Eleanore Dumont, a French woman, arrived in Nevada City, California in 1854, causing some excitement and intrigue among the entire city. Dumont soon set up an establishment on Broad Street, in the center of town, which she named "Vingt-Et-Un" ("21"). It did not take long for residents of the town to receive invitations inviting them to join Dumont in a game of professional blackjack.
Dumont, the French hostess of the establishment, insisted on no brawling or use of bad language and the miners and residents of the town who flocked to "Vingt-Et-Un" found it hard to resist her requests. Aside from the desire to win money and associate with a lady such as Eleanore Dumont, patrons found it difficult to resist the free champagne that was offered for all.
It has been suggested that Eleanore Dumont was the supreme card cheat and that her winnings were due to trickery and deception. In fact, it has been reported that Eleanore Dumont was not her real name, but rather Simone Jules.
Once the gold in Nevada City had run dry (it was a town that had sprung up in order to mine gold that had been discovered), Dumont was forced to close shop and move to the next mining town. She moved from Columbia in 1857, to Virginia City in 1859 and then on to Pioche in 1861. It is reported that she fell in love with Jack McKnight, a saloon owner, while she was in Pioche and married him. McKnight deserted Dumont soon after they were married and disappeared with all of her money.
Following McKnight's desertion, Dumont began practicing prostitution in order to supplement her dwindling income. Her famous good looks faded and she was nicknamed "Madame Mustache" by the miners. She began dealing cards and traveling again. This time her journeys took her from Fort Benton, Montana to Helena, to Salmon, Idaho and then back to Virginia City.
Those her report her as card cheat, suggest that she moved towns each time her trickery and deception were discovered, but that as long as business remained good, she remained where she was.
She finally ended up in Bodie, where her body was found after she committed suicide by drinking poison in 1879. Prior to her death, it is rumored that following a night of winning, she fought off two thieves, killing one of them and wounding his accomplice. It is believed that it was here that her winning streak ended and she found herself penniless. Unable to procure funds, she finally took her life. It is believed that her ghost has returned to Bodie and frequents the sites of some of the saloons that she played in.
Dumont was nominated to the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2006 in recognition of her success in the game of blackjack. On this occasion, she was not selected, however her place in the history of gambling remains impressive.