At the time of Lou's arrest, an intrepid reporter seeks
to shed some light on the career of Lou Blonger.
Rocky Mountain News, August 26, 1922
RECORDS REVEAL BLONGER IS USED TO BEING JAILED
Aged Alleged Czar of Swindlers Arrested Scores of Times, but Never Convicted, Police Blotter Shows.
BY DEANE H. DICKASON
Wiseacres in police circles say that an arrest, more or less, in the life of Lou H. Blonger, means little or next to nothing to the alleged "czar" of Denver's "bunco" firmament, who was seized in Denver's alleged "swindle game" raid yesterday. In his 73 years, more than forty of which have been passed as a "sportsman" in Denver, he has been in and out of jail more than a score of times, police records show. In no instance, however, has be been convicted of the numerous, larceny, robbery and "confidence game" charges that has been lodged against him.
Inevitably he has escaped, usually without a trial. When he has faced a jury the judge has asked for a directed verdict on the grounds of "insufficient evidence".
Powerful influences and valuable connections, police say, have had their part in the Blonger drama in the past, more especially on that day when Lou was working with his older brother Sam, who died Feb. 15, 1914.
Same Forces At Work, Is Rumor.
Rumors already are afloat that these same, or similar, interests and connections are waging a telling battle for the aged man's exoneration of the charge "conspiracy to commit the crime of confidence game." The information was filed against Blonger and his thirty-three alleged confederates yesterday afternoon by District Attorney Philip S. Van Cise. Judge Warren A. Hagsott, in the district court, set their bail at $25,000 each.
A few minutes later Blonger was a free man. His bond was given by Mr. R. ("Red") Gallagher, well known in Denver sport circles.
Altho he had been incarcerated less than eighteen hours, he came out of jail a different man from when he entered soon after midnight yesterday morning. His health which, according to his wife, has been failing rapidly in recent months, appeared to have withered under his close confinement. He was pale and jaded.
Before hastening out to his cherry ranch in the Lakewood district, he found occasion to deny most vehemently the charge against him. He declared that it was without foundation, and according to his attorney, "without rhyme or reason."
Police Blotter Reveals History.
He did not return to his house, 1541 Grant street, last night, nor was he believed to be at his ranch. He telephoned his wife shortly after his release that he would not be home all night. Friends, who are familiar with his physical condition remarked that he might have gone to a local hospital to rest up after his sudden confinement.
Newspaper records of the history of the two Blongers in Denver are meager. They reveal little of their activities.
The police blotter, on the contrary, is rich with accounts of the two men and their checkered careers. First entries were made about 1881. After that year they follow at irregular intervals, reaching a climax in the 90's. One of the famous raids made by the police on the ... tourist's club, 1740 Larimer Street operated by the "Blonger boys" was that of Feb. 13, 1892.
Engineer Trapped in Bet.
Both Lou and Sam, together with men named Walker and Phour, were captured and charged with the robbery of C. I. Tolly, a mining engineer and assayer of Longmont, Colo. Tolly had complained to the police that he had come to Denver and had been discussing a money transaction with a friend in the Markham hotel, when two men, who had been listening, approached him and began talking of mining. On the pretense of showing him some ore from Creede, they invited Tolly to walk with them to Larimer Street.
As they passed the Tourists club, the story goes, one of the men asked Tolly if he would mind stepping in for a few minutes. Tolly stood behind one of the men as they engaged with a some others in a friendly game of poker. One of the men drew three aces and a king and turning to Tolly asked him what he would bet on it. Tolly reluctantly replied that if he were playing he would put $100 on it.
The man on the other side of the table made a pretense of taking the bet. Of course, the aces and the king lost. The men then insisted that he pay, and when Tolly attempted to escape they threatened his life if he did not sign over the money. Tolly made out a check for $100 and went back to Longmont. Friends urged him to return to Denver and complain to the police. His complaint resulted in the raid.
Youths Were Victims in Gaming.
The Blongers protested their innocence and lack of evidence resulted in the case being dismissed.
Less than three months thereafter, on May 7, 1892, the fire and police board closed up the Blonger brothers' gambling house, 1744 Larimer street. The reason given at the time was that a "systematic bunco game was carried on, the victims of which were chiefly young men of tender years."
Not long thereafter the brothers opened up a saloon on Market street between Sixteenth and Seventeenth streets. This gained such ill repute that in 1895 a campaign was launched against the resort by the Mercury, a weekly publication of that period.
The records do not reveal that this was successful, for the regular complaints of larceny and "confidence games" continued up till as late as the early part of the century.
On July 1, 1901, Lou Blonger was arrested on a charge of obtaining money by gambling devices. He admitted that he had won $250 from G. Ritter and F. Breckner, the complainants, in a room in the Good block. Blonger, however, supplemented his admission with the statement that the money was won on the square and that the foreigners should have no complaint.
Millionaire Caused Arrest.
Blonger immediately gave bonds for his appearance and was released. Ritter, it later developed, was a millionaire hotel man, and as soon as Blonger returned the money to him he took a train for San Francisco, bound for Japan. When the case came to trial there were no complaining witnesses and Blonger was free.
Fifteen days later, July 16, 1901, Detective Delaney charged Blonger with bilking an English tourist, also named Ritter - Henry Ritter - of $375 in a game of brace poker. The case was dismissed.
Blonger's many ups and downs with the police department, according to old heads at the station, achieved their denouement July 1, 1898, when the "sportsman" was arrested on an assault and battery charge after he was alleged to have been "buncoed" of $1,000 by C. M. Fagen Bush and J. A. Weaver. In addition to having the men arrested on a grand larceny charge, he is alleged to have beaten Weaver with the butt of a revolver. Weaver filed the assault and battery complaint.
By this deal with Bush and Weaver, according to the story Blonger related to the police, he was offered a proposition to purchase $3,000 worth of mining stock held by a third person. Blonger advanced $1,000 of the purchase money, but when he called to get the stock he was told that his check had been taken by a third person and they had all lost their deposits. Blonger then is alleged to have become angry and to have struck Weaver.
Blonger "Buncoed" is Prize Joke.
The story of his appearance at the police station following this incident as it appeared in the The Rocky Mountain News, July 2, 1898, still is read with a chuckle in police circles.
"It was the spice of a decade," one of the old boys said yesterday, as he recalled the article, which, in part, reads as follows:
"Lou Blonger has been buncoed. This is about the most startling piece of news the police department has received in a long time. It was not hard work to find it, either, as Blonger 'yelled' louder than the backwoodsman from Indiana who bought the gold brick. It was a long time before Blonger could induce the detectives to take the 'yell' seriously.
"Yesterday evening Blonger appeared at police station much excited and exclaimed that he had been buncoed. All the detectives were taken with a fit of laughter. Their mouths stretched and their sides shook. Tears rolled down their cheeks and it was fifteen minutes before they could compose themselves. They were listening to Blonger's tale of woe.
"Blonger has the reputation of being a bunco man himself and for years had everything his own way on lower Seventeenth street, where he successfully managed a gang of the shrewdest confidence men in the country. This was the reason the detectives laughed so heartily when Blonger said he was buncoed."