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Fred Neamier Dropped His Roll


The headline read “Dropped His Roll: Fred Neamier Runs up Against a Sure Thing Game and Drops $40.”

According to the Fargo Daily Forum and Republican on this date (September 11) in 1895, “Fred Neamier, a green looking Norwegian boy reported to Chief Barnes this morning that he had been buncoed out of $40 in one of the hotels.”

“Bunco,” a game played in social clubs and at house parties, involves three dice. Back in the late 1800s it was less reputable, often played in the back rooms of speakeasies, which were sometimes called “blind pigs.”

Proprietors got around the prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages in the speakeasies by advertising the chance to see such curiosities as a “blind pig from Greenland.” They charged a small admittance fee and a complimentary glass of liquor was thrown in.

The paper continued: “The boy has been working out harvesting near the city, and got in yesterday with about $40, which represented his earnings for the fall.” He went to his hotel, and at the rear of the building found men shaking dice. Neamier says every time they threw the dice, a twenty-one point “bunco” would come up. Finally one of the men wanted to bet the other $100 that it wouldn’t come again. But the lucky roller didn’t have any money, so he turned around to the prospective victim and asked for a loan of that amount.”

Well, Fred he didn’t have $100, but he did have $40, and this looked like a winning streak if he ever saw one. This was no small amount. In 1895, $40 had the purchasing power of $1070 today. One of the men treated Neamier to a glass of beer.

The story went on: “Neamier wanted to be accommodating – and he had an idea that he had a sure thing – so he pulled out his money and gave up his $40.” The dice were thrown, the bunco didn’t come, and the two men took the money and left.

Maybe Neamier was a green-looking boy, but he knew when he had been buncoed, and reported the incident to Chief Barnes, who accompanied Neamier to the hotel. The hotel keeper said he knew nothing, and they could not find the men who had the money.

Chief Barnes and the boy went back to the police station and the chief sent Officer Garvey and the boy to the hotel with a message: Unless the $40 was forthcoming immediately he would bust the house for running a blind pig.

The story ended: “After considerable argument the money was handed over, and Neamier expressed it to his home in Minnesota. No arrests will be made.”



Fargo Daily Forum & Republican , September 11, 1895, Wed. p.m. edition, page 4. Heading: Dropped His Roll, Fred Neamier Runs up Against a Sure Thing Game and Drops $40--No Arrests Have Been Made.

$1070.00 in the year 2010 has the same "purchase power" as $40 in the year 1895.

Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to Present. Retrieved from http://www.measuringworth.com/ppowerus/result.php

Dakota Datebook written by James Horsley