Buy the book
Preservation Trust
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
Jeff Smith's Parlor


A rtwork depicting the "Gunfight on Juneau Wharf "was being produced as early as 1901 to accompany stories written about the death of Soapy Smith. The early artists and up into the 1990s could only rely on contemporary accounts of what actually took place the night of July 8, 1898. It was not until 2006 that the first known artwork was produced that depicted accurately the shooting of Soapy by vigilante guard Jesse Murphy. Below are some of the known  examples.

by Andy Thomas

The End of Soapy Smith - Skagway, Alaska  by Andy Thomas is
the most authentic portrayal of the Shootout.


T he earliest known rendition of the Gunfight on Juneau Wharf comes from the San Francisco Call , July 24, 1898, just 16 days after Soapy Smith 's death.   


T his drawing by H. M. Eaton, was published in Frank Leslie 's Popular Monthly magazine, January, 1901 to accompany a story entitled, The Reign of Soapy Smith



T his 1932 drawing was done by artist, James Lynch an artist for the Rocky Mountain News .


Photo by Andrew Cremata, The Skagway News

R estoration of a gold rush era building in October 2007  uncovered a mural that had been painted on a wall in 1951. After paneling was removed from the walls of Moe ’s Frontier Bar, a mural by Bea O ’Daniel (now Lingle) completed in May 1951 was revealed. The entire painted mural  stretches around the perimeter of the main bar room and includes a detailed panoramic scene of Skagway from 1898 - 1900 with  separate pieces showing gold seekers ascending the Chilkoot Trail ’s Golden Staircase and a Canadian Mountie on horseback atop a mountain. The above portion shows the Soapy Smith/Frank Reid gunfight.

T he scene in the painting is a little confusing. First mistake made by the artist is the name of the dock being Sylvester 's Wharf. It should read Juneau Company Wharf if anything at all. There is a man laying face down on the wharf planking dressed in black. It is assumed that  this is  Soapy, but he is closer to the end edge  of the wharf rather than on the other side of the crowd  closer to where he entered from. There is a question as to which one is Frank Reid. A brown bearded appears to be falling backward and possibly dropping a pistol. This man may represent  Frank Reid, but Soapy and this man should be in the opposite places. There are twenty other men in the painting and just who they are is confusing. Some are probably members of the Soap Gang and  two appear to be running towards their fallen leader. Others are running  apparently towards the oncoming gang members in order to stop them. The rest of the painted figures are  mostly facing forward which makes it  impossible to tell who is on which side. Standing directly in the middle dress in black and a huge black handle-bar mustache appears to be a center piece of the painting. He also appears to have one arm being held by a man behind him and to his right. Soapy 's rifle is not to be seen. Perhaps the man just over him running towards the gang with a rifle in his hand might be Jesse Murphy who had picked up Soapy 's rifle and shot Soapy with it. It is not known if the artist painted Murphy as the killer.  

T he mural was covered up in the late 1960s or early 1970s. There are currently no plans to salvage it.

Soapy confronts Frank Reid

T his painting by Stan Galli was illustrated in the August 1958 issue of True magazine for an article entitled Showdown for a Conman. It is the most colorful and dramatic  example of the seconds  preceding the  gunfight. Gang members peek over freight and crates from a distance. Realistically the painting is too dark for July 8, 9:15 pm., Skagway, Alaska. 


rawing from the Winnipeg Free Press , May 9, 1964, Life &Death of Skagway 's Soapy Smith. A very good likeness of Soapy, minus the boots. Soapy wore business-attire shoes. Water  front stores were  non-existent. The artist should have made less open space between Soapy and Reid. 


rawing by Rudy J. Ripley for the Mike Miller 's Soapy, 1970. Nice drawing but Soapy and Frank Reid are to far apart from one another. At the start of the fight Reid 's left hand was so close he was holding the end of Soapy 's rifle barrel when he was shot.


ne of the least authentic renditions comes from the 1978 Reader 's Digest condensed book, Tara Kane . The illustrator, Guy Deel, made numerous mistakes, such as Frank Reid having the rifle rather than Soapy and the distance between the two combatants being much too far apart. The fight location in this piece shows Smith and Reid in the middle of a busy street rather than a wharf.

courtesy of Look &Learn Magazine

A nice rendition by artist Graham Coton for an article on Soapy Smith in the February 23, 1980 edition of England ’s Look and Learn magazine . Another version that appears to be taking place on a town street rather than a wharf.


ne of  the more accurate versions of the Smith/Reid gunfight comes from Stan Cohen in his book, The Streets Were Paved With Gold , 1987.

Soapy seconds before the gunfight

A Skagway artists rendition of Soapy Smith on Juneau Company Wharf  moments before he confronts Frank Reid. There are too many townspeople in the piece. Soapy appears to be wearing a string-tie, which went out of style in the 1860s and it looks like he is wearing cowboy boots as opposed to civilian business shoes that he was known to wear. The Winchester should be draped over his right shoulder but whose to say it was on his shoulder the whole time.

T his particular copy  proudly hangs in the Magic Castle where one of the annual Soapy Smith wakes take place.  

Courtesy of John Culligan

T his PaintShop piece comes from John "Grub "Culligan, the Trust 's Historical Weapons Analyst. Made in 2008 it is one of the very first depictions and the first published piece  that shows Jesse Murphy shooting and killing Soapy Smith rather than Frank Reid being the only shooter.

T his video reenactment of Soapy Smith 's demise comes from Cyrano 's Theater Company in Anchorage, Alaska for their play, The Ballad of Soapy Smith , the Michael Weller play. The original cast performed their parts as promised, even though it took place during a snow storm. It was filmed on February 28, 2009 for Gold Rush Day during the cities annual Fur Rondy event.


A ndy Thomas 'The End of Soapy Smith is without a doubt the most authentic portrayal of the shootout on Juneau Wharf made to date. The reason for this is that he and Alias Soapy Smith author Jeff Smith combined their talents. Jeff and Andy examined all of Jeff 's historical information including the hundreds of period photographs giving Andy everything he needed to paint the perfect rendition, right down to the correct amount of light in the sky and boards on the wharf. More details of the research and a look at the details in the photograph can be found Here

Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel


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

This site   The Web