Home
Buy the book
Preservation Trust
Blog
Discussion Forum
History Part 1
History Part 2
History Part 3
History Part 4
Art of a Gunfight
Soapy's Wakes
Grave Markers
Soapy's Weapons
Soapy's Saloons
100th Anniversary
Arts & Media
Violent Clashes
Hiring Jeff Smith
Contact Us
Links

Soapy's Weapons

Soapy Smith, an expert gunman though not
a killer, probably never saw so many guns
as the owners have claimed were once his.

                                                                    
Alaska Sportsman magazine, September, 1957

goldline.jpg

Pictured here are some of the guns alleged to have once belonged to Soapy Smith. Some are indisputable while others are questionable. As the quote at the top of the page from Alaska Sportsman suggests, there are many more weapons then are shown here, that are claimed to have been Soapy's, but have no provenance and we decided not to show them all here. Below is an authenticity rating that is listed with each gun shown. This is my grading system and none are fool-proof, neither is it strictly guess work. It is governed by the available information pertaining to each item. Disagreements are expected.


Authenticity Rating Guide

1. Indisputable: Provenance of ownership by Soapy exists.
2. Possible: Little to no provenance, but there is circumstantial evidence.

3. Slight: No provenance and little, if any, circumstantial evidence.
4. None: No provenance or circumstantial evidence.

goldline.jpg

Long-Guns

goldline.jpg

J. M. Tanner, one of the vigilante guards on Juneau wharf the night Soapy was killed, was later appointed a U.S. deputy marshal. It is written in Soapy's estate property reports that Tanner personally handed Soapy's rifle to Soapy's son, Jefferson R. Smith III when he and his mother Mary (Soapy's widow) arrived in Skagway, Alaska in August 1898. They had come to collect the estate. In later years it was reported that Tanner personally gave away guns to people, claiming they had once belonged to Soapy. How many times he did this and what type of guns are not known.

Soapys_rifle_10.jpg
The rifle Soapy died with

The photograph above shows the actual rifle Soapy used against Frank Reid on July 8, 1898. After shooting Reid, this rifle was taken from Soapy's hands by vigilante guard, Jesse Murphy, and fired at least one round into Soapy's chest killing him. It is a Winchester rifle, model 1892, 44-40, and was given to the son of Soapy a few weeks after the gunfight by acting U.S. Deputy Marshal J. M. Tanner. The rifle currently remains in the Smith family.  Authenticity rating: Indisputable. 

soapyrifleA.jpg
Winchester model 1892 rifle, 44-40

 

 

This is not Soapy’s rifle but rather the same make and model for clearer representation of the rifle Soapy owned.

Halvorsen_rifle_website.jpg
The Havorsen Rifle

An 1866 Winchester rifle, said to have been owned by Soapy that was sold or given away by a merchant in Skagway.


O
n 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 possibility of ownership by Soapy Smith. Halvorsen insisted to Jeff that this rifle was the one Soapy used to kill Frank Reid and would not accept Jeff's explanation that the real rifle had been given to the family in August 1898 by acting U.S. Deputy Marshal Tanner and remains in family possession. Halvorsen stated that he had inherited his 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, thus there is no way of knowing that the rifle in question was actually the one given away in 1901. It is important to note that on several occasions residents of Skagway were known to give away weapons claiming that it had once belonged to Soapy Smith.

John Culligan, our Historical Weapons Analyst states that "the model 66 Winchester is 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 model 1892 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." Photographs of Klondike stampeders and merchant stores that sold equipment in Alaska during the 1897-1898 period clearly show a large preference for the newer and more reliable model 1892. It is easily speculated that Soapy would have favored the model 1892 over the model 66 and model 1873.

 
The offer to purchase Halvorsen's rifle was thoughtfully declined by the Smith family.

Auction description:

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.

Authenticity rating (the rifle that Soapy used against Frank Reid): None

Authenticity rating (once owned by Soapy Smith): Slight to None

goldline.jpg

Hand-Guns

goldline.jpg

Soapy's revolver rests beside his corpse
Soapy_and_Gun.jpg
Soapy Smith in the morgue

Soapys_double_action_closeup.jpg
Close-up of Soapy's double-action revolver

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. The make and model of this revolver 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 1889 New Army or Navy
Newarmynavy.jpg
Probable model of revolver Soapy owned

 

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. Teddy Roosevelt carried one in battle that had been salvaged from the USS Maine. 


T
he New Army was first introduced in 1889, sometimes called the “.41 frame” for the original caliber made. It was the basis for their very successful line of .38 and .41 caliber, New Army (.41) and Navy (.38) ancestor of the Colt line of full size service revolvers.

The Selmer Revolver
SoapyPistol_PullenColl_01.jpg
Revolver said to be Soapy's

 
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 bad man. The authenticity of this revolver remains a mystery.

Authenticity rating: Slight to Possible.

Clancy_Soapy_revolver_2.jpg

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."

Another angle of the Clancy revolver
Clancy_Soapy_revolver_1.jpg
Clancy revolver and brass knuckles said to be Soapy's

 

 

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 whereabouts of these items are unknown.

Authenticity Rating: Possible

Soapys_Supposed_Derringer_0001.jpg
The Rev. Sinclair Derringer

This is a photograph of a Colt Model 3 Derringer .41 rim-fire that appears in Mission: Klondike, the story of Reverend John A. Sinclair's adventures in Alaska and the Klondike during the gold rush, written by the Reverend's son in 1978. The derringer is said to have been the derringer carried by Soapy. There are two stories in the same book as to how he obtained the gun. In one chapter it is explained that in lieu of payment for his services in the burial of Soapy, he asked for some personal memento of Soapy's. A vigilante gave him this gun and said it was Soapy's. However, the caption with the photograph states that the gun was given to Reverend Sinclair by the widow Smith.

Sinclair_derringer.jpg
The Sinclair Deringer

It is unlikely that this gun was Soapy's. The main reasoning behind this is that it is a rim-fire derringer made in the early 1870's. In 1898, the main cartridge used were center-fire. The mere fact that Soapy might have owned such an outdated gun is foolish. Obtaining ammo for a rim-fire derringer in Alaska and the Klondike would have to be next to impossible. It is believed that the Reverend was duped into accepting a worthless relic as payment for his labor. Authenticity Rating: Slight to None.

goldline.jpg


No images or text may be used without prior written consent.

This site  The Web