On this day, July 8, in 1898, the "king of the frontier con" was shot by vigilantes in Alaska.
Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II organized gangs of scoundrels to take control of criminal undergrounds in towns from Texas to Colorado to the great Northwest.
Soapy earned his nickname through this "Prize Package Soap Sell." He'd set up on a street corner, hide a $100 bill inside a bar of soap, mix it in a pile of soap bars and sell the cakes for $1. Only members of his gang, planted in the crowd, won the money.
Today, every year on this day, wakes are held in Soapy's honor.
-- Scott McCabe