The Life and Times of Madame Moustache
Since blackjack seems to be a game more popular with gentlemen than ladies, you might be surprised to learn that the first documented blackjack professional was in fact a woman – Eleanor Dumont, whose tragic life remains one of the more interesting stories from the history of blackjack.
Arriving from France to the Wild West in the 1850s, Eleanor Dumont first settled in Nevada City, where she became a famous blackjack dealer in her own gambling establishment. Her skills at cards were matched by her style and charm – the fact that she was a lady dealer in a rough Wild West setting only helped to increase her popularity. This was a time when gold fever drew all sorts of characters to California, and it is easy to imagine the picturesque setting in which Madame Dumont worked.
Renowned for her honesty and fair-play, she also had a trademark custom: generously treating the losers with free champagne. Her business was doing so well, that soon she opened a larger gambling den, called Dumont’s Palace. Clearly, she knew not only how to shuffle and deal, but also how to run a successful business! Unfortunately, Madame Dumont’s sharp wit could not save her from the foolish choice of her heart.
Following the gold fever from Nevada City to Pioche, Madame Dumont came into contact with Jack McKnight, a local saloon owner, and fell in love with him. After they married, the wealthy Madame Dumont bought a farm to settle down with her husband, but unfortunately her happiness did not last long. McKnight stole her fortune and disappeared. Hurt and betrayed, Madame then spent years travelling across Wild West, hoping to find and shoot McKnight, but she never managed to find him.
These later years of her life were also when she earned her famous nickname – Madame Moustache. This was due to her thick upper-lip fuzz, which she began sporting as a moustache in her forties.
Finally, she returned to California, where she went back to being a blackjack dealer. Sadly, the misery of her later years proved to be fatal, as eventually she overdosed herself with Morphine. In her death she was not forgotten – her funeral was one of the largest in the area. In spite of her tragic ending, Madame Moustache is well remembered and celebrated for her glory days even today, and remains one of the likely candidates for the Blackjack Hall of Fame.