On this date in 1898, the career of Jefferson Randolph Smith, otherwise known as “Soapy” Smith came to a sudden end in Skagway Alaska. Soapy Smith was raised in wealth in the Genteel South, but the end of the civil war left the family destitute, and Soapy was part of the family group that pulled up stakes and headed west to look for new fortune. He began his career as a confidence man in Fort Worth Texas…he was a practitioner of the short con, with scams like the shell game and three card monte paying the bills, but his most successful con was a scam where he auctioned off bars of soap to suckers convinced that there was money in the wrappers. Soapy was apparently good at sleight of hand. The Soap Gang eventually moved to Denver where Soapy became the town’s crime boss, and ran the city government like a subsidiary. When reform came to Denver, he set up another empire in Creede Colorado. That lasted until the Klondike Gold Rush convinced him to move to Skagway Alaska in 1897, where again, he set up a criminal empire, including the ownership of a busy and profitable telegraph office. This was in 1897. Telegraph service didn’t reach that part of Alaska until 1901. Soapy Smith finally played the 3 Card Monte game on the wrong miner, one who came back with armed friends and confronted Soapy at the dock. Soapy was trying to talk his way out of trouble when someone’s gun went off and ignited a gunfight. Soapy was killed at the scene. Soapy Smith is remembered in Skagway with an annual wake that is taking place today in Alaska, and an annual party is held in his honor at the Magic Castle magicians club in Los Angeles. Sleight of Hand, you know. And an expert is an expert.
Album Notes: Grateful Acknowledgments to Mike Koenig, and Drum 8. “Olde Timey” Written and Performed by Kevin McLeod, Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0″ http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ and used here by permission, and with appreciation and thanks. Some audio may be used under the Fair Use Doctrine