Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Sitting on a bar stool on the very spot over 1,000 hangings took place in the 1800’s might spook the average person, but for the hearty customers of the Hangman’s Tree Lounge, it’s a reminder of the gold rush era when the town overflowed with prospectors and unfortunates. Not all those hung were guilty of a crime; some were put to death just in case.

In 1849 Placerville, California, was called Hangtown and was considered one of the major camps in the gold country. Originally known as Old Dry Diggin’s, the town’s notorious and frequent hangings accounted for the name change. It still hovers today in the form of disembodied spirits that haunt the town, the cemeteries, the old buildings and surrounding mountains and hills. Miners, weary of the crowds in Coloma, came looking for fertile ground in which to pan and placer mine. Old Dry Diggin’s proved to be a rich find.

Unfortunately as news spread, Hangtown became overrun with prospectors, the ever hopefuls, and as always, the element of greed and deceit. Claim jumping, murders and lawlessness became commonplace. The question was no longer who to hang, but how many at a time.

Justice was quick. A trial and hanging often happened on the same day – sometimes for trivial offenses as patience was no sanctity in those days. Kicking a man’s dog could cost you your neck and touching his gold could cost you 39 lashes before the hanging.

In 1849 three desperados were hung at the same time. Rumor has it they were given 39 lashes and were close to death from the beatings. Townsfolk hung them anyway. History has conflicting stories as to what their crime was. Some accounts say robbery, others say cheating at cards and a nasty fight afterwards that ended in a murder. Their remains were apparently not worth the trek to boot hill because they were buried behind the tree, now a parking lot beside Highway 50. A memorial is now in place. It reads:

“Somewhere here lies the remains of the three unfortunates hanged in late 1849 from the oak tree in the feed corral. After a fair trial by the vigilantes, this incident changed the name of Dry Diggin’s to Hangtown. Let us not judge too harshly, for those were rough days of the Great Gold Rush. “

The Hangman’s Tree Lounge sits directly over the spot of the official hangman’s tree. Folks at the lounge see a ghost downstairs and sometimes floating above, which would be at the height of the scaffolds. In front of the lounge is a yellow Historical Marker, No. 141. Everyone knows once you enter this old building, you’ll feel the ominous, the aura of another time.

A patron mentioned that she had come in for a beer. When she went to the restroom, she saw a man coming out of the ladies room and thought it was odd, but assumed the men’s room was out of order. He was dressed in black with a top hat so she assumed he was dressed in costume. A few years ago a workman was startled to see a tall man in black walk through the wall from the Hangman’s Tree part of the building, stand in front of him and silently disappear. He quickly left the building and didn’t return until the next day when there was sunlight.

Staff members say the most startling thing is the shot glasses. They put them on the shelf and then find them in with the ice. If they had fallen, they would have landed on the counter. To get into the ice they would have had to fly.

Hanging from his neck from the second story of the building is “George,” a mannequin dressed in 1800 attire, his hands tied behind his back. He adds to the mystique of Placerville and the aura of the area. He’s been hanging there for about 55 years now.

I worked in an art gallery just down the street and always waved to George on the way to work in the morning. One day he was gone. My heart caught in my throat. How could he not be there for me to greet? Later I found out it’s customary to take George down every so often and give him a new set of clothes and clean him up. Much to my relief, in a few days he was back.

This information was taken from The Incredible World of GOLD RUSH GHOSTS, Written by Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert. Photo by Marlene Urso.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Civil War Trivia

I thought I’d go for a total change of pace this time around and post a Tuesday Ten about my second favorite subject… the Civil War. I know this is usually Susan’s territory, but my husband just brought home the greatest book the other day, and I’ve had my nose stuck in it every chance I get. It has lots of short, interesting facts about things to do with the Civil War—the kind of facts that writers like us just love because you never know what will spark an idea for a story.

Anyway, here I thought I’d share some of the more interesting ones I’ve come across for our Tuesday Ten.

  • The two warring capitals, Washington D.C. and Richmond Virginia, were less than 100 miles apart.
  • Jesse Grant, father of General Ulysses S. Grant at one time worked for Owen Brown—father of the notorious abolitionist John Brown.
  • While not an excellent student –he was 21 in his class of 39 at West Point- Grant was one of the academy’s most skilled riders ever.
  • Union General Winfield Scott served under every president from Jefferson to Lincoln and was on active duty as a general from 1808 – 1861. Longer than any other person in American history.
  • Southerners called the Reconstruction period in the south “Yankee Rule.”
  • The surrender terms at Appomattox in 1865 permitted that every Confederate cavalry soldier take his horse home with him. This provision was requested by Lee (and accepted by Grant). Both men realized that once the former soldiers returned to civilian life they wouldn’t be able to work their farms without a horse.
  • According to some analysts, the most significant single federal operation of the war was the blockade of Southern ports.
  • Among the many names for the Civil War: The War Between the States; Mr. Lincoln’s War; The War Against Northern Aggression; The Second American Revolution; The Lost Cause; The War of the Rebellion; the Brothers’ War; the Late Unpleasantness; The Uncivil War, the War of the Southrons; the Great Rebellion; the War for Southern Independence; the Second War for Independence (hey, I could have done my whole Tuesday Ten on just those!)
  • General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was featured on the highest denomination bill issued by the Richmond government. He was the only general to be pictured on its currency.
  • During the war James Butler Hickcock, a.k.a. “Wild Bill” was a Union spy in Missouri.

Source: Civil War: Untold Tales of the Blue and Gray by Westside Publishing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today's the Day!

Release day! The day I've long been waiting for ... The Wild Rose Press released my short vampire romance story, Eternity Waits.

Here's an excerpt that I hope whets your appetite.

Alexandra Ivanov gazed with longing at the tall, manly soldier before her. His musky, masculine scent caused her to shiver with desire. Sandy-colored hair fell in waves on both sides of his tanned face. Alexandra had spied him on her forays through the outskirts of the army camp. Each time she'd seen him, he'd been alone, but she'd waited until tonight to approach him.

Since the war began, she'd not lacked for fresh blood. These lonely, young soldiers, so far from home, were all too willing to allow a strange, loose woman to wrap her arms around them. The army blamed the deaths on a vicious, nocturnal animal roaming the woods at night.

But this man carried the essence of her long lost love. Alexandra felt drawn to him, like to no other. Centuries ago, she'd lost the one and only man she'd ever truly loved.

She moved closer to the soldier, his long, lean-muscled form not unlike Dimitri's. He gulped, but lowered his rifle and didn't back away.

"Why are you here?" He clawed absently at his collar while his gaze locked on hers.

Heat swept through her at the sight of his throbbing pulse. Although hungry, she wouldn't take too much from him. She didn't want to kill him. Yet.

For more info on Eternity Waits click here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tuesday 10 - Russia

10 Key Russian Events 1839-1901

The Victorian Era was a time of expansion. With expansion inevitably comes war. Russia was no exception. Her history of expansion was ancient, and by 1839, her boarders reached to the Pacific, Black Sea, Baltic Sea, and Arctic . She tried reform – failed – tried again – endured revolution, revolution, revolution, and held tightly to her land. Everything that happened here directly resulted in both WWI and in the 1917 Revolution. 50 years of policies, rebellions, reforms, setbacks, and power plays reshaped the world as they knew it into what we do today.

1. Crimean War 1853-1586 between Imperial Russia (and the Bulgarian volunteers) and the United Kingdom, Ottoman Empire, France, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. Really, it was all France’s fault…in 1851, a coup d'état put Napoleon III in power who then instructed his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire to force the Ottomans to recognize France as the "sovereign authority" in the Holy Land.

The Russians didn't like this, made counterclaims, and reminded the Ottomans of two treaties, 1757 and 1774. The Ottomans then reversed their earlier decision, renounced the French treaty, and insisted Russia was the protector of the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon III responded with a show of force. England joined. France bribed Sultan Abdülmecid I. Russia eventually lost. It was a crushing blow to their moral, country spirit, and people.

2. The Treaty of Aigun 1858. Established the modern borders of the Russian Far East. Its provisions were confirmed by the Beijing Treaty of 1860. Significantly, the Treaty was never approved by the Xianfeng Emperor.

3. Emancipation reform of 1861. "It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below.” Though he carefully guarded his autocratic rights and privileges, Alexander II reformed. This particular one amounted to ending the serf dependence previously suffered by Russian peasants. The legal basis of the reform was the Tsar's Emancipation Manifesto of March 3, 1861 (February 19, 1861 (O.S.)). The Manifesto granted full rights of free citizens to serfs and prescribed that peasants would be able to buy land from the landlords. It didn't totally work.

4. Judicial reform of Alexander II 1864. Generally considered one of the most successful and the most consistent (along with the military reform), it created a completely new order of legal proceedings. The main results were the introduction of a unified court system instead of the cumbersome set of Estate-of-the-realm courts, and fundamental changes in criminal trials. The latter included establishment of the principle of equality of the parties involved, introduction of public hearings, jury trial and the institution of a professional advocate.

5. Alaska purchase 1867. Russia was in financial straits and feared losing their Alaskan territory without compensation in some future conflict, especially to their rivals, Britain. Therefore, Alexander II decided to sell the territory to the US. The purchase price was $7.2 million (about 1.9¢ per acre). American public opinion was generally positive, but some newspaper writers and editors had negative feelings about. Don’t they always? Can’t please everyone…but Washington approved it. After all, Russia had been a valuable ally of the Union during the Civil War, while Britain had been a nearly open enemy. It seemed wise to help Russia while sticking it to the British.

6. April Uprising 1876. Insurrection organised by the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire, the indirect result of which was the establishment of Bulgaria as an independent nation in 1878. What did this have to do with Russia? On July 8, 1876, a secret treaty prepared for the division of the Balkans between Russia and Austria-Hungary, depending on the outcome of local revolutionary movements. Almost makes you think of WWI, doesn't it.

7. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. With a rise in nationalism in Balkans, the Russians used that unrest to see its goal of reversing territorial losses suffered during the Crimean War and reestablishing itself in the Black Sea. Russia annexed Southern Bessarabia and the Kars region.

8. Alexander II assassinated 1881. Ignacy Hryniewiecki of the Narodnaya Volya, or the People's Will was responsible. Though he hesitated between strengthening the hands of executive power and making concessions to the widespread political aspirations of the educated classes, he tried, which was more than any tsar or tsarina had since Catherine the Great. (And she needed the support of the nobility, so her reforms were minor.)

9. Alexander III became tsar. Finally a man of self-control. Unfortunately, he had no intention of limiting or weakening the autocratic power he inherited. He knew what changes he wanted to implement before he became tsar, and let it be known. He wanted national principles in all spheres of official activity; a homogeneous Russia—homogeneous in language, administration and religion. He died in 1884…his son, Nicholas II became tsar, and we all know how that ended up.

10. Russification of Finland 1889-1905. Aimed at the termination of Finland’s autonomy. It was a part of a larger policy of Russification pursued by late 19th-early 20th century Russian governments which tried to abolish cultural and administrative autonomy of non-Russian minorities within the empire. Finland and Russia had several skirmishes throughout the beginning of the 20th century, even while both fought the Nazi’s in WWII.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday Ten--Food

Shoot! It’s my turn for Tuesday Ten. I totally forgot until this morning. So I’m pulling stuff out of my bag and came up with food. Food is always fun. So lets explore what our Victorian ancestors liked to eat, particularly Americans. I’m going through books and menus to come up with this list.

1.) Champagne. Lots of it for the aristocrats anyway and I suspect for some of the upper middle class as well. I’m not sure why it was so prevalent, (mostly in the latter part of the century) but it was so much that I believe Ned Greenway, who was to San Franciscan society what Ward McAllister was to New York Society, was originally a champagne importer. At the very least he was much admired for the amount of champagne he could drink.

There was, interestingly, a nasty disease that killed many European grapes and thus destroyed whole vineyards during the Victorian era. Whether or not this had something to do with the love of champagne, though, I don’t know. That's something that will require some more in-depth research.

2.)Duck. This is on pretty much every menu I’ve come across.

3.) Tarrapin—turtle. Lots and lots of turtle eaten at this period of time. The big kinds, not the little snapping turtle that we most of us are familiar with. It was a delicacy, don’t ask me why. As I recall they found the turtles off the North Carolina coast. I suspect this is when people started creating Mock Turtle soup.

4.)Ices—Again, on every menu. Often served at balls too. You couldn’t go anywhere social without coming across ices. I assume the term “ices” referred to fruit ice, but you find a lot of ice cream as well.

5.) Oysters—I’ve talked about oysters in other blogs. They were everywhere, probably because they were cheap and filling. There were oyster houses all over New York.

6.) French—not a food I know, but I thought I’d point out that a LOT of the menus I see from the era are in French. And these are from several different books. What I have found to be especially annoying is that when I try to translate them using an internet translator, they don’t translate. I honestly don’t know how any of these people figured out what they were eating. Which of course, comes across in my books. . .

7.)Celery—yeah that veggie that you eat when you’re dieting. My husband’s grandmother called it rabbit food. It was a delicacy to Victorians, given prominence on the table. It even had its own holders. No, I totally do not understand it. You can find a Victorian celery holder for the bargain price of $995 here:

8.) Beer—It didn’t come into prominence really until after 1850 or so with the influx of German immigrants according to Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts. But according to this site there were a few breweries before mid-century:

It does seem, though, breweries did start popping up all over the mid-west in mid-century. As we moved west, breweries started popping up out there too—San Francisco in 1849, Colorado in 1859. Still, beer came in kegs and barrels. It was later in the century before you could get a bottle of beer.

9.)Beef/pork. From what I’ve read, Americans ate quite a bit of pork at the beginning of the century. It was pretty much a staple. But by mid-century we start seeing more and more beef, and much, more more after the Civil War. I suspect this is due to the combination of canning, refridgeration (as in rail road cars and ice boxes) and of course the Texas long horn, all of which gave us the cowboy era too. After the Civil War, the East could not get enough.

10.)Chocolate—all right this isn’t really a “Victorian food” per se. But romance writers are often addicted to chocolate—it’s the serotonin thing, I think. So when I started writing this, I believed that chocolate during most of the Victorian era was a flavoring, and for cocoa. But as I research I see that “modern” chocolate came into play in England in 1840ish. The 1851 Expostion in London exhibited bon bons and chocolate creams! Yay, I could have survived as a Victorian after all. I also find this very comforting as I have a Civil War era heroine addicted to chocolate. Now I see this is possible (it would have to be imported but she’s rich) so it works. Yay!

Ghiradelli, by the way, started making chocolate in San Fransisco around 1865 or so. Those lucky Califorians!

So that's my 10. A lot of this, by the way, is off the top of my head from having done this research for so many years. If I get a chance, I'll add some more sources later. Along with the blog on TB I was going to do, and the one on the Sultana too. . .

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Oscar the Ghost

During the Gold Rush days the American River Inn, built in 1853, was known as the American Hotel. This historical landmark, located in Georgetown, California, is known for its hospitality and loneliness...and its ghost. A gruff old miner haunts Room 5. He abruptly makes his presence known on a whim, but despite his disheveled appearance, he rarely frightens the guests. A man of tender nature, he loves three things – honeymooners or happy lovers, Room 5 of the Inn, and his long-dead girlfriend for whom he’s still pining. Rumor is that he last saw her in Room 5.

The American Hotel was constructed over a productive lode known as the Woodside Mine. It’s been told at one point as much as $90,000 worth of gold was pulled from the earth within a two-week period. Then, as if in retribution the mine claimed the lives of many of the hardworking men by trapping them within its confines. The ground slowly sucked the air out of the trapped miners, but did not spit them out. A basement wall hides their grim story.

Oscar, the ghost, survived the disaster. He was a hearty soul of the 1800’s. He must have made an impact on the townsfolk as his name is synonymous with Georgetown even to this day. He is remembered by stories passed down through generations as a gruff old poke, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, ambitious and anxious to find his fortune. If there was a gold strike, he was the first to pick up a shovel. He was fearless in the rickety mine shafts and tapped off river channels.

Oscar had a romantic heart and foolishly lost it to a nameless “woman of the evening.” Many years her senior, he was smitten enough to dream of making her his wife. They had long talks before and after lovemaking. She told of missing her family in the east and of making enough money to return there.

Just above the Woodside Mine that he’d once worked, his death came quickly. When he wasn’t searching for gold, he worked as a carpenter on the hotel property to be near his love. History shows he was quite jealous of her. A heckler, who was a former client of his girlfriend, insisted on belittling her name. After words were spoken between the two men, a scuffle prevailed and in the heated moments that followed, the aggressor shot Oscar dead on the steps of the American Hotel. His body died, but his spirit remained.

The ghostly activity seems to center around the top of the stairs and in Room 5. When new owners started renovating Room 5,
they felt very uncomfortable in the room. On a hot day they felt chilled when something would brush past them. They could physically feel it, but no one was there. What’s interesting to note is that none of the guests have been terrified of Oscar. Even though he is gruff looking, he’s a friendly ghost and smiles at the lovers as he walks through the rooms as if he belongs there. He especially takes pride in appearing to honeymooners as if he wants to be a part of their happiness.

A statesman and his wife checked into Room 5. At 3:00 a.m. a man dressed in old, tattered clothes walked through the closed door. (Oscar always enters through the door that opens onto the balcony and leaves through the door at the top of the stairs. It makes no difference if the door is open or shut, he doesn’t take time to fiddle with it.) Their light switched on for no reason and the ghost smiled as he continued walking through the closed door to the hall. They both heard Oscar’s footsteps seemingly go down the stairs to the main part of the house, but admitted neither of them got out of bed to check. Their light then went off. When the statesman turned the light knob, it went back on because the lamp had been turned off the entire time. Electricians were brought to check out the problem, but found no possible electrical reason for the annoying fiasco.

Because a woman’s voice is sometimes heard from the depths of the unknown inside the Inn, it’s interesting to learn that soon after Oscar’s death a beautiful woman of the evening attired herself in her finest negligee and, with liquor in hand, leaped to her death from the balcony of the American Hotel. The doctor noted that her neck was broken instantly. Could it have been preceded by a broken heart?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Victorians & Vampires

I'm completing research on a new short vampire story set during the Civil War and bought a book on the origins of vampire lore.

Although I knew Dracula was published during the Victorian era, I hadn't realized how many novels and stories during the period revolved around vampires. Aside from Dracula, though, these vampires weren't your classic blood-suckers. There were a lot of variations as there is in vampire legends and folklore around the world.

1) Edgar Allen Poe's story "Ligeia" (1838) is the tale of a dead woman who brings back the corpse of her husband's second wife.

2) Smyth Upton's novel, The Last of the Vampires (1845) held that vampirism was a special form of magic.

3) G. M. W. Reynold's Faust (1847) reflected the same theme where vampires used sacrifice to obtain life, pleasure and power.

4)W. Harrison Ainworth's Auriol (1850) is a tale of immortality gained through human sacrifice.

5) In 1853, the first English language novel, Spiritual Vampirism was a story about energy draining vampires who could be men or women.

6) Two more novels in 1890 and two in 1897 also featured energy draining vampires.

7) Vampires by Julian Gordon (1891) used vampirism as a metaphor for the destructive relationship between the characters.

8) In 1892, in The Lost Stradavarius, a sorcerer drains energy from musicians who play a certain violin.

9) In a story by W. L. Alden in 1894, a teacher's talents are absorbed by one of her students.

10) And of course, the king of all vampire novels, Dracula, by Bram Stoker came out in 1897.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters by Rosemary Ellen Guiley: Checkmark Books, 2005.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Scandalous Victorian, Caroline Clemmons

It's interview day! I keep forgetting! Here she is, Caroline Clemmons.

Why do you write historical?

I love history. When I was a child, my favorite time was when my dad would tell stories about his family coming to Texas and the adventures they encountered in daily life. It seemed exciting to me, plus that time with my dad was special. That probably made history special. As a small child, I had loved Roy Rogers, so learning one of our ancestors was a Texas Ranger for a short time and another a sheriff impressed me. The first novels I read were historicals--Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain. Then I spent a time reading all the Nancy Drew mysteries with an occasional historical thrown in, but history remained important to me. After I had my fill of Nancy Drew, I always chose historicals over contemporary stories. Now, I read all over the industry, but I prefer writing historicals.

What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?

I love the entire nineteenth century and read voraciously from Regencies to Victorians. I especially love writing post- Reconstruction Texas, though, particularly the 1880's.

What is it about the era that most intrigues you?

It's less controversial to deal with because there was no slavery and the Civil War was over. At the same time, it was before telephones and autos so people on ranches and in small towns were still somewhat isolated. The stiff rules of city life back East didn't apply as stringently. People were judged more by their character than their lineage. Families often had no one but themselves on whom they could rely. It was a difficult time, but one with considerable opportunity for those willing to work. It bred strong personalities and close-knit families.

Where do you get your information?

I've done extensive research, and have my favorite books to consult. I especially like a Texas book titled LONE STAR. It's not as dry as many research books. Ha. In our area of Texas, I was fortunate enough to visit a ranch which has been in the same family since 1859 and have the book written by the current owner, THE PAINTED POST. This is about that ranch in North Central Texas, and the ranch house includes the original cabin structure which now is used as the home's bathroom. There's another family, the Kemp family, in our area who have an open house each spring when the bluebonnets are in bloom. They have the cabin built by the Shaw ancestor, and have moved in other homes representing each era up to a Craftsman type brick on the hill above the little village they've arranged. It's like a little tour through the area's history. The owner has furnished them with appropriate antiques for each home. I take every tour of antique homes in our area, visit ranches, do whatever I can to immerse myself in the history of Texas. Whenever I've travelled around the state, I've visited sites I've considered for a book. My family history has also helped me. When I've visited other areas in which my family lived, I've toured early structures, touched the hand-hewn planks, listened to the stories told by the surviving family members. History inspires me.

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a book about an unusual heroine [aren't we all?] who believes herself to be a klutz with no skills, but who learns she is an amazing woman who can adapt and defend herself. While her stepfather was alive, he protected her from his two sons, but now he's died. Her two worthless stepbrothers have used her as collateral in a high stakes poker game and lost her to an evil man, and she's on the run. She encounters the hero, obviously, or there'd be no romance. His past and hers are intertwined to add lots of complications.

How many books have you written?

Written or sold? LOL Different numbers.
I've sold three historical romances and one novella. I have another book on an editor's desk awaiting her decision. I have several "under the bed" which will never see the light of day and several others I hope will sell eventually.

Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?

Yes, I've written the first of a series of contemporary cozy mysteries about a woman who manages her family's garden center and landscape center, and have completed the first three chapters of the second book in that series. I also have the first of a second series about an eccentric mystery writer [pf course there's no connection to me] who sees crimes everywhere and hope that will also be a series. I am plotting my marketing strategy now for those.
What challenges have you faced in your career?

The most damaging thing for my career was a really bad agent who almost killed my career. She talked a good story to me, but was not doing what she promised. She's no longer approved by RWA, by the way.

I've also had periods of poor health, like the four month bout with pneumonia and bronchitis I went through this winter. For years, my mom depended on me for transportation and assistance and that required a lot of my time, but--sadly--she died last year.

One of the greatest challenges currently is the difficulty of breaking back in to publishing. There are so many good writers now, that it's really tough for anyone who's not sold recently and didn't have a best seller or huge fan base to make a sale. I'm not giving up, though.
Conversely, my husband is very supportive, so he doesn't mind when I desert housekeeping for the computer, and he's a great help.

What is you writing schedule like?

It varies. Some days I can write ten pages, some days none. The most I've written is thirty, but it's rare to have the stamina and uninterrupted time to get that many
pages done. I like Merline Lovelace's plan to do five pages a day. That's doable.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Luck of the Draw

With The Model Man released and my work load gradually easing up, I’m finally able to get back to the historical research I’ve started—and abandoned—and started again—so many times.

My hero is a sometime-snake-oil salesman, not above taking money from innocent farmers who are convinced he can make it rain or selling the odd elixir guaranteed to cure all ills. But more often than not he makes his living as a gambler (just so long as he’s not making an honest living, this guy is happy. Some hero, huh?). And like most gamblers from the old west, he’s not above using gadgets and gizmos to eliminate chance and tilt the scales in his favor.

Here are some of the things I’ve come across in my research that he –and other cardsharps like him--might have used to ply his trade.

Blue tinted spectacles. This one threw me. I never dreamed they had anything this advanced in the Old West. These enable the wearer to detect the phosphorescent ink on marked cards—which is invisible to the naked eye.

Card Trimmer. This could be used to mend the frayed edges of an old deck—or to shave a tiny portion from certain cards to make them easy to find in the deck.

Corner rounder. The companion to the card trimmer. Used to cut new corners on an entire deck, or to mark particular cards by slightly altering the corners.

Card pricker. This little brass plunger would drive a needle into the face of the card and raise a tiny mark on the back—think Braille—the dealer could tell by the positions of the bumps which cards were sliding through his fingers.

Marked Cards. The most popular and the thing that first came to my mind. Special markings on the cards reveal their value to the dealer, usually by a symbol innocently hidden in the design on the back of the deck. This symbol would rotate clockwise depending on the face value of the card. (Suits were less important than number cards in many games, so they were often left unmarked.)

Holdouts were ingenious devices designed to let the gambler "hold out" certain cards and play them when the time was right and the pot was full:

Sleeve holdout. This device featured an extra wide cuff that buckled around the wearer’s upper arm and extended a playing card into his palm when he bent his elbow.

Breastplate hold out. This was sewn inside the gambler’s coat and attached by a long cord to his boot. He could conceal or produce an entire hand of cards simply by stretching or bending his leg.

Hold out vest. This vest had a single strip of elastic sewn into it to hold a card or two—and included an additional loop for a small pencil used to mark cards.

Fanny pack hold out? LOL. Not sure what this one was called. But a pouch that looks amazingly like a fanny pack was strapped about the waist under the gambler’s vest. It contained a spring-loaded frame that would hold several cards or an entire deck in reserve for just the right moment. Like the breastplate holdout, it was manipulated by the wearer’s leg.

The Kepplinger holdout. The finest of its class and undoubtedly the most famous of the holdout devices. This harness of pulleys, cords and telescoping silver-plated tubes reached from a man’s forearms down to his knees. The gambler would activate this device by simply spreading his knees ever so slightly and the claw like “sneak” hidden beneath two layers of a special double shirt sleeve moved the cards into his hand. For a description and a drawing

Source: The Old West Time Life Series: The Gamblers.