Ace of Spades
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Alias Soapy Smith

Vice Crackdown of 1894.

The governor's new police commissioners
close down Denver's vice districts, but not for long.


Once the supreme court upheld the governor's right to appoint Denver's police commissioners, the new board wasted no time. Denvers merchants of vice were due for a good rousting.

Rocky Mountain News, April 22, 1894

[..................... a]nd Opium
[.....................] Which Are Under
[.......... Polic]e Ban.
[.............. ho]uses of shady reputation
[.................] this week by the police
[................] virtue will envelop the
[...............] Market. It is the intention
[of the fi]re and police board to con-
[fine the soil]ed doves to Market street.
[After the somew]hat spasmodic raid of a year
[ago ..........] stood by the republican fire
[and polic]e board, the women who are
[................] by the frailties of men have
[been al]lowed to scatter themselves all
[over t]own. They have invaded Capitol
[...........]d they own two or three blocks on
[Provid]ence street and the midway plat-
[form] in the quarter is quite as repul-
[sive] as the old section on Market between
[Ni]neteenth and Twenty-second. Vice
[rei]gns as openly and as flagrantly and
[it] stands unrebuked. On Twenty-second
avenue the houses have spread nearly up
to Welton street.
The uptown blocks will also receive the attention of the police. Some of these blocks situated in the business center are entirely given up to women who have lost all moral restraint through their associations with men. Several of these blocks will be raided and the denizens landed in jail.
Hop joints will also be suppressed. Strange as it may seem, there are three dives of this character within a hundred yards of the corner of Seventeenth and Larimer streets. "Hop," or opium of a low grade, is smoked in all of these places and the effect of the stuff on the systems of the fiends is disastrous.
Even dealers of slot machines were notified yesterday that this accomplice of crime must cease business.

Larimer and Seventeenth was Lou's stomping ground for many years. Within one block are the locations of several Blonger saloons and gambling houses and Lou's office at 17th and Lawrence.

The next day, we are told that the city's gamblers will do an end run around the new policy — at least until Denver's business community forces the governor to lay off.

Rocky Mountain News, April 23, 1894

Big Gamblers Say They Will Close Up And Wait for Business Men to Squeal, But Little Fellows with Skin Games Expect to Grow Fat—The Colfax Monte Carlo Will Not Materialize to Any Great Extent—Other Suburbs May Harbor the Beast.
Yesterday was a doleful one for the sports. They stood disconsolately about in front of the closed gambling resorts sadly discussing the situation. None of them had any idea of securing any other kind of employment. They will live on hope for a few days, and, doubtless, in twos and threes migrate to some more sportive settlement.
The big houses, like Gavin & Austin, the Arcade, the Jockey Club and Samson & Scott's, will not make any attempt to start again to-day, as they say. The morning will be spent in packing up the wheels and other paraphernalia of a gambling hell. Some of the smaller places will die hard and run till noon. The last public drawing of the policy wheel will be at noon instead of 12:30 p.m. as formerly.
The policy men have no intention of giving up their business, and it is stated that they can easily evade the law. The wheels will be transported to one of the suburbs, where the regular drawings will take place and half an hour afterwards printed slips bearing the list of successful numbers will be found in a dozen or more cigar stores. The policy men will work exactly the same game as the big lottery company, but they will not have to go as far as Honduras.
One Class Remains Gay.
The gig and saddle fiend alone, of true sports, remains gay. He alone for a week or two can throw away his money without police interference.
He will stand alone as the only publicly recognized sucker. The policy men have about decided to have the drawings take place at Petersburg.
The outlook is that Colfax will not be invaded to any material extent just at present. Probably two or three small houses may be started there, but the idea of establishing a gilded Monte Carlo has been abandoned. Colonel J. Randolph Smith has circulated a petition in the little town and has secured sixty-five signatures. The petition is addressed to the mayor and trustees and asks them to sanction public gambling. Mayor King has not quite made up his mind about the question and he holds the balance of power, as the board of trustees is evenly divided. Peabody, Higson and Jamison are opposed to the establishment of chance games. Lunney, Lessena and Goodstein will vote in favor of the new suburban industry. Mayor King will wait until the gamblers appear.
"It is no use hunting the tiger before it appears," he says. "I will let you know what I think of the gambling houses later." The business men along Golden avenue are very anxious to have the gamblers with them. They are in favor of them to a man.
Elyria is also a candidate for gambling honors and a house or two may be started there this week. Elyria's all-night cars are regarded favorably by the gamblers. Colfax has not this advantage. Fred Couch, the owner of the Jockey Club will start one faro game and a roulette wheel in Petersburg. At Joe Lowe's resort, near by, a place of similar character may be established.
Views of the Big 'Uns
The feeling among the big gamblers remains unchanged. They will all close their houses to-day and make no attempt to evade the law or start petty resorts in the suburbs. In regard to this, Johnny Hughes of the Arcade said: "We have long been running at a loss and have kept the house open just to keep up appearances. I will have my wheels and banks packed up to-morrow and quietly wait until things come our way. Public opinion is not against gambling in this town and the business men will squeel before we do."
Bob Austin of the Leadville and Tortoni clubs says: "We will close up. There is no money in the gambling business, but we have supported over 100 men right along. I have no kick to register."
John McAvoy of Austin, Gavin, McAvoy & Dale says: "I do not care anything about it. I have kept open just to keep up the reputation of the town. You will see before long who will squeel first. It will not be the gamblers. I will not have anything to do with running a place behind closed doors, but there will be plenty of gambling going on in Denver notwithstanding the orders of the police. This kind of thing just suits the skin men, who will open a place uptown, skin a few suckers, and hit the road. Our firm has large property interests here and we will in no way injure them."
The pool rooms will remain open even if it becomes necessary to test the law on this point. Otherwise, the order of the fire and police board must be strictly obeyed.
Just how the order will affect the poker club rooms, many of which are kept open to enable business and professional men to meet across the green cloth, is a question yet to be determined. Strangers are not admitted to these places and the porters may bar the new policemen out as well.

Interesting. Three gambling house owners, and they're all losing money at it — but who just kept their places open out of civic pride. Meanwhile, race tracks, poolrooms and the private poker clubs go on as before.

Aspen Weekly Times, April 26, 1894

Denver's Gambling Fraternity Preparing to Get Out of Town.
DENVER, April 24.—"Gone a Hunting," was the inscription on a sign which hung on the door of a Market street policy shop this morning. The sign was put up as a joke, but nevertheless it was a truthful explanation of what the policy men and gamblers of the city were doing.
They had all decided to obey the order of the new police board, which went into effect at noon, and not one of their establishments were open, but they had not given up the idea of continuing business and they were scattered over the suburbs hunting for localities to set up their establishments anew.
Larimer street which has been the mecca of Denver gamblers, seemed to contain more idlers than usual today. Gamblers out of work thronged the sidewalk and gazed longingly at the closed doors of the gaming houses. While some of the men discussed the situation, others whetted their excitement for gaming by visiting the pool rooms, whose proprietors to a man agreed that the order to close did not apply t them, so they operated their places with doors wide open and did a rattling business.
There wasn't a gambling house or a policy shop open this morning. In a majority of these establishments the implements of trade had been packed up last night ready to be moved at a moment's notice and in some of the places where the roulette wheel clicked almost continually day and night, the closed doors only prevented anxious gamblers from trying their luck today in spite of the danger of arrest.
The more aristocratic gaming houses on Curtis street, which never begin business until afternoon, presented much the usual appearance this today, except that there were signs on the doors bearing the word closed. The Capitol, Collender and Leadville clubs, on this street, had everything ready to be moved.
The same can be said of the Jockey club on Sixteenth street and the several establishments on Lawrence street. An iron screen prevented entrance to the place of Gavin and Austin's and the Arcade had its double doors locked. Further down on Larimer street the doors of the Creede club bore the sign "To Let."
Blonger's, Argyle's and other places on Larimer and Market, including Jeff Smith's Tivoli, were closed tight and so were the three policy shops on Larimer and Fifteenth streets respectively. The branch policy shops throughout the city, with a few exceptions were also closed. There were a few open till noon when the last drawing was held.
Many of the gamblers were apprehensive lest the police would seize the paraphernalia of their places and they stored it in cellars and other places, but others were of the opinion that these implements would not be disturbed and they left them in their rooms just as they were packed.
It was the general impression that if Colfax allowed the dispossessed gamblers to reopen in that town it would soon have the entire Denver fraternity established within its limits. The business men of the town according to conversations had this morning by a Times reporter, were almost unanimously in favor of receiving the gambling men.
A petition to sanction gambling in the town was circulated yesterday and nearly 100 business men signed it. The town board is divided on the question. Trustees Peabody, Higson and Jamison are said to be opposed to the idea, and Messrs. Lunney, Lessena and Goodstein favor it. Mayor King is undecided. The friends of the gaming men, however, hope to have the board give the desired permission.
Colonel Jeff Smith and several other gamblers have hired places in Colfax with the understanding that the bargain will be off if the trustees object.

This last article, of course, place Lou and Sam in the thick of things, rare evidence. The Blongers are nearly invisible during this entire period, but we know they are present, very interested, somewhat wealthy, and on the verge of being very influential. For them not to flex what muscles they had at this time belies the influence they were later known to posess. Could they be bystanders on such an issue and survive?

On the other hand, Forbes Parkhill is our only justification for suggesting that the Blongers were major players in the policy racket. Ed Chase was the Boss Fly as this cartoon suggests.

Policy Shop War

Rocky Mountain News, May 8, 1894

Ed Chase, King of the Policy Men, and Half a Dozen of His Writers Are Unceremoniously Pulled—His Place at 1333 Fifteenth Street Searched and the Freshly Oiled Wheel Found in the Dusty Attic—A Seductive Game Where the Chances Are Tremendously Against the Players.
The police are after the policy players. Yesterday the first blow was struck by the arrest of Ed Chase and half a dozen of his writers. Since the organization of the new fire and police board the proprietors of the local policy associations have been saying little, but have continued to diminish the woodpile without betraying any regard for the order of the board.
The game of policy is to the poor man the most seductive of all forms of gambling, for he sees in it the possibility of making a big winning from a small investment. He may win once in a thousand plays, and if he does he gets back an amount equal to that he lost on previous guesses. The policy fiend thinks by day and dreams by night of "gigs" and "saddles" and "horses" and "spiders," and any number impressed on his mind in an unusual way is invariably played for all it is worth.
Magnitude of the Game.
Ed Chase, who has amassed a fortune at the business, is the recognized power behind the wheels which revolve in Colorado. When a winner occasionally turns up he is sure of his cash, because there is a mint of money behind the association. For a long time he has been allowed to work among a class of people who can ill afford to invest even a trifle in such a snap game. Hundreds of dollars are paid in at each policy shop by these unfortunates who are controlled by the gambling mania.
At a central place the numbers are drawn from a small brass wheel at 12 o'clock noon and 5 o'clock in the afternoon of each day of the week. In the parlance of the legitimate gamblers the game is a "sure thing." The percentage against the policy fiend is enormous, but as he is usually unable to figure it out he plays on in ignorance. In order to lure on the superstitious a dream book has been published, so that if an inveterate gambler dreams of something unusual he consults the book. If his teeth fall out while he is asleep he plays the 7-11-44 gig. For a ten-cent investment he stands a show to win $11.80. If he dreams that he is falling over a precipice the book tells him that his lucky gig is 3-17-27.
When Sergeant Tarbox visited Ed Chase's main office yesterday at 5 o'clock he found a dozen men inside and on each face was written the expectant look of the policy fiend. A drawing was interrupted by the unwelcome presence of the police.
"You are under arrest," was the greeting Ed Chase got when he was arrested a few minutes later.
"What for?" was his query.
"For running a gambling house and carrying on a policy business," replied the sergeant.
"But we do not run a gambling house and the policy numbers are drawn from a hat," retorted Chase.
Finding the Elusive Wheel.
Upon his refusal to show the officers through the building at 1333 Fifteenth street, the officers decided to forego any formality. They found no wheel on the first floor, and the same ill-luck attended them in their visit to the second story; but away up near the roof in a dark room in the rear of the building they found a brass wheel. Every other article in the room was covered with dust. The wheel was innocent of such neglect and the bearings had been freshly oiled. The prospective "gigs" and "saddles" and "spiders" and "horses" were still in the cylinder. The fortune maker was confiscated and taken to city headquarters along with Chase, whose fortune it had helped to make. Gus Brohm, a partner of Chase's, was also arrested at 1333 Fifteenth street, Jacob Carr from 1216 the prime mover in the raid on the shops.
Later on the policy writers were brought in from 1218 Seventeenth street. H. J. Domidian responded in the ambulance. C. J. Pierson was arrested at 920 Seventeenth street. Jacob Carr from 1216 Nineteenth street and Hank Anderson from Twenty-third and Larimer.

And then there were the inevitable repercussions of banishing the merchants of vice:

Rocky Mountain News, April 26, 1894

Partisans of the Force Called to Explain.
The police board yesterday commenced its investigation into the policemen accused of displaying an undue excess of zeal on behalf of the old board during the late unpleasantness. Patrolmen Gallup, R.A. Hopkins, A.T. Peterson, T. Walsh, C.W. Thurlow, R.R. Decker W.L. Padgett, R. Talbert, T. Shepperson and H.V. Cornell were on the carpet. It is stated that the explanations given by some of them furnish most interesting information concerning the orders given inside the city hall and the pressure brought to bear on the men by various politicians.
No discharges were announced yesterday but the following patrolmen were appointed: John McGowan, Richard Rutledge, James O'Rourke, Martin Purcell and Michael J. Doyle. The application of H. Balsinger & Co. to be allowed to run after midnight at the opening of their new saloon on Larimer street, was denied.
Another batch of explainers will be called in to-day. The committee on credentials appointed by the Populist leaders is industriously looking up the records.

Within days, gambling that had been above board had simply ducked underneath. The speakeasy route, with peepholes and hidden entrances and clever ways to hide parapernalia on a moment's notice, posed such difficulties for the cops that gambling was effectively back in town.

Gamblers Must Be Caught Actually in a Game.
Judge Frost yesterday discharged A.W. Gilman, accused of running a private gambling room in the Hallack & Howard block, Seventeenth and Arapahoe streets. Sergeant McPhee and other officers testified that they had to break in the door. There was gambling apparatus in the room, a number of men were sitting around and the box under the "kitty" hole in the table contained over 100 chips. They could not swear that gambling had been going on because they did not actually see it. The defense was that there had been no gambling since Monday at noon, when the order went into effect.
The finding of the court emphasizes the difficulty which will be met by the police force in attempting to suppress gambling under the conditions which will surround it. Actual evidence showing that gambling was in progress will be hard to get, because the rooms will be kept locked and look-outs will warn those within of the approach of the police in time to allow the game to stop and the players to pick up magazines or newspapers.

And then there were those who wondered why people north of Larimer deserved respite from prostitution and gambling, while those to the south were on their own.

He Will Resist the Order Drawing a Dead Line on Immorality Above Larimer Street—Owners of Property Leased for Immoral Purposes Will Be Arrested—No Resting Place for the Dissolute Within the Walls of Denver—The Energetic Pastor of the Tabernacle Takes the Warpath.
Parson Tom Uzzell has taken to the warpath. If vice is to be suppressed above Larimer street, he wants to know why it should not also be suppressed below that street, and he proposes to find out. The announcement that the police intend to clear all dissolute women from the blocks Fifteenth, Eighteenth, Lawrence, Arapahoe, Curtis, Champa and other streets and drive them below a dead line established at Larimer street is the immediate cause of Parson Tom's crusade.
A mass meeting will be called for the Blake street tabernacle to protest against the threatened invasion. It will probably be held on next Sunday night. Committees will be appointed to take the names of all persons renting property for improper purposes and they will be prosecuted. Very naturally the campaign will not remain merely defensive, but will assume the offensive. Owners of the property in the three or four blocks on Market street which have long been devoted to this use will also be prosecuted and the indications are most favorable for a first rate fight.
Protection for the Poor.
"I do not see why the little homes of our people below Larimer street should not be protected as well as the homes on Broadway or Grant avenue. Nobody outside knows what we suffer from this cause. Children are constantly exposed to the most contaminating surroundings. There are evil houses all around the Twenty-third street school, one of the largest in the city. Across the street from the Tabernacle on Blake street the old United States hotel is one of the worst places in Denver. Already these houses have spread away outside of Market street. As my wife and I were going to the Tabernacle last Sunday we were insulted by women calling to us. Old Judge Decker, who was coming down to give us a lecture, was seized by a woman on Blake street between Eighteenth and Nineteenth and could hardly get away. You can say from me that we will not endure the coming of a lot more of these women and that I am going to attack the 'row' itself."
Mr. Uzzell called to see Chief Armstrong yesterday about the reported order that all women of loose character must move below Larimer street. The chief said that the order was not in those terms. It had been decided that the blocks must be cleaned out, but there was no order that the occupants must move to any named locality. Mr. Uzzell is satisfied, however, that it amounts to the same thing.
Secretary Taylor says the police board has issued no order on the subject except the general one published some days ago. The chief is carrying it out according to his discretion and the board has taken no action with regard to details.
Complaint has been made that there is a sumptuously furnished establishment of a disorderly character on Sixteenth avenue several blocks east of Downing avenue, and that there is a similar place on Colfax avenue, also far up on the hill.

The Chief Armstrong mentioned above is the same Hamilton Armstrong who twenty-five years later would tutor the brash young district attorney Philip S. Van Cise in the state of Denver's vice trade and corrupt city government. A populist like Waite, he was a union man, at one time leader of the western district of the AFL. During his long career Armstrong served as a state senator, Denver's chief of police at least three times, sheriff at least once, and perhaps U.S. Marshal as well. His career roughly paralleled the Blongers' tenure in Denver.

Rocky Mountain News, April 28, 1894

Enforce the Law.
(Rocky Ford Enterprise.)
The Denver News deserves the thanks of the best people of the state for its emphatic and hearty indorsement of the new excise board in its suppression of gambling in Denver. The Denver gamblers have so long had the favor of the city government that they have for several years practically run several departments. Let the present righteous treatment of the gambling fraternity be made continuous and Denver will be largely redeemed and an example set to other cities which will do much to promote the enforcement of the law against one of the worst vices of the day.

Not bloody likely.

On the same day Armstrong's appointment to chief of police was announced, another article foreshadowed the story's next chapter — Cripple Creek miners and mine owners were meeting to discuss a reduction in the working day from nine hours to eight. A settlement seemed within reach, but it was not to be.



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