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

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