Soapy Smith's Weapons
"Soapy Smith, an expert gunman though not a killer, probably never saw ao many guns as the owners have claimed were once his."
Alaska Sportman magazine, September, 1957
Pictured here are some of the guns and other weapons that belonged to Soapy, along with some others are questionable. We have placed an authenticity rating with each gun. Although grading the authenticity is not fool-proof, neither is it strictly guess work. It is governed by the availble information and facts pertaining to each item. Disagreements are sure to occur.
3. Slight: No proof and little if any reliable circumstantial evidence.
Authenticity Rating Guide
1. Indisputable: Proof of ownership by Soapy exists.
2. Possible: Little to no proof but there is reliable circumstantial evidence.
4. None: No proof or circumstantial evidence.
Si Tanner, one of the guards on Juneau wharf the night Soapy was killed, was appointed the new U.S. deputy marshal. It is written in Soapy's estate property reports that Si personally handed the rifle to Soapy's son, Jefferson R. Smith, III when he and his mother arrived in Skagway in August, 1898. They had come to collect what was left of the estate. In later years it was reported that Si gave away guns to people, claiming they once belonged to Soapy. How many guns and what models are not known.
Soapy Smith's Winchester
The photograph above shows the actual rifle Soapy used against Frank Reid on July 8, 1898. This rifle, a Winchester rifle, model 1892, 44-40 was given to the son of Soapy a few weeks after the gunfight, by acting deputy marshal J. M. Tanner. The rifle still remains in the Smith family in New York. Authenticity rating: Indisputable.
Winchester rifle, model 1892.
This is not Soapy's rifle, but is an example of the same model.
Halvorsen rifle. Soapy Smith's double action revolver. Authenticity rating (the rifle that Soapy used against Frank Reid): None
Winchester rifle, said to have been owned by Soapy that was sold or given away by a merchant in Skagway.
On October 14, 2006 Douglas Halvorsen approached Jeff Smith wishing to sell this rifle to him. Several email and phone conversations between October 14 and November 5, 2006, discussed at length the possibilities of ownership by Soapy Smith. Halvorsen insisted to Jeff that his rifle was the one that Soapy used to kill Frank Reid and would not accept Jeff's explaination that the real rifle had been given to Soapy's son in August of 1898 by the acting Deputy Marshal Tanner and remains in family possession. Halvorsen stated that he had inherited the rifle along with documents dated August 20, 1901 that state that his rifle was given or sold to another man. However the paperwork does not specifically identify the rifle by model or other means of knowing that the rifle in question was actually the one given away in 1901. It is important to note that this is not the first or only time a gun was given away in Skagway by residents claiming that their gun was once owned by Soapy.
John Culligan, our Historical Weapons Analyst states that the
Model 66 Winchester was a .44 rimfire, a relatively weak .44 caliber
compared to the .44-40 caliber. The next Winchester model manufactured
was the Model 1873, but the 1873 model was still nearly identical to
the Model 66 in size, weight and the action....a fairly heavy arm, even
in carbine length. The next model that used the .44-40 and other
pistol cartridges, was the 1892 model rifle which was much lighter, shorter, and had a new action that was stronger and
required a lot less movement to lever in and fire another round. I
would speculate Soapy would have favored it over a Model 66 and even a
from Halvorsen to purchase the rifle was thoughtfully declined by Jeff Smith. Another issue Jeff has with the rifle is the model and age. Photographs taken of Klondike gold rush stampeders and merchants clearly show that newer models were in great abundance. For a man as powerful and egotistical as Soapy was, this rifle was too old of a model for his image to have bothered with.
Lot 1349: A Winchester Model 1866 lever action rifle
attributed to outlaw Soapy Smith. Serial no. 121364 for 1873, .44 caliber. 24 inch octagonal barrel with full
magazine. Plain varnished walnut stock and fore-end. Sling swivels. Together
with documentation attributing the gun to Jefferson "Soapy" Smith
comprising: 1) Letter on pictorial letterhead of Keelar The Money King of
Alaska, reading "Dear Upson/A Portland man from Dawson named Slavin will leave here
tonight with the Gun that Soapy Smith killed Reid with he promised me to
deliver same to you with my compliments/Yours Keelar." With pictorial envelope
postmarked Skagway 1901. Condition: Gun: Good to very
good. Barrel and tube with mottled brown patina showing some minor pitting.
Action with dents and scratches. Wood showing wear and scattered marks, left
side of fore-end with large chip to left side and smaller chips to right.
Paperwork showing folds and minor tears.
Footnote: Details of the gunfight have never been made clear but it is known that
Smith carried a rifle with which he shot Reid. According to many sources it was
a Model 1892 Winchester, whereabouts evidently unknown.
The last remark in the footnote is the culmination of what Jeff Smith suspected. The statement, "According to many sources it was
a Model 1892 Winchester, whereabouts evidently unknown." is an outright lie, instigated either by Halvorsen or Bohams/Butterfield Auction house. The conversation of the Soapy Smith rifle and family possession of it are clearly noted in the email dated October 14, 2006 and in others dated later, as well as was discussed thoroughly in several phone conversations.
The rifle sold at Bohams auctions in San Francisco on May 15, 2007 for
$7,000 plus Premium and tax (Can you say, "duped?")
Authenticity rating (once owned by Soapy Smith): Slight to None
Soapy in the morgue with his double action revolver at his side
This is a close-up of Soapy's double action revolver that was placed on his corpse in the morgue. Looking at the trigger clearly indicates that it is a double action. Which make and model is harder to verify. It is most probably Soapy's but it is possible that someone placed the revolver there to make the photograph more dramatic.
Authenticity rating: Possible to Indisputable.
Colt's model 1889 New Army and Navy.
This is not Soapy's revolver. In examining the only known photograph of Soapy's pistol as it lay upon his corpse in the morgue, it can only be positively identified as a double-action. There are several different brands of this style revolver that look very similar, therefore the actual model cannot be positively determined. The Colt's model 1889 New Army (.41 caliber) and Navy (.38 caliber) double-action look very similar and was very popular in 1898 during the Spanish-American War ever since Teddy Roosevelt carried one in battle that had been salvaged from the USS Maine.
The Tanner-Pullen-Selmer revolver. This revolver is said to have originally belonged to Josias M. "Si" Tanner, who claimed that it once belonged to Soapy. The gun was later acquired by Harriet Pullen and showcased in the famed Harriet Pullen Collection. Engraved on the butt of the gun are J. M. Tanner Deputy U.S. Marshal. On the gun butt, near the hammer, it is engraved Soapy Smith and H.S. Pullen 1898. The gun used to reside in a retail shop in Skagway on display in a glass case along with other Soapy mementos and the Colt manufacturing paperwork. It is owned by Maxine Selmer. The fact that the gun may have belonged to Tanner does cast some doubt on whether it was actually once owned by Soapy. Tanner has been accused of giving away several guns to people, claiming that they were once owned by the legendary badman. The authenticity of this revolver remains a mystery.
Authenticity rating: Slight to Possible.
The Clancy Revolver.
This revolver is said to have belonged to Soapy and obtained by partner John Clancy in Skagway, Alaska and passed down to John's son Frank J. Clancy. The serial number indicates a manufacture year of 1891 but the grips are replacements made after 1895.
The write-up published with this photograph in the September, 1957 issue of Alaska Sportsman magazine runs parallel to the general assumption held by the Soapy Smith Preservation Trust, "Soapy Smith, an expert gunman though not a killer, probably never saw so many guns as the owners have claimed were once his."
The Clancy revolver, holster
and brass knuckles.
Authenticity Rating: Possible
Another angle of the Clancy revolver along with the holster and two brass knuckles that supposedly belonged to Soapy Smith, published in the March, 1958 issue of Alaska Sportsman magazine. The where-abouts of these items are unknown.
A dark photograph was sent to us by someone only known as "Nick."
"I was wondering if you could help me end a family
myth. We have a pistol that we were always told by our grandfather of
this pistol's story if you will that is it was soapy smiths and how it
had to be taken apart and scattered to hide its true idenity, and so on
and so on, I am sending a picture of this thing to see if you agree of
this crap to be able to end a family myth." -Nick
would a pistol that belonged to Soapy have to be "taken apart and
scattered to hide its true identity?" How is that "identity"
John Culligan writes,
"It looks like an early Hopkins & Allen double action with a 3" barrel in .38 caliber as it has a beefier look than later models in .32 caliber, which also has a slightly different "hump" on the back-strap and a "folding hammer" that would fold down so as not to snag coming out of a pocket. All the action pins & hammer oin are in the same locations (they will vary as to brands in similar makes like Iver Johnson, Harrington Richardson, or copies of any) H&A were the only ones selling with the octagon barrel though.
Authenticity rating: None to Slight.
Photo comparison by John Culligan
Un-Photographed WeaponsThe Juneau Pistol. This
pistol was revealed to Jeff Smith while being
interviewed on the air at a local radio station in Juneau, Alaska. The caller, a gunshop owner, invited Jeff over to see the gun. Upon arrival Jeff was not allowed to see the gun nor was given information
about the weapon. Jeff was then handed a document to sign before being allowed to see the gun, which if signed, basically stated that Jeff Smith agreed that the gun was indeed Soapy's. Jeff refused to sign the paperwork thus was not allowed to see the gun. This was obviously an attempt for the gunshop owner to swindle future gun buyers.
This section involes weapons that have been brought to our attention but that no known photographs exist or were sent to us. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Authenticity rating: None
A weapon does not have to be deadly.
Soapy's faro table.
This faro table was a part of the Harriet Pullen Collection and was sold to an unknown buyer at auction in 1974. It reportedly once belonging to Soapy.
Authenticity rating: Possible
Soapy's roulette table.
This roulette table was obtained by Harriet Pullen of Skagway, Alaska for her hotel museum. It is a George Mason and Company table of Denver, Colorado. The George Mason supply office was very near Soapy's Tivoli Club in Denver. According to Harriet Pullen, Soapy paid $1000 in 1897-1898 to have just the wheel and equipment shipped to Skagway. The table itself was manufactured in Skagway. In 1973 the Smith family purchased the table at auction.
Authenticity rating: Possible to Indisputable.
Soapy's Office Desk.
Denver Post Jan.- Feb. 1929
Can a desk ever be considered a weapon? If Soapy actually did own this desk then what devious as well as generous plots were devised and implemented here? If the shelves and drawers could only talk, the stories they would reveal. If once owned by Soapy then yes, this desk could very well fit into the catagory of weapon.
The caption in the newspaper under the photograph reads ‘Soapy’ Smith, colorful pioneer Denver badman, probably sat at this old
desk in much the same manner as Miss Hazel Farrell does. The desk has been
given away by its owner.
desk, one of the few remaining mementos of Denver’s own pioneer Robin Hood,
has changed owners again.
"First it was sold
at auction many years ago, when “Soapy” left Denver for the lure of gold in
Alaska, to Alexander Searway, a close friend of “Soapy” in the early ‘80s, when
the colorful badman was selling his cakes of soap, wrapped in $5, $10 and $20
made to seem as if they were wrapped in the money.
When the elder
Searway died, more than twenty years ago, the old desk went to his son, F. E.
Searway, a graphic mining engineer. Now Searway has given the desk to Doc Bird
Finch, Denver Post cartoonist, a friend of Searway’s for many years.
Memories of the
old Denver, when Smith, a power in political circles by virtue of his
dominating personality and army of badmen, held forth in a Market street hotel
and directed his forces in their warfare on other gangs, are evoked in the
minds of oldtimers at sight of Soapy’s desk.
If it could
speak, it would tell of blazing sixguns and strange machinations of its
eccentric owner, as he laid his plans and conducted his odd “business” in the
old Market street hostelry.
(Soapy) Smith was shot and killed by Frank Reid near Skagway, Alaska, in 1898.
Before he fell in agony, the former king of Denver badmen shot his killer from
the hip. Reid died two weeks later.
On the drawers of
the desk are mute testimonials to the boyishness and naivete[sic] of the
redoubtable “Soapy.” His name is carved and painted on every drawer."
Authenticity rating: Slight to Possible.
Thanks go out to John “Grub” Culligan, Historical Weapons Analyst
for his grand assistance with identifying some of the guns above.
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