Sunday, January 29, 2023

Jefferson Randolph Smith - Soapy Smith

Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith was an American con artist and gangster. Smith gained notoriety through his "prize soap racket" in which he would sell bars of soap with prize money hidden in some of the bars. Through sleight-of-hand he would ensure that only gang members won a prize. Soapy Smith built three successive criminal empires in Denver and Creede, and in Skagway, Alaska. When the Klondike Gold Rush began in 1897, Smith moved his operations. His three-card monte and pea-and-shell games on the White Pass Trail weren't appreciated by the Miner's Committee. Smith left and didn't return to Skagway until late January 1898. On July 4, 1898, Smith rode as marshal of the Fourth Division of the parade leading his thugs on his gray horse. On the grandstand, he sat beside the territorial governor.

'Soapy' Smith in morgue, Skagway, July 8, 1898.
Smith had problems in Skagway soon after.

“Soapy got drunk and went out to fight them all. Arriving at the place where an indignation meeting was being held, Soapy found five men guarding the entrance. He rapped Frank Reid, the city engineer, over the head with a rifle. Reid snapped his pistol at Soapy and Soapy shot him in the groin. Standing on one foot Reid put three bullets into Soapy, killing him instantly.”

At 38 years old, Soapy was shot dead with a bullet through the heart.