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Complete List of Old West Scoundrels

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ScoundrelLike today and all of history, Scoundrels have unfortunately always been more than abundant. But, in history, they could often get away with their lies, cheating, tricks, and cons for much longer than they can today, as they moved from place to place, repeating the same old tricks before   another new audience.

Without the media technology of today, these thieves and swindlers simply took the same con-game to a new place where they weren't known and repeated it again and again.

Sometimes, they changed their names, but often weren't even required to, as back in the days of the Old West , most people didn't ask questions of a newcomer's past.

From pimps, to card sharks, shell game artists, and simple picket pockets, here you'll find a wealth of unsavory characters of the Old West.


Scoundrel Index:

  • Charles Allen, aka: Big Time Charlie - After the turn of the century, Big Time Charlie ran one of the most illicit prostitution rings in Denver, Colorado.

  • Philip Arnold (1829-1878) - Along with John Slack, Arnold was a confidence man who masterminded the famous 1872 Diamond Hoax in San Francisco, California. Arnold walked away with more than half a million dollars.

  • "Dr." Samuel Bennett (1791-1853)  – From Shreveport, Louisiana, Dr. Bennett was one of the best known "thimble artists” to ever cruise the Mississippi River.

  • Lou "The Fixer" Blonger, aka Louis H. Belonger (1849-1924) – The leader of the Blonger Brothers, Lou was the organizer of an extensive ring of confidence tricksters that operated for more than 25 years in Denver, Colorado.

  • Albert John Bothwell (1855-1928) - A self-important cattle baron of Wyoming, Bothwell was one of the main instigators of the infamous Wyoming Johnson County War.

  • Edward "Big Ed" Burns - Burns was a conman and crime boss who worked in some of the most infamous camps of the Old West, including running a bunko gang in Leadville, Colorado and Benson, Arizona during the time that the Earps were in nearby Tombstone. Later he joined up with the Soapy Smith Gang in  Denver.

  • George H. Devol (1829-1903) - Probably the greatest riverboat gambler in the history of the Mississippi River, Devol was also a con artist, a fighter, and a master at manipulating men and their money.

  • James Joshua Dolan (1848-1898) - One of the primary instigators of New Mexico's Lincoln County War, James Dolan attempted to control the economy of Lincoln County in the 1870s.

  • Mike Fink (1770?–1823?) - An excellent marksman, Fink soon gained a deadly reputation for demonstrating his shooting skills by shooting mugs of beer off people's heads.

  • Johnson Gallagher, aka: Corn Hole Johnny, Three-card Johnny, Chuck-luck Johnny (1847-??)  - Gambler



  • "Swiftwater" Bill Gates (18??-1935) - An American frontiersman and fortune hunter, Gates became a fixture in the Klondike Gold Rush. Making a fortune, only to squander it drinking, gambling and getting married multiple times (when he was already married.)

  • William "Canada Bill" Jones (18??-1880) - One of the greatest card sharps in history, Jones practiced his three-card monte hustle on the Mississippi River.James "Umbrella Jim" Miner - One of best known shell game men on the Mississippi River, James Miner was called "Umbrella Jim" for his habit of beginning his con game under an umbrella.

  • Lawrence Murphy (1831 or 1834-1878) - An Irishman who immigrated to the United States, Murphy was a Civil War Veteran, cattleman, and businessman, whose greed ultimately spawned New Mexico's Lincoln County War.

  • John Slack - Along with Phillip Arnold, Slack was one of the perpetrators of the 1872 Diamond Hoax in San Francisco, California.

  • Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II (1860-1898) - The most famous bunko man in the Old West, Smith was a con artist and gangster who had a major hand in the organized criminal affairs and operations of Denver and Creede, Colorado, as well as Skagway, Alaska from 1879 to 1898.

  • Al Swearengen - Al Swearengen was a terrible man who ran a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota.

  • William Thompson - Operating in the 1840's, Thompson was a con artist whose deceptions caused the term "confidence man" to be coined.

  • William B. "Lucky Bill" Thornton (182?- 1858) - A proficient shell game operator who plied his "trade" in California and Nevada.

  • Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil (1877-1975) - One of the most famous American con artists of his era, Weil stole over eight million dollars running various scams and was one of the inspirations for the Academy-award winning film The Sting.


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