April 2, 2012

Yank V. Fewclothes business card: artifact #47

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oday I introduce to you artifact #47 from my personal collection of Soapy Smith ephemera. It is one of Henry "Yank Fewclothes" Edward's "business cards" that Soapy wrote on the back, "Yank is a good fellow." as a sort of letter of recommendation. The card lists Denver's Windsor Hotel as Yank's home, business, or place of contact. The hotel was built in 1880 so the card cannot date any earlier. Soapy left Denver in 1895 so the card can't really date later.

At the time I published my book I believed that the honey and beeswax business was possibly real, but now I am having second thoughts. I believe it could very well be a front business and the card is to hand to potential swindle victims. Let's take a closer look at this card and attempt to read between the lines.

Fewclothes & Rich: That sure sounds like pun names to me. We already know that "Fewclothes" is an alias for Henry Edwards. It has been written that, "he never wore a coat; A homespun vest, nondescript pants, a dark heavy cotton shirt with a cravat tied under the collar, made up his wearing apparel ...." But what of "Guy Rich?" Is this possibly an alias as well, but for who? I have found no record or accounting of a person named "Guy Rich," nor any clue that Henry Edwards had a partner. Could the name be fictional so as to make his business (whether real or fictional) appear larger, more successful?

Pure Honey and Beeswax: Henry Edwards was a booster in the Soap Gang. His job was to lure victims towards the bunco establishments and games. He might give “insider tips” to an intended victim on how to win the game the victim was trying to buck. He was a member of the gang for many years so he must have performed his duties well enough. "He was always genial, soft spoken, and easy to meet.… He could be as coy and secretive as a school girl, when it suited his purpose; but he insisted that he was a straight shooter under all circumstances."

Honey is naturally sweet. Beeswax is a jocular alteration of the word "business." I found that meaning to go back to the 1670s, usually in an injunction to someone to "mind his own beeswax" (mind his own business). Could Pure Honey and Beeswax be Edward's self advertisement that he is a good friendly booster who minds to business?

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Henry Edwards is the Soap Gang member who wrote the poem, How Are You Fixed for Soap? From my  book, Alias Soapy Smith comes the following.

Henry Edwards, born 1848, was a dealer in honey and beeswax when Jeff brought him into the Soap Gang as a steerer and a booster. Edwards’ business card lists the names of Yank V. Fewclothes and Guy Rich, “Dealers in pure honey and beeswax.” The address is the Windsor hotel and gives a telephone number as “Main 182.” On the back of the card in pencil is what appears to be a reference from Jeff: “Yank is a great fellow. Jeff.” This is believed to have been written by Jeff when he left Denver for the last time in 1895. No account of “Guy Rich” has been found. With the pun-like names on the business card, “Fewclothes and Rich,” possibly “Rich” was a fictitious partner. Edwards signed all of his correspondence to Jeff “Yank Fewclothes.”

Edwards and his wife, Hi-Ki, were close friends with Jeff and his wife, often staying at the Smith house in Denver when Jeff's wife moved to St. Louis. The Denver Post noted that Edwards was so close to the Smiths that he was known as “‘Soapy’ Smith’s shadow.”

"He never threw down a pal."
—Henry “Yank Fewclothes” Edwards
speaking about Soapy Smith in a 1914 interview

Henry "Yank V. Fewclothes" Edwards
December 25, 2011
May 29, 2011 
April 11, 2010 

Henry "Yank V. Fewclothes" Edwards: pages 50, 52-53, 80, 92, 111-12, 172, 232, 243, 258, 386, 388-89, 395-96, 422, 582, 589, 592, 595. 

1889: Bat Masterson, “Texas Jack” Vermillion implicated with Soapy and others in Denver election fraud.


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