February 7, 2014

A new photo of Soapy Smith's petrified man McGinty.

Alaska-Yukon Exhibition?
courtesy of The Circus Blog

ne of the great public releases that came out of my book, Alias Soapy Smith was the story of how Sylvester the petrifid man at Seattle's Ye Olde Curiosity Shop was actually that of McGinty, and had once belonged to Soapy Smith. Alias has the complete and detailed non-fictional account of the petrified man, from its start in 1892 to time Soapy sold and delivered it to Hillyard, Washington in 1895. The history after 1895 is vague but I am always on the lookout for clues. In the history published by the Curiosity Shop, mention is made that McGinty went on display at the 1904 Alaska-Yukon exhibition in Seattle. Although that is very probable, there is no provenance. None-the-less, I have continued to search photographs and records of the midway section of the fair for hints and signage for McGinty.

I scored a hit when I found a site called The Circus Blog. Under the title, The Mummy, published April 23, 2011, I found a photograph of McGinty post 1895 and possibly previous to its ownership by the proprietors of the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. The following is all the blog had in the way of information but it's more than I had previous to finding it.

This photo came from the Norman Prather collection. It was sent to me along with other pictures by his daughter Norma. It is quite possible that this mummified person is the real thing. Carnival and circus side shows in years past did exhibit animals and humans that were actual mummies. In later years it was outlawed and only a medical institution or museum could place them on exhibition. I do know for a fact that Pete Cortez had two mummies in his ten in one side show. A child from Mongolia and the other a South American Indian was displayed in the very back of show. Even then in the 1950′s, He was very careful where he displayed them. Mr. Cortez would only show them in certain towns where they would not be confiscated and in a private showing only……….. Much like an after show. Of course there was a charge.

Besides the provenance of how McGinty came to be, and how he ended up, Alias Soapy Smith looks into the possibility of the identity of McGinty. I considered some very interesting circumstantial evidence and I honestly believe my educated guess is correct, but if you want the details you will have to purchase the book. Which reminds me, book sales are up and there are only about 100 copies left. That may sound like a lot but the National Park Service is about to place an order and they may opt to place the book at all their locations on the Klondike gold rush. I would not be shocked if they decided to pick up the remaining copies. Best not gamble, order your copy NOW!

Klondike Research publishing

April 7, 2011
March 24, 2013

McGinty: page 82, 235, 237-45, 395-96, 407, 517, 520, 594.

I beg leave to state that I have no gang, and that I have not been ordered out of Skaguay, or any other place, and that I expect to live here as long as I see fit to. I have taken the side of law and order here time and time again, and all reports like the one enclosed are base falsehoods. I helped a lot of citizens stop a murderous mob from hanging a man that no one knew whether guilty or not, and thereby caused the dislike of some of the members of the murderous outfit. I acknowledge I have been in the saloon and gambling business for a number of years, and when all games and saloons were placed under strict police surveillance. And I have never had any trouble in my place of business; was never convicted of any crime in my life, and don’t think that I am being treated right. …

Respectfully yours,
Jeff R. Smith
Called “Soapy”
—–Alias Soapy Smith, p. 491.


1795: The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified.
1818: Academician begins publication in New York City.
1855: Famed detective Charles Siringo is born.
1861: The Choctaw Indian Nation allies itself with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
1865: Virginia City is named territorial capital in Montana.
1877: The Guernsey Cattle Club is organized in New York City.
1882: The last bareknuckle fight for the heavyweight boxing championship takes place in Mississippi City.
1893: Elisha Gray patents the telautograph. It automatically signs autographs to documents.

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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