July 6, 2012

Soapy Smith represented again by the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

"Suckered by Soapy"
The National Park Service parade entry
(photo by Thomas Pickerel)
(Click image to enlarge)

kagway resident photographer, Thomas Pickerel set up his camera on Broadway and 8th to get some great long-range shots of the July 4 parade. He shared them on Facebook and was kind enough to send me larger versions. Thank you Thomas!

This year's parade theme was "volunteerism," and once again the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park was able to work Soapy Smith into their parade entry. When word of the Spanish-American War reached Skagway, Soapy jumped for the cause. There is little doubt that he was a very patriotic man, but there was also big money to be made thanks to President McKinley's offer to financially support military militias that prepared to fight. Original documents and minutes sent to President McKinley and Governor Brady of Alaska pertaining to the newly created Skaguay Military Company clearly show that Soapy was more than willing to create, arm, train, and lead a government authorized company of soldiers, under his command of course. A story created in a Vancouver newspaper in May 1898 told the story of how volunteers were being robbed of their money, and even their clothing, in a fake physical examination set up by Soapy and the gang. Although no actual victims ever came forward with the same story of being robbed, Soapy continued to drill and parade the Company until July 4, 1898. The robbery story was obviously made up but nearly all the Soapy biographers repeated the story as if true. Although my book, Alias Soapy Smith, clearly shows the story the work of fiction, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park used it as the story for their float. I don't mind it, the float concept was humorous and it seemed to work out well. I am sort of surprised that they would cater to fiction when they are so strict about their non-fiction status elsewhere.

Victims of Soapy's fake examination exit without their clothes.
(photo by Thomas Pickerel)
(Click image to enlarge)

The two photographs above show the rear of the Park Service entry as it turns onto Broadway. They are enough to see that the front portion of the float has Soapy signing up fully clothed volunteers to the Skaguay Military Company. The volunteers then enter the tent for their examination, and come out the back side of the tent in their long-johns, representing the robbery of their possessions. I would have loved to have seen it in person.

Signs on the float and carried by Park employees dressed in period garb, read, "STAND WITH US OR AGAINST US," SOAPY PUTS THE TEARS IN VOLUNTEERS," "SUCKERED BY SOAPY," and "UNCLE SOAPY WANTS YOUR MONEY."     

Thomas Pickerel's blog: Skagwaydelta

Last year's entry by the Park Service
July 7, 2011 

Skaguay Military Company: page 486-505.

1699: Pirate, Captain William Kidd, is captured in Boston, Massachusetts and deported back to England.
1777: British forces capture Fort Ticonderoga during the American Revolution.
1854: The Republican Party holds its first convention in Jackson, Mississippi.
1858: Lyman Blake patents the shoe manufacturing machine.
1863: John Bozeman leaves Fort Laramie in present day Wyoming to blaze a trail to the Yellowstone Valley in what will be named the Bozeman Trail.
1869: Nine Indians are killed and ten wounded by cavalry as reported by Lieutenant McCleave in Arizona Territory.
1876: Captain McCaskey of the 20th Infantry receives a communiqué at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory from General Terry at 2:00 a.m. He summons officers to inform 27 widows. Elizabeth Custer is wakened at 7 a.m. with the news of the deaths of her husband, her brother-in-laws Tom Custer, Boston Custer, and James Calloway, and her nephew Henry Armstrong Reed. Elizabeth then accompanies an officer as he visits 25 other widows.
1885: Louis Pasteur successfully tests his anti-rabies vaccine. The child used in the test later becomes the director of the Pasteur Institute.
1886: The Academy of Music in Denver, Colorado burns down. In addition, the theater, Kinneavy's Saloon (Soapy’s friend), the St. Cloud restaurant, two stores and the Western union office were destroyed. Next door, the hotel Doc Holliday was living in, the Metropolitan, was spared as were the Board of Trade saloon, a warehouse, the German National Bank and Charpiot's restaurant suffered a scorching loss of windows from the heat.

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