If you’re somewhat familiar with the origins of Blackjack, you’ll know that the classic card game has shuffled through many hands over centuries. In particular, as the game rose to fame in America, the 1800s saw the first known professional female Blackjack dealer – Eleanor Dumont.
With technology now making playing online Blackjack at Betfair Casino, or your other favorite online site so accessible, it can be easy to forget the origins of this casino classic. So, join us as we explore exactly how Blackjack became the game we know and love today.
The life of Eleanor Dumont
Eleanor Dumont was born around 1829 and is thought to have been from New Orleans, although this is not confirmed. Dumont’s birth name was Simone Jules, but this was rarely used.
In 1849, at 21 years old, Dumont burst onto the gambling scene in San Francisco. Some believe she was of French origin as, alongside her dark eyes, curly hair, and petite frame, she was a committed Francophile, if not French herself.
After spending the best part of three decades traveling around the Western frontier, building a reputation for herself as a skilled Blackjack player – which was known as Twenty-one at the time – Dumont began working as a dealer at the Bella Union in San Francisco.
This didn’t last long, however, as she was relieved of her duties at the Bella Union after being suspected of card sharping. With a large sum of money in her pocket, Dumont moved to Nevada City, California.
A very rare dealer
With a reputation as a Blackjack rarity and always dressed to the nines, 1854 saw Dumont check into the Fepp’s Hotel, where she spent her days peering into the windows of vacant buildings down Broad Street.
Being the latest gossip of the town, Dumont delivered a handbill to Edwin G Waite, asking to announce the grand opening of her new gambling saloon in the Nevada Daily Transcript. This was aptly named Vingt-et-Un – the French name for the popular game which would help her make her fortune.
Dumont had only one rule – no women allowed.
Her high-class establishment was visited by avid gamers from all over, and she would greet her guests with a French accent, simply asking, “Will you play, monsieur?”
Dumont’s saloon made men feel as though they were privileged to play with her, each wearing their best clothes and sipping champagne as they tried their chances at the classic card game.
Blackjack beyond Madame Moustache
As the gold rush in Nevada slowed, miners began to move, and Dumont found that her time there was coming to an end.
Upon moving to Carson City, Nashville, she decided to try her hand at ranching. It was here that she fell in love with Jack McKnight, who turned out to be a conman, selling the ranch out from underneath her.
Dumont was distraught, shooting McKnight square in the chest with a double-barrel shotgun before trekking north to Fort Brenton in Montana. It was here she became known as Madame Moustache due to the dark and distinctive facial hair she had grown due to age.
After a short time, Dumont moved again, this time to Bodie, where the now 50-year-old Madame Moustache had begun to deteriorate. She stopped caring about how those playing at her tables dressed or behaved, and her skills as a dealer were wearing thin.
On September 8th, 1879, Eleanor Dumont walked into the darkness with a bottle of red wine and a fatal dose of morphine.
Despite her unfortunate end, Dumont led a full life, making a name for herself as Blackjack’s first professional female dealer in America, and helping the game rise in popularity, potentially giving it the boost it needed to become the iconic casino classic it is today.
Next time you play Blackjack, will you spare a thought for Eleanor Dumont – the female dealer who revolutionized Twenty-one?