Cycling Through History in Skagway and Dyea
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Today, Princess Cruises’ Star Princess arrived at our first port of call since setting sail from Seward three days ago: Skagway, Alaska.
In 1896, Skagway was nothing more than a few modest trapper’s cabins. By 1897, it was a rapidly expanding town and by 1898 it was the last frontier in a very new, and very competitive, Wild West. Sam Steele of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police likened Skagway to “little better than hell on earth” thanks to the con-men, good-time-girls and various scams and pratfalls that frequently befell prospectors looking to sail into the sunset with their winnings from the Klondike Gold Rush.
The most notorious of these con-men was Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith, a con-man from Denver who ruled Skagway with an iron fist. In addition to running a large racketeering ring in Skagway, Soapy would “relieve” early prospectors of their earnings through a series of rigged table games held at Jeff Smith’s Parlor, a modest structure that still stands today in Skagway. Soapy even had telegraph lines that ran only as far as the wall; perfect for sending that drunken expression o
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