January 14, 2014

Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club match safe

Match safe (front)
(Click image to enlarge)

atch safes are the equivalent of today's standard Bic lighter you can purchase in most stores and gas stations, at least here in California. The old nineteenth century match safes were little pocket cases that held matches. Prices and quality varied. Some were tin and very cheap, while a few were made from gold and very costly. Like today's lighters, there were many variations. So many in fact, that you can search match safes on eBay all day long and you will have found only a few identical examples. Enterprising manufacturing firms sent their salesmen traveling around the country with samples for cigar stores and saloons to purchase, to hand out to their favorite customers as tokens of their appreciation. Often times the safes were printed or engraved with advertisements of the business. The safe shown above is one such advertising item, for Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, Colorado, which dates it between 1888-1894.

In my collection I possess Soapy's personal match safe that he carried on his person. It is not similar to the above advertising safe shown above.

How I Found It.

As a reenactor I portray Soapy at old west events, and for a number of months I have been searching eBay for another copy of the one Soapy personally carried around. For obvious reason I don't carry the original around. Everyday I receive an email from eBay regarding that days auction listings for match safes, and so far I have not come across another one like Soapy's personal safe. Until now, I have not told anyone that I was searching for a duplicate safe. One morning while I was looking through the email, I came across the auction for the safe advertising the Tivoli Club. Apparently the seller (thankfully) made no attempt to Google "Tivoli Club," as there was no mention of Soapy Smith or the history of the saloon/gambling house. Had the seller found anything of historical significance he surely would have added it to the auction description. Had he put forth the least amount of effort he surely would have found my website page that describes the history of the Tivoli. I still ended up paying a hefty price for the safe, as I believe at least one bidder made the effort to look it up. It could have gone for considerably more had it been discovered that the Tivoli Club belonged to one of the greatest confidence men of the nineteenth century. It didn't go beyond my wallet range and I won it, though I will be eating piss-poorly for the next month or two.

Match safe (rear)

The rear of the safe has an embossed picture of lady liberty, which leads me to believe Soapy had a choice of styles to choose from. Soapy, being a huge fan of patriotism, certainly picked it out himself.


I don’t mind a man cheatin' at poker as long as he ain't cheatin' me.
— Unknown

JANUARY 14, 2014

1639: Connecticut's first constitution, the "Fundamental Orders," is adopted.
1784: The U.S. ratifies a peace treaty with England ending the Revolutionary War.
1873: John Hyatt's 1869 invention of ‘Celluloid’ is registered as a trademark.
1864: Vigilantes lynch five outlaw members of the “Innocents” in Virginia City, Montana Territory. One of those hung was Jack Gallagher, whose last words were “I hope forked lightening will strike every strangling…of you.”
1872: Russian Grand Duke Alexis celebrates his 21st birthday and the killing of his first buffalo in Nebraska. The duke missed with his first six shots before Buffalo Bill hands him his .50 caliber rifle. The Duke gets within 10 feet of his prey and shoots, killing the buffalo.
1878: Slabtown changes its name to Leadville, Colorado Territory.
1878: Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the telephone for Britain's Queen Victoria.
1881: Gambler Johnny O'Rourke, alias “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce,” shoots and kills a mining engineer following an argument in Charleston, Arizona Territory. He rides to Tombstone where he is protected from a lynch mob by Virgil Earp, Marshal Ben Sippy, and Sheriff John Behan.
1882: The Myopia Hunt Club, in Winchester, Massachusetts is the first country club in the U.S.
1886: Indians appear on doorsteps of many homes in Wichita, Kansas begging to be let in from the cold.
1887: Bad men James Lamb and Albert O'Dell are hung in Fort Smith, Arkansas for the 1886 murder of a farmer who had hired them to do some work.
1891: General Nelson Miles reports that the Sioux Indians are returning to their Dakota reservations.

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