The Lay of the Land.
Rocky Mountain News, October 17, 1895
BUNCO MAN AND POLICE
Between Them a Sucker Is Fleeced.
ONE WORKS, OTHER WINKS.
Harvest Time for the Street Thief and Saloon Worker
"Soapy" Smith's Old Game of the Large Bill in a Wrapped Package Worked Openly on Seventeenth StreetFakirs of Every Stripe Victimize People Under the Eyes of OfficersTwo of the Losses Reported, One at Bunco Candy Stand and the Other at "T B" GameLou Blonger's Gang and Chase's Gang, Members Thereof and the Percentage Given the SteererHow "T B" Is Worked.
It is the harvest time for the bunco men and he is abroad in the midst of the strangers who visit this city to make merry and enjoy the hospitality of Denver's citizens. The police have assumed an attitude of indifference and are making no attempt to block the games of fraud that are carried on. The bunco steerers are undisturbed and unobserved as far as the officers of the law are concerned.
Before the gray of the morning had cleared away yesterday the bunco steerer, the human type of the spider, was to be seen upon Seventeenth street. The candy man sold small bars of chocolate and licorice for $1 each and told the crowds who gathered about him that there were $10 bills inside the wrappers. His work was exactly similar to that of "Soapy" Smith and yesterday he gathered in at least $300.
Steerers and fakirs of every stripe worked upon Seventeenth street and hundreds if not thousands of dollars were paid these parasites by "suckers."
One of the Mexicans in the delegation sent by Senator Garcia from Trinidad lost $50 at the "T B" game.
Carl Johnson of Dubuque, Ia. lost $15 at the candy stand at the corner of Seventeenth and Market streets.
Victims are numbered by the dozen and the aggregate of the money lost cannot be calculated. In the lower part of the city there were two bunco joints, one at 1731 Market street, the other at 1759 Blake street. Lou Blonger and Ed Chase are bosses. Blonger runs the Market street joint while Chase's men steer their new acquaintances into the little store room on Blake street.
All these men were upon Seventeenth street yesterday, engaged in their nefarious work and the police made no efforts to round them up. True, a few days ago, Chief Goulding orderd the arrest of certain suspected persons and ordered them to leave the city. Not a single member of the Blonger or Chase outfits were called to headquarters or commanded to depart from the city and stay away during the festival. By order from Chief Goulding Tom Costigan, Annie Costigan, Belle Moore and several others were notified that they would be kept in jail unless they left. Costigan has been arrested before, but he never turned a bunco trick while his wife, Annie, has never been taken into custody here upon any charge save that of "suspicion." All those who did leave the city were without the "protection" that the bunco bosses appear to have at headquarters.
The secrets of the bunco business have been divulged and the revelations are of a startling character. Blonger pays his steerers 30 per cent of the amount they secure from their victims. Chase gives his steerers 40 per cent of their earnings. Part of the money left after the steerer is given his share is reserved for the "inside" men and "expenses." The headquarters of the bunco men at 1759 Blake and 1731 Market are called the "Big Mitt" joints. These places have been used for the purpose named for the past six months.
The games, all of the "sure thing" variety, carried on by the bunco men of Denver, are the "Big Mitt," the "T. B." and the "Lock."
The article goes on at length in its description of the "T B" game, or Top and Bottom, and the Big Mitt. Some of the text is, unfortunately, illegible, but goes on to describe the fix, the brush-off, and a new game in town chocolate and licorice "wrapped in dollar bills," one of "'Soapy' Smith's practices."
Evidently the joint the Blonger's had on Market in 1892 was still around in '95. At this time we know "Lew Blonger's place" was at 1644 Larimer. For all we know they were also still doing business at 1744, 1740 and 1723 Larimer. Hard to say for sure at this point.