Jefferson Randolf "Soapy" Smith

 - A criminal during the gold rush -

( 1860 - 1898 )

* List of the stories and drawings he appears in :
- W US 59-01 : "North of the Yukon", from 1965, by Carl Barks ;
- S 76123 : "The Search For Sourdough Sam", from 1977, by Tony Strobl ;
- AR 113 : "Last Sled to Dawson", from 1988, by Don Rosa ;
- D 92514 : "The King of the Klondike" (Lo$ #8), from 1993, by Don Rosa ;
- D 93121 : "The Billionaire of Dismal Downs" (Lo$ #9), from 1993, by Don Rosa ;
- D 95044 : "Hearts of the Yukon" (Lo$ #8b), from 1995, by Don Rosa (by name only) ;
- ARC US 292 : a cover illustration for "The King of the Klondike", from 1995, by Don Rosa ;
- D 11973 : a cover illustration for "Last sled to Dawson", from 1995, by Don Rosa ;
- IC ZP 77 : a cover illustration for "The King of the Klondike", from 1996, by Marco Rota ;
- ARC US 300B : "Anything But Those", a special poster drawing for "Uncle Scrooge" #300, from 1996, by Don Rosa ;
- DC HEDL 1 : a cover illustration for the Egmont album of Lo$, from 1997, by Don Rosa ;
- FC PM 331D : "Les Inédits de Don Rosa #16" (an illustration for "Last Sled to Dawson"), from 1999, by Don Rosa ;
- FC PM 337D : "Les Inédits de Don Rosa #22" (an illustration for "North of the Yukon"), from 2000, by Don Rosa.


* His biography :
     Jefferson Randolf Smith was born in Noonan, Georgia in 1860, into a family that was going through hard times, financially devastated after the Civil War, and his father was a hard drinking whiskey man.The family moved to Texas to find a new life, but they didn't leave many problems behind. Jeff had a solid education and became an eloquent speaker. He found his first job as a cowboy. He went on his first cattle drive in 1876. After months on the trail, the drive ended up in Abelene, Kansas.
   He that started to work in what he likes most : gambling. In Leadville, Colorado in 1885, he met Old Man Taylor, the "King of the Shell Game", who learned him a trick : Soap was wrapped in paper, and a $100 was wrapped inside one of the bars. The soap was then put on sale at $5 per bar. Of course, the "loaded" cake of soap was picked.
Jeff moved to Denver, and swindled  lot of suckers who paid $5 for 5 cents bars of soap... That's how he earned the nickname "Soapy". He then opened the Tivoli Saloon and Gambling Hall. The silver boom in Creede, Colorado enticed the now famous Soapy to move his gambling operation there. He built the Orleans Club and organized a makeshift government.
   After he was caught rigging Denver elections, Soapy was chased out of town.
   Soapy drifted around the west after the City Hall War. He went down to Mexico and nearly convinced the Mexican President, Porfirio Diaz, that Mexico needed a foreign legion. Smith got so far as to have a recruiting office set up before the deal fell through.
   The Yukon Gold Rush of 1897 brought Soapy to Skagway, Alaska. Before long Smith was the "boss" of Scagway. He ran the town with an iron hand for about a year before the citizens had enough and an uprising put an end to his rule. He moved from petty swindles and eventually controlled most of Skagway's darker vices. He opened a telegraph office : miners would come into the office to send messages to their families and friends, and few hours later, back would come a telegraphed reply. This worked quite satisfactorily for all parties, apparently, despite the fact that there were no telegraph lines connecting Skagway to the outside world !!!
   Still, Soapy sometimes had a generous nature and was known to give shelter and food to the penniless. It seemed that he sought the notoriety more than the money and his often swashbuckling manner made him an easy target for the reformers in a town with no law and little orde
   Soapy lost a gunfight and died on July, 8, 1898.

* His place in the Barks/Rosa stories universe :

    A similar character named Soapy Slick appeared in "North of the Yukon", and has later been reused in "The Search For Sourdough Sam", "Last Sled to Dawson", "The King of the Klondike" (Lo$ #8),  "The Billionaire of Dismal Downs", and "Hearts of the Yukon" (Lo$ #8b,  by name only). He is a rich man who first own an office of loans and sales of mines (without god) and shares (fictionnal) in Skagway, and then a casino riverboat in Dawson.

   Barks often put references to real persons in his characters' names, such as Gina Luluduckita, Poncey de Loon, Brigitte barduck, E. Pluribus Unum, Gnapoleon, Gnostradamus,... but this time, it's different : this is not only a name trick. Soapy's character has also been inspired by Smith, not only his name, and people who don't know the exact life and dates of the real Soapy could believe that they were the same character. But the real Soapy died 1898 while Soapy Slick is still alive in the mid-1950's.

   Here is all what happens in the stories he appears in :
   In 1896, Scrooge arrives in Skagway, Alaska, after a travel in Australia, to participate to the Gold Rush. He makes a 10% per month 100$ loan at Soapy's office, and after Scrooge signed the contract, Soapy tells him he swindled him because there is no gold in this region. Then, a guy arrives into town to say gold has been found in Klondike, and Soapy gets angered and add a "0" in the contract, so now it's a 100% per month contrat.
   Soapy then moves to Dawson, continues to give loans, but also extends his business by starting a casino and finally also a casino riverboat. Then Scrooge becomes richer thanks to the gold he digged in his claim, and Soapy's gang tries to find his claim but don't succeed.
   One day, he lost his sled in a crevasse in an ice-field, and, lost in a snow storm, he loses himself and accidentally falls in Soapy's river boat.
   Another day, Scrooge is knocked down by Slick in a little street of Dawson and wakes up, chained to Soapy's boat's funnels. Soapy has stolen the property title of his claim he took in his bag together with some still unread letters from his family. Scrooge learns by Soapy, who reads his letter, that his mother Downy just died. He gets mad and so strong that he breaks the two funnels and free himself before fighting Soapy's gang. No one know for sure what happened this day in this boat. He captures Soapy and brings him to the police, from where he'll be sent to Goldbloom, Alaska.
   Then, in 1899, after finding the nugget that made him rich, he comes to see Soapy in Goldbloom and finnish paying his loan back. Soapy first doesn't want to sign a receipt, but Scrooge employs force, and eventually gets the receipt.
   Then, years passed, and in the mid-1950s, Scrooge, now the richest man in the World, becomes famous by a article in Jolt magazine, and Soapy reads the article and makes press believe that Scrooge didn't pay back for the loan, but, after some dramatic events, he manages to prove that he still have the receipt. Some months later, Scrooge goes back to Klondike again, because the ice -field broke and he wants to get it back, so Soapy thinks it's because there is gold in it, but, after vicissitudes, Scrooge gets it and we see that the sled just countains his old trapper clothes and tools and also a chocolate box he wanted to ofer to "Glittering" Goldie O'Gilt...

   He also appears on several illustrations for the stories he appears in, and also on the hardcover illustration of Egmont's album of "The Lifes and Times of Scrooge McDuck", on a photograph in a scrapbook, and on a special poster entitled "Anything But Those", with the most important friends and ennemies Scrooge had in Barks' stories.

   Even if  "Soapy" Smith and Soapy Slick cannot be the same character, there could be links between them. Maybe "Soapy" is also a nickname for him, and that he earned it while he was still in Skagway, and that somebody (Taylor, Somebody else, or even "Soapy" Smith himself) taught him the "Soap Trick"...

Soapy in the 1950's

Here is Sigvald's Grøsjfeld jr's Who is Who in Duckburg page about Soapy Slick.

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