October 21, 2012

What Are the Odds of Drawing That Card?

(Click image to enlarge)

uited Science: What Are the Odds of Drawing That Card?

Family member Christina Kelley "Tina" Marshall sent in the following card manipulation information from Scientific American. Tina writes,

This is probably what Soapy did. He was ahead of his time AND he did it in his head. :)


Suited Science: What Are the Odds of Drawing That Card?

Have you ever been playing cards and wished you could use psychic powers to draw the card you wanted? You may not be psychic, but you can still have the power of probability on your side. In this activity you'll investigate the probabilities of drawing specific types of cards from a deck. You'll discover how math can help you avoid the dreaded phrase, "Go fish!"

When you draw a card from a deck, you have a certain chance of getting a specific type of card, such as a spade or face card, or one particular card, such as the queen of hearts. Consider the game "Go Fish" with a regular card deck. The goal is to get the most four-of-a-kind sets by asking your opponent for matching cards or by drawing them from the deck. To win, you can rely on chance or you can increase your probability of getting matching cards, but how?

By understanding how chance is related to math, you can play with a winning strategy. For example, if you have three kings and one queen in your hand and it's your turn to ask for a card, which one should you ask your opponent for? You might think you should ask for a king, but it's actually better to take a queen! Why? Because you have a better chance of getting it. There are four kings and four queens in the deck, and with three kings and one queen in your hand, there's one king and three queens left. This gives you only one chance to get a king, but three chances to get a queen out of the remaining cards.

• Standard deck of playing cards
• Piece of paper
• Pencil or pen
• Calculator

• Count the cards in the deck and make sure it is complete. (There should be 54 cards total.) Take out the two jokers. Shuffle the deck three times and set aside.
• Pick four types of cards to investigate, such as a color, suit, number or face card, and a specific one. For example, you could investigate red cards, spades, kings and the queen of hearts.
• Draw a table to in which to record your data. Make a column for each card type you'll investigate. In the first row write how many of that type of card are in the deck. For example, there are 26 red cards in a deck, 13 spades, four kings and one queen of hearts. Make 10 rows below this one for the 10 trials you will be doing.

• Decide which type of card you will investigate first. Draw cards from the top of the deck and flip them over one at a time, counting as you go, and stop when you see that type of card. How many cards did you draw until you reached that card? Write down the answer in your table.
• Shuffle the deck again and repeat this process, flipping over the cards and looking for the same type of card. How many cards did it take this time? Write down the answer in your table. Repeat this for a total of 10 times for one type of card.
• Repeat this process for each of the four types of cards you picked to investigate. This means that you will have looked for each type of card a total of 10 times.
• Calculate the average number of cards you drew to reach each type of card. Label the last row in your table "Averages" and write them in this row.
• Which types of cards were the easiest to draw? Which were the most difficult? How do you think the chances of drawing a card relate to the total number of that card type in the deck?
• Based on what you saw in this activity, how do you think probability can help you choose the right strategy in a card game?
Extra: A more advanced way of showing the results of your experiment would be to make histograms, which are a type of graph to show distributions. Try making a separate histogram for each type of card you tested by graphing the number of cards drawn for each trial separately in a bar graph. When all of the bars are lined up next to each other, what does the overall shape of the distribution look like?
Extra: The probability of drawing a particular type of card also depends on the number of cards drawn each time. Try doing this activity again but draw samples of three, five or seven cards at a time. Do your chances improve as more cards are taken?
Extra: Probabilities can change your strategies for playing a card game. Can you design an experiment to show how probabilities can help you choose cards and win "Go Fish"? What about other popular card games? Can you invent your own game based on probabilities?

Observations and results
Did it take fewer draws to reach a certain color than it took to reach a certain suit or kind of card? Did it take even more draws to reach a specific card?

Mathematicians measure probability by counting and using some very basic math, like addition and division. For example, you can add up the number of spades in a complete deck (13) and divide this by the total number of cards in the deck (52) to get the probability of randomly drawing a spade: 13 in 52, or 25 percent. If you were investigating red cards, kings or the queen of hearts, the odds of randomly drawing one of these from a complete deck are 50 percent (26 in 52); about 7.7 percent (four in 52); or about 1.9 percent (one in 52), respectively. This is why, on average (when done over enough trials), it is easier to draw a red card than a spade, a spade than a king, and a king than the queen of hearts. As you draw cards from a deck, the odds of finding your card change. For example, if you are looking for a spade and do not get it on your first draw, there are still 13 spades in the deck but the deck now holds only 51 cards, so your odds of drawing a spade on the second draw are 13 in 51, or about 25.5 percent. This may not seem like much of an improvement, but with every draw the odds continue to increase.

"Well, chief, I acknowledge you have brought me to a stand still. Hereafter I will do the square thing."
—– Rocky Mountain News July 17, 1894.


1797: the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution is launched in Boston harbor. During the War of 1812 it is given the nickname of "Old Ironsides" when people witness a cannon ball bouncing off its side. 
1849: The first recorded tattooed man, James F. O’Connell, is put on exhibition at the Franklin Theatre in New York City. 
1860: William F. "Billy the Kid" Claiborne is born in Yazoo county, Mississippi. 
1866: Construction is completed on Ft. Phil Kearny in Wyoming Territory. 
1867: The Medicine Lodge (Kansas) Talks take place. Leaders of the Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa-Apache Indian tribes sign the peace treaty. Comanche Chief Quanah Parker refuses to accept the treaty terms. 
1871: “Coal Oil” Jimmy and 2 other men rob a stagecoach near Trinidad, Colorado Territory. 
1872: A penitentiary opens in Laramie, Wyoming Territory. 
1873: George A. Custer's command arrives in Lincoln, Dakota Territory. 
1876: Chief Sitting Bull's camp on the Big Dry River, Montana Territory is attack by Colonel Nelson Miles. 5 Indians are killed and 2 soldiers are wounded. 
1878: “Billy the Kid” and 4 accomplices steal 8 horses from the Grzelachowski ranch in New Mexico Territory. 
1879: Thomas Edison invents the electric incandescent lamp. It stayed lit for 13-1/2 hours before it burnt out. 
1889: A Butte, Montana newspaper reports that a funeral procession became disoriented in thick smelter smoke and somehow ended up in the Centennial Brewery. 
1889: William Alexander is convicted of murdering his business partner, David Steadman in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. He is spared from the sentence of hanging by Isaac Parker, ironically given the moniker of "the Hanging Judge."

October 17, 2012

Soapy Smith and the act of caning

Soapy Smith canes Colonel John Arkins

n the evening of July 29, 1898 in Denver, Soapy Smith retaliated against the Rocky Mountain News for a published blurb about his wife and children. With cane in hand and Soap Gang member, Ned Parker, alias "Banjo," in tow, he made his way over to the Patterson and Thomas Block where the offices of the News were located. His exact plans are unknown but the person he was looking to see was Colonel John Arkins, the general manager of the newspaper. For eight days, ever since the trouble at Logan Park (see Alias Soapy Smith, pages 140-147), the News had been attacking and exposing Soapy and his activities. The mention of his family in an article on the eighth day was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back, and Soapy lost his composure. He waited for Arkin to appear on the street and when he did, Soapy attacked. The following comes from my book.


Last night at ten minutes to 9 o’clock Jeff R. Smith attempted to murder Colonel John Arkins, president of the News Printing Company and manager of this paper. Never did ruffian commit a more utterly brutal deed.

Colonel Arkins had just left his office and was about to call a carriage. The streets were crowded with people and the electric lights shone brilliantly. Streetcars were passing, and ladies chatted as they walked along. It did not look like a favorable spot in which to commit a black crime.

In the shadow of a great doorway crouched the form of a being with murder in his heart. At his right hand and left were others come to see the murder done. 

In its reporting, the News was mistaken in a number of particulars and exaggerated others. Reported was that Jeff carried a heavy black cane, but the cane placed on exhibit during the trial was described as a light, wooden walking cane. The News account had the editor leaving, but Arkins testified that he was arriving at the office. The News reported “others” with Jeff, but witnesses stated that only Ned “Banjo” Parker accompanied Jeff that night.

Arkins stated that when he arrived, he saw Parker but not Jeff as his form was blocked by Parker’s. When Arkins was about ten feet away, Jeff stepped out and said, “Oh, John!” Arkins glanced over his shoulder. Jeff threw up his left hand as though to shove him back, and with his cane in his right hand, according to witnesses, struck Arkins once over the head and knocked him to the sidewalk. While he was down, Jeff kicked him twice and struck him two or three more times with the cane. Witnesses claimed Jeff stooped over Arkins and felt his hip pocket, as if to discover a gun there, but no such claim was made at trial. Afterward, Jeff turned and walked rapidly to the corner and disappeared down Curtis street. Parker, who was between Jeff and witnesses with a cane of his own raised to prevent interference, quickly walked off in the opposite direction.

It has always interested me that armed with just a cane, and using his feet to kick, that Soapy seriously injured Arkins. So much so, to be initially charged with attempted murder. The question I always wondered about, why a cane? In responding to a another post on a Tombstone forum, Dr. Gary Roberts, author of Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend (2006), gave me a clue. He wrote,

On the other hand, in the Old South, caning was an act of contempt reserved for men who were socially beneath you. Gentlemen didn't cane gentlemen. By that code—and Doc knew it well—caning a man meant that he considered the victim to be inferior, not a gentleman.

A classic example of the use of caning as an act of disdain for the victim was, of course, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks' caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in May 1856. Senator Sumner had delivered his "Crime Against Kansas" speech in which he attacked the "slave power" of the South. In the speech, he singled out Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina in vitriolic terms. Brooks was Butler's nephew. Brooks, who was considered to be mild-mannered by most who knew him, caught Sumner at his desk in the Senate chamber. He addressed him, saying something like, "Sir, you have insulted my family and the sovereign state of South Carolina, and I am here to punish you!" Note that last part: "I am here to PUNISH you."

Brooks did not challenge Sumner as he would have someone he perceived to be a gentleman. He did not go there to kill him. He chose instead to punish him which was reserved for men without honor or station (in Brooks' mind, at least). The beating kept Sumner out of the Senate from May 22, 1856, until December, 1859. The act was condemned as brutal proof of Southern depravity across the North, but Brooks received what one source called "a box car load of canes" from well-wishers across the South, many of the canes with notes attached with instructions to use them on a variety of Northern senators and representatives.

Colonel John Arkins
January 17, 2009 

Colonel John Arkins: pages 88, 134, 143-145, 147-54, 158, 160, 230, 240, 292, 371, 529, 578.

"He was a character the like of which will probably never be seen again in the history of the country. He left a few friends who will regret his death, but the majority of people who knew him were relieved when they heard that he had been killed. The evil which he did will live a long time after him, and his bunco record will be a monument which will last all ages."
Rocky Mountain News article
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 582.


1777: American troops defeat British forces in Saratoga, New York, in the turning point of the American Revolution.
1835: The Texas Rangers are established as an organization with the primary duty of suppressing violent Indians and the rerouting of Mexican marauders back to Mexico.
1858: Boulder, Colorado Territory is founded.
1862: 13 buildings are destroyed by fire and 3 residents are killed when Quantrill's Raiders strike Johnson County, Kansas. They then steal wagons from teamsters a few miles south of Shawnee.  
1864: The Sisters of Providence open an Indian boarding school at St. Ignatius Mission, Montana Territory.
1865: Kansas representatives for Apache, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians sign a treaty with U.S. Commissioners.
1877: Brigadier General Alfred Terry meets with Sitting Bull in Canada to discuss the Chief’s return to the U.S.
1881: It is reported that rustlers shoot up Gayleville, Arizona Territory.
1888: National Geographic Magazine is published.

October 16, 2012

Carter's Soapy Smith video.

Editor: Carter
Soapy Smith: Carter
Tommy 2 Guns: Jessi
Lasso Larry: Tyson
Video tapers: Jace/Kane
"SPECIAL THANKS TO: Jace's mom for letting us use his garage,
because it was cold out, and letting us eat his food."

o you remember playing cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers as a kid? I know I did. In fact, some of my nieces and nephews have been reminiscing and laughing about those early day childhood games we enjoyed playing so much. However, never once did any of us, as descendants of bad man Soapy Smith, ever consider playing him as a character. Soapy was something our parents talked about, not us kids, at least not enough to want to reenact him in our play time activities.

Times have changed however. Soapy is making a comeback in a big way, and what better evidence is there than a youngster inadvertently acknowledging the fact. These are children, and I did not wish to alarm their parents by asking personal questions, nor should those answers by advertised online, therefore, all I know about Carter and his friends, Jessi, Tyson, Jace, and Kane, is that they all got together in Jace's garage to make a Youtube short film. What you see above is their finished product. I "talked" to Carter (Soapy) through Youtube and he wrote the following.  

We chose to do a short video on Soapy because we were working on a unit about the Klondike gold rush and Soapy was by far the most interesting character we could find. —Carter123cbq 

I'm hoping he gets to see this post, just to let him know the smiles he and his friends put on the faces of Soapy Smith's family members, friends, and fans. I think everyone will agree that Carter and his pals did a great job! I know I'm happy that I had the pleasure to see this film. I am willing to go as far as betting that Soapy would certainly be proud to know his name is still echoing through time.

"The bullets started flying a’twixt Soapy Smith and Reid,
Until they both lay on the wharf, and there they both did bleed.
Then Jesse Murphy turned ol’ Soapy’s lever gun around,
And blew out Soapy’s heart as he lay helpless on the ground."
—Ed Parrish


1701: The Collegiate School is founded in Killingworth, Connecticut. The school eventually moves to New Haven in 1745 and changes its name to Yale College. 
1829: The Tremont Hotel, considered the first modern hotel in the U.S., opens in Boston, Massachusetts. 170 rooms rented for $2 each per day, which included four meals. 
1859: Violent abolitionist John Brown leads a raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). 
1869: A hotel in Boston became the first in the U.S. to install indoor plumbing. 
1881: Citizens of Phoenix, Arizona, Territory demand that Apache Indians in the area be removed or put to death. 
1884: Armed with a Winchester rifle, Marshal Bill Tilghman forces a group of drunk and disorderly cowboys out of Dodge City, Kansas. 
1890: The Indian, Kicking Bear, is escorted off the Standing Rock Agency in South Dakota by the U.S. Army.

October 12, 2012

Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Posse Rider: The Story of Texas Jack Vermillion by Peter Brand

yatt Earp’s Vendetta Posse Rider: 
The Story of Texas Jack Vermillion

Fans of Soapy Smith and my book may recognize the name Vermillion. He was a member of the Soap Gang 1888-89 and was involved in a few key adventures with Soapy, including the attack on the offices of the Glasson Detective Agency in Denver, and the 1889 shootout at the Pocatello train station. In January 2011 Linda Wildman, a member of the Vermillion family, contacted me and started sharing some of her family history and photographs. With her permission I posted the information and photographs, but what neither of us knew, was that author Peter Brand was already working with other members of the family for a book he wanted to publish on "Texas Jack." This was causing a lot of turmoil  for Linda so naturally I immediately removed the post. Nineteen months later I can now announce that Brand's book is published and for sale.Below is my review of the book.

Author: Peter Brand
Paperback: 152 pages
Illustrated: 67 historic photographs
Publisher: Unknown
Date published: 2012
Language: English
ISBN- 978-0-578-10612-0
Retail price: $25.00
Purchase here:

I am absolutely enamored by author Peter Brand’s new book, Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Posse Rider: The Story of Texas Jack Vermillion. This is the first complete and authentic historical biography of the man known as “Texas Jack,” and later as “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out-Jack.” Mr. Brand brings new respect to the Vermillion story, and it will most undoubtedly remain the primary chronicle of John Oberland Vermillion for decades to come. Mr. Brand can be proud of his accomplishment in admirably propelling “Texas Jack” up the ladder of historical fame and giving him his own place in history. Whether you’re a fan of the old west, Wyatt Earp, or Soapy Smith, you will find Mr. Brand’s book a very engaging and valuable edition to your book collection. I highly recommend it.

For many decades “Texas Jack” Vermillion has been a mysterious and largely unknown figure, perhaps even an oddity of history; a gun-fighting carpenter, befriended by legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp and bunco boss, Soapy Smith. No one seemed to know much about him, and quick as he appeared on the scene, he was gone again, remaining just a footnote in the histories of the nineteenth century American west. For many years most historians thought John Wilson Vermillion was the famed “Texas Jack,” but Peter Brand successfully uncovers and explores the true identities and captivating histories of John W. Vermillion, as well as John Oberland Vermillion, the bona fide “Texas Jack.” Thanks to Mr. Brand the mysterious, unknown “Texas Jack” is no more.

Mr. Brand’s book is composed the way a good biography should be. One of its strongest points is that the known facts, the author’s theories, opinions, and conclusions are well defined and separated, giving the reader the opportunity to judge and come to his or her own conclusion. Another strong point is Peter’s clever formula for compelling the reader to continue exploring the entire book rather than piece read. Whereas some Wyatt Earp and Soapy Smith fans might be tempted to skip to the sections of their choice, Mr. Brand uses John O. Vermillion’s own quotes in such a way that keeps the reader engrossed to the very last page. I don’t recall having seen this method used in a biography as successfully as it is done here; A perfect adaption considering Vermillion is largely known mostly to Earp fans.

For the fans of Soapy Smith there is a lot to take in and value from Mr. Brand’s book. Besides the bountiful information on Vermillion, there are accounts of his associates who went on to become members and friends of the Soap Gang themselves, such as “Big Ed” Burns (Byrnes), James Bruce, George Millsap, Sam Emrich, and “Fatty” Gray. I won’t go into the details here but there is so much value in this book that I plan to keep it at the ready, as I continue to absorb and utilize Mr. Brand’s fine research for my own work. After I have exhausted the supply of treasures contained within the 152 pages, I will designate a spot of honor on my bookshelves for this important work.

"Texas Jack"/"Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack" Vermillion
August 8, 2010
September 11, 2010
January 10, 2011
August 1, 2011

"Texas Jack"/"Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack" Vermillion: pages 75, 88, 92-92, 162-63, 165, 170, 175.

"Here 'Soapy' Smith and his gang of outlaws and murders operated along the trail; here he was killed; here is his dishonored grave, between the mountains which will not endure longer than the tale of his desperate crimes, and his desperate expiation."
—Ella Higginson, Alaska The Great Country, 1917


1492: Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, sights Watling Island in the Bahamas, believing that he had found Asia while attempting to find a Western ocean route to India. The same day he claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. 
1792: The first monument honoring Christopher Columbus is dedicated in Baltimore, Maryland. 
1860: Inventor Elmer Sperry is born. During his lifetime he will hold patents on more than 400 inventions. The most important being the Sperry Automatic Pilot. 
1870: Horace Greeley visits Greeley, Colorado, the city named in his honor. 
1870: Robert E. Lee dies peacefully in Lexington, Virginia at age 63. Lee is most famous as a confederate general during the American Civil War. 
1872: Indian chief Cochise and General O. Howard sign a peace treaty in Arizona Territory. 
1882: The Tombstone Epitaph reports that bad man Johnny Ringo is drunk in Galeyville, Arizona Territory. 1892: In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Columbus landing the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance is first recited in public schools. 
1895: the first amateur golf tournament is held in Newport, Rhode Island.

October 9, 2012

BBC's Copper and Soapy Smith, part 2

Scene of the crime
(Click image to enlarge)

ast week I talked on the new BBC TV series Copper and the mention of the prize package soap sell racket. Although this weeks episode is not directly related to Soapy Smith I thought the inclusion of election fraud, and the buying of votes in a saloon is very similar to the election scandal of 1889 in Denver, Colorado that involved Soapy and Bat Masterson, as described in my book, Alias Soapy Smith

In the show Copper, the villainy takes place in Eva's Paradise, a saloon and brothel in five points, New York. A police officer is in charge of handing out disguises (wigs, fake beards, hats), a shot of whiskey, and a "name" for each tramp to vote under. It is obvious from the disguises that these tramps are "repeaters," men who vote numerous times. 

The following comes direct from my book. Note the uncanny similarities. 

In the spring of 1889, Jeff, Ed Chase, “Bat” Masterson, John Morris, Ned Parker, John Kinneavy, city detective Sam “Sheeny Sam” Emerick and a host of others were involved in the criminal act of fraudulently registering hundreds of names to vote so that ballot boxes could be stuffed with hundreds of false and fictitious and votes.

Election day, April 2, 1889, turned into a carnival of abuses. Reportedly, because of their twenty-thousand-dollar slush fund, saloonkeepers were able to pay two dollars per vote. Bonuses for repeaters were generously awarded in the form of lottery tickets and free beer. Tramps and hoodlums from nearby towns were brought to Denver and marched to the polls by election-day special deputies.

Fraudulent voting in Denver was an open secret for a long time, including Jeff’s involvement. Appearing in 1910 was a book of remembrances about Denver in the 1880s and 1890s. As a young man interested in the law, Lindsey

had read, in the newspapers, of how the Denver Republicans won the elections by fraud—by ballot-box stuffing and what not—and I had followed one “Soapy” Smith on the streets, from precinct to precinct, with his gang of election thieves, and had seen them vote not once but five times openly. I had seen a young man, whom I knew, knocked down and arrested for “raising a disturbance” when he objected to “Soapy” Smith’s proceeding; and the policeman who arrested him did it with a smile and a wink. —Alias Soapy Smith, p. 173

"There you are. Take your free drink courtesy of Mr. Tweed.
This time your name is 'Jack Morrison'
Remember, vote McClellan and Tammany!
Keep moving, we've got an election to win."


On election day, members of the gambling fraternity as well as tramps in Jeff’s precinct had been sent to the Tivoli Club, the Silver Club, Bascomb's cigar store, and the Jockey Club. There they received a slip of paper containing the name of a registered voter. They would then go to the polling place where that name was listed and vote using the name on the slip of paper. It was found that over eight hundred fraudulent votes had been cast in this way. The practice was noticed due to the back and forth travel of these voters. They were asked to vote just once, but some overzealous rogues repeated the process three and four times. These voters were known as repeaters. Mike Maher, one of those so named, admitted in court that he alone had voted nearly one hundred times. —Alias Soapy Smith, p. 176

Copper: October 3, 2012

Election fraud of 1889: pages 173-76.

"Kindhearted, generous Soapy Smith is known to many men. Many know him, too, as a man who would stand by his friends to the end. Many others know him as a bitter enemy. When he thinks he is right, he stands by it, and when it is the other way, he stands by that, too."
—[Denver Republican] Alias Soapy Smith, p. 213.

Frederick Stephen Wombwell: Friend of Soapy Smith?

First time I recognize seeing this particular Soapy Smith grave
photograph postcard. Note the complete wood framing around

the marker and the arrangement of the rocks in a circle, rather
than piled in the center as shown in later photos. I believe this is 
one of the earliest photos of the 2nd marker in the ground.
(Click image to enlarge)

  recently came across the text of an extremely rare edition of A Year in the Klondyke: 1898-1899 by Frederick Stephen Wombwell. The 148 page diary-book is incredibly rare because each copy is individually typed and sell for around $4,000. I have never personally seen a copy and it is not shared on-line, however, someone shared a few pages with me. What I have is from the person who owns the book, so I cannot confirm the text. Apparently Frederick Wombwell had a run-in with Soapy and his gang in Skagway so it is certainly worth sharing.

On April 12 Wombwell left Juneau and arrived at a small town about 12 miles below Skagway. The next morning
“I did a bit of exploration around the town. Mud knee-deep in all the streets…I visited around the various gambling places and saloons, and at Soapy Smith’s got into an argument and a fight, out of which I do not think I came out second-best.”

From Skagway they traveled to the summit of White Pass which proved to be quite the ordeal.
“All sorts and conditions of people on the trail, including quite a number of women, and many old men who ought not to be in this country, all looking so tired and grim.”

May 23, 1898.
“…, I met 'Soapy Smith' at his saloon. Soapy acquired his nick-name either from the fact that he is such a 'slippery' individual, or else, as the story goes, because he at one time sold packages of soap supposed to be wrapped in five-dollar bills, which of course, they were not. Certainly he never acquired the name from a prolific use of soap. Anyway, he is reputed to be the most dangerous bad man in Alaska; his looks certainly belie his character, for he really is a small, slim man with soft brown eyes, and a short Vandyke beard. Does not look as though he would harm a fly. I got along very well with him and we had lunch together. Later I wanted to join a poker game in his place, but when he said, 'You are a friend of mine, don’t you play,' I got wise and laid off it.”

I find it rather interesting that nearly every story ever told by a person who survived an encounter with the Soap Gang, never admits to being beaten, financially or physically. This one is even more interesting, considering Wombwell later becomes a friend of Soapy's.

There is one red-flag here, in which it appears that Wombwell states he had a brawl in Soapy's place in Dyea, but there is no record that Soapy opened any business in Dyea. This very well could be a mistake on the part of the person who sent the contents to me, as Wombwell again goes to Soapy's place, but this time it is clearly in Skagway and he gives no indication that there are two such businesses, one in Dyea and one in Skagway.

"Alaska in the Gold Rush days, where life was cheap and thin, Such desperate times were perfect times for brutal, desperate men. In Skagway, Soapy’s grifter mob left many miners broke, And if you weren’t a gambler, they’d just rob you of your poke. "
—Ed Parrish


1635: Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, is banished from Massachusetts for speaking out against punishments for religious offenses and for giving away Indian land. 
1701: The Collegiate School of Connecticut is chartered in New Haven. The name is later changed to Yale. 1776: Spanish missionaries settle in what is now San Francisco, California. 
1781: The last major battle of the American Revolution is fought in Yorktown, Virginia. American forces led by George Washington, defeat British forces, under Lord Cornwallis. 
1812: Americans capture two British brigs, the Detroit and the Caledonia, during the War of 1812. 
1855: Isaac Singer patents the sewing machine motor. 
1855: Joshua C. Stoddard receives a patent for his calliope. 
1858: Mail service between San Francisco, California and St. Louis, Missouri begins. 
1858: The first stagecoach from the Pacific coast (San Francisco, California) reaches St. Louis, Missouri, taking 23 days. 
1868: 13 Indians are reported killed in a battle with U.S. infantry and cavalry at Salt River and Cherry Creek, Arizona Territory. 
1868: Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians capture Clara Blinn and her 2 year old son on the Arkansas River, below Ft. Lyon, Colorado Territory. 
1869: Gold is discovered on Cedar Creek, near Superior, Montana Territory. 
1869: Apache Indians attack a mail train and the army detachment protecting it, killing 6, 25-miles from Apache Pass, Arizona Territory. 
1871: Outlaw “Coal Oil” Jimmy and two accomplices rob the Elizabethtown Mail stage, riding away with $500 in New Mexico Territory. 
1871: Texas Governor Ed Davis imposes martial law on Freestone County in response to reports of coercion and election fraud. 
1872: The first mail order catalog is delivered. The one page catalog comes from Aaron Montgomery, whose firm later becomes Montgomery Wards. 
1876: Alexander G. Bell and Thomas Watson make their longest telephone call to date, a distance of two miles. 
1890: The Ghost Dance is performed in Sitting Bull's camp on the Standing Rock Agency, South Dakota. The whites believe the Indians are preparing for a fight. Specially decorated "ghost shirts" supposedly make the Sioux bullet proof.

October 4, 2012

Jeff Smith's Parlor restoration: Bob Lyon, part 17

Skagway postcard
(Click image to enlarge)

or the past seven months we here on Soapy's soapbox have been very fortunate to have historian Bob Lyon contribute updates and photographs pertaining to the Jeff Smith's Parlor restoration project, and the Martin Itjen/George Rapuzzi collection. I am sad to report that we will likely soon lose his valuable peeks into the project, however, we are certainly glad to report that it is because Mr. Lyon is moving up the ladder in National Park Service ranks. We wish him all the best of luck in everything he does. In the mean time, here, in his own words, is the latest news. 

Probably won't be anything new until spring. Though park maintenance is continuing to prepare the Parlor, I don't know what's happening with the exhibits. The plan was to put everything back where it was under Itjen and sort of a combination with Rapuzzi. But, the building will end up about 6-8 inches more narrow because of the framing to keep the place from falling down. That's a problem, but there really wasn't any other way to stabilize the building. Considering how many times it's been altered...first by Soapy, then moved and altered by the Fire Dept., then Itjen, then moved and renovated again by Rapuzzi...How much of the building fabric is original? Nobody really knows. Probably not a lot. But certainly some of it.

I took photos for the exhibit designers a year and a half ago. I haven't kept up with how that planning is going. We'd love to get rid of that fence in front, but, damnation, it's historic to the Rapuzzi era. Taking it down would require all kinds of legalities. Could be done, eventually, I hope. I think once the building is done and open again, we'll take a look at that fence.

I'm done here in a year, by the way. My position is a term job and it's over next August. ... Though I know everybody involved and can keep you updated somewhat. I'm moving into a different program next week. Have to say I'm kind of tired of Soapy and his blasted building! I'm kidding, but I won't have much to do with it this next year. The new program may send me to Skagway for other purposes, but we'll see. I'll be off to Denali, maybe Sitka, but I'll be dealing with historic buildings in all the parks in Alaska, instead of focusing on Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Bob Lyon

Thank you Mr. Bob Lyon
for everything you have shared with us.

Jeff Smith's Parlor restoration

February 4, 2009 (Part 1)
February 19, 2009 (Part 2)  
March 31, 2010 (Part 3)  
August 7, 2010 (Part 4) 
February 11, 2011 (Part 5) 
April 5, 2011 (Part 6)
May 8, 2011 (Part 7)
May 17, 2011 (Part 8)
November 20, 2011 (Part 9)
March 21, 2012 (Part 10)
March 30, 2012 (Part 11)
June 20, 2012 (Part 12)
August 8, 2012 (Part 13)
August 29, 2012 (Part 14)
September 1, 2012 (Part 15)
September 26, 2012 (Part 16)

"When Soapy Smith owned the gamblers in Creede his cognomen was commonplace. Now since he has been chosen to lead the Denver redeemers they call him Sapolio de Smythe. Great it is to be a leader of the republican gang."
Alamosa Leader, circa 1890s


1648: The first volunteer fire department is established in New York City.
1777: Both American and British forces suffer heavy losses during fighting at Germantown, Pennsylvania. The battle is a British victory, but actually serves as a moral boost to Americans.
1856: California outlaw Tom Bell is hung by a posse led by Judge Belt and Robert Price. Bell was an Alabama-born surgeon who had served in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War. He turned to banditry in 1855.
1860: The Confederacy sign treaties with the Indian tribes of the Seneca, Shawnee, and Cherokee, allowing them to join Confederate forces in battle.
1861: Frederick Remington is born in Canton, New York.
1874: Kiowa Indian leader, Satanta, "the Orator of the Plains," surrenders in Darlington, Texas.
1876: The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas is formally dedicated by Texas Governor, Richard Coke. It is the state's first school of higher education. 
1877: The Nez Perce Indians negotiate their surrender at Bear Paw Mountains, Montana Territory.
1878: John Chisum, famed New Mexico rancher, reports that that 10 to 12 of his horses have been stolen.
1881: Edward Leveaux receives the patent for the player piano.
1882: Frederick Remington moves to a farm Kansas, where he work as a cowboy by day and a painter by night.
1883: Sheriff Bob Paul and a posse shoot and kill Jack Almer, leader of the Red Jack Gang, near Wilcox, Arizona Territory, who was being sought for the August 10 stage robbery and murder of the Wells-Fargo guard.
1893: The first professional football contract is signed by Grant Dibert for the Pittsburgh AC.
1895: The first U.S. Open golf tournament takes place in Newport, Rhode Island. Horace Rawlins, 19-years-old, wins the tournament.
1909: The first airship race in the U.S. takes place in St. Louis, Missouri.

October 3, 2012

BBC's Copper and Soapy Smith, part 1

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opper, the new BBC America TV series is a hit! Well, at least in my home it is. It takes place in New York 1864. The sets and costuming are fantastic, as is the story line. The sets and police uniforms remind me of how I imagine Denver up to the early 1880s, which of course explains why I enjoy it so. This last Sunday they made reference to Soapy Smith (see above) and I'm hopeful a Soapy Smith character will take to the streets, selling cakes of soap with a prize inside.

"If there is vigor in the law Soapy Smith will be sent to the penitentiary. He is a professional swindler and has attempted murder before. There is not a more desperate nor dangerous person than he in Colorado who is allowed to run at large."
Rocky Mountain News, June 8, 1894.


1860: Captain Nelson and a company of the 10th Infantry battle with Navaho Indians in the Tunicha Mountains, New Mexico Territory. 
1860: Captain Holloway and the 8th Infantry battle around 50 Comanche Indians, killing two and "wounding many" at Chaparita, New Mexico Territory. 
1863: U.S. President Lincoln declares that the last Thursday of November be recognized as Thanksgiving Day. 
1865: Indian Chief Little Hill addresses the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. on the conditions of the Winnebago Indians in Nebraska. 
1866: Arizona Territorial Governor McCormick reports bad news at the 3rd territorial legislature at Prescott. The territory has a population of 5,526 and no stagecoach line. The Apaches are on the warpath, and during the last year the territory only collected $355 in taxes. 
1873: U.S. Army hangs four Modoc Indians for the murder of a Civil War hero General Edward R. S. Canby. 
1878: Charles Earl Bowles, alias “Black Bart” robs a Wells Fargo stagecoach, 10 miles outside of Potter Valley, California. 
1879: Troops at Milk Creek, Colorado Territory are relieved by a regiment of black cavalrymen led by Captain Francis Dodge. 
1879: The newspaper The Nugget begins publication in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. 
1880: President Hayes meets with an Indian Chief in Maricopa, Arizona Territory. 
1885: Soapy Smith is arrested for assault on a victim of one of his games in Denver, Colorado
1891: Soapy Smith and 3 of his men attack and destroy the office of the Glasson Detective Agency in Denver, Colorado
1893: The motor-driven vacuum cleaner is patented by J. S. Thurman. 
1894: Soapy Smith officiates as timekeeper during a boxing match in Denver
1900: Tom Horn shoots and kills Isom Dart, a black cowboy in Routt County, Wyoming, who had been accused of rustling cows. 
1901: The Victor Talking Machine Company is incorporated. After a merger with Radio Corporation of America the company becomes RCA-Victor.