June 30, 2021

Possibly Soapy Smith and John Taylor operating in Denver September 1882

Denver Republican
September 24, 1882

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he crime is surrounded with mystery and the police have striven desperately to keep the affair quiet."
     The newspaper article describing two separate swindles, is believed to be chronicling the early Soapy Smith - John "Old-Man" Taylor bunko gang who periodically operated in Denver, Colorado in the early 1880s. The article is one of the earliest hints that the Denver police were in league with the cities bunko gangs.
     The end of August 1882 there were two bunko gangs working Denver, the Charles L. "Doc" gang and another unnamed one, believed to be the Soapy Smith - John Taylor gang. John "Old-Man" Taylor was Soapy's criminal mentor. According to the newspapers the police were successful in removing the Baggs gang from the city, but the other gang is not mentioned as they were never caught and arrested. That other gang may have never left the city. For a short couple of weeks all seemed well, according to newspaper reports. Then all hell broke loose.

Following is the transcribed text of the newspaper article, Denver Republican, September 24, 1882.


A New Game for Their Edification Introduced in Denver Lately.

A Miner Swindled by It and a Wealthy Banker Swindled by Bunko Men.
      A "sucker" is an animal that was in the old days very rare in Colorado, but of late he has become very numerous. For the benefit of that class of respectable citizens unacquainted with the meaning of the term “ sucker,” THE REPUBLICAN offers the information that it applies to men who are not well up in the ways of the world; in other words, the term is synonymous with greenhorn," "gray," "gull," "Injun," etc. For this class of people a tender solicitude is constantly being manifested by another class of men known as "confidence men," and the latter invent a great many very pleasing and instructive games for them. After the departure of that great teacher of experience, Doc Baggs, the suckers were left without a single friend to entertain them until a few days ago, when they were


      The first friend who struck them was John Fitchett, of the Turf Exchange, and he showed a game entirely new. So pleased was the “sucker” with it that he paid $1,650 for the privilege of learning all about it. So novel is this game that THE REPUBLICAN will devote several lines of space in explaining it. THE REPUBLICAN was very fortunate in obtaining possession of it without paying anything, by the kindness of General Dave Cook, who explained it theoretically and is now thrown in free to subscribers.
Keep in mind that this accounting by the newspaper is not necessarily accurate. The facts from the bunko men themselves is missing, as they were not caught and arrested. Much of this is based on assumption and guessing.
      To play the game three persons are required, just as in dummy whist. The other implements required are a hotel and a safe. It is also necessary that one of the players should be the landlord of the hotel, another a very intimate friend of the landlord, sometimes called "a capper, or steerer," and the third man must be a "sucker." The "sucker" is absolutely necessary, or the game is no good. When all the factors are properly placed the game opens by the "capper" steering the man into the hotel and introducing him to the landlord, who receives him with open arms, and impresses upon him the fact that he is particularly welcome, because he is brought in by such

As the "capper," is represented to be. The bar is thrown open, and the "Sucker" is treated time and again, until he is in a proper condition when the "Capper" proposes that the party take in the town. Before going, however, the party informs the "Sucker" that there are many robbers in town, and they had better leave their pocket books behind. The landlord is represented to be a very wealthy man, just keeping hotel for fun, and finally the "Sucker" and "Capper" deposit their wallets in the safe. After having a good time they retire. Next morning "Sucker" asks for his pocketbook. The landlord goes to the safe and hands out a wallet. The victim opens it and finds only a five dollar bill stead of $1,650. He makes a great noise, and says it is not his pocketbook, but the landlord insists upon it that the pocketbook is the same one deposited in the safe the night before. The victim makes a great outcry, and the landlord appears much distressed. Finally he pleads with the "sucker," and says he would not have the good name of his house injured for anything. Then comes the final play. He writes out a note payable in five days, and handing it to the victim, says: "Take that and I will pay it in five days." The "sucker" believing the landlord to be a responsible man, accept the note.

For the note distinctly States value received, no law can touch him,
     Such is the new racket. Fitchett was the landlord, Edward Smith, of Butte, Montana, a miner, was the "sucker," and the "capper" is unknown. Fitchett also played the note racket on Brasher Bros. for nearly $1,000, and is supposed to be out of town. His wife purchased two tickets for California, but as far as known Fitchett did not go with her. It is certain that he did not leave Denver with her, although he may have preceded her a few hours and met her down the road. The racket is a new one to “fly” men, and will probably in time become very popular, although it requires some capital and time to work it successfully. When all the factors are in conjunction the game is sure to work.

Was the "capper" Soapy Smith or John Taylor?

      It was believed by all that after Doc Baggs had been driven out of Denver no more bunko rackets would be worked, but the imbecile police force allowed another racket to be played last week. It was a plain game and the victim, who is a prominent and wealthy man, was swindled out of $900 in a manner which, while often told, contains this time some

The newspaper begins to figure out that the police are in league with the current bunko gang.
The crime is surrounded with mystery and the police have striven desperately to keep the affair quiet. Owing to the efforts of Chief Lomery, who is more energetic in concealing crime than in discovering it, only a few facts could be learned, but they are sufficient to present case in detail.
     About two weeks ago a man named Miller came to Denver from New Haven, Connecticut. He is the father of a fine family, and has always stood high in the community in which he has lived. He has been, as far as is known, engaged in banking, and came to Denver to go into business. About three days ago a nice-appearing man met him on the street, and greeting him very heartily as Mr. John Taylor, or John Smith, or something else, from Podunk, obtained his true name.
Could "Mr. John Taylor, or John Smith" be just a mere coincidence for being con men John Taylor and Jeff Smith ("Soapy")?
Soon afterwards another man met him and calling him by his right name entered into a conversation, in which he mentioned the names of several cashiers in New Haven, and invited Mr. Miller to go down to a picture store, where Mr. Miller's newly-found friend had drawn a fine painting in a raffle. Mr. Miller went with the stranger and was roped into a bunko game. In a very few minutes he had lost $400 in money, but the spirit of gambling was on him and he put up a $500 draft. This also went, and he walked out, looking for some one to advise him. He ran across a prominent young merchant and told him a few of the facts, and by him was introduced to Chief Lomery who sent Sergeant John Phillips out on the case. He soon arrested a man from pueblo and
So that he returned all the money and the draft, upon condition, however, that he should be released. This condition was carried out and thus Lomery deliberately compounded a felony.
The fact that the police do not name the swindler, and then allow him to be released, clues the newspaper reporter that the police are in league with the bunko men, so he paid the police chief a visit.
     A REPUBLICAN reporter, learning some of the facts, went the Chief for further information. He at first professed ignorance and said he did not know the name of the victim or that of the confidence man. Upon being pressed closely he said he was under promise not to reveal the name of the victim; that he was a responsible man and did not desire publicity, and he was under promise not to reveal the name. The reporter started for the store of the merchant who first met Miller, but the Chief of Police, not satisfied with refusing information himself, sent Officer Moll out on a run to warn the merchant not to give any information. The reporter arrived while the officer was doing his Chief's bidding, and, disgusted with this evidence of venality and corruption shown in concealing the existence of crime from the people, left the store without seeking further information.
     Thus it will be seen that within a week two confidence games for large amounts have been played in the city, and in each case the police have kept the facts from the people. Such venality in the work of the guardians the city's morals and peace has never been seen before, and is a warning to citizens who desire some information regarding the work done by their servants.

"You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it."
—Albert Einstein

June 26, 2021

"Doc" Baggs - and possibly Soapy Smith, at the Denver National Mining and Industrial Exposition, 1882.

National Mining and Industrial Exposition building
Courtesy Denver Western History Collection

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id Soapy Smith operate at the Denver National Mining and Industrial Exposition in 1882?
     I have always wondered if Soapy Smith operated at the Denver National Mining and Industrial Exposition of 1882. It was certainly a large enough venue with plenty of suckers for the taking. In 1882 Denver’s criminal underworld was still under the control of Charles L. “Doc” Baggs, thus, if he wanted to operate, the 22 year old “Soapy” would have had to have Baggs’ permission, perhaps paying for that "right" to operate in Denver.
     Below is a newspaper article reporting on two swindles that took place in Denver during the Exposition. The second swindle by Baggs, but the first by an unknown bunko gang, never uncovered. Could this have been the Soapy Smith gang?

Denver Republican
August 3, 1882

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Following is the transcription of the newspaper pictured above.

An Honest Farmer of Iowa Swindled Out of Eleven Hundred Dollars.

Confidence Men Rope Him in by Pretending to Have a Mine to Sell.
Doc Baggs at His Old-Time Racket --- Placed in Jail, but Released.

He Swindles an Old Man out of $8,000 on the Lottery Game.

      Now that the Exposition is opened, Denver is full of bunko's, confidence men and sure thing workers. Unless the large number of police on duty exercise due diligence in suppressing them, accounts of their operations will be of daily occurrence in the newspapers. Not only will the light-fingered gentry, pickpockets, sneaks and pilferers have a harvest, but the more ostentatious criminals will be in all their glory.
     The disciples of Doc Baggs will have a rich time of it unless the reins are drawn tightly.
     Yesterday a case came to light where an honest old farmer from Illinois was scooped in for the snug sum of $1,165 by a game which is likely to be played upon many husbandmen who will visit Denver during the Mining Exposition.
     The farmer who was so successfully duped was one of a numerous class. They are not men of the world; that is, they are not well-versed with the ways of the sleek rascals who live by their wits. They belong to that class of honest yeomanry who look upon everybody as principled as themselves until their true characters are shown up.
     The victim's name in this case is Fenton Meredith, whose home is near Iowa City, Iowa. He lives on a farm a short distance from that city, and is well-to-do, possessing enough of this world's goods to live comfortably without hard labor. On the 27th of July he left his home to make a Western trip to combine business and pleasure. He had heard of the great Mining Exposition at Denver, and he resolved to arrive here in time for the opening day. He brought a little money with him, so that if he met with a good chance for investment in the mining districts of Colorado, he would invest it.
     On his way he met on the train a young man introduced himself by the name of Harbiston. As both had a long journey before them, they naturally fell together, and the otherwise tiresome trip to the old farmer was made very pleasant by the company and courtesies of the young man. The young man on the way casually remarked that his father was deeply engaged in mining in Colorado, and he was on his way to join him at Denver. [note the distance these con men worked outside of Denver to collect victims]. He talked glibly of the wealthy mines his father was operating, and of the duties he was going to perform when he arrived at the scene of operations.
     Of all subjects matters pertaining to mining were the most interesting to Meredith, as he had made up his mind to invest in them should a favorable opportunity present itself.
     The journey to Denver was without incident, and the arrival here was made the day previous to the Exposition opening. Upon the invitation of the kind young man it was arranged that they should go together.
Denver National Mining and Industrial Exposition
Denver Republican
August 6, 1882

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     After the parade was over they hired a conveyance and proceeded to the Exposition. While looking over the vast quantities of ore the young man pointed out some very rich specimens from one of his mines. He related to Meredith that the mine was located in Grant county, Colorado, which was the richest of all the counties in the state in mineral products. At great length he told of the vast riches that were awaiting men who would only invest a few hundred dollars in the district.
     The old man was not very well versed with the geography of this part of the world, and did not know that there was no such county as Grant in the State.
     While the farmer was examining the ore critically, a stiff old gentleman, with silver-streaked hair and side-whiskers, stepped up, and the young man introduced the new-comer to the farmer as his father. A long talk followed, in which the son and father talked knowingly and in true miner's parlance about the different ores on exhibition.
     Yesterday the young man and the farmer went to the Exposition again, and mines and mining were the chief topic of conversation. After dinner they stepped into the Sans Souci garden, where they met the young man's father, whom the affectionate son called "Colonel."
     After the formalities of the day had passed, among other things discussed was the "Mountain Queen" mine, from which the father and son alleged the fine specimens of ore they had examined in the Exhibition building had been taken.
     As the conversation progressed, the "Colonel" casually remarked that he was dissatisfied with his partner in the mining business, and would be glad to get rid of him. His partner was a good mining man, but a very disagreeable fellow socially, and he would sacrifice money to have an agreeable business companion. He thought his partner was dissatisfied, too, and would like to sell out-very cheap, he thought, as he had heard him say he would sacrifice himself to get out of the business.
     Mr. Meredith here asserted that he had some money he would like to invest, and if the Colonel's partner did not ask too much for his interest in the mine he would buy it.
     "What'll he sell for?" inquired the honest farmer.
     The Colonel sized up his man and then said:
     "I think he would sell out for $2,000 cash."
     "that is cheap enough for a half of such a mind as that,” said Mr. Meredith. "I'll take it."
     The Colonel then explained that he thought if he would represent to his partner that he was to make the purchase himself he could get a better bargain then if his partner knew he was going to take in an outside party. He was a whimsical sort of party, and he would rather see him the sole owner of the mine then to have a disinterested party buy him out.
     Mr. Meredith was agreed to have the Colonel act as the purchasing party, but explained that he didn't have sufficient money to pay cash spot down. He had the larger portion of it, however, and he would give his note for the balance. He gave the Colonel $1,165 and would give a note for the balance if the negotiations were successful.
     The Colonel stated that his partner was in the Exposition building, and he would go over immediately and see him. They would all go, for that matter, but Mr. Meredith must remain in the background.
     Accordingly they all went over to the Exposition. The Colonel pointed out his partner, standing over near the Gunnison exhibit, and went over to him. The son went with him. The father and son had quite a lengthy chat with the partner, while Meredith watched them. [indecipherable] viewing the ore specimens from the "Mountain Queen," when, on looking around saw that the conversing trio we're missing, stepped over to where they had been standing, but could not see them nowhere. He hurried to the outside of the building just in time to see the three men jump into a hack, the driver of which whipped up the horses, and soon the Exposition building was dissolving from their view.
     The honest old farmer saw that he had been duped, and that his money was fast getting away from him. He tried to hire a hack to pursue the thieves, they were all engaged and refused to carry him. He then went to the depot of the Circle railway and took the first train for the city, but on arriving in town no trace of the confidence men could be found.
     Mr. Meredith placed detectives on the case, but they could gain no clue.
     The honest old farmer is the victim of bunkos, and he stands very poor show of getting any of his money back.

The Old Racket.

      The noted Doc Baggs was arrested again yesterday, charged with beating a man out of $100 in cash and a $600 note at bunko. The name of the victim is J. H. Frost, a prominent grain man of Peoria, Illinois, and his downfall is the same old story. Frost was picked up by a capper, who pretended to know him in Peoria, and told him the famous story of drawing a prize in a lottery. Frost went with the capper to a room over Wahl's butcher shop, on Larimer, between Nineteenth and Twentieth streets, and the capper, one C. L. James, won plenty of money. Frost thought he could win also, and started in. In a very few minutes he found himself minus $100 in cash, but still believing he could win, he gave his note for $600.
     Sheriff Spangler had instructed Deputy Sheriff Cutler and a detective to shadow Doc, and while the game was going on they were stationed below at the stairway, awaiting the men engaged in the play. The first men to come down were C. L. James, the capper, and the victim, J. H. Frost. Cutler arrested them both, and after disposing of them, turned back and arrested Doc. Baggs and Cliff Sparks. Baggs gave bond, and the victim, Frost, was also required to give bonds in the sum of $2,000 to appear. As usual, Doc. laughs at his man and says that Frost was merely beaten at his own game. There is very little sympathy wasted on the latter, who should have had more sense than to allow himself to be beaten at such an old game.

     The second storied swindle is obviously the work of Charles L. "Doc" Baggs and Clifton "Cliff" Sparks, as they were arrested moments after the act. I knew that Sparks was a gambler, but I did not know that he worked cons with or for Baggs. Soapy Smith historians may recognize the name "Cliff Sparks" as he was shot dead in 1892, most likely by Soapy. It may have been premeditated but a "reason" is unknown at this time. 
     The bunkos that executed the first (long con) swindle in the article is the work of another unnamed bunko gang. Could this have been Soapy Smith and his gang? Could the sharp "young man" going by the name of "Harbiston" been 22-year-old Jeff Smith? Could the old "stiff old gentleman, with silver-streaked hair and side-whiskers" playing the part of the "Colonel," the elder, father, "Harbiston" have been Soapy's elderly mentor, John "Old Man" Taylor? 
     The following day the Denver Republican continued their attack on "Doc" Baggs and the other sharps working Denver.

Denver Republican
August 4, 1882

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Following is the transcribed text of the newspaper clipping pictured above.


      Baggs is not the only bunko man in Denver. There are many others just as bad and who deserve the penitentiary just as much. But Baggs is a representative of the genius; he is the King of the clan. He has money to back him, and has so successfully defied the law for a series of years that he has encouraged all the lesser lights of the fraternity to deeds of lawlessness. He is a confidence man from choice. Others follow the business because the world has dealt hard with them and they must "live on their wits" or starve. Baggs has no such excuse. His wealth makes him independent. It is natural or acquired depravity that causes him to fleece people. He steals because he loves to steal. He plans by day how to rob people, and dreams of his successes by night. He is a man who has prospered by stealing and who delights in his criminal record. He has been to the doors of the penitentiary a thousand times, and if he could be made to serve cumulative sentences for all his crimes he would be in a felon's cell the balance of his days. Thief, black-leg and confidence man, he yet has the audacity to say how a "gentleman" - meaning himself - should be treated. He carries his head aloft as if held there by a check- rein, and threatens to take a hand in local politics, and aspires to defeat men who he knows will enforce the laws, if elected, and to help elect such as he believes would shield thieves and black- legs, and protect them for shares in the spoils.
     The war upon the Bunkos and men of that class has been begun. It is a war of extermination. The Bunko men must go. They must leave the city, forsake their games or go to jail. The fair fame of the city must not suffer during the continuance of the Exposition through the deeds of these men. Men who come here to patronize our show must be protected. For this purpose the Sheriff has sworn in a large special force of deputies. In the execution of this determination the leading bunko men were shadowed. The King of them was the first victim.
     No mercy dare be shown him. He should be made to serve as an example to the social element of which he is chief. He is now out on bail and is laying his plans to escape punishment for his misdeeds. He is negotiating in this direction with men who are well known. It is certain that he would not stop short of anything to beat the case lying against him. If witnesses could be bought to swear him out he would buy them. The officers are aware of this, and being aware of it, are keeping the wily "gentlemen" within range of their vision. He is carefully looked after and his every movement is known. The parties with whom he consults are also known, and it will be a very sorry day for the hired perjurers of former occasions when they take their place on the stand in this case. This is the first of a series of descents upon men of this class-a class that has for many years disgraced this city. It will be made a test case and no efforts will be spared to convict. No outside influence will be tolerated, and Doc. Baggs will have to be convicted or acquitted on the merits of the case.
     In this connection a word to the “straight” sporting-men of this city may not be out of place. Men who run "square" gaming houses have never been disturbed. They have not been molested either by the law or the press. There is no disposition to do so now, so long as "brace-games" are not introduced and "steerers" are not employed. Without entering upon a discussion of the subject it is sufficient to say that public sentiment is more or less with “straight” gambling. Public sentiment is very strongly opposed to dishonest, unfair and “dead sure” games, such as are practiced by Baggs, Cliff Sparks, Cal. Sommers and men of that stamp. These vultures are giving the gambler a very much worse name than he deserves. The world at large sees but little of the true, old-fashioned gambler, who is the impersonation of good impulses, honesty, generosity and steadfastness. They see only the bunko men, the steerers and the hangers-on to "brace games," and they judge “the profession” by these. In view of these facts, it is bad policy, to put it on a low plane, for the better men in the business to stand by and shield these thieves. It must injure "square" gaming and jeopardize the privilege from immunity now enjoyed by that class. The gamblers’ "code of ethics" may demand that such men should be shielded. If this be true, THE REPUBLICAN would simply say, do not carry it too far into practice in these bunko cases.
A very nice look into Charles L. "Doc" Baggs. Also very interesting to note that "Baggs is not the only bunko man in Denver." There are numerous bunko men in Denver, most unknown to the newspapers, and apparently to the police as well. It can still be wondered if Soapy was one of them. 
Get Rid of Them.
Denver Republican
August 4, 1882

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The Evening World (shared in the Denver Republican), published that there were "two gangs of confidence men arrested for swindling visitors." The other gang is not identified. 

Denver Republican
August 8, 1882
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 Following is the transcribed text of the newspaper clipping pictured above.

Which Follows Him in the Morning, Noon and in the Midnight.

Sheriff Spangler Accepts the Challenge of the King of Bunko Dealers and Opens the Fight.

      The one case agitating the community yesterday was that of Doc Baggs, James and Cliff Sparks. These men, it will be remembered, were arrested for beating a man named J. H. Frost, a prominent grain merchant of Peoria, Illinois, out of $100 in cash and a $600 note. After their arrest Frost was required to give bond as a witness. This work was done by Sheriff Spangler, who has sworn to rid the city of Baggs, and he began this work with this purpose in view, by avoiding the mistakes made in the past. The trouble has always been that Baggs has been able to run off all his victims, leaving the State without a prosecuting witness, and therefore powerless. Sheriff Spangler upon arresting Baggs took the entire crowd before Justice Jeffries and had


      Placed under $1,000 to ensure appearance, but owing to the statute the witness was only obliged to give his personal recognizance. The case was postponed, but finally came up yesterday before Justice Crotty. It was again continued until next Saturday morning on account of the absence of the prosecuting witness, Frost, and some excitement was caused by the discovery.
     It then came out that Sheriff Spangler, in prosecuting the case, placed Deputy Sheriff Pinner in charge of the witness Frost with instructions to shadow and prevent the man from leaving town. Pinner picked his man up Saturday morning last, at 7 o'clock, and followed him all day and night, when he retired to the Windsor and left him. He was late in picking Frost up next morning, and upon arriving at the Windsor at 10 o'clock, learned that the witness had


      Pinner searched all over town, but failed to find his man, but finally was forced to the conclusion that Frost had departed on the 9 o'clock train for the East. This information was communicated to Sheriff Spangler, who became angry at his Deputy's failure, and yesterday morning demanded his resignation.
     Deputy Pinner felt sore naturally, but did not ask for an explanation. Afterwards he said he missed Frost because he was overworked, but he had been at the depot up to 8 o'clock in the morning and had waited every train. He said, "Mr. Spangler could never have held Frost if I had arrested him. Several prominent lawyers told me this, and if I had arrested the witness there would have been a fine case of false imprisonment, but still I did not believe Frost would have stayed to prosecute such a suit, and I would not have hesitated to make the arrest had I detected the man in the act of leaving. The fault lies in my not having some assistance. I was overworked, and while resting, as I had to do,


     Sheriff Spangler, on the other hand, said very positively, “I gave Pinner nothing to do but to Shadow Frost, and knowing how much interest I have in this case he should have attended to it more carefully. He let the man get away and in a case like this no man in my employ can remain who fails so palpably in his duty.”
     But Sheriff Spangler announced in addition that he had not played his last trump by any means. He has two right bowers left and back of that a joker which sweeps all. He says he will secure the witness, Frost, whenever he desires him. There is no law here enabling Sheriff Spangler to bring a witness back on a requisition, but there is a law making the compounding of a felony, a felony, and upon this an indictment can be found and a requisition issued and this will probably be the mode of procedure. This is the Sheriff's left Bower in the game of skill between himself and Baggs. His right bower is still in his hand and he refuses to show it, but his joker is being played at the present time. This is a card which Doc. does not understand yet, but will completely block him. Sheriff Spangler has appointed one man


     This man is as faithful as a bull-dog, as tenacious as a leach[sic] and as relentless as a fury. He has but one object in view, and that is Doc Baggs. He follows the latter by day and night. In the day time the sun casts Doc.'s shadow at his feet, and in the night time Doc. never passes an electric light without seeing the shadow's shadow lengthen out before him. Doc makes light of shadows, and of this particular shadow, and frequently addresses him as "Spangler No. 2," but the shadow is a shadow, and answers never a word. He does not even smile. His instructions are to watch, not talk, and day in and day out, as long as Doc. remains out, these instructions are carried out. This is warfare with a vengeance. Cruel, relentless war, fought under the noses of the hurrying people without a soul seeing it except the two men, Doc. and his shadow. A shadow is


     In ordinary language, but in this case it is a very solid object. It walks with a huge cane, and a heavy tread. It is a shadow, which casts a shadow, and smokes cigarettes. It talks German, it swears safety to itself once in a while, but it never leaves Doc. It is a curious shadow, and is like the shadow of the Upas tree to the person in its shade. The shadow has a name. It is known as Emil Auspitz.
     Doc laughs at the shadow, but while it is near, there is no money for Doc. He cannot work while it is around. He cannot buy it off, for he would merely create another shadow, if he should do so. If a victim should be ensnared, the all powerful follower spreads his arms, and Doc and victim disappear. No man can live in such a shadow. It shuts out the sunlight of prosperity. It lurks behind every corner, at the bottom of obscure stairways and obscures the sign "Dr. Baggs, lottery dealer." it is the shadow of a sun dial, and bye and bye it will mark the noon of doom and Doc will I have no need of a shadow. It is a great thing
, for Doc.
According to the article, Charles Baggs, Clifton Sparks and C. L. James were arrested and gave bonds in the sum of $1,000 each. Sheriff Spangler knew that Baggs always made sure that the victim would not testify as a witness against the gang. Numerous ways, including a return of a portion of the stolen funds, threats, and even the logic of the victim needing to stay in Denver as the prosecutions witness, for an undetermined trial period, were methods of convincing a victim to leave Denver and the upcoming trial behind them. The Sheriff could not legally arrest the victim Frost, in order to keep him in Denver, but he could have him watched, "shadowed," so that they could keep him from leaving town. It didn't work. Sheriff Spangler placed Deputy Sheriff Pinner in charge of watching the witness, but Frost was able to flee anyway. Spangler's second shadow attempt was for Baggs himself, and Spangler made sure the target would not escape this time. The job of the "shadow" was not only to keep Baggs from fleeing Denver, but to keep him from victimizing anyone else.
     The newspaper article goes into detail on the success of "shadowing" Baggs. Baggs’ shadow is also covered by historian Forbes Parkhill in The Westerners Brand Book.

      When Sheriff Mike Spangler jailed the doc on a bunco steering charge, the defendant appeared in court as his own attorney, pointed out that the Colorado statutes contained no such term as "bunco steerer," and won a dismissal.
     Thwarted in his effort to keep the "doctor" behind bars, the sheriff directed a deputy, Emil Auspitz, to follow him everywhere and warn every person he met that Baggs was a notorious bunco man.
     The "doctor" was delighted by this mark of distinction. Entering his office, he'd switch costumes, emerge disguised, elude his "shadow" and then notify the sheriff that the deputy was loafing on the job.
     "Send him to the Windsor Hotel," he invited cordially. "I'll be waiting for him there."
     After the deputy had learned how effectively Baggs could disguise himself, one of doc's cappers would point out to the officer some stranger, confiding that it was the bunco man in disguise. Following the innocent man, the deputy would warn every person that the stranger met that this was the notorious "Doc" Baggs, much to the delight of the "doctor," who'd be shadowing the shadow to watch the fun when the indignant stranger punched the deputy's nose.

More is found in the book, Queen City of the Plains.

... Sheriff Spangler adopted a strategic move to rid the town of Him. Mr. Spangler selected Emil Auspitz, a widely known German, a deputy in the sheriff’s office at the time, and instructed him to follow Baggs during his waking hours and to orally warn every individual whom Baggs approached of the latter’s identity. It kept him busy, but the deputy for days on carried out the instructions.
     "Do you know the man you are talking to? Auspitz would inquire of a stranger. "If not, let me inform you that he is ‘Doc’ Baggs, the most notorious confidence man in town."
     Baggs at first took the matter as a huge joke. The warning "cooked his business," to be sure, but it afforded him opportunity for much amusement. His assortment of disguises exactly fitted the occasion. It was Baggs’ delight to come down town of a morning made up in such a costume that the deputy would fail to recognize him. At times the surveillance would be off for hours. Then Baggs, surfeited with the sport he was having, would make himself known and the good-natured deputy, faithful in the performance of his duty, would continue to sound his warning to all strangers seen talking to Baggs.
     To vary the sport Baggs, when lost from his "shadow," would induce a friend to give the deputy a false tip as to Baggs’ identity and many a citizen was thus overhauled by Auspitz, much to the merriment of Baggs. The jolly confidence man even went around the streets inquiring about his "shadow," as he termed Auspitz.
     As the days lapsed into weeks the situation became less amusing to Baggs. He could do no "business" because of Auspitz’s warnings, his men were arrested on vagrancy charges, and he finally decided to move on. Gathering his confidantes about him one evening he boarded a southbound Rio Grande train and quit the city, as it proved, for good.
     “I well remember that occasion,” commented Mart Watrous. “I was a city detective at the time and, as it happened, boarded the same train, taking a prisoner to a Southern city. Later, in the chair car, I recognized the faces of several of Baggs’ men, but did not see Baggs. I wasn’t looking for him, remember. As the train was nearing Pueblo, a sedate-looking passenger, passing down the aisle of the car, stopped a moment in front of my seat, just long enough to attract my attention. He raised the point of a false, white beard he was wearing slightly, but far enough for me to recognize him. It was ‘Doc’ Baggs in one of his ministerial disguises. He rejoined his men without saying a word. There was no criminal charge against him. It was just a little piece of bravado on his part.
How much of these book and newspaper accounts are accurate is unknown. Whether Baggs' operations were actually injured, and whether he laughed at his "shadow's" attempts, Baggs did try to cut a deal to end this episode in his life, even promising to leave Denver, if it meant not going to prison. 

Denver Republican
August 9, 1882

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Following is the transcribed text of the newspaper clipping pictured above.

He Promises to Leave the City if Sheriff Spangler Will Only Remove the Shadow.

      When Doc. Baggs made his last play Sheriff Spangler said he would drive him to the wall. Doc.'s friends laughed. When the prosecuting witness, Frost, left the city Doc.'s friends laughed louder and Doc.'s newspaper crowed lustily, but there is an old and well-tried saw which says: "He laughs longest who laughs last," and now Sheriff Spangler's turn has come to smile. The shadow did it. Suckers might come and go and Doc. was safe, but the shadow killed him. He could not stand it. Deputy Sheriff's were with him all the time. They followed him night and day and Doc. found the game was up.
     Yesterday he sent word to Sheriff Spangler that he would submit upon the following terms: First- That he was to be let alone until the present trial was concluded, which, if accepted, he would promise to leave the city. What Sheriff Spangler replied is not known, but it is presumed he accepted the truth. This lets doc. out. A great public benefactor will be lost to the city and the newspapers will lose a friend who furnished many a sensation, many a sucker will escape being fleeced, and this equalizes things.


Denver Republican
August 13, 1882

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Following is the transcribed text of the newspaper clipping pictured above.

Frost, the Prosecuting Witness, Fails to Appear and Justice Crotty Discharges Doc. Baggs.

In Justice Crotty's court the celebrated case against Doc. Baggs, Cliff Sparks and L. C. James came up, but as the prosecuting witness, Frost, of Peoria did not appear, the defendants were discharged. This, while apparently a victory for Doc, is a defeat, for, while he has the best of the case, this effort results in his final downfall. It will be remembered that after beating Frost, a rich grain merchant, out of $100 in cash and a note for $600, Doc. openly boasted that he would continue in the same business at the old stand in spite of the Sheriff and officers and defied all opposition. Sheriff Spangler picked up the gauntlet that's throwing down, and in twenty-four hours had Doc. in a corner. His plot against Doc.'s peace of mind was a very simple one. He merely set a shadow upon his victim and Doc. became a mere nothing. He made overtures to Sheriff Spangler inside of a week, and promised that he would leave town if the Sheriff would wait until the case was dismissed, take off the shadow and not arrest the petitioner on a charge of vagrancy. Sheriff Spangler replied in substance that he was willing to accept Doc.'s promise, but the shadow would still be continued at work.
     Now that the trial of Doc. and his men is over, the time has come for him to depart. He will be greatly missed, as his merry ways and genial manner made him many friends, but what is Denver's gain is some other cities loss, and Doc., with his comfortable little fortune, can soon fix himself in some new field.

The trial against Baggs comes and goes. Without the prosecutions witness (victim Frost) they had no case and the court was forced to discharge the defendants.

Denver Republican
August 15, 1882

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Following is the transcribed text of the newspaper clipping pictured above.

The King of Bunko Men Will Leave Denver To-day for the Pacific Coast.

      To - day is the appointed time for Doc Baggs to leave the city for good, and in all probability he will carry out his promise made to Sheriff Spangler. He made a boast that he would remain in the city and play bunko after Sheriff Spangler is forgotten, but this boast was an empty one. Spangler went to work to corner him, and was victorious in a few days. When it came down to business and a determined and shrewd officer called on him to go down, Doc's hand was found to be very slim.
     But now that Doc is about to go forever, or until Sheriff Spangler is no longer Sheriff, it is not amiss to say something about his career. He has been a bunko man for years, and is rightfully considered the king of all men in the business. He is a gentleman in appearance, and is remarkable in his strict observance of moral rules. He does not drink, chew or swear, and is above the average of good husbands. He plays for high game, and never strikes a poor man. Among his other good qualities it may be mentioned that he always divides with the police, and has many friends among them who will regret his departure. Great was Doc on the Divide. Everyone received a bit, and whenever a sucker with skinned the policeman and police chieftains had a feast. Doc is about to leave us. I will miss his genial face. He never killed anyone and was a good neighbor, but he would rob a man once in a while, and a shadow fell upon him and blighted his life. Doc will go to San Francisco, it is said, and will prosper there in a greater degree than here. Thou king of bunko men, hail and farewell.

As the "shadowing" continued, Charles L. "Doc" Baggs had no choice but to keep his promise and leave Denver. Likely he would have done so, even without the Sheriff shadowing his every move. Too many people knew him. He needed their memories of him to fade enough for a future return, and he would return.
     Throughout this 1882 accounting, take note that it is repeated several times that Baggs left Denver for good, never to return. This is not true. Baggs did return to Denver, operating for another couple of years, to 1884-85, before finally giving up Denver. His successor was none-other than Soapy Smith.
Following is a poem written for and published by the Denver Republican.

Baggs and Sparks
Denver Republican
August 4, 1882

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[Written for the Denver Republican.]
Baggs and Sparks.
Doc Baggs is still upon the street,
Corn doctor celebrated,
He still relieves those tenderfeet,
Whose purses are inflated.

His striker is that villain Sparks-
To this high rank has risen
How can this precious pair of sharks
Remain outside a prison?

You’ll find them at the Turf Exchange,
With eyes alert for strangers,
Behold their victimsisn’t it strange?
Bankers, merchants and grangers.

Doc greets you with his blandest smile,
And says. “How are you, Bacon?”
Quite taken with his easy style,
You tell him he’s mistaken.

And then, of course, you give your name,
Which happens to be Haskell;
But still you fail to see the game
Of this ingenious rascal.

You later on meet number two,
And prove yourself a gawkey.
Says he: “Friend Haskell, how de do?
When came you from Milwaukee?

“And how are all our old dear friends, Smith, Williams, Brown and Morey?”
Ah, well, we all know how it ends,
So why repeat the story?

Charles L. "Doc" Baggs

Charles L. "Doc" Baggs: pages 61-62, 72, 75-76, 80, 82, 85, 88, 90, 135, 242 254.

"A race track is a place where windows clean people."
—Danny Thomas

June 13, 2021

1885 Denver ordinance against Soapy Smith

An Ordnance to Cover the Defective Points.
Denver Tribune-Republican
May 14, 1885

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n order to cover such cases as "Soapy" Smith, the arrest of whom for violating the lottery ordinance"
Note how bad the Xerox copy at the top is. This was shared to my father, by his brother (my uncle) Joseph Jefferson Smith​ (1909-1977). Obviously, the copiers at the time did not do as well copying old paper like they do today. Though most of the article is readable, note that sections of the top and bottom are unreadable. My search to find this article online and within newspaper archives has not proven successful, so I turned to cleaning up what I had to work with, the results shown below.
Repaired version
An Ordnance to Cover the Defective Points.
Denver Tribune-Republican
May 14, 1885

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     After Soapy swindled J. Brockman using his prize package soap sell racket [see; Soapy Smith Jailed, May 12, 1885], Denver passed a new city ordinance, including a Ninth Section, pointed directly at "Soapy" Smith. Following is the transcription of the article from the
Denver Tribune-Republican, May 14, 1885.

An Ordnance to Cover the Defective Points in the Old One.

      Owing to the defective condition of the present city ordinance in regard to vagrants it has been impossible to get a conviction. To remedy this Corporation Counsel White has prepared an ordinance which will probably be introduced at the meeting of the Board of Supervisors to-night, which is very sweeping in its character. The first section reads:
     “A vagrant within the meaning of this ordinance shall be deemed to be any person able to work and support himself or herself in any honest and respectable calling, trade or business, who lives idly and is without any visible means to support himself or herself.”
     The ordinance also includes persons found loitering around gambling rooms, proprietors of devices for gambling, hold-ups, cappers, pimps, prostitutes, etc., etc.
     In order to cover such cases as "Soapy" Smith, the arrest of whom for violating the lottery ordinance, the Ninth Section reads:
     Any person who shall be engaged and any fraudulent scheme, device or trick upon the streets, thoroughfares or public places or elsewhere in the city; or who, by the aid, use or manipulation of any article or articles, thing or things whatsoever in packages, boxes or otherwise arranged, whereby persons are induced, or sought to be induced, to purchase any such packages, article or thing with a view to obtaining money, jewelry or other property therein contained or therewith connected in any manner. And it shall constitute no defense to this provision of this ordinance that such person (the rest is illegible)
Soapy was charged with "running a lottery scheme." Arraigned on May 13, with an unknown amount for bail, due to poor reproduction of the newspaper article. It looks to be "$500 bail."

"Prize Packages and the Police Court."
Rocky Mountain News
May 14, 1885
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Prize Packages and the Police Court.
     "Soapy" Smith, the prize "soap" package man, was charged with running a lottery scheme, and was arraigned for this offense before Judge Barnum in the police court yesterday. The case was continued till to-day, and Smith was bond in $500 [?] bail, John P. Kinneavy being his surety, Smith's ______ [undecipherable] in Judge Miller. A certain _______ [undecipherable] who bought soap of Smith ____ [undecipherable] to have been swindled in the transaction. The circumstances of the case were mentioned in The News of yesterday.

     John P. Kinneavy was a close friend and accomplice of Soapy's, using Kinneavy's saloon on 17th Street, conveniently located across the street from the Union Depot, where fresh swindle victims arrived daily. Kinneavy was an early resident of Denver, he dabbled in its politics as a delegate in 1877. During the yellow fever epidemic of the 1870s, he and his partner, Frank Parker, donated bar receipts from their saloon to aid victims. Socially, Kinneavy was well liked by residents and peers. Of one Irish-American military organization, he was elected president. In 1885, the News listed him as a wealthy land owner, and by 1889, Kinneavy and co-partner T. W. O’Connor operated saloons at 1218 Sixteenth Street and another at 1321 Larimer, near city hall on Fourteenth. In 1892 he had a saloon at 1544 Larimer. He remained a close ally of Soapy's until the latter fled Denver in 1895.
"Soapy" Smith Salted.
Rocky Mountain News
May 17, 1885

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The Soap Prize Man Fined by Judge Barnum-Other Police Court Cases.

     In the Police court yesterday Andrew Linquist was tried for vagrancy, fined $15 and sent to jail in default of paying the fine.  Three drunks were disposed of with the usual $7 fines. Mr. Wortman was fined $5 for disturbance and $5 for being drunk. She did not pay the fine and went to jail. J. M. Butcher was fined $5 for discharging firearms within the city limits. Jeff Smith, the soap package man, who has been given the nickname of "Soapy" Smith, was tried for running a lottery on complaint of F. Brockman, who claims that he was swindled out of $30 in buying soaps with the hope of obtaining a big money prize. He expected to find $100 in the packages of sop and only got $1. Smith claims that he doesn't pretend that every one can be lucky and was very indignant when Judge Barnum fined him $25. He gave notice that he would appeal the case.

     Note that the article mentions that "Jeff Smith, the soap package man, who has been given the nickname of 'Soapy' Smith." This is the first recorded use of the moniker "Soapy," and it would remain the synonym of "Jefferson Randolph Smith" for the rest of his life.
     In the meantime Soapy retained his license as a vendor on the streets of Denver. It would take a month before the city could legally stop him.

     The ordinance seemed designed to stop Jeff in particular and all bunco men in general. Some probably did seek more tolerant towns, but Jeff simply ignored the ordinance. Whether he felt it did not apply to him or that graft payments would shield him, the prize package soap sales continued. A few days later, on May 22, he was again in the news.

Slugging a Soap Man.

      About 8 o’clock last evening a disgraceful fight occurred at the corner of Arapahoe and Sixteenth streets between an unknown person and the assistant for the soap peddler who is camped there during the day and evening. It seems that the unknown man had insulted the assistant and he proceeded to pound him up. After a number of blows were passed, most of which were struck by the assistant, Officer Bohanna appeared and marched them both off to jail.

     Just short of one month later Alderman Kaub offered a resolution rescinding the license of "Soapy Smith" for fraudulent practices, which was adopted.


A Resolution
Rocky Mountain News
June 20, 1885

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Depriving Soapy
Rocky Mountain News
June 23, 1885

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So, for the moment, the city of Denver stopped Soapy Smith from operating his prize package soap sell racket on the street, and surely most believed Soapy's story had reached it's conclusion, but this was not the end, not even close. It would take another decade to rid themselves of "Soapy" Smith.

 February 28, 2013

J. Brockman: pages 95-96.

"The house doesn't beat the player. It just gives him the opportunity to beat himself."
—Nick Dandalos