Esquire is nothing new

You know how the higher-end men’s magazines — Esquire, GQ, that sort of thing — have feature articles where they reveal the inner secrets of the mob or what it’s like to be a black market gun dealer or the like? This is, I have discovered, not a new thing.

In 1731, which is two hundred and eighty-three years ago as I write this, Edward Cave (who was expelled from Rugby School, and invented his own type of cannon to go on the outside gate of his house) set up The Gentlemen’s Magazine under the implausible pen-name of “Sylvanus Urban” (meaning, roughly, “forest town”). It was the first thing to actually call itself a magazine, and in the very first issue there is an excellent aside (quoted in John Scarne’s Scarne’s Complete Guide to Gambling) describing the employees of a London casino (or “most notorious gaming-house”, as the Magazine had it; all such casinos were illegal at the time). A paper set of the Magazine is as rare as rocking-horse poo these days (even the British Museum’s set is made up of various separate volumes, some reprinted 25 years or more after initial publication), but thanks to the wonders of the internet images are available: the Bodleian Library in Oxford has a set of scans of the first 25 years or so. Below, because it’s excellent, I have transcribed the short section on said notorious gaming-house.

Next time you read something similar on askmen.com or wherever, know that chaps have been interested in this sort of thing for a terribly long time. And that casino jobs really haven’t ever changed that much, including having shills around to fleece you of your hard-earned money. And, don’t complain, since there is a fellow to fight you for being peevish. I suspect he’s not called a Captain at the MGM Grand, though.

It may be ſome ſort of amuſement to preſent our readers with the following liſt of officers eſtablishſed in the moſt notorious gaming-houſes.

  1. A Commiſſioner, always a proprietor, who looks in of a night, and the week’s accompt is audited by him and two others of the proprietors.
  2. A Director, who ſuperintends the Room.
  3. An Operator, who deals the cards at a cheating game called Faro.
  4. Two Crowpees, who watch the cards, and gather the money for the Bank.
  5. Two Puffs, who have money given them to decoy others to play.
  6. A Clerk, who is a check upon the puffs, to ſee that they ſink none of the money that is given them to play with.
  7. A Squib, is a puff of a lower rank, who ſerves at half ſalary, while he is learning to deal.
  8. A Flaſher, to ſwear how often the bank has been ſtript.
  9. A Dummer, who goes about to recover money loſt at play.
  10. A Waiter, to fill out wine, ſnuff candles, and attend in the gaming-room.
  11. An Attorney, a Newgate ſolicitor.
  12. A Captain, who is to fight any gentleman that is peeviſh for loſing his money.
  13. An Uſher, who lights gentlemen up and down ſtairs, and gives the word to the Porter.
  14. An Orderly man, who walks up and down the outſide of the door, to give notice to the porter, and alarm the houſe, at the approach of the conſtables.
  15. A Runner, who is to get intelligence of the justices meeting.
  16. Link-boys, Coachmen, Chairmen, Drawers, or others, who bring the firſt intellggence of the justices meetings, or of the conſtables being out, at half a guinea reward.
  17. Common bail, Affidavit-men, Ruffians, Bravoes, Aſſaſſins, cum multis aliis.

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