Three-card Monte – also known as Find the Lady and Three-card Trick – is a confidence game in which the victims, or “marks”, are tricked into betting a sum of money, on the assumption that they can find the “money card” among three face-down playing cards.
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EPISODE 680 SOAPY SMITH OF SKAGWAY…CON MAN SHOT DEAD
November 18, 2022
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SOAPY SMITH – BUNKO ARTIST OF SKAGWAY
“Pay attention….you could be the lucky man.”
“Who is that speaking.”
“Oh, that’s Sloapy Smith…watch what happens.”
“I am wrapping a $100 dollar bill in one of these bars of shaving soap.
You ould be the lucky man who gets that $100 … Now I will shuffle
the bars of soap. Mix Them up. Try and keep your eyes on the
$100 bar…it could be yours in a moment.”
“For $5…just a fiver. This is your chance right now. Who has a five dollar bill
and will get the hundred dollar bill? Just five dollars.”
“And there is a winner. Your name , sir? Show everyone the hundred dollar bill.
No tricks….no slieght of hand. A winner for five dollars,
Now here is how Soapy Smith got the nickname Soapy. He never let on
that the winner of the soap shuffle was a good friend of his. The hundred
dollar bill went back into Soapy/s pocket along with all the five dollar
bills he fleeced from the crowd. Soapy loved to work boom towns…mining
towns for instance…where he was not known. But he did not worry if he
was known because he always had a gang of ruthless hoodlums on his side.
He was a bunko man. Had all sorts of ways to get money from innocent but
Soapy needed towns where law and order were absent. Mining boom towns
always presented good pickings. Skagway was the perfect place for a bunko
man. There was no law and order in the gold rush yeas. Scams were many.
Soapy took slamming seriously. He gathered a gang of like minded criminals.
Tough guys who welcomed the steamships full of gold seekers each of whom
had a grubstake to get him to the gold fields of the Klondike,
Soapy Smith had no intention of climbing the Chilkoot Trail. He had no
intention of beating a horse to death trying to get a ton of food and tools up
the slippery slopes of the mountains behind Skagway. Why do that
when the gold would eventually be brought back through Skagway where
he could get it with little effort.
Stories of Soapy Smith vary somwhat but the kernel of truth is present. For instance
I rely on the excellent article by Gen Walton, published February 28, 1011.
Soapy’s most famous scam was the hidden money in the shaving soap caper. Some sources
say he hid a hundred dollar bill in the soap wrapper, Gen Walton says he hid five, ten
and fifty dollar bills. No matter All the bars of soap were won by his associates….
his gang members.
He had a whole suitcase full of scams.
1) Sleight of hand scams were favourites because they were easy to set up and paid off immediately. i.e. the soap scam
2) Gambling in all its forms, except no winners. None.
3) fake stock market scams…sold stock of companies that did no exist
4) real estates scams…gold mines with no gold
5) fake watch and diamond auctions
6) rigged poker games
7) Three card monte (Must find out how to play….see post script)
There is a tendency to regard bunko artists and con men just as non violent thieves stealing money
from greedy customers. Soapy was violent. He gathered gangs of violent men around him. Dealing
with Soapy was no joke. Before he went north to Skagway he ran a gangland empire in Denver,
Colorago. The newspaper editor ran an article exposing Soapy’s criminal activities. How did
Soapy react? With vicious violence. For instance:
“Smith did not want his criminal activities highlighted and he hated the News’allegations against him. He decided to get revenge on Arkins (*editor) and took a friend, “Banjo” Parker, with him. The men hid in the shadows and when Arkins emerged from the newspaper building, Smith struck him over the left temple with a loaded cane fracturing his skull and knocking him to the pavement senseless. Smith then pummeled, kicked, and beat Arkins as Parker stood guard and when Smith was finished with “his brutal work,” both men casually walked away.”
Soapy presided over a criminal gang empire before he ever went to Skagway but,once there, he took control of the town. His gang members greeted newcomers prtetendimg to be journalists or Christian ministers or
other sal of the earth people. Many of the thousands of men arriving in Skagway had money. At least enough to finance the two thousand pound survival package needed to prove to Canadian officials they could survive in the Canadian wildernes Soapy and his men fleeced many gold seekers many of whom would never get beyond Skagway. Violently if necessary. What did Skagway politicians and police do to stop Soapy?
Not much since Soapy’s men were often the various town officials expected to keep the peace. For a while Skagway was Soapy’s town.
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SOAPY SMITH’S GANG IN FRONT OF THEIR HANGOUT, SKAGWAY.
Then one day Soapy’s criminal empire collapsed when he confronted a group of indignant citizens calling themselves
the Committee of 101
“… on 7 July 1898 John Douglas Stewart, a Klondike miner, returned to Skagway carrying a sack of gold dust valued at $2,700. Three of Smith’s gang members learned of his treasure and convinced him to play three-card monte. Unfortunately, Stewart did, and he lost. When he refused to pay the three men grabbed his sack of gold dust and fled.