Only one James or Jim Smiley appears in broad California records. In the 1876-77 register of voters in San Francisco, California, there is s James Smiley, 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 given for his naturalization as a citizen.(Ancestry.com) he would have been born in 1832-34, a few years younger than Twain.
The name James Smiley in newspapers on cdnc.ucr.edu is mentioned as early as 1848, with 100 newspaper mentions before 1870, 47 in the [San Francisco] Alta and 47 in the Sacramento Daily Union, two in the Sacramento Transcript. He was active in IOOF (Odd Fellows) and city politics. Democrat in the 1850s. Recognizing that absence of records is not evidence of absence, I have found nothing to tie this name to Calaveras County.
On Sunday, December 11, 2016 11:14 AM, Darryl Brock <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Well, you may have a point. Given that both writers' referenced him,
I've assumed that Smiley was a real person, but what evidence I find now
does not necessarily support my assumption. Maybe somebody can settle
This is from Mark Rasmussen's wonderful /Mark Twain A-Z:
/*Smiley, Jim*/. /Character in the JUMPING FROG STORY. A former
resident of Angel's Camp, Smiley was notorious for being willing to take
either side of any bet, and he was uncommonly lucky. He once even
offered odds to the Parson Walker that the parson's wife would not
recover from her illness. Smiley owned many animals on which he
wagered, including a broken-down horse known as the 'fifteen minute
nag,' a fighting dog named Andrew Jackson, chicken cocks and tomcats.
His prize possession, however, w2as his jumping frog, Dan'l Webster,
which he spent three months teaching to jump. He often took the frog
with him to town on the chance of getting up a getting up a bet . . . .
When Mark Twain first heard the jumping frog story from Ben Coons, the
Smiley character was called Coleman.
So, is Smiley /only/ a character? Or was he all of these things beyond
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 was=
> named Ben Coon. I think he was "Simon Wheeler" but don't recall Jim Smiley=
> being the name of an actual historical personage.=C2=A0- B. Clay Shannon
> From: Peter Salwen <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:12 PM
> Subject: Re: Jim Smiley
> Nice find. Bears some meditation. But probably -- at that relatively early
> stage -- just some more-or-less gentle ribbing?
> *Peter Salwen /* salwen.com
> *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.=C2=A0 Later in the 70s, his
>> relationship with Harte deteriorated.=C2=A0 Could this have been an early
>> harbinger?=C2=A0 Harte had spent time in Angel's Camp and presumably met
>> Smiley, or at least knew of him, but it was Twain who'd made him a
>> popular figure.=C2=A0 The two writers were keenly aware of their respecti=
>> sales; each paid close attention to the other.=C2=A0 Might MT have viewed
>> Harte as trying to ride his coat-tails?