January 29, 2015

State Street: The view from Soapy Smith's eyes

Stereoview card
State Street
Skagway, Alaska
Copyright 1900
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

tate Street as Soapy Smith saw it...
moments before his demise.

circa 1900

Made a recent purchase that turned out better than I originally anticipated (see photo at top). As an off-shoot of my main collection, I seek out stereoview cards with a connection to Soapy Smith, the places he visited and operated in, gambling, crime, ships he took, hotels he stayed in, etc. They are far cheaper than cabinet cards and they give a 3-demisional look into his history. This is only the second viewcard I have found that was taken in Skagway, Alaska, most dealing with the trails and the Klondike gold rush.

Photograph "cleaned-up"
State Street looking south
The James Hotel and P. E. Kern's jewelry store on the right
The dome of the Golden North Hotel on the left.
Jeff Smith collection


The stereoview card has a 1900 copyright, meaning the photo is probably dated 1899-1900, but possibly 1898. Take note of the red, white, and blue bunting on one of the smaller buildings, possibly meaning the picture was taken in July, or perhaps in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, when patriotism was extremely popular.


My first chore was to try and figure out where in Skagway this picture was taken. I recognized the mountain range so I knew that the camera lens was pointed south, but what street? Looking at the photo, Peter E. Kern's first jewelry and watch store is identified with a sign read "P. E. K (rest of letters covered). Mr. Kern moved his store operations to Broadway Street in 1903. There is plenty of information on the second location of the store but I could not find a single notation regarding the location of the first one. I could tell that the large building on the right was no doubt a hotel, but again, I could not find a name or location.


I had some much need assistance in identifying the location, on the Skagway group page of Facebook. Special thanks go to Charity Pomeroy, Sean Layton, Averill Harp, Tim Heckmon, Colleen Rafferty, Cecilia P Matthews, Steph Sincic, and William Bigham.

Skagway, Alaska
June 1898
Taken approximately one month prior to Soapy's death.
Courtesy of University of Alaska, Fairbanks
(Click image to enlarge)

With their aid, we now know that this photo was taken on State Street, just south of McKinny (Fifth) Avenue. On the left side of the card, the "onion dome" of the Golden North Hotel can be seen, located on State Street and Keiser (Third) Avenue. It was moved to Broadway and Third in 1908 and still operates as a hotel today, looking much as it did in 1898. Charity Pomeroy, a guide in Skagway, led me to the photograph showing the area at a different angle. With a magnifying glass I was able to determine that the large building on the right is the James Hotel.

Close-up of State Street
June 1898
Courtesy of University of Alaska, Fairbanks
(Click image to enlarge)

State Street leads directly to the entrance of the Juneau Company Wharf, and it is the street Soapy took to face the vigilante, committee of 101, who were having a meeting at the end of the wharf to decide a course of action against Soapy and his gang. The stereoview photo is what Soapy saw as he made his way south on State Street that dismal evening of July 8, 1898, now referred to as the shootout on Juneau Wharf.

Jeff. Smith's Parlor. (circled)
Holly Avenue and Broadway Street
June 1898
The white dots around the Parlor are finger prints
from someone pointing out "Soapy's place."
Courtesy of University of Alaska, Fairbanks
(Click image to enlarge)

On the 11th instant, I informed you of a shooting affray which occurred in Skaguay. “Soapy Smith” attempted to murder a Mr. Reed [sic] who was organizing a party to recover money for a returning Klondiker named J. D. Stewart who had been robbed of same by some of Smith’s gang. In the struggle, etc., “Soapy Smith” was shot and killed from his own gun by a man named “Murphy.” Mr. Reed [sic] (who received two bullets from Smith’s gun) died a few days afterwards.
— Major Sam Steele, NWMP
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 547.


1802: John Beckley becomes the first Librarian of Congress.
1845: Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven is published for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror.
1850: In the Senate Henry Clay introduces a compromise bill on slavery that includes the admission of California into the Union as a free state.
1861: Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state.
1863: The Bear River Campaign ends near Salt Lake City, Utah. General Patrick Connor and 700 California volunteers attack the Shoshone Indian encampment of Bear Hunter located in Cache Valley. 224 Shoshones, including Bear Hunter, are killed. Women and children are taken prisoner. The Infantry lost 21 men and 46 are wounded. This ends the Indian attacks along the California Trail as well as Indian control of southern Idaho and northern Utah.
1879: Custer Battlefield National Monument in Montana Territory is established.
1881: In the last known armed confrontation between whites and Indians in Texas, 15 Texas Rangers surprise and kill 12 Apache Indian males and 8 women and children in Sierra Diablo, Texas.
1881: Major Guido Ilges accepts the surrender of Indian leader Iron Dog and 63 of his people at Poplar River, Montana Territory.
1886: Karl Benz patents the first successful petrol-driven motorcar.

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