125 years ago

man broke bank monte carlo robin quinn charles deville wells gambler fraudster extraordinaire
A gambling hall at the Monte Carlo Casino, the Salle Touzet, named after the architect responsible for its design.  It first opened in 1890, was temporarily closed, and re-opened just after Charles Wells had broken the bank in November 1891.

Charles Wells had reportedly won the equivalent of £6 million during the course of his two visits to Monte Carlo in 1891, first in the summer and then in early November.  Comment and gossip abounded for some time afterwards as journalists speculated on the reasons for his good fortune.  Wells himself always claimed to have developed an infallible system: but since he was trying to tempt wealthy investors to back him it was vital to convince them that he had a winning formula.  His claims were ridiculed by certain newspapers:

‘…what has been said about Mr. Wells’ “system” is all rubbish.  Mr Wells played no system worthy the name, and his good fortune was simply the result of his luck.’

Other journalists referrred to a “put-up-job”, insinuating that Wells and his winnings were a fiction created by the Casino:

‘There are a good many ways of advertising, and for such a concern as that which flourishes at Monaco nothing could be more effectual than the stories of colossal winnings which from time to time issue from Monte Carlo, and make the round of the European press.’

While rumours and theories swirled around the pages of the newspapers, one fact was beyond dispute.  Other people flocked to the principality en masse to try their luck:

THE “WELLS” BOOM

A telegram from Monte Carlo reports that ‘swarms of visitors’ have recently arrived at Monte Carlo, most of them possessed of the one idea of ‘breaking the bank’…

Whatever his secret, Charles Wells was one of the main topics of conversation in Britain and elsewhere.  Following the lead of the popular press, people began to call him ‘Monte Carlo Wells’.  The name stuck, and for the rest of his life – and beyond – he was frequently referred to by this nickname.

For a detailed discussion of how Wells broke the bank, please see my book, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, especially pages 227-238.

Other sources for this blog post: Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 18 and 19 November 1891; Aberdeen Free Press, 19 November 1891; Bridport News, 20 November 1891.  These newspapers can be accessed online via the British Newspaper Archive, which I thoroughly recommend: http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/  The site offers a free trial initially.  Various subscription packages are then available.  Having subscribed, if you do not renew you will sooner or later be offered one month of access to the site for just £1 to tempt you back!  This is unbeatable value.  (Please note that this is an unsolicited testimonial – I am a satisfied user of the site, but have no connection whatsoever with it).

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