April 18, 2014

lease donate.

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April 5, 2014

There are so many in business here … who are involved with Jeff Smith and are coining money from the sporting element, that they willingly tolerate Smith’s influence in civic affairs. His word is the law!
Thomas Whitten, Skagway hotel proprietor
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 514


1676: Sudbury, Massachusetts is attacked by Indians.
1775: American revolutionaries Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, ride though the towns of Massachusetts giving the warning that "the British are coming."
1818: A regiment of Indians and blacks are defeated at the Battle of Suwann, in Florida, ending the first Seminole War.
1846: The telegraph ticker is patented by R. E. House.
1847: U.S. troops defeat almost 17,000 Mexican soldiers commanded by Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo, during the Mexican-American War.
1861: Colonel Robert E. Lee turns down an offer to command the Union armies during the Civil War, instead, joining the Confederacy.
1877: Charles Cros writes a paper that described the process of recording and reproducing sound. In France, Cros is regarded as the inventor of the phonograph. In the U.S., Thomas Edison gets the credit.
1895: New York State establishes free public baths.

April 16, 2014

"Fry Pan:" One method of hiding a hot poker deck.

"Fry Pan" Cold deck
(Click image to enlarge)

ig mitt" or "big hand," the slang Soapy Smith used to call a rigged poker game might have been one of his most common swindles in Denver, Colorado. In fact, there are at least 31 pages in Alias Soapy Smith that mention the swindle in operation.

Soapy did not write down or describe his methods, thus we do not know exactly how he dealt out his cheating poker hands. He surely knew the art of manipulating the Devil's paste-boards (deck of cards), however, the amount of times these "friendly games of poker" are mentioned in Alias Soapy Smith, it is obvious that this was an assembly-line set up, making money hand-over-fist, as fast as the gang could gather victims and trim them of their ready cash, and perhaps a check from their bank back home. This was not a show of dexterity, but a fast version of the big-store con, done in as little time as possible. The only difference between big mitt and robbing someone with a pistol, was that the victim, if taken properly, would never know he had been robbed. This production line larceny, milking the money from dupes as quickly as possible, from one game to the next, was set up in back rooms all around the lower business district of Denver. It is not unrealistic to imagine Soapy moving from building to building, game to game, playing his role in extracting the greenbacks from the prey. What was needed was the simplest, fastest method of convincing the marks that they held a sure-thing poker hand, and could not possibly lose. Their greed would do most of the work of encouraging them to bet heavily. All that was needed was for one of the Soap Gang to produce a better hand than that held by the victim being robbed.

Without much debate, the obvious choice is that Soapy introduced a "cold deck" into the game, a cold deck being a prearranged deck that would give the dupe a sure-thing hand, while giving another member f the Soap Gang, the winning hand. There are numerous way of getting a cold deck into Soapy's hands, but today's post is centered on Soapy's chore of getting rid of the "hot deck," the poker deck currently in use at the table.  

This is where a "Fry Pan" would possibly come into use. This secretly hidden device approximates the shape of a small frying pan with a cloth bag attached. In the description for its use, an author writes, "The Cold Decker would be attached to a strip of wide elastic pinned to the operator's back under his coat. The device would be placed between the operator's legs and used as a deposit for a deck of cards after a switch had been made. When the operator stood up later, the Cold Decker shot up the back of his coat, thus concealing the presence of the switched-out deck."


Rigged poker games

Big mit: pages 66-69, 87, 122, 126, 128-29, 190, 194-197, 268, 277-78, 284, 341, 351-55, 363-64, 366, 382, 402, 505.

He is the most gracious, kindhearted man I’ve met. To know him is to like him.
— William Saportas (Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590)


1818: The Senate ratifies the Rush-Bagot bill for an unarmed U.S.-Canadian border.
1862: Confederate President Jefferson Davis approves a conscription act for white males between 18 and 35.
1862: Slavery is abolished in the District of Columbia.
1881: The “Battle of the Plaza” takes place in Dodge City, Kansas when Bat Masterson arrives after receiving word that his brother Jim was being threatened by his saloon partner, Al Updegraff, and a bartender, A. J. Peacock. As Bat exited the train he saw both men and gunfire was exchanged. Al Updegraffe is wounded and Masterson is arrested. After paying an $8 fine, the Masterson brothers leave for Colorado. It is probably in Denver at this time that Bat meets and becomes a life-long friend of bad man “Soapy” Smith.
1882: John Allen shoots and kills Cockeyed Frank Loving in Trinidad, Colorado. The fight starts at the Imperial saloon and ends at Hammond's Hardware Store.
1884: Trick-shooter, Annie Oakley is billed as a “markswoman” in Columbus, Ohio while touring with the Sells Brothers Circus.
1900: The first book of postage two-cent stamps is issued.

April 5, 2014

Save Soapy Smith's historical integrity.


harity covereth a multitude of sins

                                                                            1 Peter 4:8

Take this important opportunity to cleanse yourself of all evil! Ok, truth be told, this is going to help Soapy more than it will help you, but helping Soapy is always a good thing, right?

I don't like to talk too much about my personal health or economic issues too often, but in this case I don't see any other way around it. I need assistance for a "good cause," in a historical sense. I'm on social security, meaning I live on a very tight budget. Many people these days live on tight budgets, but if you are a fan of Soapy's and you feel you can help him out, I'm hoping you will. Let me explain what I'm talking about.

If you've been a fan for a while then you may recall reading about my adventures with author Cathy Spude. She's the one who wants to see J. M. Tanner become more famous. Tanner was the vigilante turned deputy U.S. Marshal, after Soapy was shot dead on Juneau Wharf. Over the years, Cathy has told me several times that "Soapy is in the way," of Tanner's climb up the ladder of fame. I believe that Cathy believes that if she could knock Soapy off the "ladder," Tanner will take his place. Cathy has published the anti-Soapy book, "That Fiend In Hell": Soapy Smith in Legend. She tried her best but did not convince Skagway as many of them already know the real story, some even read my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, which is for sale in some of the stores there. Cathy could give talks all over Alaska and I would hardly flinch, but at the end of July 2014 she is scheduled to give a presentation on Soapy in his beloved Denver. As many of you know, Soapy ran the underworld of Denver for as long as 16-years. Over the decades, Denver has, for the most part, largely forgotten about Soapy Smith, and not one store carries my book! They say first impressions are lasting, and the last thing we Soapy fans need is a lasting impression that states that Soapy was "nothing more than a small-time crook," whose history is largely fiction.

Do you think Cathy Spude can hurt Soapy's history?

Cathy has already did some damage, in the way of at least one National Park Service book and recently, in an episode of Mysteries At The Museum. The answer is yes, she can hurt Soapy's history. A long term example, but not associated with Cathy, is the old story that Soapy was a cowboy. This has been proven not to be true, yet, I personally have had authors refuse to change their pre-published writings to correct the error.

I need to attend the Roundup of the Wild West History Association where Cathy Spude is speaking. I need to counter her mistakes and misleads. I cannot express to you how important this is. I need donations to be able to go. Please donate!

For more details please visit the Save Soapy Smith Fund page.

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Thank you!

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
— Maya Angelou

Tom "Soapy" Biss passes on.

Latest advertisement for the Days of 98 Show With Soapy Smith

om Biss passing.

Tom Biss as "Soapy" Smith
 (Click image to enlarge)

Long time friend, Ken Erickson, notified me that Thomas B. Biss, age 61, has passed away on March 28, 2014. Tom is one of the creators of The Soapy Smith Show in Skagway, Alaska, which later bought out the Days of 98 Show and became The Days of 98 Show With Soapy Smith. I met Tom in 1974 when I went to Skagway for the first time. He was still playing Soapy in the Eagles Hall. I saw Tom again previous to 1987 during the grand opening of his restaurant Soapy Smith's in Seattle, Washington.

Ken Erickson sent along the link of telling of Tom's passing in the online Stroller's Weekly.


It is with sadness that I note the “voice” of Strollers Weekly, Tom Biss, passed away today. He went painlessly and peacefully. After several years of dealing with a number of debilitating illnesses, he’s found his rest.

Tom was one of the four individuals who made up the collective voice of Strollers. For now, Strollers Weekly will quietly go into archive status.

Condolences for Tom may be sent to his mother at:

Donna Leibole
PO Box 364
Arivoca, AZ 85601

‘da Webmaster

PS: The Anchorage Daily News published Tom’s obituary 04/03/14

Thomas B. Biss died March 28th peacefully at Our Lady of Grace Home in Anchorage. His ashes will be spread at Pt. Woronzof where he often enjoyed the view of Sleeping Lady’.

Tom was born August 23, 1951 in Ithaca, N.Y. and moved to Alaska at age 9 months. He graduated from Anchorage East High in 1969. Tom was a gifted storyteller and actor. In the early 70s, along with Judy and Jim, he created the Soapy Smith show in Skagway. He was often heard reciting Robert Service to a captive audience. In the 80s, among his culinary achievements were the Great Alaska Salmon Bake in Anchorage and Bubba’s Steak House in Almira, WA. In the 90s Tom returned to Alaska, pursuing his passion for politics and public policy in Juneau.

Tom is survived by his mother, Donna and stepdad John Leibole; sister, Lee Ann Poro; nephew, Fran Byerly; half brother, Alison Biss; auntie, Anne Dalzell,; cousin, Bob Flansburgh; two step sisters, two step brothers; several nieces, nephews and cousins for whom Tom, ever the actor, loved playing Santa. Arrangements by Cremation Society of Alaska. Words of comfort can be shared with Tom’s family at www.alaskacremation.com

Strollers Weekly

Tom Biss

I have seen American citizens deliberately plundered before the marshal’s eyes in dens kept for that purpose…. I had to pay the marshal $20 after he had recovered stolen property, before he would make a return to the court commissioner, as he threatened to turn it back to the thieves unless I did so. [Lewis Levy, commissioner for parks, Tacoma, Washington.]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 512.


1614: American Indian Pocahontas marries English colonist John Rolfe in Virginia.
1621: The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, Massachusetts, on a return trip to England.
1792: President George Washington casts the first presidential veto, against a measure for apportioning representatives among the states.
1806: Isaac Quintard patents the cider mill.
1827: James H. Hackett becomes the first American actor to appear abroad as he performs at Covent Garden in London, England.
1843: Queen Victoria proclaims Hong Kong to be a British colony.
1859: The unofficial state of Jefferson is formed by residents in the western part of Kansas Territory (present day Colorado).
1863: 140 cavalrymen route 200 Indians during the Battle of Spanish Fork in Utah.
1869: Outlaw Benjamin Bickerstaff and his men ride into Alvarado, Johnson County, Texas, firing weapons into the air and some store windows. Irate armed citizens shoot and kill Bickerstaff and several other members of the gang.
1869: Daniel Bakeman, the last surviving soldier of the U.S. Revolutionary War, dies at the age of 109.
1872: The first Cypress Hills Massacre occurs as American wolfers and Assiniboine Indians fight in the Sweet Grass Hills, Montana Territory, near the Canadian border.
1879: Frank Loving, a faro dealer in the Long Branch Saloon, Dodge City, Kansas, shoots and kills Levi Richardson. Levi fires 5 shots at Loving, missing all 5 times. Loving fires hitting and killing Richardson with three shots. It is ruled as self-defense. Loving is shot and killed about a year later in Trinidad, Colorado.
1887: Anne Sullivan teaches a blind and deaf Helen Keller the meaning of the word "water" as spelled out in the manual alphabet.
1892: Walter H. Coe patents gold leaf in rolls.