March 17, 2012

Artifact #46: Jefferson R. Smith III

Artifact #46 from my private collection. Ok, not the most exciting item, but it does come from Soapy's son's belongings. The following comes from the website on Grant Wood's (the artist) Stone City Art Colony.

Jefferson Randolph Smith III
Jefferson R. Smith III (1887-1952) - second colony business manager

Son of the famed "Soapy Smith," a notorious con man who swindled communities in Alaska and Colorado, Jefferson Smith was born in St. Louis and would maintain lifelong ties to the state and its political scene through journalism and public relations.

His introduction to the newspaper industry came as a cub reporter for several St. Louis-area newspapers, including the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Star-Times. Smith eventually became city and managing editor at The Times and entered local politics by serving as secretary of the Saint Louis County Chamber of Commerce (1926-1931). By the late 1920s, Smith had also logged tenures with newspapers in New York City, Denver (CO), and Miami (FL). Smith was appointed publicity secretary to Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann, organizer of the future Jefferson National Expansion Monument -- Eero Saarinen's arch and riverfront park. Political aspirations later led Smith to enter the 1933 Ferguson, Missouri race for mayor, despite his eventual loss.

Valued for his keen business sense, Smith was recruited by Adrian Dornbush, the Stone City art colony organizer, to serve as the second business manager. Despite the colony's popularity and increased enrollment for 1933, financial records showed heavy debt and the immediate need for clear accounting and sound promotional ideas. Smith accepted the position, assuming his duties in June, choosing to live at the colony and to join its art community. With his office found at the Green Mansion entrance, Smith was accessible to journalists, staff, and students, lending a professional air to the free-spirited enclave. While at Stone City, Smith met Florence Sprague, a Drake University art professor and the colony's sole female faculty member. The two married June 9, 1934 and returned to St. Louis, with Sprague resigning her academic career.

During the World War II-era, Jefferson Smith served as public relations director for various New York City firms, including Ward, Wells, and Dreschman, a nonprofit development organization. By 1947, Smith had relocated to Los Angeles, where he opened a photo studio and hobby shop; co-owner of the venture was his son, Randolph J. Smith. Florence continued painting, choosing to exhibit and sell sculptures and paintings through the family's storefront. Jefferson Smith died in Los Angeles in 1952.

Sad note: Jefferson Randolph Smith III was never given a grave marker. My son and I visited his grave last year and found that one had never been placed on his grave. The family needs to rectify this. If anyone has any ideas please contact me. In the mean time I will look into the cost of a simple, nice marker.

Jeff R. Smith III: 
February 5, 2011
February 1, 2011
November, 28, 2010
September 26, 2010
September 26, 2010
June 27, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 10, 2010
November 22, 2008

Jefferson Randolph Smith III:  pages 7, 107-08, 167, 417-18, 546, 584, 587-89.

1894: Soap Gang member Billy Larimer dies. In honor of his death Soapy writes a poem and it is published in the Denver Mercury.


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