June 18, 2016

Soapy Smith in Skagway, Alaska, May 1, 1898.

May 1, 1898, Skagway, Alaska
The Ballad of Soapy Smith

Seattle, Washington
(Click image to enlarge)

y a common impulse the people turned toward the Hon. Jefferson R. Smith, more widely known as "Soapy," and made him the director-general of the event."

A reporter with the initials J. C. C.  wrote the article Spring in the Far North, dated May 3, 1898, and published in the Morning Oregonian on May 10, 1898. Following is the paragraph in regards to the May 1, 1898 parade in Skagway.

    Skagway swathed herself in tri-colored bunting last Sunday, and made the eagle scream. No sooner did she hear that our ships were blockading Havana than she decided to ratify the action of our government in ordering war against Spain and in a dozen hours she arranged and carried to its completion a demonstration that no town of 10 times her dimensions and a thousand times her age could exceed in patriotic fervor. For the nonce she buried internal dissension, raised social distinctions, and made a unit of herself in honor of the flag. By a common impulse the people turned toward the Hon. Jefferson R. Smith, more widely known as "Soapy," and made him the director-general of the event. Worthily did he meet the occasion. His military company headed a procession of citizens that paraded the principal streets and saluted Old Glory at the government offices, and an outdoor mass meeting concluded the exercises. Fully 3000 people listened to addresses by Dr. A. B. Hornsby, Walter Church, Mr. Wilcoxson, Mr. Kellar, and the indefatigable "Soapy" himself. The enthusiasm was great throughout the entire proceedings. Butcher Weyler was burned in effigy, and patriotic bonfires blazed on almost every street.

Believed to be Skagway May 1, 1898
Fifth Avenue, in front of city hall (on right)
Note: Soapy grey horse in foreground,
flags and signs.
Author's collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Portion of photograph taken on May 1, 1898
Note the two signs. Are these the same
signs shown in the other larger photograph.

Paper ribbon handed out to people on May 1, 1898.
"Skagway Alaska May 1st 1898."
Soapy wrote on this particular one
and sent it to his wife in St. Louis.
Author's collection
(Click image to enlarge)

At least one author/historian has attempted to play down Soapy's involvement, planning, and speaking role during the May 1st celebration, implying that the stories were mostly myths and legends added to over the passing decades. The newspaper clipping above is one of several witnessed accounts written and published days after the event. Unless all of them got together and agreed on the telling of their stories, there can be little doubt that [1] this event took place on Decoration Day (May 1, 1898). [2] Soapy Smith, at the very least had a big hand in planning the celebration. [3] That Soapy did indeed speak on the speakers platform along with the noted speakers of the town.

May 31, 2016, April 1, 2010.

Decoration Day (May 1, 1898): pages 500-502.

"This boy will be a millionaire; there’s only one Jeff."
— Edwin B. Smith
(speaking of Soapy)


1621: The first duel in America takes place in the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts. 
1778: Britain evacuates Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the American Revolution.
1812: The War of 1812 starts as the U.S. declares war against Great Britain. The conflict is blamed on trade restrictions.
1858: Con man William B. “Lucky Bill” Thornton is hanged by vigilantes for the murder of Henry Gordier in Carson County, Nevada.
1861: The first U.S. fly-casting tournament is held in Utica, New York.
1864: Cheyenne and Arapahos Indians are believed to have massacred a family, 25 miles west of Denver, Colorado Territory.
1873: Susan B. Anthony is fined $100 for attempting to vote during the presidential election.
1878: During the Lincoln County War, New Mexico Territory, Alexander McSween and his men head for the hills of San Patrico, just missing Sheriff Peppin and U.S. soldiers who are trying to catch him.
1879: Arizona's first ice plant opens in Phoenix, Arizona Territory.
1880: John Sutter, on whose property gold was found in California in 1848, dies penniless at the age of 77 in Pennsylvania.
1898: Atlantic City, New Jersey opens its Steel Pier.

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