Canada Bill Jones

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Canada Bill Jones
BornWilliam Jones
?
Yorkshire, England
Died1880

Canada Bill Jones (?-1880) was the nickname of William Jones, a noted confidence artist, riverboat gambler and card sharp. He has been described as "without doubt the greatest Three Card Monte sharp ever to work the boats, perhaps the greatest of them all."[1]

Contents

Life

Born in Yorkshire, England, Jones learned the classic scams at a young age. At twenty, he migrated to Canada in search of fresh marks. He honed his three card monte traveling Canada as a thrower with Dick Cady. When Jones wanted bigger game, he left Cady and headed south to the Mississippi riverboats. There he joined up with George Devol, Holly Chappell and Tom Brown, working the boats. When the foursome broke up, Devol and Jones kept at it until the Civil War. They fell out when Jones caught Devol trying to cheat him.[1]

After the war, Dutch Charlie was Jones' next partner, this time in Kansas City. When they won $200,000 there, they decided to move on to working the Omaha, Nebraska to Kansas City, Missouri trains. When the Union Pacific Railway management started clamping down on three-card-monte players, he wrote the general superintendant of the railway, offering $10,000 a year to secure an exclusive franchise, but was rebuffed.[1]

Jones moved on to Chicago, in 1874 teaming up with Jimmy Porter and "Colonel" Charlie Starr. There he opened and worked four gambling joints, all crooked.[1]

He won and lost $150,000 in a year. Moving on to Cleveland with Porter, he continued to lose to professionals there as fast as he won from his marks. He moved on in 1877, dying a pauper in the Charity Hospital at Reading, Pennsylvania. The mayor was reimbursed for the funeral by the gamblers of Chicago. John Quinn wrote in Fools of Fortune that
…as the coffin was being lowered into the grave one of his friends offered to bet $1,000 to $500 that `Bill was not in the box.' The offer found no takers, for the reason, as one of his acquaintances said, 'that he had known Bill to squeeze through tighter holes than that.[1]

Quotations

  • "It's immoral to let a sucker keep his money"
  • "A Smith and Wesson beats four aces"
  • "No, son, you lose. 'Cause this is a Smith & Wesson I'm holdin' here."
  • "Nobody ever went bowlegged carrying away the money they won from me."
  • "Tie? You want me to wear a tie?"
  • "Yeah, but it's the only game in town!" - on being told by George Devol that a Faro game in Cairo, Illinois was crooked.[2][3] The same exchange has been variously ascribed to locations "in the back of a barbershop in Baton Rouge" and in Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, Colorado, but always over Faro. The quote may simply have been part of his rube act.
  • "I know it's crooked, but it's the only game in town."

In Popular Culture

In Neil Gaimain's American Gods , Mr. Wednesday tells his protégé Shadow a story about Canada Bill Jones to demonstrate the life of a con artist.

Further reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Gambling and Gambling History
  2. Devol, George H. Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi reprinted 1996 ISBN 1557091102
  3. Whit Haydn The School for Scoundrels Notes on Three-Card Monte
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