This article appeared in the Dayton Daily Journal on February 11, 1918.
NO. 14 CLOSES DOORS TO PUBLIC NEXT SATURDAY.
But Memories of Place Will Live Many Years in Minds of Many of Dayton's "Blue Bloods"—Interesting Story of Dayton and Its Community Life and Changes Wrought By Time.
Good-bye, "No. 14."
Maybe it's the new social psychology, perhaps it's the ascending moral plane of the people that's responsible for radically changed conditions but "No. 14" is going. On February 16 the doors of what was at one time and for many years, Dayton's classical gambling establishment and rendezvous of the old time sports whose progeny is of an entirely different type these days, will be forever closed.
If you asked "Banty" Eichhorn, the genial and intelligent owner, he'd probably say he didn't know whether it was "social psychology," "community consciousness" or just the "dry wave" which is sweeping the community and which in the march of things is going to close the widely known cafe known as "No. 14." Eichhorn's lease on the barroom just-around the corner from Main on North Market street, expired January 1. It was renewed by consent of Ed Wagner, owner of the building, but can not be extended and Eichhorn must close up shop on February 16.
Community Life Here.
Clustered about "No. 14" is an interesting story of Dayton and its community life—a story known to comparatively few of the present generation but to the sires of days gone by. The story is not a mass of anecdotes because personal reminiscences would in no wise serve to illumine the recital. The background is the trysting place of groups of men of wide range of age whose predilections were for the mathematical law of probabilities taking expression in cards, roulette wheels and faro banks. The associations and the spirit are of other days when grape juice and Bryan bars were preposterous vagaries and when gambling as a social and commercial diversion was open and above board. Moral reformers had not yet emerged from the chrysalis state.
Owned "Money Factory."
Many years ago "No. 10," a saloon, high-class restaurant—and gambling palace was established at No. 10 South Main street by the late Simon Wagner and Jake Ritty. Ritty was a river boat captain and named the place after Island No. 10 of the Mississippi river, a place of historic interest through its Civil war association. Wagner and Ritty dissolved partnership and the latter founded the Pony House on South Jefferson street. Wagner and his son, Simon Wagner, invariably called "Sam," continued "No. 10" until about 1891 when it was taken over by John Hoffman. Subsequently Gertie Dripgs, who, with her husband, Nelson Driggs, were internationally known counterfeiters with their money factory on National avenue, bought the saloon. After her, Kid McCoy, noted pugilist, purchased the place, and with his manager, Con Riley, managed it. Next John Ihrig conducted the emporium for the Dayton Breweries Company and then Cy Voerge and an associate took it. A few years later "No. 10" passed out of existence as such when the room was split in two, one portion being taken by Charles Zonars, the candy man, the other becoming "The Wedge" saloon. The latter was closed in 1904.
Transferred to No. 14.
However, all the operations of the original "No. 10" were transferred to another establishment at 14 South Main street, just two doors south. This was a saloon established by John Ritty. Sam Wagner, the son of one of the original owners of "No. 10" purchased "No. 14" in 1894 and operated uninterruptedly until August 1912, when the Johnston-Shelton Company secured the room. The bar and other features were simply pushed back a few feet and two entrances were constructed, one on Market street and one leading from Main paralleling Market and Third streets Thousands have trod the little private alley leading to the oasis. On Monday night, March 24, 1913, the night before the flood, J. F., best known as "Banty" Eichhorn, who had been Wagner's manager, acquired the historic resort but eliminated all attractions except those resident in the bar itself. For ten years Eichhorn had been in charge of the place, enjoyed the fullest confidence of Wagner and knew the situation. Eichhorn, incidentally, although secretary-treasurer of Bartenders' Union No. 222, is a member of Montgomery County Liquor League, made up of bosses. He has held this dual relationship a number of years.
Removed to Cooper House.
After the Wagners relinquished "No. 10" the) transferred their gambling to the old Cooper House on Second street, now occupied by the Red Cross. Subsequently it was transferred to "No. 14."
Sam Wagner's place was the classical resort for poker, book making, faro and roulette. Craps was never rolled in the place, for Wagner always contended that the fascination was too great for the man of slender means. In fact no poor man or man working on small wages was ever permitted to gamble in "No. 14." The operation of the place reflected the highest known business methods. Wagner kept gambling books. Every man who entered the playing rooms and bought chips was enrolled in a huge ledger. When ht left the tables to cash in, the amount he realized was noted in the book so that for many years, "No. 14" had a complete record of the men who gambled, knowing their investments and their winnings.
Often Paid Losings to Families.
Sam Wagner made it a point to pay back money to the wives, daughters, mothers or sisters of men who gambled—and lost, when they could not afford to take chances with the cards or the wheel
In those roseate days, when money was plentiful, poker, faro, and roulette flourished openly, but "No. 14" had a strong aversion to "shoe string" gamblers and to craps. Wagner enforced order not to allow the return to the playing rooms of men whose circumstances were such as not to afford gambling. Many thousands of dollars were returned to broken hearted women who related the circumstances of their husbands' abandon to the goddess of chance. "No. 14" was intimately known in several states.
But times have changed and so have customs, and after thirty years' contact with the business "Banty" Eichhorn will probably seek new fields During his thirty years' service at the Phillips House, in business in Middletown and with Sam Wagner and later as owner of "No. 14," which was divorced of the glitter of former days, Eichhorn has never been arrested, his place has never been disturbed and he has yet to receive his first reprimand from the police.
"The prohibition movement would have gained mighty little if all places had been conducted as 'Banty' Eichhorn has run 'No. 14,"" said a high city official yesterday.