February 9, 2013

Was Jeff Smith's Parlor in the plural?

Jeff. Smith's Parlor annex?
Royal British Columbia Museum
archives: ZZ-95359

here has always been speculation as to the exact number of legal and illegal businesses Soapy actually owned and operated in Skagway, Alaska. In Denver and Creede, Colorado he operated several saloons and gambling rooms, as well as numerous side businesses including cigar stores, auction houses, and fake stock exchange firms. In the early days Soapy was often listed as the owner of his businesses but as his criminal empire and personal reputation grew he strategically began to remove his name from proprietorships, placing associates names in its place, in order to protect business profits and himself.

When Soapy made Skagway, Alaska his home the town was new and "wide open." The law was very lax so saloons and gambling flourished. By 1898 Soapy's name was well-known across the US. He must have known that sooner or later his reputation would catch up to him in Skagway. To offset this eventuality and to be successful he continued the method of keeping his name off most of his business transactions, especially the gambling houses. Soapy had made seemingly few changes in his business methods so there can be little doubt that he opened numerous and varies businesses around town, just as he had done in Denver and Creede, Colorado. He did so well in hiding his name from what he owned and operated that today there is little known about them. Much of what we know about Soapy's saloons in Denver is because of the Rocky Mountain News and their war with him. They published every bad thing they could get on him and his businesses. In Skagway there was no newspaper war against him. He surely paid the editors well to keep it that way. So we are left knowing little of what actually occurred there. The conditions in Skagway were perfect so I cannot imagine him not opening at the very least, one gambling house, and it seems likely he would have opened and controlled several.

Jeff. Smith's Parlor, sometimes referred to as Skagway's "real city hall," was much too small for gambling and photographs confirm that there were no gaming tables inside. The Parlor, with Soapy's birth name spread across the front facade in large letters, was not a gambling hall, nor was it much of a saloon. The Parlor was more Soapy's Skagway office, his podium to shine socially and politically. Next to the Parlor, to the east was a small one-story cabin of a building that had no business signage on it while Soapy operated the Parlor. I believe this was an annex to the Parlor and possible one of Soapy's gambling traps.

The newspaper ads for Jeff Smith's Parlor(s)
clearly indicate there were more than one.

There are no known records and but a few testaments that the annex was part of the Parlor business. John McCawley and Royal Pullen were newsboys in Skagway who witnessed first-hand some of the Soap Gang activity that involved the annex.
We kids selling newspapers on the street, we got to know all the men, and we would see them with some captured fellas…. They’d walk them up the street and take them to Soapy’s place. We’d start to follow to see what was going to happen. There would always be side men, and they would say, “You kids get on back, get out of the way, get away from here.” We were afraid to follow them up. They would take them up to Soapy Smith’s. He had a long building…. They had a barroom next to the street where they served the liquor. Next to that was a gambling room where they had five tables. Roulette and faro and different kinds of games. I wouldn’t remember now just what they all were.  —Alias Soapy Smith, page 479-80.

Next door was a small restaurant “in connection” with the Parlor. It was remembered by Royal Pullen, son of Skaguay Pioneer Harriet Pullen. He was ten years old in 1898 when he worked as a newsboy for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. In a tape-recorded interview with members of the Smith family, he described what he remembered of Jeff and one of his saloons, possibly Jeff Smith’s Parlor. 
It didn’t have anything very plush. … There were red curtains in the saloon, but not in the restaurant. There were just tables with oils cloth on them. … He had a little restaurant in there, and then the gambling hall and saloon was right next to it, and that’s where he entertained us newsboys. He had little tables. … I guess there must have been 25 or 30 of us news kids, and an oyster dinner was really something. He had a backroom that was his office, where they carried on. I was never allowed back in there. ... We were 10- and 11-year-old kids. They don’t allow you around. They’d say, “Sonny, go on, this is no place for you.” … He was a good guy as far as we were concerned. He liked us kids, and we liked Soapy. He wasn’t mean. There wasn’t anything about Soapy that was mean. He always would pay us. The boy who got to him first with the news from the states got a silver dollar because it took the papers anywhere from a week to two weeks to get there. Those old gamblers and panhandlers were really nice. I had a lot of friends amongst them, I really did. I might as well tell you that I had a lot of friends among the prostitutes too. Some of those were really fine women. They were really good friends.  — Alias Soapy Smith, page 483-84

Clancy's saloon also used the annex
Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

After Soapy's demise Frank Clancy took possession of Jeff Smith's Parlor. Photographs and an ad clearly show that the annex was a part of the Parlor at this time.

Clancy's saloon ad (also plural)
Skaguay News
September 23, 1898

"He had the reputation of being afraid of neither man nor devil. No one was ever more ready to draw his gun and fight to the death; death mattered little to him if while he lived none dared to dispute his courage and his readiness to do, dare and die."
— George T. Buffum,
Smith of Bear City and Other Frontier Sketches, 1906.


1825: No candidate received a majority of electoral votes so the House of Representatives elects John Quincy Adams president of the United States.
1836: David Crockett and the 14 Tennessee Mounted Volunteers ride into San Antonio, Texas.
1859: Texas Ranger Major John Ford engages the Mexican guerilla Cortina in battle that began when the Mexicans fired on the Rangers' steamboat the Ranchero. Ford landed the boat and with forty-five men attacked the Cortina stockade. Cortina was able to make his escape under cover of darkness on horseback.
1861: The Congress of the Confederate States of America elected Jefferson Davis as its president.
1864: Union General George Armstrong Custer marries Elizabeth Bacon in Monroe, Michigan.
1867: Nebraska becomes 37th US state.
1870: The United States National Weather Service is authorized by Congress.
1874: In Colorado Territory Ute Chief Ouray unsuccessfully dissuades the gold stampeders led by Alferd Packer from continuing their journey during a blizzard. He warned them that they had too few provisions and that their journey “would end in death.”
1877: Alexander McSween buys the Murphy store building Lincoln, New Mexico Territory to convert it into a house for his wife.
1884: Thomas Edison and Patrick Kenny file a patent application for a chemical recording stock quotation telegraph.
1892: Soapy Smith uses Denver prostitutes to convince lease holders to sign over 11 lots in Creede, Colorado to him.
1895: Volley Ball is invented by W.G. Morgan.
1895: The first college basketball game is played as Minnesota State School of Agriculture defeated the Porkers of Hamline College, 9-3.

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Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith