Soapy Gets All The Breaks

Except maybe that one time in Skagway.

Ridley Scott’s Klondike starts Monday, January 20 on the Discovery Channel. The miniseries follows two young men into the heart of the Yukon gold rush.

Ian Hart plays Soapy. If we’re lucky the writers will throw us a bone and have Soapy say a little something about Denver. Sam and Lou may not have run Jeff out of town, exactly, but I suspect they were happy to see him go. One less competitor, after all.

Besides, the Smith boys were starting to give bunko men a bad name in Denver, beating the crap out of people (including the chief of police), and then coming into the Blonger place looking for trouble. And then Bascomb, in jail for the assaults, agrees to testify against Sam (to no avail). Thanks, bro.

The Blongers preferred a lower profile, anyway. Smith loved to be the center of attention, and it bit him in the ass, a couple of times. Lou on the other hand, increasingly kept his head down, all but disappearing from the news of the day, toiling on in the shadows, and on, and on, all the way to the bank…

And yet here we are, adding another to Smith’s long list of movies, tv shows, books, video games, cartoons, action figures, lunchboxes and collectible plates. Not to mention all the extant artifacts, like a match tin Soapy just found from the Tivoli Club. He comes across stuff like that all the time. The Blongers must not have been big on promotional items. Jeff Smith (the current one) did recently come across a tiny token for the Elite Saloon, but it was issued by subsequent owners, not the Blongers. Sigh.

Though jealous, I will be watching. Congrats, Soapy. Lucky bastard.

4 thoughts on “Soapy Gets All The Breaks

  1. I am indeed looking forward to the miniseries Klondike. Yes, Soapy being in it is the main attraction for me, but the costuming and sets look very impressive, even if the story is fiction. The storyline takes place in Dawson (Canada) and though Soapy is a part of the story, he was never in Dawson as far as I can tell. He once wrote to his wife that he may go but there is no hint that he ever made the trip. Everything he wanted was in Skagway, Alaska. Soapy dons a goatee and a frock coat but I won’t let those small mistakes stop my enjoyment, however, Ian Hart, the actor playing Soapy, has a thick English accent, and that may bring me out of my fantasy if it creeps into the show.

    It is true, I have found a number of Soapy Smith related artifacts in the last two years, but my social life has suffered. In order to find these gems I am required to sit in front of a computer screen, hunting the internet. The thicker my shackles to my computer desk become. It’s a prison-life I’ve come to enjoy.

    In regards to the Elite token being “issued by subsequent owners, not the Blongers.” What is the provenance for this? Don’t take the expertise of token collectors literally, if that is where you found your information. A token collector friend from the past once told me that dating tokens is very difficult as mush of the hobby is filled with erroneous claims and information handed down by other collectors.

    Enjoy Klondike!
    (translation: “Eat your heart out Blonger!”)

    Jeff Smith

  2. Hi, boys.
    I was surprised to see you mention that the token was “tiny” and “issued by subsequent owners, not the Blongers.” I wish you would have said something to me. I wondered why you didn’t put it up on your blog? First off, I want you to know that I never heard or thought anything other than that it was a Blonger token. I am not convinced it is not a Blonger token.
    The token is not “tiny.” In fact it is the standard size. How did you come to the conclusion that it didn’t belong to the Blongers? I am not an expert in tokens but I had quite a few when collecting them back in the 80s-90s. When I started selling some of them to various museums and collectors around the country I gained a lot of knowledge. I contacted some of the best known collectors at the time in order to learn. What of the biggest “secrets” of the hobby is that there are few absolutes. A lot of the book writers and collectors filled in empty gaps to make themselves look good, as well as enlarge the value of their collections. I have heard several times not to assume that the information out there is correct.
    If it turns out that it is not a Blonger token I will refund $2 of your money, after payment of the processing fee of $3. Seriously though, if we can prove it’s not a Blonger token I will refund all of it and take back the token.


  3. Mea Culpa. In our original conversation about the token Scott indicated that he thought it unlikely it was issued by the Blongers — but simply because they only owned the place for about six months before it went bankrupt. If I recall, it was still around for another couple of years, under new management.

    So, we can’t say it wasn’t their token, but all things being equal the chances are maybe 1 in 5, give or take.

    As for being tiny, it’s about the size of a dime, as I recall (Scott has it). Maybe not tiny, just not exactly hefty. No matter, still pretty cool.

    Soapy, I hope I didn’t come of as ungrateful for the find, I am. If anything my comments were simply a reflection of how scarce Blonger items are — which is to say, exceedingly so. What I’d give for a thousandth of the collection you have amassed.

    Why didn’t the Blongers leave a more tangible legacy (even a little bit more?). I find it a mystery, considering the business they were in, the massive amount of equipment they surely owned after years of running dozens saloons and gambling houses, and the general pervasiveness of promotional items usually associated with the trade. Ah well…

  4. Hi, Craig.

    In regards to the possibility that the token is not from the time that the Blonger’s ran the Elite, I will say that the six month time period certainly cuts down the possibility, but not the probability, in my opinion.

    From Soapy’s Tivoli Club I know that the items I have located, including whiskey bottles and matchsafes, were often pre-manufactured by industrious salesmen out to make quick sales. I have a matchsafe from the Tivoli Club, and because of the similar design to a catalog sample, I am pretty certain that a salesman had it pre-manufactured for Soapy or the manager to purchase on the spot. I don’t see why tokens would not be done the same way. The smart salesman would not wait, but rather, be on the Elite doorstep on the first day of operation, or even before the doors opened, if possible. For items like tokens, one day would mean the difference between a sale and no sale. For that reason I would not rule out the very real possibility that the taken came from the period when the Elite was run by Blonger.

    Jeff Smith

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