An informal history of gambling in America from the colonies to Canfield.
Sucker's Progress is the first attempt to write a connected history of the most prevalent of venial sins, and traces the history and development of gambling in America from the card and dice games in the back rooms of colonial taverns to the days of Richard Canfield the last of the great American gamblers. The book is concerned with the picturesque and spectacular features of gambling, and only incidentally with its morals.
The author commences with a survey of the origin and development of the principal gambling games played in America. Chief among the were Faro, Poker, Craps, Monte, Three-Card Monte, and Thimble-Rig, otherwise known as the Three Shell Game. All of these games including Poker and Craps, are of foreign origin, and most of them were introduced into the United States by way of New Orleans, which for more than half a century was the great gambling center of America. Particular attention is given to the history of Faro, by far the most widespread gambling game ever played in America, which was the mainstay of the gambling houses for almost a hundred years. To Faro the American language owes such expressions as "calling the turn," "the square deal," "playing both ends against the middle," "stool-pigeon," and "in hock."
Following the changing fashions in gambling up and down the country, Herbert Asbury spreads a noisy, colorful panorama of America at play: An account of the Lottery when it was the principal medium of gambling in America. Stories of the famous lotteries drawn to raise funds for Harvard, Columbia and other colleges and for many churches, and of the celebrated lottery projected for the relief of Thomas Jefferson in 1826 but never drawn because of his death. Gambling on the Mississippi with stories of famous river gamblers and the great war against gamblers in 1835 when several were lynched by a mob in Vicksburg. Development of the palatial gambling houses from 1830 to the Civil War with accounts of such noted resorts as Pendleton's, in Washington, and Pat Hearn's, in New York, and of the notorious Tapis Franc skinning houses and wolf traps that arose in this period. Gambling in the Wild West, women gamblers, with particular attention to Madame Mustache. The great gambling houses and syndicates of the seventies and the eighties. The era of Canfield and Honest John Kelly, with descriptions of the palatial houses and spectacular plunging of John W. Gates and others. And finally, a brief summary of modern gambling dominated by gangsters and racketeers.
This history of gambling covers the time before WWI. Asbury describes not only the men, such as Mike McDonald, John Morrissey, Richard Canfield, Canada Bill, and Charley Black Eyes, and the places they operated in, from riverboats to racetracks, from Chicago and New Orleans to lesser-known establishments in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Cincinnati, but also the games they played, describing the rules and origins of a number of dice and card games. From one-dollar lottery tickets to thousand-dollar poker antes. Asbury is an observer of human nature grouping gamblers into sharpers and suckers, the ones who are experts in advantage play and cheating, and their victims.
- PART ONE
- CHAPTER I Faro
- CHAPTER II Poker
- CHAPTER III Craps
- CHAPTER IV Small Fry
- CHAPTER V The Lottery
- CHAPTER VI Policy
- PART TWO
- CHAPTER VII Pioneers
- CHAPTER VIII "Very Splendid Hells"
- CHAPTER IX Gambling On The Western Rivers
- CHAPTER X The Middle West And Mike McDonald
- CHAPTER XI Westward Ho!
- CHAPTER XII John Morrissey And His Times
- CHAPTER XIII The Canfield Era
1st edition 1938, 493; PDF 297.
word count: 151740 which is equivalent to 606 standard pages of text