Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blind John Condon

John Condon was born in Indiana, and became one of Chicago's great gambling kings. An early associate of Mike McDonald, Condon later developed major gambling innovations, including the world's first gambling boat, the City of Traverse, which he operated together with Big Jim O'Leary.

Condon's business was diminished somewhat by his declining eyesight, by which he earned his moniker. But he was still able to purchase a very large Victorian home here, at 2623 S. Michigan, which had previously been occupied by one of Chicago's foremost families. He was an avid art collector, once outbidding J.P. Morgan in 1905 for the works of an old master.

After McDonald's decline from power, Condon and Mont Tennes slowly monopolized the handbook business in Chicago, based from Condon's race track, the Harlem, in Forest Park. Monopoly is a dangerous business though; in 1907, a gamblers' war broke out between the Tennes operation and a Loop syndicate run by Tom McGinnis. The first shot over the bow was a bombing on July 9, 1907, here at the Condon family home. No one was hurt. Throughout the remainder of 1907 and 1908, dynamite was a common occurrence at the homes of the city's top sports, including three times at Tennes' home alone. Condon's favorite slogan was a gamblers' creed: "Every man has his price, somewhere between a cigar and a million dollars."

Blind John Condon died at age 61 in 1915.


Marilyn Richardson said...

Nice piece. Could you give me a source for the "Every man has his price. . . " quote?

Many thanks,

Kendall said...


I found the quote in the Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1915, "Condon Wealth Cut By Losses, Friends Assert", p. 12.

"With the death of the former race track ruler old timers of Chicago's sporting fraternity were moved to reminiscence concerning him. Friend or foe -- and he had many of the latter -- all conceded his ability as an organizer and in handling men. His philosophy, they said, is epitomized in one of his favorite expressions: 'Every man has his price, somewhere between a cigar and a million dollars.'"

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