Eleanor Dumont was one of the greatest blackjack professionals, whose legend is fueled by a great deal of mysteries.

The Mystery of Eleanor Dumont
The Mystery of Eleanor Dumont

One day in 1854, the monotonous life of Nevada City’s residents was stirred by the extraordinary beauty and elegance of a young lady, stepping out of a stagecoach in the city’s center. News of her arrival spread like fire. Both men and women were fascinated by this “pretty, fresh-faced, dark-eyed woman [of] stylish appearance, apparently about twenty years of age.” Such refined beauty appeared to be out of place at this rough mining town. The curiosity of the city’s inhabitants was further intensified by the fact that nobody knew what business brought her to town.

Two miners, who helped carrying her bags to Fepp’s Hotel, overheard her name, “Eleanora Dumont,” while checking in. The French sound of her name, accompanied by French accent, was fuel on fire, as French women were held in a high esteem in the West. In the following days, Eleanor was seen wandering on the main street of Nevada, also known as Broad Street, looking at empty shops. “There’s got to be some bad n a girl with all her charms who seems to have nothing to do but strut up and down Main Street,” gossiped the miners’ wives.

Eleanor Dumont in Nevada City

One week later, Eleanor Dumont’s first mystery was unveiled by her own will. The Nevada Journal published and advertisement on her behalf, announcing the opening of the “best gambling emporium in Northern California,” named Vingt-et-Un. The novelty of a young woman-gambler attracted many to the grand opening of the gambling parlor. Eleanor decided to distinguish her business from the multitude of other gambling establishments. It was luxuriously furnished, with carpets and crystal chandeliers. She allowed only well-groomed man, served champagne instead of whiskey and forbade smoking, arguing, chewing, or cussing. This strategy, combined with the power of her charms, has proven irresistible, resulting in a steady stream of customers.

Eleanor dealt the cards herself. She was specialized in the French game of Vingt-Et-Un, the direct ancestor of blackjack. In this game, aces counted as eleven, however, a pair of aces was counted as a blackjack. As the demand was growing, Eleanor decided to take a partner, Dave Tobin, an experienced gambler. Rumor has it that they had a romantic relationship as well. However, mixing business with emotions turned out to be a bad decision for Eleanor. According to some sources, she was still in love with Tobin, when she dumped him. But Eleanor was a business woman, so she choose the parlor over Tobin, who is often described as a gold-digger. A few years later, when the gold boom was about to die out, Eleanor made another wise business decision by selling her gambling establishment.

The mystery of Eleanor Dumont

The story of Eleanor Dumont in Nevada is fascinating, however, it leaves many unanswered questions. How could a girl in her twenties open a gambling salon on her own? Also, where and when did she learn her profession? The answers to these questions are interwoven. Eleanor Dumont’s real name was Simone Jules, who was born either in France or somewhere in the Mississippi Delta.

At the age of nineteen, she decided to leave home to take advantage of the gold rush. However, instead of getting her hands dirty, she started working at the tables of the Bella Union, San Francisco. Simone was an ambitious woman, so she wasn’t planning to be employed by others for a long time. Thanks to her wit and beauty, she became one of the most successful dealers at the Bella Union. During her stay she collected enough money to leave her job, open a business and become her own boss.