May 30, 2013

The prize package envelope sell racket on eBay

The prize package envelope sell racket
(Click image to enlarge)

he more things change, the more they stay the same. This old saying is especially true with human nature, which has not changed in a thousand years. The same old swindles Soapy Smith and his Soap Gang used to dupe the unwary with, are nearly as good today as they were 125-years ago. One might think that Soapy's prize package soap sell racket, in which he pretended to wrap money into a few packages of soap and auctioned them off one at a time, after mixing in wrapped cakes of soap containing no money. Rather than standing on a busy street corner as Soapy did in his day, the sharpers of today use technology to their advantage. I found four examples on eBay searching under the key words, "mystery envelope," and I'm certain I could find many more varieties of the same scam searching under different key words. The difference between Soapy and today's cons is that they are using envelops rather than soap bars.
      The photograph at the top of this post is located on eBay here. Following is the schtick used in that "sale."
That's right ladies and gentleman you are bidding on a mystery envelope This envelope is guaranteed to have an item inside it valued at least $5.00 USD. Could it be a rookie baseball card? a wrist watch? a joke book? a celebrity autograph? a gift card? a knife? Glassware? A Video Game? CASH????? Who ever wins the auction just message me what number of Envelope you wish to purchase. And if you happen to win a prize I will mail the prize first class Mail or if you happen to win Cash I will issue the cash by Paypal. Thanks and Best of luck. Buy it and find out! any questions please ask SHIPPING INFORMATION: Please contact me with any issues you have before leaving negative feedback. I am sure we can find a solution that would be acceptable for both parties. I offer shipping discounts on multiple item purchases. The buyer must notify the seller after the first item has ended that they have additional items they are bidding on for the discount to apply. I ship 1 day after payment has cleared. Shipping charges are based on U.S. delivery. No international shipping of fixed blade knives. Please remit payment within 3 days of auction close. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your purchase, please don't hesitate to email or contact me. Thank you for your interest.
 Trust me, you won't get anything of equal value of what you pay.

P.S. I sent the seller a link to this post to see if he/she cares to give their opinion. They are more than welcome to leave a comment below.

Oh! You can see me…. By the dawn’s early light; With red rings ‘round my eyes from gambling all night.

Victories – so proudly they hailed from the twilights first gleaming. Gave proof through the night, the “House” gave me a “creaming.”
— Postcard poem

MAR 30

1539: Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto lands in Florida with 600 soldiers to search for gold.
1783: The Pennsylvania Evening Post, the first daily newspaper in the U.S., is published by Benjamin Towner.
1848: W. G. Young patents the ice cream freezer.
1854: The U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas are established.
1865: The first recorded celebration of (later called Memorial Day) takes place.
1868: Decoration Day officially becomes Memorial Day (see “1865”).
1879: William Vanderbilt renames New York City's Gilmore’s Garden to Madison Square Garden.
1883: Twelve people in New York City are killed attempting to get off the Brooklyn Bridge when it was rumored that it was collapsing.
1883: Soapy Smith purchases a street vendors license to sell his prize package soap in Washington City, Iowa.
1889: The brassiere is invented.
1896: The first automobile accident occurres in New York City.
1903: the first motorcycle hill climb is held in Riverdale, New York.
1911: Ray Harroun wins the first Indianapolis Sweepstakes. The 500-mile auto race is later named the Indianapolis 500. Harroun's average speed was 74.6 miles per hour.

May 27, 2013

Soapy Smith Parlor museum restoration, Martin Itjen bus, part 22

"Martin Itjen" (Douglas Smith) and NPS Ranger Kari Rain
with Skaguay Alaska Street Car

(Click image to enlarge)

estoration of Jeff Smith's Parlor continues through the summer months. It was advertised in Skagway and on the Facebook page for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park that they would be bringing Martin Itjen's only remaining "street car" out of storage to parade it (very slowly) around town (May 16, 2013) for a good last look before it goes in for restoration. This may be the last time it is seen on the street before it is placed on permanent display next to the Parlor.
      Tour guide, Douglas Smith, went along with the "parade" portraying 'ole Martin Itjen himself. I would have loved to have been there but I was lucky enough to be a passenger in the "street car" in 1977 when George Rapuzzi drove my family in the July 4 parade.
      Numerous photographs were taken that day, and many can be seen on my Facebook page.
      Also, in this post, is the first look of the newly restored Parlor front. It is not to 1898 specifications as that front was changed in the early teens. What is seen today is the front as Martin Itjen made it. Note the "Jeff. Smith's Parlor." sign. There are two periods, one after "Jeff" and one after "Parlor." These are periods showing abbreviation. "Jeff." is the abbreviation for "Jefferson," and "Parlor." is the abbreviation for "Parlors," clearly indication Soapy had other parlors (saloons). One on-going problem I have is writing the name of his saloon properly. To do so, I have to write Jeff. Smith's Parlor. which certainly can confuse readers who see them as periods, stopping a sentence, rather than as periods, indicating abbreviations. I have decided to publish the name as "Jeff Smith's Parlor" to alleviate that possible confusion, even though it is not historically correct.   


(Click image to enlarge)
Link to purchase

Jeff. Smith's Parlor museum 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)
October 4, 2012 (Part 17)
December 6, 2012 (Part 18)
December 16, 2012 (Part 19)
March 11, 2013 (Part 20)
May 6, 2013 (Part 21)

"Jeff Smith's Parlor had his name in large letters across the front facade of the building. This was Soapy's personal podium, the place where he stood at the bar at shined as the "respected businessman, law abiding citizen, and patriot." I guess you could say that the false front extended into the inside of the Parlor as well. Old timers referred to the Parlor as 'the real city hall.'"
―Jeff Smith

MAY 27

1647: Achsah Young, of Windsor, Connecticut is executed for being a "witch." It was the first recorded execution of a "witch" in the colonies.
1668: Three colonists are expelled from Massachusetts for being Baptists.
1813: Americans capture Fort George in Canada.
1837: Famed lawman and gambler, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok is born in Troy Grove, Illinois.
1870: It is reported that the Indians who had attacked a Kansas Pacific construction crew new Kit Carson, Colorado Territory on May 13, 1870, crossed the Union Pacific tracks at Antelope, Wyoming Territory, with four cavalry companies in pursuit.
1873: Members of the outlaw James-Younger Gang rob the St. Genevive, Missouri Bank of $4,100.
1892: Soapy Smith advertises McGinty, the petrified man, in Denver, Colorado. A surviving photograph shows it is displayed in one of his auction houses.
1896: 255 people are killed in St. Louis, Missouri by a tornado.
1898: The White Pass & Yukon Railway Company arrives in Skagway, Alaska, in force to begin construction.
1901: The Edison Storage Battery Company is organized.
1907: The Bubonic Plague breaks out in San Francisco, California.

May 26, 2013

Book Review: “Lady Justice and the Cruise Ship Murders”

Robert Thornhill at Soapy's grave

hat if Soapy Smith hid the poke of gold his men stole from Klondike miner, John Douglas Stewart? What if it was never recovered after Soapy was killed and no one but one poet gang member knew where it was hidden? What if a modern day researcher figured out where the gold was hidden and wanted to see that Stewart's descendants were the ones to uncover it? Stewart's approximately 159 ounces of gold would be worth about $221,437.71 today, which is enough for many unscrupulous humans to consider robbing and even murder to obtain that gold.
      Lady Justice and the Cruise Ship Murders by Robert Thornhill is Episode #11 of the Lady Justice series, an ongoing collection of comedy/mystery stories spawned in the creative mind of the author.
      There you have the fast-paced, nail-biting, action-packed mystery that will interest Soapy Smith fans and "have you on the edge of your seat one minute and laughing out loud the next." An easy read, with interweaving story lines that do not confuse the reader or interrupt the story. Mystery, comedy, Alaskan history and explanatory photographs.

Book cover

      A couple, Ox and Judy, are on a honeymoon cruise with tag-along friends, Walt and Maggie, when two other passengers are murdered. The murders are linked to a the secret meeting between John Stewart's descendants and an author who believes he knows where the gold is hidden. The Stewarts' were the intended murder victims but a change of their room aboard the ship saved their lives. Once the crooks realized they murdered the wrong couple the race was on to murder the right couple before they reached Skagway, Alaska and the gold. The Stewarts' with the help of their new found friends, who thankfully are peace officers, spend the rest of the cruise eluding the modern day thieves intent on possessing the gold at any cost.
      I own a signed copy that now resides proudly along with Soapy Smith collection of books.

Lady Justice and the Cruise Ship Murders
Number of pages: 240
Publish date: October 18, 2012
Publisher: Createspace
ISBN: 1480130559 (ISBN13: 9781480130555)


"Thou shall not kill…without a good alibi."
— Keith C. Cobb, Exceptions to the Rules.

MAY 26

1647: A law bans Catholic priests from the colony of Massachusetts.
1736: The British and Chickasaw Indians defeat the French at the Battle of Ackia.
1835: A resolution is passed in Congress stating that they have no authority over state slavery laws.
1836: The House of Representatives adopt what has been called the “gag rule.”
1853: Famed gunman John Wesley Hardin is born in Bonham, Texas.
1863: Miners led by Bill Fairweather discover gold in Alder Gulch, Idaho Territory, later renamed Virginia City.
1864: Montana Territory is created from a part of Idaho Territory.
1865: Arrangements are made in New Orleans for the surrender of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi.
1868: President Andrew Johnson is acquitted, by one vote, of all charges in his impeachment trial.
1874: While celebrating his 21st birthday, John Wesley Hardin shoots and kills Comanche County Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in Comanche, Texas. Inside a saloon Webb aimed his gun at Hardin but Bud Dixon, shouted a warning to Hardin who turned about and fired his own gun. Webb wounded Hardin in the side, before receiving a bullet to the head.
1883: Soapy purchases a street vendors license in Nebraska City, Nebraska to sell his prize package soap.
1888: Recently discharged doorman of the U.S. House of Representatives and the man who shot John Wilkes Booth, Boston Corbett, escapes from the insane asylum in Topeka, Kansas, where he has resided for the last 15 months.
1893: Bill Doolin and his outlaw gang rob a train near Cimarron, Kansas.
1896: The Dow Jones Industrial Average appears for the first time in the Wall Street Journal.
1900: Harvey Logan, and Will Carver, of the outlaw Wild Bunch gang, ambush and kill Sheriff Jesse Tyler and cattleman Sam Jenkins 40 miles from Thompson Springs, Utah.

May 25, 2013

Reviews and comments made about the book, That Fiend in Hell: Soapy Smith in Legend.

(Click image to enlarge)

 difference is apparent between the book review comments made by those who have not researched Soapy Smith and those who have.
      Cathy Spude's website contains seven comments about That Fiend in Hell by various writers, researchers, and publishers. Of these, only William H. Hunt is known to have published anything about Soapy Smith in Alaska (Chapter 5, "Vigilantes," Distant Justice: Policing the Alaskan Frontier, 1987). Unfortunately, Hunt's 16-page chapter contains the common, erroneous information put forth by previous authors who were willing to pass along hearsay and fiction about Soapy Smith. My aim in addressing this matter is not to belittle those who have written so glowingly of Cathy Spude's book but to point out that these writers have not been serious researchers about the life of Soapy Smith and his immediate environment. For this reason, their glowing comments about That Fiend in Hell tend more toward friendly flattery than authoritative comment.
      The exception is William H. Hunt. He points to himself as one who made errors in representation and who learned from Cathy Spude's book. Subsequently he also read my biography and wrote that he appreciated my research and its presentation (see comment, top right column).
      A contrast to the statements addressed above about That Fiend in Hell comes from M. J. Kirchoff, twice named Alaska Historian of the Year and author of the new book Dyea, Alaska. It appears in Skagway Stories, a blog devoted to the history and people of Skagway, Alaska. Provided below is this blog post in full, with Mr. Kirchoff's "comment" emphasized.

Yesterday I attended a lecture at the National Park Service by M. J. Kirchhoff on violence on the trails and the Soapy story. There was also a critical review of Spude’s book which many agreed had many false assumptions and mistakes. Mark agreed that Jeff Smith’s book on Soapy is a very good reference for students and historians.
      Mark’s new book is called Dyea, Alaska: The Rise and Fall of a Klondike Gold Rush Town, printed in 2012 and available at the Skagway News Depot in Skagway. I leafed through it and was amazed at the incredible collection of historic photos of Dyea that have never been published before. Also at their clarity and good descriptions. Here is Michael Gates description: 'Kirchhoff is a widely respected historian whose previous works include an excellent biography of Jack Dalton as well as Clondyke: The First Year of the Rush… Kirchhoff tackles the overlooked aspects of Alaska and Yukon history and fills in the gaps in our understanding of the North…. Kirchhoff’s book charts the rapid decline of Dyea, and offers an explanation for the eventual death of this once bustling community, but you will have to read the book to learn the answer....
      All writers and researchers appreciate friendly comments about their work and tend to publish them in promotions. Sometimes, though, the comments seem not so friendly, and the best of these are the ones that point out the good and the not so good, such as mistakes or perceived failings. When only the comments of those less than fully qualified are presented, all highly flattering, the effect tends more toward puffery than honest comment. In the pursuit of truth, good can come from comments that also find fault. They help to adjust a work and make better work possible.
      I guess it all boils down to this: when a work is published, its life is not over. It keeps on living the life that has been given it by its creator. Glowing comments from those not so qualified to evaluate do not establish or preserve the quality of a work. Only its ability to present truths that last over time can do that.


"Lawlessness was rampant, but it did not touch us. The thugs lay in wait for the men with pokes from the “inside.” To the great Cheechako army, they gave little heed. They were captained by one Smith, known as “Soapy,” whom I had the fortune to meet. He was a pleasant-appearing, man, and no one would have taken him for a desperado, a killer of men."
— Robert Service, The Trail of ’98

MAY 25

1787: The Constitutional convention opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1844: The gasoline engine is patented by Stuart Perry.
1844: The first telegraphed news dispatch, sent from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland appears in the Baltimore Patriot.
1858: The first shipload of gold miners from California arrives in Victoria, British Columbia.
1865: Ten woodcutters from the steamboat Cutter on the Maruias River, Montana Territory are killed by Indians.
1869: Six settlers are killed by Indians in Jewell County, Kansas.
1883: Bad man, Harris Austin, shoots and kills Thomas Elliott for stealing whiskey in the Chickasaw Nation (present day Oklahoma). Austin escapes and remains at large until Deputy Marshal Carr tracked him down in April 1889. He was hung in Fort Smith, Arkansas on January 16, 1890.
1895: James Lee publishes Gold in America: A Practical Manual.

May 23, 2013

Soapy Smith's grave marker was stolen in 1908.

Soapy Smith's final resting place
The first of five grave markers
placed over the grave
(courtesy of  Dickey Family Collection)

arl Gurcke published a post entitled, A Very Brief History of Skagway Tourism, on Golden Nuggets, the official blog for the Klondike gold rush National Historic Park. It is a brief history of Skagway tourism.
      Included in the story is the contents of the newspaper article which most likely explains what happened to the first marker on Soapy Smith's grave, and the date it went missing. 

The following is from The Daily Alaskan, July 20, 1908

The headstone over the grave of "Soapy" Smith has been carried away—stolen. Jack Keller visited the grave yesterday and only a hole in the ground remained where he had seen the headstone at a visit on Wednesday last... The head piece was a simple wooden slab bearing the inscription: Jefferson R. Smith, aged 38. Died July 8, 1898. The grave is at the south edge of the Skagway burying ground and is largely overgrown with shrubbery. There has been a constant stream of visitors to the place all spring and summer evidencing the interest felt in the outlaw and the tragedy of his taking off. That there should be a vandal so foolish as to steal a gravestone that could not be shown to another without stamping the owner as a ghoulish vandal—that is to say thief—is one of the queer things we hear of as we travel the trail.
      The marker was stolen sometime between July 15-20, 1908. Key to the story is that the marker removal left a hole (left there when pulling the marker out of the ground).  The second grave marker (in my possession) is very roughly broken up along the bottom, meaning that it did not come out of the ground very easily. I am betting the bottom portion of the 2nd marker was left in the ground, not leaving "a hole" as the one reported in the newspaper article did. It is possible that the marker still exists, somewhere in someone's private collection, probably by a collector who has no idea who Jefferson Randolph Smith is.
      All of Soapy's grave markers, and their known histories can be viewed on the main website (which is currently being revamped) here.

Soapy Smith's grave markersNovember 21, 2008
June 20, 2009
September 3, 2009
May 21, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 6, 2012
October 9, 2012
March 6, 2013

"There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious,
excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy."
—— Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

MAY 23

1785: Benjamin Franklin writes in a letter that he has invented bifocals.
1788: South Carolina becomes the eighth state to ratify U.S. Constitution.
1827: The first nursery school in the U.S. is established in New York City.
1846: Arabella Mansfield (Belle Aurelia Babb) is born. She is the first woman in the U.S. to pass the bar exam, though she never used her law degree.
1867: The outlaw James Gang robs the Hughs and Mason Bank in Richmond, Missouri of $4,000 in gold. The town’s mayor, the jailer and his son are killed in the process as other men are broken out of jail.
1868: Kit Carson dies during an operation in Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, at age 59.
1872: The outlaw James-Younger gang robs a bank in Genevieve, Missouri of $4,000.
1873: The Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario passes a bill creating the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP); a military police like Royal Irish Constabulary, to patrol the border and to keep peace between Indians and traders. In 1920 they are merged with the Dominion Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). During the Klondike gold Rush they did their best to keep Soapy Smith and the Soap Gang out of Canada.
1876: Boston’s Joe Borden pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the National League.
1879: The first U.S. veterinary school is established by Iowa State University.
1882: Convicted murderer, Jesse Evans, of Lincoln County War fame escapes while on a prison work exchange program and is never heard from again.
1895: The New York Public Library is created.
1900: Civil War hero Sergeant William Carney becomes the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor, 37 years after the Battle of Fort Wagner.
1901: American forces capture Filipino rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo.

May 14, 2013

Soapy Smith and the Brackett Wagon Road, Skagway, Alaska, 1898

"The Light of Other Days"
A gang of thimble riggers working a dupe
"Thimble rigging" is the shell and pea game, with thimbles
(Credit: friend Tom Frank)

(Click image to enlarge)

uthor Cathy Spude shared a gem from her husband's files.

Cathy writes,
Reading a little farther, I found another article that named Soapy. It is date-lined September 3, and published September 14 [1897]. It is also in the New York World, probably written by Scovel. He worked with a committee of Skagway citizens who were trying to improve the Skagway Trail before Brackett obtained the rights and took over the improvements and construction. This article lists the names of all the businesses and individuals who donated the $1,173 they had raised to date to pay workers on the trail. I list the donors below, alphabetized:

Alaska Southern Wharf Company
Battery and Parks
Blockett and White
Dalby and Grant
Fleming and Hornsby
Jackson and Hotchkiss
Klondike Saloon
Klondike Trading Company
The Lighter Company
Manley and Hill
McClellan, A. D. and Co.
Miller and Brogan
Presnall and Sawyer
Richit and Miller
Schmidt, C. and Co.
Sherry and Co.
Skaguay Wharf Company
Troy Laundry
Yukon Bakery

Bakers, Jack
Bauer, H. A.
Bennett, C. M.
Brault, T. E.
Brooks, William
Burkhardt, Joseph
Cameron, H. J.
Carcarred, J. J.
Church, Mrs. Anna
Clayson, F. H.
Coselett, J. J.
Davis, William
Dawey, C. E.
Day, J. S.
Deneret, Harry
Dennison, C. H.
Dowling, John
Dunham, F. W.
Edison, John
Forrest, Frank
Graham, James
Henderson, A.
Higgins, Harry
Hoefer, H. R.
Johnson, T. K.
Kelly, Charles
Kirby, John
Klinkowstein, M.
Knight, G. A.
Kossuth, Mrs.
Laure, G. W.
Lengfader, Charles
Littlefield, Dr.
Long, C. B.
Lynch, L. S.
Martin, E. B.
McKenzie, John
McNulty, Ed
Morris, E. W.
Murphy, J. F.
Nugget Saloon
Palmer, James
Pinkham, R. A.
Rays, Charles
Reid, F. W.
Rice, George L.
Runnals, Dr. H. B.
Sedley, H.
Smith, Jeff
Smith, W. B.
Stanley, John
Wadleigh, F. H.
Walker, D. W.
Wise, F. A.

Both Bob and I apologize for not having the page number for this article. He says he was in a time crunch when he was reading these, like decades ago, and was looking for different material. He was good enough to get dates, and has all of the New York World articles in one folder, but not always page numbers. Few publishers require page numbers in their citations these days. ...

Thank you Cathy Spude.


(Click image to enlarge)
Link to purchase

"When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit."
— Ayn Rand

MAY 14

1787: Delegates gather in Philadelphia to begin drawing up the Constitution.
1796: The first smallpox vaccination is given by Edward Jenner.
1804: William Clark sets off the "Corps of Discovery" expedition from Camp Dubois. A few days later, in St. Louis, Missouri, Meriwether Lewis joins the group.
1853: Gail Borden applies for a patent for condensed milk.
1862: The chronograph is patented by Adolphe Nicole.
1864: Five men are hung in Virginia City, Montana Territory.
1870: It is reported that thirty people are killed by Indians between Kit Carson and Lake Station, Colorado Territory.
1874: Tiburcio Vasquez is wounded by George Beers and surrenders, after his hideout near Los Angeles, California is discovered.
1874: McGill University and Harvard meet at Cambridge, Massachusetts for the first college football game to charge an admission.
1878: The name Vaseline is registered by Robert A. Chesebrough.
1878: Regulators led by Billy the Kid steal 27 horses from a ranch on the Pecos River, near Lincoln, New Mexico Territory.
1897: "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Phillip Sousa is performed in public for the first time at a ceremony unveiling a statue of George Washington.
1897: Guglielmo Marconi makes the first communication by wireless telegraph.
1898: Bad man Soapy Smith opens a saloon named Jeff Smith’s Parlor in Skagway, Alaska.

May 12, 2013

Soapy Smith as the main villain in The Adventure of Stanislas: Klondike.

"I am Soapy Smith ... Emperor of the Klondike!"

(Click image to enlarge)

he French "BD" (comics) book, Aventure de Stanislas: Klondike (The Adventure of Stanislas: Klondike) finally came in the mail. A 48-page hard-cover book that cost me nearly twice as much for shipping than the book itself. Soapy Smith is shown throughout the book as the main villian, so I ask you, how could I possibly live the remainder of my days without owning a copy? The book is written and drawn by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian and was published in 1989 by Milan of France. Although I can't read French the drawings tell the story well enough for me. 


"Actions speak louder then words…and are just as likely to be misunderstood."
— Keith C. Cobb, Exceptions to the Rules.

MAY 12

1780: Charleston, South Carolina falls to British forces during the American Revolution.
1831: Edward Smith becomes the first indicted bank robber in the U.S.
1847: William Clayton invents the odometer.
1858: A force of 200 Texas Rangers and Tonkawa Indians attack Comanche Indian chief Iron Shirt and his camp on the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle. Iron Shirt is killed during the battle Tonkawa Indian Jim Pockmark, who got his name wearing a suit of Spanish torso armor into battle, is credited with killing Iron Shirt.
1865: The last land battle of the Civil war is fought at Palmito Ranch, Texas, more than a month after General Lee's surrender. Ironically it is a Confederate victory.
1869: A bad man named Fitzpatrick is lynched for killing a man he found sleeping in a saloon after hours in Ellsworth, Kansas.
1875: The James-Younger Gang robs the San Antonio stage near Austin, Texas taking $3,000.
1888: Charles Sherrill of the Yale track team becomes the first runner to use the crouching start for a fast break in a foot race.

May 11, 2013

Discovery Channel's KLONDIKE filming under way.

The set of Discovery Channel´s Klondike, Alberta, Canada.
"Dawson City, Klondike"
(Photograph by Dan Power)

n article published in the Calgary Herald today verifies that filming for the Discovery Channel's miniseries Klondike is under way! The top photograph of the article, as well as for this blog post, is the set, completely built on the CL Ranch just for this production.
      Actor, Ian Hart, is set to play Soapy Smith but is not mentioned in this article. The reason may be one of history as Soapy never went to Dawson as far as we currently know. He will certainly be in the Skagway portions of the miniseries unless that portion lands on the cutting room floor.

Discovery Channel looking for TV gold with Alberta-shot miniseries Klondike

A muddy Dawson City built west of Calgary

By Eric Volmers
Calgary Herald, May 11, 2013 
      It’s an alarming spectacle to take in. Dozens of extras trudge slowly to a tent in between takes on the sprawling Alberta set of the Discovery Channel’s miniseries Klondike, all having an appropriate air of misery about them. The cameras may not be rolling, but they still appear fairly tuned into the despair of characters who have arrived in the Yukon just before the onset of winter. It’s actually a beautiful day in Alberta. Sweltering even. Unfortunately, for now, this is not particularly helpful when filming on the CL Ranch, a location west of Calgary where a booming Dawson City has been recreated.
      Mother Nature often does her part to add authenticity to Alberta-shot period pieces, especially those epics with a man-versus-nature theme.
      Today, however, it’s hot. Yet the extras who are working are supposed to look cold. They are bundled up. They wear scarves and hats. The women wear long dresses and coats. Many of the men sport long, unruly beards. They feverishly rub their hands together and huddle on what is supposed to be the less-then-welcoming docks on the Yukon River in Dawson City circa the late 1890s.
      “It’s cold, remember,” Assistant Director Dave McLennan reminds the extras. “Brrrrrrrrr. Your hands and feet are cold.”
      It’s not just the extras who are feeling the heat.
      “We’re trying to pretend it’s winter,” says lead actor Richard Madden, attempting to cool off on the set in between takes. “I’ve got like 19 layers here and a dry suit. I’m so hot.”
      The irony of enduring a day of uncomfortable heat is not lost on Madden. In a fairly short period of time, he has experienced some wildly divergent weather in Alberta. To Game of Thrones fans, Madden is the action-ready Robb Stark, a sword-wielding leader of men who has traveled all sorts of terrain during his battles.
     But the frigid conditions the 26-year-old Scottish actor and fellow cast and crew endured on Fortress Mountain in Kananaskis Country just over a month ago for the Klondike shoot was a whole different battle.
      “The hardest bits I suppose were the first couple of weeks, which were probably the hardest couple weeks of shooting I’ve ever had,” he says. “That’s because there was the altitude and the cold. You’ve got four wind machines on you that are the size of a back of a car, or bigger. You’ve got guys shovelling snow at each wind machine. And it’s really cold. And you’ve got the mountain. So that was really challenging. You’re trying to do your job and act as well as dealing with really intense conditions.”
      Madden, who plays real-life adventurer Bill Haskell in the miniseries, is not complaining. The adverse conditions certainly helped him find his character in the early goings. And it will no doubt help with the epic feel of the six-hour miniseries, Discovery Channel’s first scripted TV project scheduled to air sometime in 2014. Based on Ottawa writer Charlotte Gray’s book Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich In The Klondike, the series mixes real-life events and historical characters such as Haskell, Belinda Mulrooney and Jack London with a tale of murder, greed and the dashed hopes of those who arrived in Dawson City consumed by gold-rush fever but usually ill-prepared and doomed to fail spectacularly.

Director, Simon Jones and his daughter Lola, on the set.
(Photograph by Dan Power)

      Discovery has partnered with iconic British director Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and Calgary-based Nomadic Pictures, which also produces the Alberta-shot AMC series Hell on Wheels.
      Having had much success with reality shows such as Gold Rush, Jungle Gold and Bering Sea Gold, Discovery was after a scripted project that explored similar themes.
      “Our audience loves the idea of the frontier spirit,” says Discovery’s Dolores Gavin, an executive producer on Klondike. “That whole thing about man versus nature, man versus man, man versus self — those are themes we talk about everyday on Discovery. There was really no difference when we started talking about this project because there were those similarities.”
      Epic themes require an epic look. Standing on the sprawling Alberta set on the CL Ranch, it’s clear that Discovery has jumped in with both feet when it came its first scripted series. British director Simon Cellan Jones, a veteran of top-tier television such a Boardwalk Empire, Treme and The Borgias, is at the helm. He oversees an impressive cast that includes Sam Shepard as a haunted man of God named Father Judge and British actor Tim Roth as a villain named The Count. Meanwhile, the production seems to have caught its two leads just as their stars were on the rise. Madden has won fame on Game of Thrones and was recently cast as Prince Charming in Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming Cinderella. Versatile Australian actress Abbie Cornish, who plays the entrepreneurial Belinda Mulrooney in Klondike, is perhaps best know for playing Fanny Brawne in Jane Campion’s Bright Star and just wrapped up a role in next year’s big-budget reboot of RoboCop after lead roles in films such as Limitless, Sucker Punch and Seven Psycopaths.
      And while some of the events in Klondike are fictionalized, both Madden and Cornish did a good deal of research on their respective characters, digging up books and biographies to help get into the headspace of those who sought riches and adventure in the unforgiving Klondike during the gold-rush years.
      This attention to detail is a hallmark of the production as a whole, particularly amid the meticulously recreated Dawson City. The impressive set was built up on an already existing town on the CL Ranch that has been a location for a number of Alberta-shot projects. With mud-caked roads, newly built businesses, piles of fresh lumber and dubious-looking meat sold off of carts, this Dawson City is an alluring mix of filth and boom-town commerce.
      Massive dogs — Newfoundlanders, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Pyrenees crosses, among others — roam the streets with their owners, a realistic touch given that few horses survived the trek to the Klondike during this period.
      “Discovery now knows how to build a town,” says Gavin with a laugh. “With our audience, we’ve got to ring true to the historical record. The action that is happening in Klondike was so immense in Dawson City. You can’t do that with eight or nine buildings, you need 30 buildings. So we have 30 buildings. If you really go back and look at the research, Dawson City was like Vegas. It was going 24-seven and you never knew what was going to happen.”
      But while this miniseries may be aiming for feature-film production values, it is still television. Six hours worth of action has to be shot over 54 days, which requires long hours of perpetual motion in all sorts of conditions.
      “I’ve really enjoyed the momentum of it, the impulsive nature of it,” says Cornish. “A lot of times, because Richard and I are the leads, if we get it in two takes then that’s it. We’re moving on.”
      While Cornish did not shoot scenes on blustery Fortress Mountain, her first week shooting near Canmore involved learning how to become an expert dog sledder to believably play the resourceful Mulrooney.
      “It was a very full-on week and very elemental and really set the tone for that landscape,” she said. “If we had just gone straight into Dawson City we would have no idea about what the outside of that landscape is. We just would have known the mud and the city and the rain.”
      For Madden, the epic feel of Klondike is not only due to the massive sets and scenic vistas, but the intimate human drama of the stories being told.
      “There is a huge part of the stories that can be epic visually because of what we see,” he says. “And there’s huge parts that are epic when its just a scene between me and Abbie Cornish and it’s just the two of us standing and talking. That’s more epic than any mountains in the background just because of the intensity of the scene.”

Discovery Channel's Klondike
April 3, 2013 
March 23, 2013

"One either has the gift for appreciating true history or the gift of making it up."
—Gay Mathis

MAY 11

1792: The Columbia River is discovered by Captain Robert Gray.
1858: Minnesota is admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.
1872: Passengers on a Kansas Pacific train protest against the senseless killing of buffalo from railroad cars.
1889: Robbers unsuccessfully attempt to rob $28,000 in gold and silver in Arizona Territory. During the botched robbery eight soldiers are wounded and eight of the attackers are captured. Sergeant Benjamin Brown and Corporal Isaiah Mays (both black) of the 24th Infantry receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for their bravery.
1894: Workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Illinois go on strike.
1910: Glacier National Park in Montana is established.