The Saloonkeepers

sIt had long been my impression that the western Blongers were the rounders, while the folks back east were a bit more pious. Surprise, surprise.

As it happens, Mike Belonger’s son John, his brother-in-law John Braley, and his nephew Mike Dunn were all tavern owners, though we don’t know if they were all connected to Dunn’s Evergreen Tavern in Madison, Wisconsin. Mike’s grandson (and our grandfather) Orville “Chick” Braley was apparently a regular on the bandstand.

All three barkeeps were charged with selling liquor to minors in a roundup in 1937. Along with others, they challenged the state law that forfeited their $1000 bonds. They probably lost, as Dunn declared bankruptcy soon thereafter.

Kitty Sighting

May 1, 1883, Newhall (Santa Clarita), CA :

Mrs. K. Blonger of Phoenix, AT, passes through on her way to San Francisco.

Con Artists Podcast

The podcast Con Men recently released a thoughtful take and Lou and his Denver mob, sometimes known as the “Million Dollar Bunco Ring.”

The Blonger Stable

Later in life Lou was well known in racing circles across the country, but Sam was the true fancier. It can be argued that, by the time he died, Sam was better known for his thoroughbreds than anything else.

We’ve come across a host of horses listed either as being run by Sam, or by Blonger Bros. Now the Salt Lake Herald-Republican, May 15, 1910, adds a new one, Pinte.

  • Comanche Boy
  • John H. Snowball
  • Jupiter
  • King Lyon
  • Oberon
  • Silver Stocking
  • Sorrel Dan
  • Pinte

Bat Goes to the Big Apple

For a bit more detail on the New York portion of Bat Masterson’s tale, we turn to friend of the site and world expert on Masterson, Bob DeArment, who literally wrote the book. What follows is gleaned from a 2001 article DeArment wrote for Wild West magazine.

Let’s start the story here: At the turn of the 20th century, Lou was busy locking down control of the Denver underworld, control that would extend till his arrest in 1922. Sam was there too, but seems to have been retired from the family business, or close to it.

Masterson was in Denver, too, writing a sports column for George’s Weekly. A failed boxing promotion partnership with Denver Post sports editor Otto Floto led to a battle of words between the two, and ended with a street fight in July of 1900. When Floto & Co. reportedly hired gunman “Whispering Jim” Smith to deal with Masterson, Bat threw in the towel and left Denver for points East. That was May of 1902.

According to DeArment, Bat went to New York intending to sail for England, where there was money to be made promoting boxing matches during the lengthy celebrations surrounding the coronation of Edward VII. But it was not to be.

The day before his departure, Masterson was arrested on charges of cheating a Mormon elder out of $16,000 in a crooked faro game. In the course of his arrest, his rather large pistol was confiscated, and the New York papers had a good time crowing about the frontier gunman’s legal troubles – and the size of that gun. This is, indeed, the genesis of the article that mentions Sam being shot, a reporter getting in his two cents in at Masterson’s expense, mocking the celebrated loss of his pistol by noting that it had happened once before. And New Yorkers were eating it all up, thrilled, apparently, to have a real, live Wild West killing machine in their midst.

DeArment goes on to note that Masterson’s outsized reputation had, in fact, risen largely from an article in the New York Sun some twenty years prior. Titled “A Mild Eyed Man Who Killed Twenty-six Persons,’ DeArment notes that the 1881 article was “largely fictitious,” but nevertheless reprinted in papers across the country. In 1902, Bat’s arrival in New York and subsequent arrest had papers resurrecting the old article, which went out over the wire services, reinforcing the legend.

Long story short, Bat’s legal problems kept him in the city, and he eventually decided to stay. He again took up the mantle of sports writer, and it suited him. He would spend the next twenty years covering the New York sports beat, finally dying over his typewriter in July of 1921.

Sky Masterson, played by Brando in the film of Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls, was based on Runyon’s good friend Masterson.

Wyatt Earp’s Cow-boy Campign

Not long ago, our old friend Chuck Hornung published a new book about the Earp vendetta titled Wyatt Earp’s Cow-boy Campaign: The Bloody Restoration of Law and Order Along the Mexican Border, 1882. Chuck is a great researcher and author, but of course our particular interest is on the selfish side.

I won’t rehash the entire OK Corral/Vendetta Ride situation (this would be as long post indeed), except to say that, after three weeks in the Arizona back country, the Earp posse had apparently killed at least four of Tombstone’s so-called Cow-boy gang in retaliation for their attacks on Earp’s brothers

Joe’s Valise

In March of 1910, Joe ran into a bit of bad luck in Eureka, California, when his suitcase was stolen. Here’s the message he ran in the Humboldt Times:

LOST–The party that swiped my grip on D street, Eureka, do the diaries and papers in a package, leave it in Urquhardt’s office, Metropole Hotel; they are no good to you–do that. Joe Blonger.

So sad to think what he may have written in those diary pages.

Con Artists Podcast

The latest episode of the podcast Con Artists, Lou Blonger: Million Dollar Bunco Ring, details Lou’s organization, arrest and trial. It’s quite good, and the host even pronounces Blonger correctly!

The Palace

Sam Was Definitely An Asshole

In 1893, Sam’s wife Sadie Wilson–who we believe to be an alias for killer prostitute Kitty Blonger–sued for divorce, citing multiple incidents of violence and emotional distress. Turns out the incident wasn’t unique.

The Blonger Bros. were deeply invested in the Leadville boom of 1879. In short order they were working multiple claims in the district, and he even ran for mayor that year. But to some, he was known as just another faro dealer downtown.

Sam Blonger, well known as a faro-dealer in one of the dance halls, while enjoying a buggy ride with Miss Minnie Dunne, a vocalist on the variety stage, became angry at some remark passed by his fair companion, and very ungallantly administered to her a severe horse-whipping, the marks of some of the blows being plainly visible upon the unfortunate woman’s face. A warrant was sworn out and placed in the hands of Deputy Jeffery to serve, but when a search for he man was made by the officer, the culprit was found to have left the town.

Leadville Daily Herald, July 7, 1880


Sam’s wife at the time, Ella, and their son Frank, were safely ensconced in Denver at the time, where the Blonger Bros. also reportedly had as yet unknown business interests.