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  • Keith Halliday

Episode 11 - Soapy Smith, the uncrowned King of Skagway

Soapy Smith is one of the gold rush's most notorious names, even though he never made it to the Klondike. He found his gold in the pockets of other men as they passed through Skagway. Thinking big like so many other stampeders, he quickly built a lucrative criminal empire in Skagway. After Frank Reid shot him, a Seattle newspaper remarked that he remained "the most popular man in Alaska."

Photo: Soapy Smith in July, 1898, shortly before the shoot out with Frank Reid (Photo The Eliza Anderson was one of the so-called Floating Coffins of Alaska, managing to make even the 'Rich Man's Route' a harrowing experience. The Chilkoot Trail must have looked good in comparison to riding out a wild Aleutian Islands storm in a 40-year old vessel that had already sunk once.

Sources, maps & reading

  • National Parks Service page on Soapy's headquarters in Skagway, Jeff Smith's Parlor.

  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer story from on Soapy Smith, Uncrowned King of Skagway.

  • Klondike by Pierre Berton, a classic popular history book that reinvigorated interest in the gold rush in the mid-20th century and full of riveting episodes including on Soapy Smith.

Photo above from Library of Congress with no known restrictions on publication.


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