The Life and Death of Eleanor Dumont

Heather Monroe
7 min readOct 18, 2019

The forgotten tale of America’s first female Blackjack dealer

Eleanor “Madame Mustache” Dumont, Public Domain

Eleanor Alphonsine Dumont, born around 1829, made a living as one of the first professional female blackjack dealers in the United States. For the better part of three decades, she made her way across the western frontier in mining towns such as Deadwood, South Dakota to Bodie, California.

How she came to the west is shrouded in mystery. She hardly used her actual name, Simone Jules, and was likely born in New Orleans of Creole heritage.

The Gambling Lady

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco ca 1851. Eleanor Dumont dealt blackjack at Bella Union, 2nd building on the right. Wikimedia Commons, public domain

She burst on to the San Francisco gambling scene when she was 21 years old in the year 1849. She was exotically beautiful with deep, dark, eyes, and piles of natural curls perfectly coifed on the top of her head. She was petite, French-or at least a committed Francophile-and always dressed to the nines.

She quickly built a reputation as a skilled, or lucky, 21 player and secured a job as a dealer at the Bella Union in San Francisco. Unlike many women of that time and place, Eleanor was dignified and reserved. When the men at her table behaved bawdily, Eleanor acted unruffled.

Suspected of card sharping, Eleanor was relieved of her duties at the Bella Union. By this time, Eleanor had earned a large chunk of money and decided to take it to Nevada City, California.

Nevada City

Nevada City ca 1866, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

In 1854, Eleanor stepped off the stage dressed in her best finery and checked into the Fepp’s Hotel as Madame Eleanor Dumont.She spent her first days promenading up and down Broad Street, peering into the windows of vacant buildings. The locals whispered their best guesses as to why this fancy lady spent her days walking and peering into windows.

“There’s got to be some bad in a girl with all her charms, who seems to have nothing to do but strut up and down Main Street,” remarked one of the few women in town.

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Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•