Eleanor Dumont, also known as ‘Madame Moustache’ because of a growth of dark facial hair on her upper lip in later life, was a notorious, if slightly mysterious, gambler in the American Old West. Born Simone Jules in 1829, Dumont claimed to be a French refugee, but may have hailed from somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, possibly New Orleans. In any event, during the California Gold Rush, or shortly afterwards, Dumont had the resources to open her own gambling establishment, ‘Vingt-et-un’ – billed as the ‘best gambling emporium in northern California’ – on Broad Street, Nevada City.
Later, she sold the business and travelled from one boom town to the next, setting up gambling tables in hotels throughout the West. After a few years, she met, and married, Jack McKnight, a cattleman and small-time gambler, and together they bought a cattle ranch in Carson City, Nevada. However, after a few months, McKnight sold the ranch and disappeared, leaving Dumont destitute. She eventually ended up in Bodie, California – billed as ‘the toughest town in the West’ – where, having borrowed $300 to set up a gambling table, she proceeded to lose every cent and committed suicide shortly afterwards.