Before Mark Twain: A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi

By John Francis McDermott | Go to book overview

GAMBLERS AND SUCKERS

JONATHAN H. GREEN

[Jonathan H. Green, whose Gambling Unmasked! or the Personal Experience of Jonathan H. Green, the Reformed Gambler ... written by Himself was first published in Philadelphia in 1844 and a third edition-"improved"-in 1848, had run away from home in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, in 1829 at the age of sixteen. After a career at gambling on the steamboats and in the river towns he made a second lecturing over the United States billed as "the Reformed Gambler." In the passages below, from the 1857 printing of his book ( pp. 123-36) he exposes some of the tricks played on suckers in Silver Street, Natchez-under-the-hill, and on board the boats, the "Spanish burying," for example, as well as the hazard gamblers had to chance of "waking up the wrong passenger."]

I have known the gamblers to perpetrate the greatest outrages in disposing of their victims. One day, while the fraternity were lounging in a Silver street coffee-house, a young man came in and was soon engaged in conversation. He said he had some fifteen hundred dollars, which he would like to invest in some profitable business. They proposed that he should purchase a certain hotel, which, by the way, was the head-quarters of the gamblers. It belonged, they told him, to a man by the name of Clifton. He and this Mr. Clifton were soon brought together, and a bargain was closed. The young man paid down fifteen hundred dollars for the furniture and the kitchen apparatus, and on the following morning was to take possession. Morning came; but what was the surprise of the purchaser to find that Clifton was only a bartender, and that he had left the city the night before; having been discharged by the proprietor of the hotel! The young man saw that his money was gone, and frantic with his loss, he hastened to tell his friends how Clifton had swindled him. They heard his

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