December 25, 2021

"Shavy" [Shavie] Smith: Did "Soapy" Smith have an earlier alias?

Denver Republican
October 16, 1883

(Click image to enlarge)
NOTE: There has been additional research finds added. You will find them at the bottom of the article in dark red.

id the Denver Republican give conman Jefferson Randolph Smith his first Alias?
On October 16, 1883 the Denver Republican posted a sentence in the Police Court section of their newspaper that read, "Shavy Smith was fined $10 and costs for raising a disturbance." Could young Jefferson been running his prize package soap sell racket and "raised a disturbance?" It would certainly not be the first time. The name may have come from a newspaper reporter who knew that the arrestee was named "Smith," but did not know the first name. It would not be the first time that individuals placed invented alias' in front of "Smith," including "Sopolio" and "Soapy." Could the reporter added "Shavy" to Smith?
     In researching the name "Shavy" I found a site that stated that between 1880-2019 there have been 69 reports of female babies being christened "Shavy." With no apparent data or provenance, that's supposedly 69 named "Shavy" in 139 years. We cannot ignore the fact that the very few "Shavy's" in 1883 caused a criminal disturbance. What are those odds?

[following is the first addendum containing information from Art Petersen, Professor of English, author, publisher and historian]
     "Shavy" was a new and interesting moniker to me, so I looked it up in DARE (Dictionary of American Regional English) and the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) but found no entry. That seemed strange as these dictionaries are huge, scholarly collections of words and their derivatives. So on speculation I looked in my grandmother's 1908 Colliers dictionary and found "SHAVIE n. a trick or prank. Scotch." Checking "shavie" in DARE, I found nothing but did find it in the OED and in Merriam-Webster online. The term is definitely an archaism. I've heard of people being "clipped" as well as "shaved" but not "shavied."
     Without explanation or derivation, dictionary synonyms and etymologies showed words like "caper, knavery, monkeyshine(s), roguery, trick, swindle, crook."
     I have now only a subscription to, and a check there showed the word used in the 1880s and 1890s as names for horses, crooks, but also just a plain nickname--context revealed little, but I didn't spend much time with these articles as the citations also showed confusion with Shaw (the name), shaved, and shaving.
     But the newspaper writer seems probably apt in naming Soapy as Shavy Smith, as in con game trickster Smith. Interesting as an early nickname for Jefferson before being christened with the more memorable Soapy.
[following is the second addendum containing information from Linda Gay Mathis,  genealogist and historian]

Sunday's Slugging
Denver Tribune
July 18, 1883
Courtesy of Linda Gay Mathis

 (Click image to enlarge)

Below is the article's content.


An Amateur Prize Fight at the Fair Grounds Winds Up In a Bloody Row.

      There was an amateur prize fight of a very bloody nature at the Fair grounds Sunday night. The particulars have been kept quiet by the parties engaged for fear of the police. Charles Garderner and Jack Reddy are rival cooks of rival hotels, and because of their respective capabilities in the culinary art they have become personal rivals. Both claim to be men of muscular abilities, and this has some what stimulated the antagonism. Though they were not avowed enemies, they had a hostile meeting one day last week and agreed to settle all of their differences in the ring by moonlight on Sunday night.
     The matter was kept exceedingly quiet, and there were only three witnesses, the seconds to the combatants and the hackman who drove them to the place. “Shavy” Smith was second to Gardner, and Gilbert Balls was second to Reddy. A ring was improvised by drawing a circle on the ground.
     In the first round Gardener struck Reddy a terrible blow. Reddy ran in and clinched, and, in doing so, violated all the aggreements that had been made by setting his teeth on Gardener’s thumb, biting him severely. Then, releasing his hold, he set his teeth in Gardener’s cheek, holding him with the grip of a bulldog.
     Then “Shavy” Smith, as Gardener’s second, stepped up and demanded that Reddy should let go, and kicked him. Then Balls, the second to Reddy, made an assault on Smith, when the latter turned, threw Balls upon the ground and gave him a terrible kick over the eyes, cutting a bloody gash, which required seven stitches by a surgeon to close.
     Then a general rough and tumble fight ensued between principles and seconds, and the struggle continued till all parties were willing to quit. They returned to town, each by his own route, and all of them a bloody and badly mutilated set.

The original newspaper story from the Denver Republican for Shavy Smith was dated October 16, 1883, three months later the Denver Tribune article dated July 18, 1883 is published. Are they both writing about the same incident, or are they discussing different affairs? Could the "disturbance" case have taken three months to go before a judge? If so, was this intentional?

There are a number of clues that I find too much of a coincidence for "Shavy" not to be Soapy Smith. They are as follows.

  • "Shavy" Smith is working in an official capacity within a boxing ring. On numerous occasions throughout his life, Soapy Smith worked as a time-keeper, a referee, etc. within a boxing ring.
  • The use of "Shavy" in the Denver Republican does not indicate the sex of the individual causing the "disturbance." A portion of the upper first half of this blog post deals with the name, and whether it is a male or female. The primary difference in the Denver Tribune article is that "Shavy" Smith is male.
  • In the Denver Republican "Shavy" is not encased with quote marks giving the impression that it is a forename (first name). In the Denver Tribune article quote marks surround "Shavy," indicating that it is not a forename, but rather an alias, like "Soapy" Smith.
  • “Shavy’s” quick and violent reaction at the start of the free-for-all fight in the Denver Tribune article aligns with “Soapy’s” quick-to-violence history, a little too much to be mere coincidence.
  • Perhaps more of a circumstantial clue, than a solid one, is the name of "Charles Gardener," of whom Soapy was his "second" in the boxing match. Soapy’s sister, Emma Lu "Emmie" Smith, married Robert Gardner, so I can't help but wonder if the newspaper misspelled the name, printing "Gardener" instead?
With this new information I’m going to officially state that I believe that “Shavy” Smith is “Soapy” Smith.

Merriam-Webster online
Oxford English Dictionary
Colliers dictionary, 1908
Art Petersen
Linda Gay Mathis



"Horse sense is a good judgment which keeps horses from betting on people."
—W.C. Fields

December 21, 2021

Artifact #90: A postcard from Emmie Lu Gardner to Jeff R. Smith III, 1912

Artifact #90
Postcard text area
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

 mma Lu "Emmie" Smith [Gardner]
Artifact #90 is a postcard sent from Soapy Smith's sister, Emma Lu "Emmie" Smith [Gardner] in Waco, Texas, to Jefferson R. Smith III, in St. Louis, Missouri, September 25, 1912. Emma is about age 45, her date of birth believed to have been in 1867. She will pass away in 1915. Jefferson R. Smith is her nephew, aged 25, and working for the St. Louis Times.
Postmarked from Waco, Texas, on September 25, 1912 at 2 pm., the stamp is missing, appearing to be torn off. My father, John Randolph Smith, admitted once that as a young and avid stamp collector, he did remove some stamps when the opportunity arose.

The following is the text of the written portions.

Waco Tex
Sept 25, 1912.
Dear Jeff.

I wrote you a letter and a card about 2 months ago. Did you get them? Write me at 927 Franklin Street 
Waco Texas
Love to all
Your loving Aunt
Emmie Lu Gardner
Mr. Jeff Smith
St. Louis
Care St. Louis Times
Artifact #90-front photo
Waco, Texas court house
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
Emma Lu "Emmie" Smith
May 4, 2021 

Emma Lu "Emmie" Smith: pages 22, 121, 377, 397, 403-04, 589. 201.

"he [Soapy Smith] was really known more as a Robin Hood. who helped the poor and unfortunate, than as a gangster."
—Frances Lebby Stanton [Peniston] (Smith family)

December 1, 2021

Photograph: Entrance to Juneau Company Wharf, circa 1930s-40s.

Entrance to Juneau Company Wharf
Location of the shootout on Juneau Wharf 1898
Circa 1930s-1940s
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

 ntrance to Juneau Company Wharf
Here is a new addition to my photograph collection. The above is the cropped, close-up showing the entrance to the Juneau Company Wharf where Soapy Smith and Frank Reid shot it out in the Shootout on Juneau Wharf, July 8, 1898. Every time I find and publish a new photograph of the location were Soapy was killed, I think of the historians who post new finds of the lot behind the OK Corral in Tombstone, where the Shootout on Fremont Street took place on October 26, 1881.
     The photograph below shows the entire frame.
Entire photograph
Circa 1930s-1940s
Jeff Smith collection

  (Click image to enlarge)


Juneau Wharf
Nov 29, 2008
Dec 23, 2008
Jun 02, 2009
Nov 01, 2009
Feb 16, 2011
Apr 23, 2011
Mar 01, 2011
Apr 19, 2012
May 02, 2012
Feb 23, 2014
Oct 14, 2014
Nov 30, 2016
May 17, 2017
Aug 16, 2017
Nov 12, 2021

Juneau Wharf: pages 9, 12, 530-32, 535, 538, 546-51, 554, 564, 575, 595.

"[Frank H. Reid] … never was anything but a crooked bartender."
—Cecelia Selmer Price
1958 letter to Justin M. Smith (Soapy’s grandson)