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Jeff Smith's Parlor

H iring J eff S mith



J eff Smith, the great-grandson and foremost recognized historian on gambler, bunco artist and all around bad man Soapy Smith, has spoken to and for numerous organizations including:

  • The Klondike  Gold Rush National Historical Park (National Park Service), Skagway.
  • The Washington State museum, Tacoma, Washington.
  • The Alaska State museum, Juneau, Alaska.
  • City of Skagway, Alaska.
  • W.O.L.A. (Western Outlaw Lawman Association), Denver, Colorado, (08/02/1991).
  • Magic Castle, Hollywood, California.
  • Creede Historical Society, Creede, Colorado.
  • The Notorious Clanton Gang, Norco, California.
  • The Old West Social Club, Norco, California.
  • End Of Trail (S.A.S.S.), Corona, California.
  • Calico Ghost Town, Barstow, California.
  • Whitehorse Ranch, Yucca Valley, California.
  • KTOO Juneau, Alaska radio show.
  • The Haunted Saloon (webcast), hosted by TombstoneArizona.com (01/09/2007 and 04/10/2007).
  • Coweta/Newnan Historical Society (3/24/07).
  • Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at Melody Ranch, California (04/28-29/2007).
  • Chronicle of the Old West radio show (4/28/2007).
  • Doombuggies 10th Anniversary Wake, Disneyland, Anaheim, California (02/25/2008)
  • Big Nose Kate 's Saloon (special guest blackjack dealer for PharoBank.com), Tombstone, Arizona (10/26/2008).
  • Cyrano 's Theater Company (The Ballad of Soapy Smith ), Anchorage, Alaska (02/26 through 03/1/2008).
  • KFQD 750 radio, The Big Alaska Show . Studio guest, Anchorage, Alaska (02/28/2009).
  • (Has not been updated.)

These were made by John Randolph Smith

Be prepared to be swept away on a time travel adventure extravaganza celebrating the adventures of bad man Soapy Smith. With his gracious sense of humor, unbridled enthusiasm, and keen expertise, Jeff Smith shares the stories, legends, lore and more!

Speaking engagements can include first person performances of some of Soapy 's most famous  swindles, including the Prize Package Soap Sell,  The Shell Game and three-card Monte. Artifacts, important letters, historical documents, photographs and the original grave maker can accompany the speaking engagement for display purposes, depending on travel requirements and liabilities.

Fee: $500 plus expenses. Depending on the organization and the location there are special considerations that may affect the fee. Details can be arranged by contacting Jeff Smith  

 What others have said

“Jeff did a great job. It was good to meet him, and I have to tell you that I am really looking forward to his book even more now that I 've had a chance to see some of the documentation he has. The problem we have with most Western characters is a dearth of personal records, but Soapy left extensive correspondence and even records about his "business "operations from Texas to Alaska. Here is a chance to see a Western legend inside out, and I think Jeff definitely has a winner.”     

—Gary Roberts, author.



“I work at Sears with my wife Susanne. For a week now they have been making a sale pitch. "Hurry down stairs you only have a few minutes left!" And so on. In my minds eye, I see you leaning on the table talking, "How are you fixed for soap?" I loved it. That 's the ONLY reason I attended that night was to hear Soapy! It 's about a 100 mile trip for me, and with gas as it is, I have to be careful. I wanted to see you and little Soapy (your son). You really pulled it off very well my friend! Under the gun, you pulled off the old time again."

—Jim Petersen


When I saw Jeff assemble the Tripe and Keister at the Soapy Smith night at the Newnan Historical Society a few months ago I was immediately fascinated. When he flipped the top and brought the shells out I got goose bumps. This stuff is amazing ...  

—Dave Armstrong, magician



“I think you have a legitimate right to be proud of the work you have done on the manuscript. Its substantive and comprehensively indexed and footnoted. You 've put a hell of a lot of work into the manuscript, and it shows to a very good effect. I have a sense that by the time it is finished, it 's not only going to shine brightly but also sing sweetly.”           

  Art Petersen, Klondike Research


"It was such a pleasure to have you be our special guest during our phenomenally successful production of The Ballad of Soapy Smith . Your presence certainly added to the popularity of our play. The post performance question and answer period was actually extraordinary since usually a percentage of the audience does leave. In your case the entire audience stayed and were enthralled by your insights and knowledge of your great grandfather. ... It was easy to observe that you enjoyed interacting with people and sharing your stories."    

—Sandy Harper, Director, Cyrano 's Theater Company.

Jeff speaks at the 1991 WOLA convention


M y name is Jeff Smith. I am a great-grandson of Jefferson Randolph ("Soapy ") Smith, II. As a child I grew up surrounded by the fascinating bunco history of Soapy. Raised in an old west gambling atmosphere I quickly learned to love the fact that I had such an interesting ancestor. My father had a back building made into an old saloon and gambling hall museum where many of the larger Soapy Smith artifacts were kept. There sat Soapy Smith 's roulette table from Skagway, a full size crap table, faro table, two black jack tables and numerous antique slot machines and trade stimulators dating back to 1897. At any one moment I could sit down at a dollar machine with $100 (supplied) and pluck them in until they were gone. It only took a key to get some more coins. I can remember my brother and I each having $100 in coins and alternating the play we would play a game to see whose coins would run out first. Almost every weekend you could find my father in that building with friends or interested parties. My father was not addicted to gambling, but he loved the play and the history. It was from him that I learned how to gamble and the mathematical odds of each game. It was also from him that I learned how to cheat. My father taught me what he had learned, from his father ("Soapy 's "son), including the old swindles used by Soapy; the Prize Package Soap Sell, the shell game and three-card Monte. I in-turn have taught both my children these games. Play gambling in that back building cured me of any gambling addiction that may have been flowing in my DNA.

Jeff speaks at the Magic Castle

I n 1985 and 1998, I was invited to be grand-marshal of the July 4th parade in Skagway, Alaska, just as Soapy had in 1898. I decided to dress the part of my great grandfather which led to becoming involved in old west reenacting. Over the years I perfected my portrayal of Soapy, complete with a tri-pod and keister (suitcase and stand) to perform the bunco games on.

I knew how to gamble (and cheat) but like my father, my love grew for the history of gambling. The core of all this was all based around the history of Soapy. As a child I grew up listening to many accounts and family stories about his life and death. The research work my family had performed to that point in my life, was already enormous and had been going on for decades. My grandfather, father, uncles and aunts had been researching and interviewing those who knew Soapy since the early 1900 's. The Smith 's are very fortunate to have many hundreds of Soapy 's original letters and business documents. Having these originals to research, exposed many true life adventures through the eyes of this amazing old west rascal himself. The letters greatly helped the family research Soapy 's life, far beyond what historians had been able to piece together. I can remember my parents, my uncle and aunt sitting in our barroom with old timers that had known Soapy. They taped the interviews on an old reel to reel recorder which I had transferred to CD. I began my own research quest into Soapy 's life in 1985. My father, aunts and uncles passed away one by one and with their passing the Soapy collections were split into many parts. Originally there were three parts. I inherited one from my father and then purchased a portable copier to copy a second part of the collection belonging to my cousin Randy. For several years I traveled throughout Colorado and Alaska doing research. I scoured endlessly through microfilmed newspapers of the era, and am still doing so.

The creation of this website has brought new interest from the family members and relatives are sharing their knowledge and collections with one another.

Robert witnessed the death of Soapy Smith
My father, me & Bob Sheldon, 1973

I remember the first time my father showed me some of the original letters that had been handed down to him in the 1940 's by his father. He made it clear to me that the documents and artifacts would be passed on to me when the time was right. I wished to carry on our tradition of researching the truth regarding Soapy, good or bad. My interest  in Soapy was initiated in a 1974 trip to Skagway, Alaska. This was the first time a Smith had returned to Skagway since August, 1898. While there, we were involved in creating the very first annual Soapy Smith wake. Skagway residents have carried on the event every year since. On a return visit to Skagway in 1985, I began to combine my research into book form. At the death of my father is 1987, the artifacts he owned were passed down to me, along with the responsibility of making my father 's dreams a reality and that was to make Soapy a more widely known old western bad man.


The creation of this website was the completion of one out of three goals I set for myself in relation to Soapy Smith. The three goals are,

  • This website.
  • To complete the publication of the Soapy Smith biography (2009).
  • To be involved as a technical adviser in the production of a high budget film about Soapy 's adventures.

I am proud to state that the first two goals are complete. My book was release in 2009 to good reviews and I am very proud.

... Now, about that big movie deal.

Ashley Smith was the first Smith family member to meet with the Frank Reid relatives in the 100 years since the shoot-out in 1898. I placed her next to the Reid family so she could introduce herself in Skagway, Alaska, on July 4th, 1998, minutes before the big parade. Ironically, the Reid descendants were elected grand marshals of the parade, but just as Soapy Smith had done in 1898, the Smith relatives edged their way to the front of the parade.

Jefferson was named after his great-great-grandfather. He was shocked to learn that Soapy was a bad man. He and Ashley have both learned the shell game swindle. Ashley has been to Skagway, Alaska with her father, and young Jefferson has expressed his wish to do the same. Soapy would be so proud! When he is old enough, he, Ashley and I will go to Skagway once again. Perhaps by then Jeff Smith 's Parlor (Soapy 's saloon in Skagway) will have been restored by the National Park Service.

Ashley N. & Jefferson R. Smith

Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel


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