September 17, 2021

Artifact #86: Soapy Smith's son contacts the Sourdough Reunion, 1951

First response from the Sourdough Association
to Jefferson R. Smith from Clara Johnson
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

lease try to attend and thus forward the spirit of the Sourdough."
Soapy Smith's son contacts the Sourdough Reunion, 1951

     Seventy years ago, at some date previous to February 15, 1951, Soapy Smith's son, sixty-five year old Jefferson Randolph Smith III wrote to someone about the upcoming Twentieth Annual Convention of the International Sourdough Reunion to be held in San Francisco on August 16-19, 1951. Jefferson was living at 2341 Portland Street in Los Angeles. Since 1951 the house was torn down and an apartment building erected. 
     A "Chilcoot Tram" Hawks forwarded Jeff's letter to Alaska Weekly reporter Lulu Fairbanks. Lulu forwarded the letter to Clara Johnson, secretary of the Sourdough-Oakland Sourdough Association in Oakland, California who typed a response to Jefferson on February 15, 1951.

Envelope to first response letter
to Jefferson R. Smith from Clara Johnson
Postmarked February 17, 1951
no legible markings on the rear of the envelope
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

Oakland, California
February 15, 1951
Jeff R. Smith
2341 Portland Street
Los Angeles 7
Dear Mr. Smith:
     News of your interest in the Sourdough Convention to be held in San Francisco, August 16-19 has reached me through Lulu Fairbanks, ALASKA WEEKLY reporter, who received it from "Chilcoot Tram" Hawks.
     At the present time, our plans are only in the making, but as soon as printed information is available we will send it on to you.
     Please try to attend and thus forward the spirit of the Sourdough.
Very sincerely
Clara Johnson - secy.
San Francisco - Oakland
Sourdough Association
     Since a very young age Jefferson had written to many people who knew his father, seeking to learn as much as he could, considering he was only nine years old when his father was shot and killed in Skagway, Alaska, July 8, 1898. Over the decades he had the pleasure of meeting people who had personally known his father so it is likely he wished to attend the Sourdough convention in hopes of meeting more individuals who knew, or had met his father. I can't help but wonder if he considered that he might run into some victims of his father's gambling games and swindles.
Second response letter - official invite
To Jefferson R. Smith, from C. O. Sivertsen
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
     Five months later, on July 17, 1951, an official printed "cordial invitation" brochure from the Alaska-Yukon Sourdough Association located in San Francisco was sent out to Jefferson. Chairman C. O. Sivertsen wrote the invitation, including the following statement of inevitability.
     We SOURDOUGHS are decreasing each year, so we would like to have you all make and extra effort to MUSH ON to SAN FRANCISCO and meet those OLD FRIENDS of YEARS AGO, who are dear to all of us, and bring back fond memories of the happy days spent in the Far North. 

     On the inside and rear of the brochure are drawings and photographs of San Francisco sites attendees may wish to visit.
     Unfortunately, I was unable to find out if Jefferson attended the reunion convention. I tried locating records of attendees but had no success.
Envelope to second response letter - official invite
Postmarked July 17, 1951
no legible markings on the rear of the envelope
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
Inside portion of brochure
drawings of San Francisco sites
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
Rear and front portion of brochure
Photographs of San Francisco
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)


Jefferson Randolph Smith III

Jefferson Randolph Smith III: pages 7, 107-08, 167, 417-18, 546, 584, 587-89.

"No dog can go as fast as the money you bet on him."
—Bud Flanagan

September 1, 2021

Frank Reid's Casket Guards - Reversed Image

Frank Reid casket guards
as shown in Klondike '98
By Ethel A. Becker
Ethel Anderson Becker collection
Location currently unknown

(Click image to enlarge)

rank Reid's Casket Guards
Reversed Image
I received the following fascinating email

     Greetings Jeff Smith: (re: Sept. 18, 2009 – Speaking frank about frank pt. 2 – Soapy Smith’s Soap Box blog).
     Having cruised to Alaska, I got interested in reading your blog about the wild times that took place in good old Skagway. It is and likely always will be an interesting historical location along the west coast.
     As to the blogs concerning Frank Reid and his demise.... I was looking at the photograph of Mr. Reid’s casket/the 2-man honor guard, and was wondering if the photograph was developed/printed in reverse?? That happened a fair bit where negatives were concerned as you likely know. I enlarged a copy of the photo image in order to read the text that’s written on the flag, and it was then that I noticed the lettering was lop-sided.
     Do you have the original photograph or was it obtained via another source? I’m also wondering what the wording on the flag would be – I can make out the word MILITIA – but do you know what the rest of the wording is? Is there a photograph in existence of the actual flag that was used to drape Reid’s casket (i.e. unfolded, flattened out with text readable)?? As to the two chaps forming the honor guard – were they friends or perhaps members of a fraternal organization or Militia unit... (i.e. was Mr. Reid in the Militia as well)?. Not sure if that detail was recorded somewhere – perhaps in the newspaper write-up that dealt with Reid’s passing and eventual burial. Is there a possibility that the flag was one that hung in the church where his funeral was held..... and – would it still be there?
     It would also be interesting to know who provided the casket. I don’t have access to historical booklet, directories, etc. from that time period – and thus I have no idea if there was a funeral home/casket shop in Skagway at the time, or did such items have to be imported? It’s definitely not one that was made out of hand-hewn cedar slabs or similar type of wood. The handles would definitely have been imported from elsewhere.
     That’s it for the moment. Hope you can find the time to send back a reply.... Interesting website to say the least. A true wild west narrative that continues!!

Ken R. Johnson
Retired former Museum Curator/Archivist – Canada

Frank Reid casket guards
Reversed image (correct)
Ethel Anderson Becker collection
Location currently unknown

(Click image to enlarge)

It seems this photograph has not been published since appearing in
Ethel Anderson Becker's book Klondike '98. This very well may the first time it's been published correctly.

Following is my response to Ken
R. Johnson.

Hi, Ken
      Thank you very much for writing! Good eye on that photograph! It is indeed reversed. I enjoyed reading your email. The photograph came from the book Klondike 98 by Ethel Anderson Becker, 1972. She collected the photos of Photographer Eric A. Hegg. The photograph you speak of is on page 37. She obviously did not catch on that the photo was in reverse, nor did I. She does not list an archive for the photograph so I believe it was in her personal collection. I did a quick online search and up to 2016 her photo collection appears to be missing or buried somewhere in an archive somewhere.
     Ethel Anderson Becker papers, 1936-1967, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections. ("Incoming letters from Eric A. Hegg photos, her book 'Klondike 98,' clippings, essay written as student; woodcarving of 'Dawson-Yukon' miner by Hallie C. Heacock, 1965; unidentified book of photo reproductions of Klondike mining scenes (title page missing), undated." [source: Archives West]
     Great questions, but I know very little of the photograph or the outcome of the flag. I do not know where "militia" came from, unless the vigilantes decided to call themselves a "militia," to get away from the negative aura of being a "vigilante committee." Offhand, I do not recall the term "militia" being used in the newspapers, but I would not be surprised that I saw it in newspaper accounts and dismissed it. I did check the Skagway newspapers that are online and the only "militia" I found was in regards to Soapy's Skagway Military Company previous to the shootout and Reid's death.
     In regards to the casket, there were skilled builders in Skagway at the time. There was a hospital, and morticians, so I would guess that there were casket makers.
     I plan to write up a blog post on the photograph as it is an interesting find. I would like to use your name and the email you sent, without posting your email address. I will respect your wishes, just let me know. There is always the possibility that someone will have the answers to your questions!
     I invite you to sign up for notifications of new articles on the blog. Just go to the link and add your email in the box on the right-hand column

Frank Reid casket guards
Ethel Anderson Becker collection
Location currently unknown
(Click image to enlarge)

Jul 7, 2021

Frank H. Reid: pages 10, 439-41, 447, 477, 529-42, 544, 547-53, 555, 574, 576-77, 579, 585.

"You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people."
—Will Rogers