February 28, 2013

Soapy Smith jailed. May 12, 1885.

Denver Tribune-Republican
May 13, 1885
"Soapy" Smith Jailed
(Jeff Smith collection)
(Click image to enlarge)

oapy Smith jailed.

On May 12, 1885 Soapy Smith swindled a Denver resident named Frank or J. Brockman. The victim was successful in having Soapy Jeff arrested for refusing to return the money lost. The Rocky Mountain News reported the incident.

An itinerant soap vendor, who sells prize packages of soap and who goes by the name of “Soapy” Smith, was arrested yesterday on complaint of a citizen who charges him with swindling. It appears that the citizen [J. Brockman] bought $30 worth of soap, under the impression, whether given him by Smith or not does not clearly appear, that he would realize $100 in prizes from the soap packages. All the money he did find in the packages appears to have been $1. He therefore says he was soaped by Smith and demands satisfaction.

For the first time (on record), Jeff broke his rule against involving residents. Whether he did so deliberately or accidentally is not known. Also for the first time Jeff was identified in a News story as “Soapy” Smith. The Denver Tribune-Republican (see photos) also covered the arrest.

Denver Tribune-Republican
May 13, 1885
"Soapy" Smith Jailed
(Jeff Smith collection)
(Click image to enlarge)


He Is Charged With Swindling Frank
Brockman Out of $30.
"Soapy" Smith was arrested yesterday afternoon by Officer Barr, for a violation of the Lottery ordinance, on the complaint of J. Brockman, who charges that Smith swindled him out of $30.

Smith is a well-known character. His occupation is that of a soap peddler, and he usually takes up his stand at the corner of Holladay [Market] and Seventeenth streets, where he attracts a large crowd of people by selling small packages of soap for $1 each, some of the packages containing bills ranging in value from $1 to $50, but the majority of the packages contain nothing but the small piece of soap

Brockman, it is stated, spent $30 for soap in trying to capture one of the large prizes, but as he only got $1 in return he had the peddler arrested for swindling him. Smith does business under a license issued to him by the city.

Thirty-dollars may not seem like much today, but using an inflation calculator $30 in 1885 is the equivalent of $986.66. The arresting officer, Henry W. Barr, could not prove Jeff had actually swindled Brockman, so he arrested Jeff for being in violation of the city lottery ordinance and had him held in jail pending receipt of $500 bond. The following day John P. Kinneavy, saloon entrepreneur and Jeff’s friend, posted bail. Records show that time and again Kinneavy would come to Jeff’s aid. At the trial on the lottery charge, attorney Judge Miller represented Jeff and was able to get him off with a fine.

Smith claims that he does not pretend that everyone can be lucky and was very indignant when Judge Barnum fined him $25.00. He gave notice that he would appeal the case.

You may wonder how I obtained an original newspaper? Soapy himself saved this wonderful piece of old west history, and even bracketed the story with pencil in his own hand. The paper was then placed in his personal "scrapbook" and handed down from generation to generation. 

J. Brockman (victim): page 95-96.

"Jeff was a self-taught reader of human nature, and he used his knowledge and criminal skill to exploit the greed and dishonesty of his victims. He knew as soon as he set eyes on a man whether or not he could be 'played.'"
— Jeff Smith, Alias Soapy Smith, Introduction.


1827: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad becomes the first railroad incorporated for commercial transportation of people and freight.
1844: Several people are killed aboard the USS Princeton when a 12-inch gun explodes.
1847: Colonel Alexander Doniphan and his Missouri Mounted Volunteers ride to victory at the Battle of Sacramento, California during the Mexican-American War.
1849: The steamship California arrives in San Francisco, California carrying the first gold stampeders. The ship left New York Harbor on October 6, 1848 via Cape Horn, making the trip in four months, 21-days.
1854: Slavery opponents create a new political party, calling it the Republican Party, in Ripon, Wisconsin.
1858: The first U.S. troops arrive at Fort Abercrombie in Dakota Territory, present day North Dakota.
1861: The territories of Colorado and Nevada are organized.
1869: Famed gunman, James Butler Hickok quits his job as an Army scout in Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory.
1883: The first vaudeville theater opens.
1885: American Telephone and Telegraph (A.T. and T.) is incorporated. The company provides long distance service for American Bell.
1893: Edward G. Acheson obtains a patent for Carborundum.
1899: Jesse Edwards James, son of the deceased late outlaw Jesse James, is tried and acquitted of charges that he led a gang that robbed a train near Leeds, Missouri on September 23, 1898.
1900: Bob Lee, a cousin of the outlaw Harvey Logan, is arrested in Cripple Creek, Colorado on suspicion of robbing the Union Pacific train at Wilcox, Wyoming the previous year. Lee is convicted.
1911: Thomas A. Edison, Incorporated is organized.

February 24, 2013

A lady inside Soapy Smith's saloon?

Soapy Smith at his bar
inside Jeff Smith's Parlor
Yellow arrow points to a possible female
(Click image to enlarge)

erry Hazelet, a long-time friend, sent me the above picture of a postcard in his collection and sees something very interesting that everyone seems to have missed.

Jerry writes,

A while back, I sent you a copy of a photo postcard that I purchased last summer at a show. This image differs slightly from the one you had in your book. In addition to the different text, an image of a possible woman's silhouette can be seen just over Soapy's left shoulder and behind.  Let me know what you think.

Here's my response to Jerry:

Hi, Jerry.

From your email it sounds like I apparently did not answer your question about your postcard in the past? I always make it a point to answer my emails so I apologize if I did not, or it got lost in cyber space. Thanks for asking a second time! Your image and the one in my book are the same, that I can see. Everyone is in the exact same positions right down to their hands. The text is different probably because another photographer "stole" it, which was common among the Skagway photographers. Reverend John Sinclair took most of the early photographs of Soapy but did not sign his name to them. He sold most of them before leaving and other photographers put their names on them. Only in recent years since his diary and papers were donated to a library in Victoria, BC., are we learning which ones were actually his. With lighter contrast I do see what appears to be a woman sitting in Soapy's office (that small room). That will make a very interesting post, thank you!

There was at least one woman in Skagway that had a criminal association to Soapy. That was Violet "Vie" Tarpy. She is the only Soap Gang member who refused to be "deported" with the rest of the Soap Gang.

Tarpy, Violet, p. 573
*There were three photographs of Soapy at his bar inside Jeff Smith's Parlor. All three are published together for comparison in my book.

"OK, so Pop Haydn recommends "Alias Soapy Smith" I buy it. The service was fantastic, but here is the problem I start reading it three days ago and have been up late every night since reading it. This is a real treasure and so far I can't get over the pain staking research that has gone into this book. Here I go for another sleepless night! So fascinating!"
— Trent Tinney


1803: The U.S. Supreme Court rules itself to be the final interpreter of all constitutional issues.
1835: Siwinowe Kesibwi (The Shawnee Sun) is issued as the first Indian language monthly publication in the U.S.
1836: During the Siege of the Alamo (Texas Revolution) Lieutenant Colonel William Travis renewed his pleas for help in writing. His letter said "To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World.... I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch…. I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or death!" 3,000 Mexican soldiers assault the Alamo, with its 182 Texan defenders, for 13 days before being victorious.
1839: William Otis receives a patent for the steam shovel.
1857: The first perforated postage stamps see usage.
1863: Arizona becomes a territory, comprising half of New Mexico Territory.
1868: The first use of floats in a parade began in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
1868: The House of Representatives impeaches President Andrew Johnson due to his attempt to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The Senate later acquits Johnson.
1878: Outlaw Sam Bass and his gang rob the Houston and Texas Central train at Allen station, Texas.
1900: New York City begins work on the first rapid transit tunnel. The tunnel would link Manhattan and Brooklyn.
1903: The U.S. leases land in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a naval base.

February 21, 2013

Were John and Frank Clancy partners of Soapy Smith?

(Click image to enlarge)

e sure to catch my latest examination post on the blog "That Fiend in Hell:" A comprehensive study. It is entitled Clancys as partners of Soapy Smith and revolves around author Cathy Spudes claim that John and Frank Clancy were not really partners of Soapy, but rather merely rented the building that housed Jeff Smith's Parlor to him. It's an interesting look at the details of this business/criminal association. I'd love to hear what you think?

"Some the most clueless people I have met had P(iled) H(igher) and D(eeper) behind their name so academia is a poor substitute for experience. I was satisfied with MS (more of the same) and BS."
— Ken Cleghorn


1842: John J. Greenough patents the sewing machine.
1858: The first electric burglar alarm is installed in Boston, Massachusetts.
1862: Texas Rangers fighting for the Confederacy win a victory in the Battle of Val Verde, New Mexico Territory.
1866: Lucy B. Hobbs becomes the first woman to graduate from a dental school, the College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1874: The Oakland Daily Tribune begins publication in Oakland, California.
1878: The first telephone directory in the U.S. is distributed to residents in New Haven, Connecticut. It is a single page of fifty names.
1896: Judge Roy Bean hosts the Maher-Fitzsimmons heavyweight boxing championship on an island in the Rio Grande, Texas.
1900: The U.S. government gives a full military funeral to chief Washakie, one of the few Indian chiefs who never warred against white settlers.

February 19, 2013

Friend, historian Leland Feitz passed away.

Leland Feitz sits in his apartment living room decorated
with paintings of Cripple Creek at the Cheyenne Place
Retirement Center. November 1, 2012. 

(Photo by Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette file)

I lost a longtime friend on February 10, 2013. Leland Feitz was a longtime historian focusing on Southern Colorado. My father and I cherished his books on Creede and Soapy Smith. In 1985 I traveled to Colorado and had the great pleasure of meeting Leland. He was a great historian. I am grateful and honored to have been among those he called friend.

To Mr. Jeff Smith:

I’m sorry to tell you of the death of our friend Leland Feitz, the evening of Sunday Feb. 10, here in the Springs. Am enclosing below the link to the Colorado Springs Gazette article of February 13, outlining some of his life and legacy. Leland would have been 89 next month, on St. Patrick’s Day.

I discovered correspondence from 1985 in his papers yesterday and learned of your friendship. This morning I found your website.

Leland had been diagnosed Saturday evening in the ER with pneumonia. This came after a day of difficulty breathing, at Cheyenne Place Retirement Home, where he had been living for the last eight months. When we arrived at the ER, Leland was actually doing pretty well and was in good spirits while various tests were being done.

We stayed with him there for about 3 hours, wanting to be with him until he was admitted to a room in the hospital (Penrose Main), and got into bed. He was able to walk into the room by himself.

When I saw him again Sunday morning, he was tired from “not much sleep” as is usual in a busy hospital. I left him after an hour or so, and he seemed fine, smiling and talking, in good humor. The doctor agreed that he should stay another day, to get up and around so they could see if he was okay to go home maybe the next day. When I left, I fully expected to see him again Monday. But it was not to be. He died peacefully in no pain that Sunday evening, shortly after 7 P.M.

Leland left specific instructions for cremation, to be placed next to his wife Evelyn at Memorial Gardens, and for no funeral or memorial services.

Again, I am just writing to share in the loss of a friend, a wonderful gentleman and writer of The West.

We have wonderful memories -- and I’m grateful for that.

Loyal Campbell

Jeff Smith and Leland Feitz in his office 1985

Dear, Loyal.

Thank you so very much for letting me know of Leland's passing. My sincere condolences to you and the family.

I prize his books on Soapy and Creede. Soapy Smith's Creede and A Quick History of Creede are listed proudly in the reference works of my own book Alias Soapy Smith. My father was the one who introduced them to me and they greatly influenced the way I approach and write about history. In 1985 I planned a two week trip to Colorado for research. Many of the towns were one day stops but when I found out Leland was in Cripple Creek I booked a hotel and stayed a few days so I could spend some time with him. He took me to where Gillette once stood, and even hiked up the hills to find the spots where the photographers took their pictures in the 1890s. I now have some great then and now photographs that I have shown many times since.

I attached a few photographs I thought you might enjoy seeing. On my 1985 trip I brought the copies of his books to sign. The first picture is him at his desk in the Cripple Creek museum. I'm standing over him watching him sign the books. I'm so glad I had the picture taken. The other picture is one of the "then and now" photos I made from one of the pictures I took during Leland's tour of Gillette. That was a wonderful time and Leland Feitz was a wonderful historian.

Leland Feitz
March 1, 2012

Leland Feitz: page 10.

"We have lost our storyteller. The stories won’t be coming anymore."
—Loyal Campbell, a long-time friend

February 18, 2013

Soapy Smith: Number 1 outlaw in Alaska!

oapy Smith wins first place in a list of Top 10: Alaska's Most Wanted Criminals

"We die twice, the first time when our hearts cease to beat; the second time when our stories cease to be told."
― Gay Mathis


1685: Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle established Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay, and form the basis for France's claim to Texas.
1735: Flora (aka Hob in the Well) is the first opera performed in America (presented in Charleston, South Carolina).
1841: The first continuous filibuster in the U.S. Senate begins. It ended March 11th.
1859: The Eldorado is the first hotel to open in Denver, Colorado Territory.
1861: The Texas state convention votes to secede from the Union. Sam Houston refuses to swear allegiance to the Confederacy.
1861: Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as President of the Confederate States.
1864: Horse thieves in Nevada Territory led by John Daly kill William Johnson for killing Jim Sears, also a horse thief.
1870: The Kansas Pacific railroad reaches Arapahoe, Colorado Territory.
1876: the U.S. Secretary of the Interior turns over the responsibility of Sitting Bull and his followers to the War Department after they failed to report to their reservation.
1878: John Henry Tunstall, an English-born rancher, is shot and killed in Lincoln County, New Mexico. Tunstall’s men, including a young man who came to be known as the outlaw Billy the Kid, vowed revenge thus starting the Lincoln County War.
1885: Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published in the U.S.
1892: Soapy Smith opens the Orleans Club (saloon-gaming house) in Creede, Colorado.
1893: Soapy Smith collects funds for the family of Denver policeman, Sam Inman, who had committed suicide.

February 16, 2013

Soapy Smith, boss of a criminal organization?

ecently on a history discussion board the difference between nineteenth century criminal gangs and criminal organizations was debated.

The definition of a criminal gang is basically a group or band of people acting together for criminal ends. The definition of a criminal organization is a little more complex. I am relating to clans of the nineteenth century which did not have the technology of later period Mafia style syndicates to become national and even international outfits that naturally effected size differences between the earlier and later time periods. Those differences leave many people believing that the old west criminal associations are not properly defined as criminal organizations but I disagree.

According to the definition found on the Legal Dictionary, "Modern organized criminal enterprises make money by specializing in a variety of crimes, including extortion, blackmail, gambling, loan-sharking, political corruption, and the manufacture and sale of illicit narcotics." Narcotics were not illegal in the nineteenth century so there was no interest by criminals to sell them, however, the other enterprises were sold in abundance by the Soapy Smith organization.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines criminal organization as any group having some manner of a formalized structure and whose primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities. Such groups maintain their position through the use of actual or threatened violence, corrupt public officials, graft, or extortion, and generally have a significant impact on the people in their locales, region, or the country as a whole.

The justice system defines a criminal organization as having the following characteristics (among others):
  • Exclusive membership - need formal admittance to join.
  • Oath of silence taken by members, punishable by death if broken.
The Soap Gang definitely had an oath of silence but I can't be sure what sort of punishment was administered to those who broke the oath mainly because there is only one example I can think of, and that was for a con man who used Soapy's name as his own.  The communication between Soapy and this man (Green) was done via letters by mail so it is unknown what form of punishment would have been dealt.
  • Monopolistic intent - seeks control of an industry or business thru violence (motivated by money, profit).
  • Members have common ethnic or familial background (related to each other).
This is a point for later period organizations such as the Italian mobs of the early and mid twentieth century. Soapy did involve his brother and brother-in-law. Perhaps just as tight as family, the members of the Soap Gang kept close ties to one another even after they moved away. Letters in my collection support this.
  • Organization is self-perpetuating (passing the baton to younger members, new recruits).
  • Protected by police, lawyers, and courts. Intimidation and bribery of law enforcement/judicial officials as well as general population.
  • Some public support due to profit motive/self-preservation.

Considering all of the above it is my opinion that Soapy Smith and the Soap Gang were definitely a criminal organization. What say you?

"There was hardly a straight [honest] game in the city, and bunco steerers were deployed at the railroad depot and at hotels to steer strangers against the dishonest houses. If the victim squealed, police arrested the victim, then provided evidence to charge him as drunk and disorderly."
——Governor Davis Waite, Colorado


1741: Benjamin Franklin publishes America’s second magazine The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle.
1804: After pirates seize U.S. Navy frigate Philadelphia, Lt. Stephen Decatur leads a raid to burn the ship.
1857: The National Deaf Mute College (later renamed Gallaudet College), in Washington, DC is incorporated. It is the first school in the world for advanced education of the deaf.
1857: Fort Des Moines in officially becomes Des Moines, Iowa.
1862: Around 14,000 Confederate soldiers surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the U.S. Civil War at Fort Donelson, Tennessee.
1868: The Jolly Corks organization in New York City changes its name to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE).
1878: The silver dollar becomes U.S. legal tender.
1881: Outlaw Dave Rudabaugh is sentenced to 99 years for stealing the U.S. Mail after pleading guilty in New Mexico Territory.
1883: Ladies Home Journal begins publication.
1898: Sylvester Scovel of The World distinguishes himself with tireless coverage of the Maine disaster and its aftermath. He becomes a friend of Soapy Smith while living in Skagway, Alaska.

February 14, 2013

King Meets Soapy Smith

he 1930s-40s radio series show Challenge of the Yukon explored the adventures of Sergeant William Preston of the North-West Mounted Police and his lead sled dog, Yukon King, as they fought evildoers in the Northern wilderness during the Klondike gold rush. The show had at least one episode involving Soapy Smith. The title is King Meets Soapy Smith and it aired March 23, 1944. In November 1951 the show changed it's name to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and in 1955 it was made into a TV show. The show ended in 1958 and it is not known at this time if Soapy's character was used in any of the those episodes.

The episodes are hard to come by as many did not survive the passage of time. Lucky for us King Meets Soapy Smith is one of the shows that survived. For your listening pleasure of radio days long gone, hear once again Sergeant Preston's mighty catch phrase "On, King! On, you huskies!"

King Meets Soapy Smith

To learn more about Challenge of the Yukon click here.

"Hi Jeff!
I just got your book 4 days ago, still in the first chapter, its very interesting so far, I didn't know there was a photo around of Soapy as a child [very historic]. It's amazing how writers and historians alike get important facts mixed up! In your book there is a photo in which a bunch of Soapy's fellows are standing in a row detained and ready for being shipped out of skagway, and the one fellow in the center of the line wearing a black wide brimmed hat, who looks a bit like Soapy, has very often been described as being your grandfather, such as in the Time-Life series of books ..of alaskans. I always thought he was Soapy, but now I know who he is! the book is great so far, and I'm impressed with the indexes and refrences."
—Clyde Vongrad


1778: The United States flag (“stars and stripes”) is carried to a foreign port, in France, for the first time, flown aboard the American ship Ranger.
1803: Moses Coats receives the patent on the apple pare device.
1849: The first photograph of a U.S. President, James Polk, is taken while in office by Matthew Brady in New York City.
1854: Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson receive the patent for the repeating revolver (The Volcanic).
1859: Oregon is admitted to the Union as the 33rd state.
1862: New Mexico and Arizona Territories are admitted into the Confederacy as territories.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell files a patent for the telephone. It is officially issued on March 7, 1876.
1882: Samuel “Doc” Cummings is shot and killed by Jim Manning at the Coliseum Variety Theatre. Drinking heavily, Cummings pulled a gun on Manning, but Manning and bartender David King were able to pull their revolvers and shoot first. Cummings staggered out of the saloon and died.
1884: Theodore Roosevelt's wife and mother both die within a few hours of each other.
1884: Soapy Smith is arrested in San Francisco for operating the prize package soap sell racket.
1889: Oranges from Los Angeles, California are shipped back east for the first time.
1899: The U.S. Congress approves voting machines for use in federal elections.
1903: The U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor is established.
1904: The "Missouri Kid" is captured in Kansas.
1912: The first diesel engine submarine is commissioned in Groton, Connecticut.
1912: Arizona is admitted to the Union as the 48th state.