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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:55:34 +0000
Clay Shannon <[log in to unmask]>
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Clay Shannon <[log in to unmask]>
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"...he would have been born in 1832-34, a few years younger than Twain."
Or older. - B. Clay Shannon

      From: Robert STEWART <[log in to unmask]>
 To: [log in to unmask] 
 Sent: Monday, December 12, 2016 9:24 AM
 Subject: Re: Jim Smiley
Only one James or Jim Smiley appears in broad California records. In the 18=
76-77 register of voters in San Francisco, California, there is s James Smi=
ley, 43, who first registered to vote in San Francisco on July 27, 1866. He=
 was born in Ireland, a broker living at 634 Broadway. There is no date giv=
en for his naturalization as a citizen.( he would have been bo=
rn in 1832-34, a few years younger than Twain.
The name=C2=A0James Smiley is =
mentioned as early as 1848, with 100=C2=A0newspaper mentions=C2=A0before 18=
70, 47 in the [San Francisco] Alta and 47 in the Sacramento Daily Union, tw=
o in the Sacramento Transcript. He was active in IOOF (Odd Fellows) and cit=
y politics. Democrat in the 1850s. Recognizing that absence of records is n=
ot evidence of absence,=C2=A0I have found nothing to tie this=C2=A0name to =
Calaveras County.=20

    On Sunday, December 11, 2016 11:14 AM, Darryl Brock <[log in to unmask]> wr=

 Well, you may have a point.=C2=A0 Given that both writers' referenced him,=
I've assumed that Smiley was a real person, but what evidence I find now=20
does not necessarily support my assumption.=C2=A0 Maybe somebody can settle=
the question.

This is from Mark Rasmussen's wonderful /Mark Twain A-Z:

/*Smiley, Jim*/. /Character in the JUMPING FROG STORY.=C2=A0 A former=20
resident of Angel's Camp, Smiley was notorious for being willing to take=20
either side of any bet, and he was uncommonly lucky.=C2=A0 He once even=20
offered odds to the Parson Walker that the parson's wife would not=20
recover from her illness.=C2=A0 Smiley owned many animals on which he=20
wagered, including a broken-down horse known as the 'fifteen minute=20
nag,' a fighting dog named Andrew Jackson, chicken cocks and tomcats.=C2=A0=
His prize possession, however, w2as his jumping frog, Dan'l Webster,=20
which he spent three months teaching to jump.=C2=A0 He often took the frog=
with him to town on the chance of getting up a getting up a bet . . . .=20
When Mark Twain first heard the jumping frog story from Ben Coons, the=20
Smiley character was called Coleman.

So, is Smiley /only/ a character?=C2=A0 Or was he all of these things beyon=
his character role?
On 12/10/16 7:57 PM, Clay Shannon wrote:
> Was Jim Smiley a real person? The cat who told the "Jumping Frog" story w=
>=C2=A0 named Ben Coon. I think he was "Simon Wheeler" but don't recall Jim=
>=C2=A0 being the name of an actual historical personage.=3DC2=3DA0- B. Cla=
y Shannon
>=C2=A0 =C2=A0 =C2=A0 =C2=A0 From: Peter Salwen <[log in to unmask]>
>=C2=A0 To: [log in to unmask]
>=C2=A0 Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:12 PM
>=C2=A0 Subject: Re: Jim Smiley
>=C2=A0 =C2=A0 =3D20
> Nice find. Bears some meditation. But probably -- at that relatively earl=
> stage -- just some more-or-less gentle ribbing?
> *_________________________________*
> *Peter Salwen /*
> *114 W 86, NYC 10024 | 917-620-5371*
> On Sat, Dec 10, 2016 at 2:53 PM, Darryl Brock <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Re-reading Bret Harte's "How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar" (1872),
>> I was interested to find this passage referencing the narrator of MT's
>> jumping frog tale (1867):
>> It was a figure familiar enough to the company, and known in Simpson's
>> Bar as the "Old Man." A man of perhaps fifty years; grizzled and scant
>> of hair, but still fresh and youthful of complexion. A face full of
>> ready, but not very powerful, sympathy, with a chameleon-like aptitude
>> for taking on the shade and color of contiguous moods and feelings. He
>> had evidently just left some hilarious companions and did not at first
>> notice the gravity of the group, but clapped the shoulder of the nearest
>> man jocularly, and threw himself into a vacant chair.
>> "Jest heard the best thing out, boys! Ye know Smiley, over yar -- Jim
>> Smiley -- funniest man in the Bar? Well, Jim was jest telling the
>> richest yarn about -- "
>> "Smiley's a ---- fool," interrupted a gloomy voice.
>> "A particular ---- skunk," added another in sepulchral accents.
>> A silence followed these positive statements. The Old Man glanced
>> quickly around the group. Then his face slowly changed. "That's so," he
>> said reflectively, after a pause, "certingly a sort of a skunk and
>> suthin' of a fool. In course." He was silent for a moment as in painful
>> contemplation of the unsavoriness and folly of the unpopular Smiley.
>> I wonder if this might have annoyed Twain.=3DC2=3DA0 Later in the 70s, h=
>> relationship with Harte deteriorated.=3DC2=3DA0 Could this have been an =
>> harbinger?=3DC2=3DA0 Harte had spent time in Angel's Camp and presumably=
>> Smiley, or at least knew of him, but it was Twain who'd made him a
>> popular figure.=3DC2=3DA0 The two writers were keenly aware of their res=
> ve
>> sales; each paid close attention to the other.=3DC2=3DA0 Might MT have v=
>> Harte as trying to ride his coat-tails?
>=C2=A0 =C2=A0 =3D20