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Alias Soapy Smith

Soapy and the Blonger Bros.

Excerpted from The Reign of Soapy Smith: Monarch of Misrule
in the Last Days of the Old West and the Klondike Gold Rush
,
by William Ross Collier and Edwin Victor Westrate (1935)

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Back on Seventeenth Street, Soapy resumed his normal practices, but soon another disturbing element entered into the situation when two clever and powerful rivals invaded the Denver bunco field in the persons of Lou and Sam Blonger. The brothers Blonger were the most menacing type of confidence men, soft-voiced, quiet, quick-thinking, extremely intelligent, and unrestrainedly dangerous. Lou, suave and bland, was an organizer of considerable ability who always used the velvet hand rather than the mailed fist to attain his ends. Sam was a taciturn individual who never discussed his business or his plans with anyone except his brother and possessed a face extremely hard to read, particularly as his eyes always were hidden behind a pair of blue goggles.

When the Blongers opened headquarters in Denver, with Sam in official charge, Soapy Smith's indignation mounted swiftly at this encroachment in a field he had considered his own private property. His voluble protestations that he intended to "smoke them out" brought swift admonitions of caution from his friends who knew the Blongers. He was told that the brothers were not "greenhorns" and that they had a powerful friend in Bat Masterson, who was now in Denver and had known them in Dodge City. But Soapy was never one to heed advice of this nature, and he set out, singlehanded, for a conference with Sam Blonger which had no objective of peace. A policeman saw Smith enter the Blonger place and, sensing that trouble was ahead, hurried after him. He caught up with Soapy just as he was heading for the card room. He stopped him at the door, argued with him vehemently and, after some parley, induced him to leave without carrying his warlike plans, a timely intervention which undoubtedly saved Soapy's life. Shortly afterward it was revealed that Lou Blonger, gripping a double-barreled shotgun, had been crouching behind the cigar counter, prepared to fire the moment Soapy opened the card-room door.

Soapy made no more open efforts to settle matters with the Blongers, but clashes between members of the rival gangs were frequent in the early days of the Blonger invasion. In time, a species of armed truce was established, but no friendship ever was wasted between the two camps.

As time passed, the Blongers developed into a pair of the most proficient con men in the country, their profits running into tens of thousands. They became the normal successors to Smith after the latter left Denver for the last time, which he did the following year [1897]. But, with the inevitable fatality which must dog the lawless, justice finally ensnared the brothers, and Lou, convicted of conspiracy to swindle and sentenced to a long term, died in the Canon City penitentiary. The Blonger gang was run to earth by J. Frank Norfleet, noted Nemesis of the bunco fraternity, who, having himself been swindled, spent years on the trail of revenge.


 

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