Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.
Gambling halls and bordellos. These were some of the most lucrative businesses of the old west. And one of the best known proprietors of such an establishment was a woman called Eleanor Dumont, also known as Madame Moustache.
Eleanor began life as Simone Jules and hailed from either France or New Orleans. She was a petite and pretty woman who excelled at the game of 21, the precursor of American Blackjack.
After she was accused of card sharping in San Francisco in 1854, Simone emerged onto the booming mining scene in Nevada City, California, as Eleanor Dumont, where she opened her own gambling establishment. Her emporium was furnished with elegant style, and she often treated her guests to free champagne.
Charming and pretty, Eleanor had no trouble attracting men to sit at her table while she dealt the cards and gracefully rolled her cigarettes. While she had many admirers, Eleanor had no known lovers at this time. She kept her admirers at bay telling them she was a lady.
When the gold was all played out in Nevada City, Eleanor got out of the business. With a great deal of money in her purse, she moved to Carson City, Nevada where she bought a ranch. Soon she met Jack McKnight, a supposed cattle buyer, and fell head over heels. Little did she know that Jack was a swindler. In less than a month he sold Eleanor’s ranch and disappeared with all of her money, leaving her with enormous debts.
Eleanor tracked him down and shot him. She never claimed responsibility for the crime and was never charged. Years later, she allegedly confessed to killing him.
With no money and no prospects, Eleanor moved to various mining camps across the western United States and finally ended up in Bodie, California.
As the mining camps dried up, times were hard for Eleanor. Needing to support her establishment, she soon added prostitution to her business model. Now a true Madam, Eleanor changed in other ways as well. Where once she drank champagne in moderation and acted the lady in every way, she turned to whiskey, used rough language, and took up cigar smoking. She grew plump, and the once thin line of dark hair on her upper lip thickened earning her the name, Madame Moustache.
Life did not end happily for Madame Moustache. Strapped for cash, she borrowed $300 from a friend to open her table. Lady Luck abandoned her and she lost everything. Her body was found some time later with a suicide note. The coroner ruled cause of death as an overdose of morphine.