor found.

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I discovered a new photograph of Jeff Smith's Parlor in the Alaska State Library that I have never seen previously. State libraries do add to their collection when new items are found. I'm still awaiting permission to use a newly discovered photograph of Soapy as well, but in the mean time let's take a closer look at this one.

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Dating photographs of Jeff Smith's Parlor is aided by the outside decor. In May and July 1898 Soapy changed the red, white, and blue bunting hung on the front facade which makes dating somewhat precise as to month. However, this photo has no bunting, only two small US flags poled on each side of the building about midway down the height. Those two flags are up in every photograph I have seen of the Parlor so they are of little help in this case.

There's no snow or frost on the ground, and it's not all mucked up, so it must be Spring/Summer, fairly early in the day--only a dog (I think) is in the street, and a few people out, men and one nicely dressed lady. At present I would venture to guess that the photograph was taken sometime between early May and the end of June 1898.

Jeff Smith


April 18, 2011

Steam ship City of Seattle

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Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
November 26, 2008

Outside links and photographs:
Yukon Archives
Alaska Digital Archives
There are man more links. Google Steamship City of Seattle.

S.S. City of Seattle: page 430.

Jeff Smith

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