The Hoff & Gem Saloon

Happy Birthday to John Cassius Hoff born on this day, March 5, 1875 on the family farm in Dallas County, Iowa. He was one of 8 children and in 1897 he and his older brother, Oscar or “Shorty” decided to come up to Alaska for the gold rush. They apparently traveled with Jack London for 6 months and they operated a freight and transportation company bringing fresh fruit, eggs and other staples up to the gold country from the coast, rather than mining. He returned in 1898 to Des Moines, IA with $2,000 in gold and some great stories. His older brother, “Shorty” remained in Skagway long enough to start the “Hoff & Gem Saloon” and then left for Canada in 1898. John returned to Iowa, ran the family farm and died there in 1960.

I don’t know if the Hoff & Gem ever produced tokens (they were a lot easier than measuring gold dust for drinks) but here is one example of a Skagway token, for the Idaho Saloon.

John Scott Hoff family information on
Smith p. 461 of “Alias Soapy Smith”



3 Replies to “The Hoff & Gem Saloon”

  1. Page 461 of “Alias Soapy Smith” shows that the Hoff and Gem Saloon donated $50 to the Rowan Fund in February 1898. They were the fourth charitable giver and one of the five highest donators, each giving $50.

    The other five high givers were 1.) Soapy, 2.) W. J. McIntosh and Company, 3.) Jake Rice, and the Clancy brothers, which makes me naturally wonder about the business integrity of Hoff and Gem.

    Jeff Smith

  2. I did see that Jeff! The Hoff & Gem was short-lived anyway, from the border crossing NWMP records, brothers William H., N.P, John and Oscar all left between May 28 and June 2, 1898 just a month before Soapy was shot. They may have decided that Skagway was getting a little too dangerous!

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