April 9, 2013

Was the research for Alias Soapy Smith unscholarly and lazy?

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y ninth, and far from last, post on the blog, Examining "That Fiend in Hell:" Soapy Smith in Legend looks into the accusation that my research for my book Alias Soapy Smith was unscholarly and lazy. You can also find it online here.

Throughout That Fiend in Hell, author Cathy Spude assails my research as unscholarly and at times implies that I was lazy in its conduct. Emphasized is the assumption that the bulk of my research was performed online, but as explained in the preface of my book, that was far from the case. Newspaper research was especially difficult in 1985 when I began the task as there were no online collections that allowed one to simply to open a screen and type in a key search word. My early research took me to numerous libraries, archives, and museums in Alaska, Colorado, and Washington to view microfilm unavailable through inter-library loan. On page 192 of her book Spude assumes and implies that I accessed Alaska newspapers online, but as she researched the same Alaska newspapers I did, she is fully aware that, even now, these newspapers are not available online. Further, she assumes I accessed other sources for quotation from these newspapers. This is not the case. Every quotation in my book that is from Alaska newspapers in Skagway for 1897-98 comes from photocopies in my possession from library-held microfilm of those newspapers, cranked through a "reader" page by page.

In my home state I ordered microfilm rolls, one at a time, for two decades. As microfilm has no search capability or index, thousands of hours were invested in scouring each of the many reels, reading page-by-page, day-by-day, year-by-year, researching my subject and those in his circle in newspapers of that time and place. I was extremely successful in finding and publishing information that otherwise might never have been uncovered and explored because much of it lay buried until I found it, assembled it, gave it interpretive context, and published it in 2009. "Reading upwards of 90,000 pages took years. It was a daunting task but proved a goldmine of information not known to have been republished anywhere...." (Alias Soapy Smith p. 6).

"People have a tendency to make things turn out the way they want them, not necessarily as they are. They find ways of making the evidence tell them what they want it to mean."
— Miss Pierce, English 211 professor


1682: Robert La Salle claims the lower Mississippi River and all lands that touch it for France.
1833: Peterborough, New Hampshire opens the first municipally supported public library in the U.S.
1865: Confederate General Lee surrenders, effectively ending the Civil War, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The four year war claimed 360,000 Union lives and 260,000 Confederate for a total of 620,000 lives lost.
1866: The Civil Rights Bill passes over President Andrew Johnson's veto.
1867: The Senate ratifies a treaty with Russia that includes the purchases of the District of Alaska for 7.2 million dollars.
1870: The American Anti-Slavery Society is dissolved.
1872: S. R. Percy receives a patent for dried milk.
1878: Marshal Ed Masterson is killed in Dodge City, Kansas by Jack Wagner at the Lady Gay Dance Hall. His brother Bat was a short distance away and shot Jack Wagner and Alf Walker. Wagner died the following day and Walker died of his wounds about one month later.
1892: Nate Champion is shot dead at the K.C. ranch near Buffalo, Wyoming when a posse of hired gunmen, led by Frank Canton, Tom Smith and Frank Wolcott who had been hired to by cattlemen to wipe out the settlers during the Johnson County War.
1892: Parson Tom Uzzell has $75 and his pants stolen in Creede, Colorado. Soapy Smith helps him get his money back.
1892: McGinty the petrified man is “discovered” and then purchased by Soapy Smith in Creede, Colorado.
1892: Soap Gang member, Cornelius “Con Sullivan” Sullivan is elected to the Creede, Colorado city council.
1898: John Addison Porter, Secretary to President McKinley, writes to Soapy Smith acknowledging the minutes and letter from the Skagway Military Company. Soapy hangs this letter on the wall in Jeff Smith’s Parlor.

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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