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.

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