Eleanore Dumont, better known as Madame Mustache, was one of the first known professional blackjack players in American history and, for over three decades, made her name famous across the mining camps of the American West.
1829, for whatever reasons, made her way west during the California Gold Rush.
Known as Simone Jules, a petite and pretty French woman in her early twenties, she arrived in San Francisco in about 1849, where she soon established herself as a gambler, favoring the game of Vingt-et-un, which means "21," the precursor of American Blackjack.
Working at the Bella Union, she was known for her elegant dignity, aloof manner, and ability to handle stress on the card table. However, when she was suspected of cardsharping, she was let go, but, not before she had obviously earned quite a bit of money.
She next made an appearance in Nevada City, California. Stepping off the stage in 1854, her bejeweled and stylish appearance created quite a stir among the rough residents of the mining camp. Two young miners quickly volunteered to carry her bags into the Fepp's Hotel, where she registered as Eleanore Dumont. For the next few days, she wandered up and down Broad Street, the main street of Nevada City, peering into shop windows that had gone out of business. Soon, she had the whole town talking and wondering why the young woman seemed to have nothing better to do walk about town in her best finery. Soon, though, the mystery would be solved after she handed a printing order to Editor Wait of the Nevada Journal for a handbill which advertised the opening of the "best gambling emporium in northern California." Citizens all over town soon received invitations to the grand opening of the "Vingt-et-un" on Broad Street to enjoy a game with Madame Dumont as well as free champagne for all. A finely furnished and carpeted gambling den with gas chandeliers, it would only allow the entrance of well-behaved and well-groomed men, and cursing was discouraged in her presence. She had many ventures and then met Jack McKnight, who swept her off her feet. He swindled her and took her money and left her broke.
Never a timid woman, legend has it that she went after the cad, tracked him down and opened up on him with a double blast from a shotgun. Suspected of the crime, she was never charged and denied responsibility. Years, later; however, she allegedly confessed to killing him. She followed the gold and moved quite alot. She was a man charmer.
Over the years, as she aged, her body filled out to plumpness and the fine unflattering growth of hair on her upper lip darkened. Later, when she also began to act as a true "Madame," and added prostitution to her earning capacity. Her body was found on September 8, 1879 along with a letter giving directions for the disposition of her effects, which also stated "she was tired of life."
The Bodie Morning News reported her death;
"A Suicide -- Yesterday morning a sheep-herder, while in pursuit of his avocation, discovered the dead body of a woman lying about one hundred yards from the Bridgeport road, a mile from town. Her head rested on a stone, and the appearance of the body indicated that death was the result of natural causes. Ex-officio Coroner Justice Peterson was at once notified, and he dispatched a wagon in charge of H.Ward [of the Pioneer Furniture Store] to that place, who brought the body to the undertaking rooms. Deceased was named Eleanore Dumont, and was recognized as the woman who had been engaged in dealing a twenty-one game in the Magnolia saloon. Her death evidently occurred from an overdose of morphine, an empty bottle having the peculiar smell of that drug, being found beside the body. . The history connected with the unfortunate suicide is but a repetition of that of many others who have followed the life of a female gambler, with the exception perhaps that the subject of this item bore a character for virtue possessed by few in her line. To the goodhearted women of the town must we accord praise for their accustomed kindness in doing all in their power to prepare the unfortunate woman's body for burial."
There is no marker any longer for her grave