December 6, 2022

Possible "Victim" Cover-up in Denver Discovered

San Francisco Chronicle
May 6, 1893

(Click image to enlarge)

San Francisco Man Taken in by Denver Card Sharks
 "First time I ever got caught" (Soapy Smith)
This post was originally supposed to be about a new "victim" (Charles Anderson) swindled by the soap gang that I recently uncovered during a search through newspaper archives, but in looking through my files I found something very interesting. A Denver newspaper appears to have another version of the same incident, on the same day, but with a different individual, and with Soapy Smith being the victim.
     I found an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 6, 1893. See the photo at the top of this post, and the text below.

A San Francisco Man Taken in by Denver Card Sharks.

      DENVER, May 5.—Charles Anderson and wife arrived on a morning train from San Francisco, en route for Boston. While waiting for their train the couple took a stroll to see the city. By a clever piece of work Anderson was induced to bet on a hand of cards. He ran as high as $475 and gave his check for it. Of course he lost. He sought the patrolman on the beat and was directed to police headquarters. Detective Peterson was sent to demand restoration of the check on pain of instant arrest. The check was returned and the couple continued on their way across the continent. Soapy Smith’s gang are supposed to be the rascals who inveigled Anderson into the game.
Obviously, Mr. Anderson was pretty lucky in getting his check returned. In this article it would appear that Soapy and the gang simply lost out in collecting their booty.
     Before writing up this post I performed some research through my files, for additional information. Ironically, on the very same day that the San Francisco Chronicle story was published (May 6, 1893), another different version was reported in the Rocky Mountain News. One in which the victims name was completely different, and one in which Soapy was the "victim," being "buncoed" out of ten dollars, by a Swede named Nels Larson, not Charles Anderson.
     Below is the article and text for the Rocky Mountain News version.

Rocky Mountain News
May 6, 1893

 (Click image to enlarge)
An Innocent Swede Does Up the Wiley Thimble Rigger.
     Soapy Smith was buncoed out of ten great big silver dollars yesterday morning by a country Swede named Nels Larson. Larson and his wife on their way from the coast to Boston stopped over a few hours and Larson, who had heard of the growler [faro] attempted to buck it in the Tivoli Club. He was steered against a game of faro and lost $40 in cash and $270 besides, for which he presented a draft on Boston for $470. Soapy Smith was out at the time and one of his men cashed the check and gave Larson only $200 in change. The Swede went to his wife, and when she heard of his loss she made him telegraph to have payment on the draft stopped. Jeff Smith heard of this and he had a lively chase to catch Larson to get his money back. Larson and his wife had, meantime, applied to the police for aid. Just before the train pulled out all interested parties came together, and Smith was compelled to accept $190 back for the check for which he had given $200.
     "First time I ever got caught," said Jeff to Detectives Cook and Peterson, who accompanied Larson.
     The crime was most likely real, but the facts appear to have been altered to protect Soapy and the Denver police. Could it be as simple as a mistake in reporting the name by the San Francisco Chronicle? The published story in Denver was written up so as to make fun of Soapy and his loss, but was the loss real? Could someone friendly to Soapy and the gang (Denver police?), have told the Rocky Mountain News, a false account of the incident, including falsifying the victim's name, in order to protect Soapy and the police (Detectives Cook and Peterson?) from being reported as allies and victors in the swindle? To keep the newspaper from finding out that the victim was not so fortunate as the story stated?
     In addition, though it may be a simple coincidence, I found the name "Charles Anderson" in one of Soapy's notebooks (artifact #69) that I posted on September 23, 2020.

Soapy Smith's notebook
Page 1 side-view
Artifact #69
Jeff Smith Collection

(Click image to enlarge)
The notebook notation reads,
"Frank H. Anderson
818 Market St.
San Francisco, Cal

Charles Anderson
834 Folsom

Ella Gusset
same address"

Note "same address" at bottom, meaning that they live at the same address as Frank H. Anderson in San Francisco, just as victim "Charles Anderson" did in the newspaper account. Could the "wife" have been Ella Gusset? Why did Soapy have these names in his notebook? Could he have been gathering information in case Anderson's bank chose to reject cashing of his check? Fighting a bank in such a case was common, sometimes Soapy won, sometimes he didn't. In one incident it is reported that "witnesses" were used to testify that the victim was actually "a known gambler," and one who has "previously reneged on paying his gambling debts."
     Interesting how two newspaper articles from 1893 can open up a potential case of corruption.



"I don't know what a scoundrel is like, but I know what a respectable man is like, and it's enough to make one's flesh creep."
—Joseph De Maistre

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