April 24, 2017

Two of Soapy Smith's personal notebooks uncovered.

Soapy Smith's notebook
Courtesy of the Geri Murphy collection
(Click image to enlarge)

wo of Soapy Smith's notebooks uncovered

In 2007 I gave a Soapy Smith presentation for the Newnan city/Coweta County Historical Society. My cousin Geri attended the presentation. She brought along a notebook that Soapy had kept notes in. I had but a few minutes to look through the notebook and found the above notation for a weeks worth of prize package soap sales Soapy made in Tombstone, Arizona. Also I found, in Soapy's own words and handwriting, his witnessing of the shooting of outlaw Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas in 1878. There was little doubt that this was a mother lode, a very valuable historical resource. Thankfully, I thought to show the notebook to author Gary Roberts, who also attended the presentation, before handing it back to my cousin. Gary ended up being my only witness that the notebook actually existed, and its existence was question several times by others. I could not blame them as many of the historians I know were past victims of historians like Glenn Boyer, who became infamous for writing about documents and letters that did not exist. Gary saved my reputation more than once.

My cousin was wonderful in sending me many copies of the letters in her collection, but had not gotten around to copying the notebook. A few of life's wrenches were thrown, first at Geri and then at myself. Ten years later, I went out to my mailbox and found a surprise from Geri. A package of 55 xeroxed pages, from not one, but TWO of Soapy's notebooks, including the Tombstone and Sam Bass pages!

This is a GOLD MINE of new information about Soapy, where he went, how much he made, the people he met, some pages reading like a diary. NONE of this has ever been published, let along seen by anyone outside of the family! I am not sure how I will handle this new information yet. Perhaps for a second edition of Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel?

I saw the notebook in 2007. I had made no notes on what little I saw of the notebook so my book, published in 2009, only included that Soapy had seen the Sam Bass shooting and Tombstone. With copies of the notebook pages I now can say with certainty that Soapy sold soap while in Tombstone. In Soapy's own handwriting, he writes,
Sales in Tombstone.
A.T. Dec. 1883
Dec 17th Mon. .......$65.00
Dec 18th T [Tue] ....$58.00
Dec 19th W [Wed] ..$53.00
Dec 20th T [Thur] ...$57.00
Dec 21st F [Fri] .......$23.00
Dec 22nd Sat ...........$58.50

"Jeff forged to the front as a leader among professional gamblers and sure-thing men. During his career, he built and ruled three criminal empires, two in Colorado and one in Alaska. He opened and operated saloons, gambling establishments, and swindling operations where men of ill virtue preyed upon the innocent."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1800: The Library of Congress is established with a $5,000 allocation.
1805: The U.S. Marines attack and capture the town of Derna in Tripoli.
1833: A patent is granted for first soda fountain.
1851: Morgan Earp is born in Marian County, Iowa.
1877: Federal troops are ordered out of New Orleans with the end of reconstruction after the Civil War.
1878: Henry Underwood, a member of Sam Bass' outlaw gang, leaves Texas and is never heard from again. Bad man Soapy Smith witnessed the shooting death of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1889: The Edison General Electric Company is organized.
1896: Soapy Smith, under the name Randolph John Smith, is arrested in Juneau, Alaska for operating the prize package soap racket.
1897: William Price becomes the first named White House news reporter.
1898: Spain declares war on the United States after rejecting America's ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.

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