February 14, 2015

Strawberry envy: Soapy Smith and Lafe Pence

Soapy Smith
Strawberry envy
(Click image to enlarge)

trawberry envy: Soapy Smith and Lafe Pence

      Soapy gave his personal affairs a very low profile, especially from his enemies and competition who would target his private life if they could. Additionally, he did not want his new wife to suffer embarrassment because of him. So Soapy kept his married life completely separate from his business affairs. Even neighbors did not know exactly who lived next door. One neighbor of the Smiths was Lafayette “Lafe” Pence, an attorney and resident of Denver since 1885. Later on, after Soapy had become somewhat notorious, in an 1894 interview, Pence said of his neighbor,

"I lived next to him for a couple of years and it took me a year to find out who he was. I used to notice him carrying home an armful of strawberries when I would have to be content with wishing for some, but I supposed he was some prosperous merchant or banker."

To the very end, Soapy protected his family from his enemies and public exposure. At the time of his death, the majority of those who knew Soapy did not know he had a wife and children.
      This story can be found on page 105 of Alias Soapy Smith.

Strawberry story: page 105.
Lafe Pence: pages 105, 174-75, 179, 188-89, 265-66, 292-93, 312-14, 332-334. 

With the sports with whom he associated Smith was easily chief. He was clear-headed and willing to fight if necessary to maintain his supremacy. In a big mass-meeting held in Skaguay early this year he was chosen Captain of a military company to fight the Spaniards, and the company offered its services to President McKinley. If they had been accepted, not a man would have welched on going to the front.
—R. M. Eddy
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590.


1778: The United States flag (“stars and stripes”) is carried to a foreign port, in France, for the first time, flown aboard the American ship Ranger.
1803: Moses Coats receives the patent on the apple pare device.
1849: The first photograph of a U.S. President, James Polk, is taken while in office by Matthew Brady in New York City.
1854: Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson receive the patent for the repeating revolver (The Volcanic).
1859: Oregon is admitted to the Union as the 33rd state.
1862: New Mexico and Arizona Territories are admitted into the Confederacy as territories.
1874: Missouri Governor Silas Woodson announces a $2,000 dead or alive reward for each of the bandits (Younger and James gang) who robbed the Iron Mountain Railroad at Gads Hill. The governor of Arkansas offered a $2,500 reward and the United States Postal Service added another $5,000 for a total reward of $17,500.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell files a patent for the telephone. It is officially issued on March 7, 1876.
1882: Samuel “Doc” Cummings is shot and killed by Jim Manning at the Coliseum Variety Theatre. Drinking heavily, Cummings pulled a gun on Manning, but Manning and bartender David King were able to pull their revolvers and shoot first. Cummings staggered out of the saloon and died.
1884: Theodore Roosevelt's wife and mother both die within a few hours of each other.
1884: Soapy Smith is arrested in San Francisco, California for operating the prize package soap sell racket.
1889: Oranges from Los Angeles, California are shipped back east for the first time.
1899: The U.S. Congress approves voting machines for use in federal elections.
1903: The U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor is established.
1904: The "Missouri Kid" is captured in Kansas.
1912: The first diesel engine submarine is commissioned in Groton, Connecticut.
1912: Arizona is admitted to the Union as the 48th state.

February 5, 2015

"Soapy Smith" and Martin Itjen invade Los Angeles, California, 1935.

Capt. Jefferson Smith and Martin Itjen
invade Los Angeles, California
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

y latest acquisition!

      I remember the first time I saw a photograph of Soapy's effigy on the rear platform of Martin Itjen's Skagway Street car. It was in his book, The Story of the Tour on the Skagway, Alaska Street Car, on page 27. Not a very big photo, and only the upper half of Soapy was showing. Over time, I found larger variations, and this 1935 copy is probably my favorite. A first for me, is that Soapy has a rifle at his side!

The rear of the photograph

Jeff Smith collection
(Click on image to enlarge)

Soapy Smith, Martin Itjen, and Mae West
courtesy of Bob Wieking

Obviously an old library copy, ready for publication, but from 1935, not a modern print. This was taken in Los Angeles, California, when brilliant publicist Martin Itjen insisted on meeting film star Mae West. Had Martin come down from Skagway just to advertise the town, he would not have received much attention, so he came up with a plan. A plan that caught the attention of the newspapers. Martin demanded to see famed movie-star Mae West. Mae came to visit, and so did the reporters.

Want to read more about Martin Itjen?
(operated by Itjen descendant, Bob Wieking)

Martin Itjen (Multiple posts, not in order of importance) 

Martin Itjen: pages 11-13, 453.

The citizens have called a mass meeting to consider what steps are to be taken, and it means a fight, and they look to us to lead them.
— Samuel H. Graves
president of the White Pass and Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 556


1783: Sweden recognizes the independence of the U.S.
1846: The Oregon Spectator (Oregon City, Oregon) is the first newspaper published on the Pacific coast.
1848: Female outlaw Myra Belle “the Bandit Queen” Shirley, alias Belle Starr, is born in Arkansas. She married outlaw James Reed and joined the outlaw Tom Starr Gang.
1861: Samuel Goodale patents the moving picture “peep show” machine.
1881: Phoenix, Arizona is incorporated.
1897: Sylvester Scovel (Friend of Soapy Smith), a U.S. war correspondent for the New York World is arrested and jailed in Sancti SpĂ­ritus, Cuba. He is held on four counts, including communicating with the Cuban insurgents and traveling with forged papers. The World declares Scovel to be “in imminent danger of butchery.”

February 4, 2015

Soapy Smith's horse in 1/6 scale.

Soapy Smith rides again!
(Click image to enlarge)

fter creating my 1/6 scale Soapy Smith action figure I went on to create members of the Soap Gang. One of the fun sidelines has been to recreate events in Soapy's life. Naturally, one of these would have to be Soapy on his horse when Reverend John Sinclair of Skagway, Alaska took the famous photograph of Soapy riding north on State Street. I bought the period saddle about six months ago, and had western artist Kirby Jonas paint Soapy horse, seen in the photo above.
      I sent Kirby all the known photographs of Soapy's horse to work with, such as the one below, but they were not as easy to work with as I originally thought. The reason has to do with all of them being taken at different times of the day, and in varying weather conditions. Early camera lens, film and camera quality, along with early and primitive film developing probably played a big role in the variations, not to mention the fact that most of the photographs taken were not shot by professional photographers, but by everyday people, as Kodak had successfully marketed their easy to use cameras. Even Soapy looks different in just about every photograph.
      Kirby and I discussed each photograph and each patch of contrast (coloring) on Soapy's horse to attempt to come up with the most authentic representation of what Soapy's horse probably looked like. Those discussions were very enlightening, informative, and one-half the pleasure of this project, for me. 

The REAL Soapy Smith

Kirby is a long-time horseman so he was able to teach me a lot about Soapy's horse than I ever thought possible. In one of our correspondences Kirby wrote,  

      I’ve been working on the horse this morning, and I THINK I have the white on the front shoulders, neck and face about like we want it. Of course, in the famous photo where the horse is being a bit unruly, we can’t see his face, but I can pretty much go by his front quarters and neck to make an educated guess how much white is on his face. I have really bad lighting here today—it’s wanting to snow. So I can’t take a decent photo of this to send, but I hesitate to go any further with the white, or the front of this guy is simply going to be a “white horse,” which Soapy’s horse was not. Technically, if you saw this horse the day after it was born you would say it’s a black horse, except that the black is more muted than a true raven or coal black horse (two different shades of “legal” black on a horse). As time goes on, white hairs begin to appear, and they start creating the dapples, etc. In the case of this particular horse, he already had two “socks” on his left feet, so those would have always been lighter colored, even when he looked black as a colt. But the rest of the white markings are all something that came later, and they just appear mostly at random. Many horses, such as Soapy’s, lighten faster above, and it slowly works down under the horse. Often, the hips are one of the last things to turn, along with the legs. Eventually, if a horse lives long enough, that black looking colt, turned dark dapple, then light dapple, will be a white horse, but with dark eyes and nose and any other place where the hair is thin and you can see the skin.
Okay, so with all that ammunition, a lot of which I may have already explained before, the reason I am halting on making this horse any white at this point is that if you want to go strictly realistic, Soapy’s horse in that famous photo is most likely around 8-12 years old, whereas in later photos where his face starts showing whiter, he appears to be older. I’m not positive of that because you still have to rely on old black and white film and questionable lighting, but that is always going to be a problem. Anyway, this long-winded letter is mostly just to let you know I feel like I should stop adding lighter gray to his neck and front quarters until you’ve had a chance to see it and approve or ask me to add more white. I could photograph it today, but I just don’t think the cloud cover would make for a reliable photo, and once he is “too light,” it would be very difficult to go back the other way.
     He looks really good, though, and once his eyes are finished, and his nostrils, etc., as well as the hairs inside his ears and his hoof detail, he is going to really come to life. I hope you like him. He will look great on your shelf.

Soapy's horse and 19th century saddle and tack
(Click image to enlarge)

Soapy prepares for a ride
Wait, isn't that Soapy in the doorway too?
(Click image to enlarge)

Some people love money
Some people are in love with war
But I'm in love with your brown eyes
Yes you are what I'm living for
('Til That Moment by Marshall Crenshaw)
(Click image to enlarge)

Kirby Jonas' signature
(Click image to enlarge)

A HUGH thank you to artist Kirby Jonas 
for taking on this project.

Be sure to visit Kirby's website!

Want to learn more about Jeff Smith's Soapy Smith action figure?
Perhaps even purchase one?


They shot all night. You could hear the shooting and see the flashes in the hills when they were shooting. They weren’t shooting at anything, they were just shooting. The gang was hiding in the hills. One guy hid under our house, until dark, and then he tore out. Mother wouldn’t tell on him. We didn’t want the guy to get shot. He stayed under there until it got dark and then he beat it.
— Royal Pullen
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 563


1783: Britain declares a formal cessation of hostilities with the U.S.
1789: Electors unanimously choose George Washington to be the first president of the U.S.
1824: J. Goodrich introduces rubber galoshes.
1847: The first U.S. Telegraph Company is established in Maryland.
1861: Delegates from six southern states meet in Montgomery, Alabama and form the Confederate States of America.
1861: Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise meets Second Lieutenant George Bascom under a white flag in New Mexico Territory. Bascom detains Cochise but he cut his way through the tent and escapes.
1865: The Hawaiian Board of Education is formed.
1877: Apache Indians kill 4 settlers near Sopori, Arizona Territory.
1886: Dennis Dilda is hung for murdering a Yavapai County deputy sheriff in Prescott, Arizona Territory. It marks the last legal public hanging in Arizona.
1887: It is noted that Leavenworth, Kansas has 200 saloons.
1889: Harry Longabaugh is released from the Sundance Prison in Sundance, Wyoming Territory. It is where he acquired the sobriquet, "the Sundance Kid."
1901: "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" opens in New York City.
1903: Cole Younger is granted a pardon in Minnesota. He and his brother Jim were paroled in 1901 after serving 25 years in prison for their part in the 1876 Northfield bank robbery. Jim committed suicide in 1902 and their brother Bob died of tuberculosis in prison in 1889.