ALIAS SOAPY SMITH
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL
♣ ... GOOD
JOB. Lots of good information there.
—Steven Levi, author
♣ ... a valuable historical look at the post Civil War era and
the Wild West in this country.
Jeff Smith has done an outstanding job showing the many sides, the many adventures, and ultimately the controversial death
of his ancestor with an incredible amount of primary sources including unpublished family records and transcripts from recordings
made in the 1970’s of people who saw and knew Soapy in Skagway. Letters, documents and even newspaper clippings kept
by Soapy himself bring this fascinating story to life with vivid accounts of the sometimes seamy, and sometime illustrious
life he led during some turbulent times. ... Whether he was trying to raise an army of American mercenaries in Denver
to fight rebels in Mexico, or trying to raise a company of Alaskan soldiers to fight the Spanish in Cuba, or just running
a quick game of three-card monte on a Denver street corner, Soapy Smith was certainly one of the most interesting and captivating
personages of the-then disappearing frontier of the 1890’s.
... Alias Soapy Smith is certainly the
last word on the life of one of history’s most colorful characters and the times in which he lived. Jeff Smith is now
counted among the ranks of those writers and historians who take the time to seek the truth, and then display it in a most
compelling fashion. Alias Soapy Smith belongs on the book-shelf of anyone interested in the old west, the Klondike/Alaskan
gold rush, early Alaskan history, Denver political history, or the study of “consmanship” and gambling at the
turn of the 20th century.
—Gary Loudoux, author of Nantan:
The Life and Times of John P. Clum (Volumes 1 & 2)
... I hope you know that I admire your work on this book. In particular, it sets the historical record straight on Soapy,
and that is an invaluable contribution to the field.
book reviewer and features editor of True West Magazine
♣ I received Jeff Smith's bio of Soapy
and enjoyed it very much, marveling at the extent of his research and ability to organize for effective presentation.
—William R. Hunt, author of North
of 53 Degrees: The Wild Days of the Alaska-Yukon Mining Frontier, 1870-1914
♣ ... it is a brilliant book well researched and I think [Soapy] was a very intelligent man, with his skill and
backing from so many people in his group I think if he was alive and changed from what he did today he would have made a great
Congratulations on a terrific book! ... I was impressed with the thoroughness and how you two
resolved issues like Mattie Silks' connection.
Noel, author of The City and the Saloon: Denver, 1858-1916 & Denver's Larimer Street: Main Street, Skid
Row and Urban Renaissance
♣ Alias Soapy Smith
is ... meticulously and professionally documented and well written in the extreme. ... Very scholarly work! ... the illustrations
and photographs are just phenomenal. What a masterpiece!
— “Roscoe” (Scoundrels forum)
♣ ... Enjoyed it a lot. It really
gives a thorough picture of the time, place and people, as well as of Soapy himself. Well done!
♣ It is an astonishing piece of research.
—Rebecca, Copper Valley Historical Association
a monumental work. I cannot put it down...No joke. I am going to have to discipline myself in the coming days....so I can
get other things done. ... If any members here are interested in the Old West, the way it REALLY was, and a 'super'
well documented account of the life of a true old time bunco artist, saloon owner....who also was a complex human being with
many sides [good and bad]...THIS IS IT!
... how you can almost give this huge tome away for under $30 is beyond
me. ... I am truly impressed by the dedication ... put into this work. I can easily understand why it took 25 years to complete.
... the wonderful historical photo's and letters ... really slow me down because I like to peruse them with a magnifying
lens. ... for me it's the closest thing to stepping into a time machine.
♣ I'm amazed at how well you have been able to tie in detailed
and varied accounts into logical chains of events and conclusions based on all the information available. Your research must
have involved countless hours and as a result, you have come up with data that has been overlooked and unpublished by other
The problem I'm having with the book, (which arrived today) is that I'm so intrigued skimming it, that it is keeping
me from work... I can't put it down! ... I can't wait to sit down and start pouring through it seriously!
—David Wright, Colorado historian, proprietor
enjoyed learning more about Soapy Smith. ... Your work on the subject has been monumental. I think your treatment of the subject
has been as fair and objective as it can be. ... I was fascinated by the additional material you found regarding the Creede
Uprising, and your treatment of it. ... the buildup to the shootout in Skagway could fill a book by itself.
—Joyce B. Lohse, author of Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen
Alias Soapy Smith by Jeff Smith is a massive biography of a notorious outlaw of Denver, Colorado,
and Skagway, Alaska. The author’s zeal is explicable; Jefferson “Soapy” Smith was his great-grandpa. ...
His grandson does not whitewash him in this well-rounded character study.
—Richard H. Dillon, True
♣ You've ... provided a splendid
piece of work, ... I applaud your work.
—Joyce B. Lohse, author of General William Palmer: Railroad
♣ We ... had never dreamt that such
a wealth of information could be unearthed about a character who probably tended to avoid leaving a huge paper trail. But
the great-grandson has done a superb job of gathering material from all types of sources to produce a biography which will
challenge anyone to find additional information.
—Chuck Parsons, newsletter of the Wild West History
♣ Most admirable.
Ledoux, author of Nantan: The Life and Times of John P. Clum (Volumes 1 & 2)
♣ I’ve just
finished your marvelous book, Alias Soapy Smith, the ultimate authority on our great-grandfather, Jefferson Randolph (“Soapy”)
Thank you for your
herculean effort in sorting the wheat from the chaff, and fact from fancy contained in the many myths and accounts of his
life. Throughout the book you dispel inaccuracies, exaggerations and downright falsehoods that have become accepted as fact.
I particularly enjoyed your extensive
use of first-person accounts. The wealth of letters, documents, artifacts and family history available only to you, as well
as the nearly countless period sources you consulted, guarantee that no other account of his life could be so complete.
It was obvious to me that you are
willing to pursue the facts, wherever they lead. The book seems to be neither overly sympathetic nor unduly critical, but
rather, fair, thorough and well-documented. As a former journalist and trial lawyer, I greatly appreciate and applaud your
persistent “search for the truth.”
It was a delight to read about the many facets of the personality of this complex character, and the interesting places
and times through which he traveled.
Since we were together in Skagway in 1998, the internet has greatly
facilitated the collection of information, and importantly, provided a forum for descendants and others to stay in touch and
grow our collective knowledge. I look forward to following your blog as you seek more nuggets of information about our colorful
—Jim CarawayYour Cousin, and
A Great-Grandson of Soapy Smith
♣ As a proud owner of this
book, I'm offering my enthusiastic endorsement. The photos alone are worth the price, but what really impressed me was
the extensive research that is so apparent in your writing. The detailed narrative is complemented by your personal relationship
with Soapy and the people whose stories contributed to this book. If you're a fan of Soapy Smith, you really need to get
a copy of this book.
♣ I have to
say that the chapter on the Denver City Hall standoff could be turned into a movie screenplay all by itself. ... Kinda hard
to figure out who the good guys were! Great stuff.
♣ It is a treasured resource!
♣ Your book about
Soapy is the best documented book I have ever read.
—Bob Wood, historian
[author Jeff Smith] and I don't see eye to eye very often and we have clashed in the past on some internet discussion
boards. I have to say though, he has produced an important book, not only for the general reader, but also for fellow researchers
alike. This book provides a wonderful insight into the 19th century world of gamblers and confidence men.
Brand, historian, author
♣ I expected a lot from this book, knowing how many resources
you had at your disposal, but it is even better than I expected.
—Scott Johnson, descendant of Sam
and Lou Blonger
♣ This book will have a special place in my 700+ library. ... One of the best researched
and documented "Old west" books in my collection. ... The book is spellbinding from first to last page. ... A must
read, not only for people interested in "Soapy" but also a wealth of information about saloons, gambling, prostitution,
bunco steering and city politics in the late 1800s. Congratulations to Jeff, his 20+ years spent on writing and researching
for this book have handsomely paid off--for us the readers. ... [the] research is incredible-interesting from first to last
—Peter Menyhart, historian
♣ ... a serious
and significant contribution to Old West history. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, he deserves major credit for his
dedicated efforts. Any future work on Soapy Smith will need to take Jeff's work into serious consideration. That's
the most any historian can ever hope for.
—Jeff Morey, Tombstone historian
loved the book! So much so, that after the holiday, I am going to read it again; this time as research. ... As a Colorado
historian, I have often thought of Soapy Smith as the "Forest Gump" in Colorado history-he seemed to pop up everywhere,
but always hard to track down and follow. So much so, that by and large, he only receives a paragraph or two in the annuals
of Colorado history. Not only is this the first book devoted to the history of the con-man, with the supporting documentation
provided, it is the definitive biography of the soap man.
—Linda Wommack, author of Our Ladies
of the Tenderloin; Colorado’s Legend in Lace, a history of Colorado prostitution in the nineteenth century
♣ Soapy Smith had a colorful history in the Old West. Throughout his
criminal dealings in Denver, and Leadville, to the under-world element in the silver camp of Creede, Colorado, to the great
Klondike gold rush, and Skagway, Alaska, where he met with death, Smith’s exploits have only managed a chapter at most
in the annuals of history. Until now. ... Smith’s biography is the culmination of years of research and verification
of family documents, court records, and personal letters. The details of Smith’s life from his Georgia beginnings to
his murder in Skagway are laid out in neat chronological order. The reader gains an insight into the life of Smith, his dealings
in the under-world, his con games, who he was and why he was. Backed by extensive documentation, enhanced with photos and
personal letters, many never before published, this book is a must for anyone interested in the history of the Old West, games
of chance, and the life and times of Soapy Smith.
—Linda Wommack review in nonfiction category,
opened it up and started reading. Let me tell you I was late to work for the first time in 14yrs. I just could not put it
down I had to force it out of my hands. I just wish it would have came out about 1 yrs earlier my father would have really
enjoyed reading it. I can’t wait to get home and start up again and Now I am dying to get home and pull my soapy stuff
out of the attic and rummage through it.
Hartzell, Great Great Grandson of a great Bad Man
♣ Your book about Soapy is the best documented book I have ever read.
I just couldn't put the book down so I managed to finish it before I thought I would. Your book
fits me very well as I am the type of person that wants the unadulterated truth and I want it backed with documentation. The
fact that you included the actual letters was icing on the cake.
once in awhile a writer comes along that pours his heart and soul into a book and pays the price by actually doing the leg
work necessary to create something truly exceptional. You, my friend, have done just that and are to be commended for your
efforts. For the many people who have not heard of soapy Smith, they no doubt cut their teeth on Hollywood's version of
the Old West. It's time they sink their teeth into the true Old West and this book is a great place to start.
—Bob Wood, historian,
Old West Antiques.com
book on Soapy Smith makes one imagine they are there reliving Soapy's movements through his life. It is very detailed,
well written and contains a comprehensive list of research footnotes. If anyone wants to know more about the life and
death of Soapy Smith, then this is the book to read and have in your research library.
Mathis, historian, professional genealogist
♣ ... I am most impressed! It is wonderfully presented and a really significant contribution to the field. You have every
right to feel proud my friend!
Morey, Tombstone historian
♣ I have received the softcover copy of your book and am impressed by it. I thank you and look forward to receiving
the signed hardbound copy. The wealth of pictures, which I had not seen in the manuscript copy I first read, add a great deal
to the text. Your years of study and research have paid dividends. From this point on, any writer or researcher
into the history of nineteenth century gamblers or con men must use your book as a primer.
—Robert DeArment, author of Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier
Gamblers and Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend
♣ Just cracked your
book, can't put it down - skimmed to the ending of course to see how you diagnosed the shooting (very thorough) and now
am into the intros and the Georgia years. I'm impressed much the way Art [Art Petersen, the book publisher]
was with how detailed and backed up your research is, and how you contrast it with the many stories told over the years. Very
impressive at first sitting and can't wait to finish it.
—Jeff Brady, The Skagway
♣ I have to say this is the most detailed biography that I have ever read. I find it fascinating to read
all the details and see familiar names. I was wondering if the Billy Allen and William Allen are the same fellow who met with
a bullet from Doc Holliday up in Leadville?
—Bill Marquardt, film maker
♣ I predict it's going to be a really good seller for quite a while. I just finished reading it yesterday
and found it to be a very interesting read, especially since it (1) filled a virtual vacuum about the real Soapy Smith, (2)
provided a lot of general history about the period; and (3) served as a good primer on scams. Old Soapy surely had a very
complex personality, a lot of bad mixed in with a lot of good, and I think [the author] did an excellent job of portraying
both sides. In the end I felt a tinge of sadness as I read the account of his death--not for the loss of the bad part of him,
but for the loss of the good part.
This is a very nice account.
I am very very impressed by it.
—Darryl Beckmann, author of The Life and Times of Alexander:
The Man Who Knows
♣ Jeff - Just finished ALIAS SOAPY SMITH and I wanted to let you
know how well done I thought the book is. The writing is crisp and the research exhaustive. It most certainly is the definitive
book on the topic. The little piece I'm writing will tie a Pinkerton detective named Charlie Siringo into pursuit of a
couple of members of the Soap Gang. But mine is only a small corner of the larger story you tell so well and I just wanted
to share how impressed I was with you. Congratulations!
Blum, author of The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush and American Lightning
♣ A wild ride through the old west, what a character!
♣ It is wonderful to have all that information in the same volume! And so much that was not available before!
It is terrific!
♣ This is the buy of the century.
—Bob Wood, historian, Old West Antiques
♣ Anxious to read it, had no idea it was that big - no wonder it took
you 20 years! Congrats on getting it done.
—Jeff Brady, The Skagway News
♣ It is great to see so much
new material about this very interesting personality.
—Melanie Mayer, author of Klondike
Women: True Tales of the 1897-1898 Gold Rush and Staking Her Claim: The Life of Belinda Mulrooney
♣ In this massive account of the life of his great-grandfather,
Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, Jeff Smith has covered in scrupulous detail not only the career of his remarkable
forebear but the fascinating history of conmanship and gambling in the nineteenth century American West. Drawn from unpublished
family records and a wealth of primary sources, it is an engrossing tale and a noteworthy addition to the literature of the
—Robert DeArment, author of Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers
and Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend