Although most women in the Old West could be divided into two basic categories - respectable ladies and shady ladies, there were some who simply defied any attempt at classification. One such woman was Poker Alice.
Alice Ivers was born into the family of a conservative schoolmaster in Devonshire, England. If her life had taken a more common turn, she would have made a proper Southern lady in Virginia, where her father moved the family when Alice was still a young girl. She attended an upscale boarding school for young ladies until, in yet another twist of fate, her family moved to Leadville, Colorado following the silver rush.
Once she was away from the respectable South and into the uncharted expanses of the Wild West, Alice's life was bound to take unexpected turns. This petite, 5'4" beauty was sure to catch an eye of many an upstanding man. So, at the tender age of twenty, she was married to mining engineer Frank Duffield, who liked to spend his free time playing cards at one of the many gambling halls. Staying home alone did not appeal to young Alice, so she accompanied her husband on his gambling adventures. At first, she just observed the game and learned, but before long, she would join the fun and become quite an expert poker and faro player.
Only a few years into their marriage, Frank Duffield was killed in an explosion, leaving Alice virtually penniless. In order to support herself, Alice now needed to get a job. An option was to become a school teacher, which would have been quite a respectable profession for an educated, young lady of that era. Instead, she decided to make a living at the gambling table.
A lady at a gambling hall who wasn't of the soiled dove kind was a rarity in the Old West, so Alice quickly made a name for herself, both as a player and a dealer. Young, pretty, and bedecked in the latest fashions, she was a sight for the sore eyes of many a miner. Traveling from one Colorado mining camp to the other, she soon acquired the nickname Poker Alice. Right around that time, while still dressing in her frilly, fashionable clothes, she started puffing on a fat cigar while playing. She also carried a .38 revolver and wasn't afraid to use it. However, she never gambled on Sundays due to her religious beliefs.
Soon, Alice left Colorado and traveled to New Mexico, New York, then back to Colorado, to finally end up in Deadwood, South Dakota. There, she met a house painter named Warren G. Tubbs, who often sidelined as a dealer and gambler. Now, Alice routinely beat Warren at gambling, but that didn't stop him from falling for her. Matter of fact, that might have made her even more attractive to him. They married, had seven children together, moved out of Deadwood, and homesteaded a ranch near Sturgis. Her hands full with helping run the ranch and raising children, Alice spent little time at gambling halls during this period in her life. Unfortunately, the peaceful ranch life was just not meant to be. Warren somehow contracted tuberculosis and died from pneumonia, leaving Alice and the children to fend for themselves.
Forced once again to make a living, Alice hired George Huckert to manage the ranch while she returned to gambling halls. Huckert was simply smitten from the get-go and asked Alice to marry him several times. She finally relented, and was quoted saying, "I owed him so much in back wages; I figured it would be cheaper to marry him than to pay him off." Unfortunately, Huckert soon died, and Alice found herself widowed for the third time.
Alice's downfall actually started a couple of years before Huckert's death, when she bought a house in Fort Meade with the intention of turning it into a gambling hall. She followed through on her plans, and opened a gambling hall on the first floor with a brothel on the top floor. At one point, a bunch of soldiers were raising ruckus in the hall, and she fired a shot to calm them down. As the luck would have it, that shot went through two soldiers, killing one of them. She was arrested and the house was closed down. At her trial, the shooting was ruled accidental, and Alice was acquitted. However, the authorities decided to start keeping a close watch on her ever since then.
By that time, Alice was in her 60's, and she kept getting arrested for drunkenness and running a brothel. She had also quit wearing her fashionable clothes, and now wore old men's clothing. Photos of her one would most often come across in the historical collections show a gray-haired elderly woman in man's clothes, with a fat cigar in the corner of her mouth. Quite the far cry from a petite, blue-eyed beauty she once was.
Poker Alice met her demise quite unceremoniously at the age of 79, when she succumbed to complications from a failed gall bladder surgery. She was buried in Sturgis, South Dakota, but her legend lives to this day. She claimed to have won more than $250,000 at the gambling tables, all without cheating, and she was reported to have said, "Praise the Lord and place your bets. I'll take your money with no regrets."
Although we don't recommend Alice's kind of religion, we sure do agree that life without regrets is something to strive for.
Who is your favorite or your most despised Wild West character?
Tell us in the comments below.
If you love SouthWestern style of clothing, I would dare guess you like, wear, and have in your stash at least a few pieces of sterling silver jewelry. I would also dare guess you are tired of dealing with tarnish, and would be happy to learn how to, if not prevent it, then at least minimize it to a manageable level.
Fear not, we are here to help!
In order to understand how to care for your sterling silver you first must know what sterling silver is. You have probably seen the 925 stamp on some of your silver pieces and have learned that the number marks sterling silver. But what does the number mean?
Number 925 signifies the silver component in the sterling silver alloy: 92.5% by mass in the alloy is silver. That leaves us with a remainder of 7.5% by mass. So, what goes into those remaining 7.5%? It can be a few other metals, but most commonly, it is copper, and if you are looking to put blame for tarnish on someone or something, copper is your culprit. So, why not use pure silver then? The reason is simple: 99.9% silver is way too soft for producing functional objects. Copper is added to increase strength.
In more recent years, a new brand of silver entered the market: Argentium silver. Argentium is 96% silver by mass, with the amount of copper balanced with germanium in order to combat tarnish. Even though you may hear Argentium labeled as 'non-tarnishing silver,' it is not completely immune to tarnish. However, the color of tarnish developing on Argentium is much, much lighter, rendering it practically unnoticeable.
Although Argentium silver has made some inroads in the jewelry industry, its price compared to sterling silver as well as limited availability of different forms the metal comes in (e.g. sheet of different gauges and different gauge wire, appropriate solder, cleaners, polishes, etc.) has made it rather impractical for small and independent jewelry makers to use Argentium. Add to that the fact that a lot of SouthWestern jewelry on the market these days is vintage Native American made, and you will understand why sterling silver is still the most common metal you will see used in the styles you like.
Now that you know some facts about sterling silver, it's time to show you how to properly care for it.
1. - A good rule of thumb is to keep your silver jewelry as protected from moisture as possible if you don't want to deal with large amounts of tarnish. However, if you live in a humid climate, this might be pretty hard to achieve. You can opt to use tarni-shield (available at hardware stores), but you must keep in mind that it is a poisonous chemical which should not be used on items you should be serving food from. (No, don't put it on your grandma's silverware!)
A better option, especially when we are talking about jewelry, is to use anti-tarnish strips. You can buy these at jewelry supply retailers, and place them in the bag or jewelry box where you keep your sterling silver. It is also good to keep your silver pieces separate from each other by putting each piece in an appropriately sized ziplock bag with an anti-tarnish strip in it. Make sure to change anti-tarnish strips every 2-3 months to ensure the best protection.
Yet another option is to wrap your pieces in jeweler's non-tarnish tissue paper, which too can be obtained from major jewelry supply retailers.
Fairly new on the market are carbon-impregnated plastic bags, specially designed to store your silver or gold jewelry in. By using such a bag, you will not have to bother with anti-tarnish strips, as carbon-impregnated plastic neutralizes the gasses and moisture that corrode and oxidize silver. Such carbon-impregnated plastic bags should be replaced every 2 years.
2. - If you notice that tarnish has started developing on your jewelry pieces, your best bet for removing it is rubbing the piece gently with a silver polishing cloth. There are different brands of polishing cloth available on the market. Sunshine Cloth, Selvyt polishing cloth, and 3-M High-Performance polishing cloth are some of them. We at hART Sense Design are partial to Sunshine Cloth, but that is just our personal preference. You can decide which one of the available brands suits your needs best.
The way to use a polishing cloth is to gently rub your silver jewelry between two folds of dry polishing cloth. Patience is the key here, as you have to make sure you are not rubbing your jewelry piece too hard, but you also want to see the unsightly tarnish gone.
One other tip worth mentioning is never to use rubber gloves when cleaning your silver. There is some sulfur in rubber that is bad for silver, especially fine silver.
3. - An often used method for removing tarnish from sterling silver jewelry are ultrasonic jewelry cleaners. Word of caution! If you are attempting to remove tarnish from your SouthWestern style jewelry that includes any type of gemstone, make sure you take it to a professional jeweler for cleaning. The reason for this is that most SouthWestern jewelry incorporates turquoise, coral, and/or pearls. None of these three materials, and many more soft and porous gemstones, should ever be placed into an ultrasonic cleaner because they would get damaged both by ultrasonic waves and by the cleaning solution used in such cleaners. So, if you are not sure about gemstones in your particular piece of jewelry, the best option is to consult a professional jeweler before attempting to clean the piece yourself.
Now that you know how to properly care for your sterling silver jewelry, we would love to find out what gemstones are your favorites in combination with silver. Let us know in the comments below.
Summer season has officially started in Rapid City, and with it a number of cultural events in the downtown area. Second Friday of each month is reserved for Art Walk, organized by the Rapid City Downtown Association, Rapid City Arts Council, and Main Street Square. Participating galleries and other businesses will feature demonstrations, performances, artists' receptions, and other special events.
This Friday evening, June 13, 2014, hART Sense Design will be featured at the Reflections of South Dakota Gallery, 507 6th Street in downtown Rapid City, from 5:45 pm to 7:00 pm.
Our own J. Louie will be demonstrating wire knitting technique on a brand new bracelet design. You will be able to see how wire knitting is done, and maybe even get first dibs on this one-of-a-kind bracelet currently in the works. You can talk to the artist, purchase one of our items currently on consignment with Reflections of South Dakota Gallery, and maybe even persuade us to create a custom piece for you.
Stop by 507 6th Street in downtown Rapid City this coming Friday between 5:45 pm and 7:00 pm, say 'hello' to us, and let us know what piece of jewelry you would like to see us design next. We are looking forward to meeting you.
the mind and hands behind hART Sense Design. I am a designer and hand-maker of one-of-a-kind and limited edition jewelry and accessories for artistic, chic cowgirls, boho babes, and lovers of all things western.
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