April 16, 2011

1898 John and Frank Clancy Skagway business card: Artifact #32

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All the artifacts listed with numbers, as the one above (artifact #32) came from the saved scrapbook files of Soapy himself. #32 is a large size business card from John and Frank Clancy, Soapy's partners in Skagway. Note that the card reads, "Clancy & Company" at the top. It is believed that this is in reference to Soapy. Soapy was a silent partner in their saloon and gambling businesses as exposing  his connection to any gambling could quickly ruin trade if his reputation were to follow him to Skagway, which it eventually did. Even on his own gaming halls and businesses Soapy did not advertise his name. The only business he boldly attached his name stay to was Jeff Smith's Parlor, and it was merely a saloon with no outright gambling inside. This was his parlor, much like a parlor in a persons home during the Victorian era, it was for the proprietor to shine in the eyes of his guests.   

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Note that the back of the business card has the mileage destinations from Skagway, which was certainly handy to the Alaskan and Klondike traveler and stampeder. This surely indicates that the card was made for the Skagway business over that of the Dyea establishment. Clancy's in Skagway opened sometime in January 1898.

John and Frank Clancy were well known saloon proprietors in Seattle. They decided to join the gold rush. It is not known exactly when or where Soapy, John, and Frank met but it very well could have been in Seattle as Soapy gained many associates and established many new friends while going back and forth between Seattle, Tacoma, and Alaska. Once in Skagway the brothers Clancy quickly made friends with the business community and the Skaguay News, which wrote of their new enterprise;

Of all the places of resort in Skaguay that known by the above name is one of the best known and most popular. Located in the business center of the city, it is always to be found by the newcomer, and all old-time residents know Clancy’s.
All visitors to this place are treated with uniform courtesy. There is music and dancing every evening. Clubrooms are maintained in connection, and a first-class cafe is soon to be added. The management leave no stone unturned to make their visitor enjoy themselves.

Rev. Robert M. Dickey also wrote of the Clancy business, but only in his private diary where he wrote,

"Weary looking girls exerting their last strength to lead men astray. Gamblers stealing hard earned money from men who ought to have more sense.”

Frank Clancy was the manager of Clancy's while John Clancy partnered with Soapy in the opening of Jeff Smith's Parlor but with his name in large font across the front of the building it is obvious Soapy was in control. Within months Soapy aided Frank in winning a seat on the city council. Considering Soapy consistently worked fraudulent election schemes in Denver, Skagway was most surely an easy election process to manipulate and win. Thumbing through my book there are numerous business, social, and political events in Skagway in which Soapy and the Clancy brothers are listed together.

One of the main events for the fourth of July festivities in 1898 was the ball, held at Clancy and Company's dance hall connected to the restaurant and gaming hall at the corner of Runnalls and Shoup streets (7th and State today). Admission was free so no doubt the gambling room was where the overhead for the ball would be recuperated.

Over in the neighboring camp of Dyea the newspaper there listed an ad for "Clancy and Company" located at River Street and Wilson. Soapy may have been a partner in their Dyea enterprises but he apparently was not able to control the newspapers there. The Dyea Press freely warned of Soap Gang activity. “Dyea has everything that every other town in Alaska has, except ‘Soapy’ Smith.” Located in the same issue was this warning: “Don’t play the shell & pea games in Wrangle and Skaguay or you will have to walk home.” The underworld of Dyea may have been under the control of Thomas "Troublesome Tom" Cady, a member of the Soap Gang.

In the ending days of Soapy's empire and his life, John Clancy appears to have double-crossed Soapy as he is the only gang member completely exonerated from punishment by the vigilante's although Clancy was a definite crime partner. Stranger still is that John is made executor of Soapy's estate.

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
December 27, 2010
June 24, 2010
April 14, 2010
August 20, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 7, 2009
October 5, 2008

Business card: page 456.

Clancy and Company: pages 481, 523, 595.
Frank Clancy: pages 455, 461, 471, 516, 521, 552-53.
John Clancy: pages 455, 461, 471, 481-82, 543-46, 552-55, 558, 585, 595.

Jeff Smith


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