Jefferson “Soapy” Smith cut quite a figure across the American West on the late nineteenth century. He was a con-man, best known for his Soap Scam that led to his nickname. From a base in Denver, Colorado, he would pose as a traveling soap salesman in a town and as a gimmick would wrap money around some of the bars of soap – ranging from $1 to $100. People would crowd around to buy the soap, but plants in the audience gobbled up all the “winning” bars. No one would actually win.
In 1898, Soapy made his way to Skagway, Alaska to take advantage of the recent gold strike in the Klondike and to get away from the authorities in Juneau who wanted to fine him for running his soap scam. On July 8, 1898, one of Smith’s victim, Frank Reid got into an argument with Smith on the streets of Skagway. Guns were drawn and in short order both men were shot – fatally by each other. On the cold streets of Skagway, Soapy’s deeds finally caught up with him.