. . . His strength was something terrible, and his deep chest was a human embodiment of Hercules . . . but with all his massiveness of frame he was agile and quick as a ballet dancer. Standing by the bar in a saloon he prided himself upon the fact that he could kick a man’s hat off with a single sweep of his foot. . . .Several interesting bits emerge from this. First, newspapers are great for identifying slang, i.e., the term "the joint." According to the online etymology dictionary:
Burns did anything to make money, and as he seldom had the cash to engage in any of what are termed square gambling schemes, he earned a precarious livelihood by “skingames.” The old Theatre Comique was his favorite haunt. In a little side room known as “the joint,” many is the honest miner whom Big Ed robbed by dice, bunko or crooked poker. A cabinet of mineral specimens in one corner was always the pretext under which the victim was enticed into the den, and the gigantic form of the swindler did not make it desirable for the “sucker” to kick very loud or long.
. . . Might was right, muscle was master, and wherever brute strength was needed, Big Ed was called upon. The quieting effect that his massive form had upon a crowd, was something not readily expressed in words, and when he leaped into a wrangling circle of men, flung a chair out of the window, and said: “Let there be peace,” the silence was painful.
... Slang meaning of "place, building, establishment" (esp. one where persons meet for shady activities) first recorded 1877, Amer.Eng., from an earlier Anglo-Irish sense (1821), perhaps on the notion of a side-room, one "joined" to a main room. The original U.S. sense was especially of "an opium-smoking den.It's also interesting that the poker was crooked, but apparently not the dice nor the bunko. Add to that, apparently Big Ed was employed to keep the peace. Seems it was a common practice to hire thugs as necessary. A big thug no doubt commanded respect and compliance from the "rougher element."
Hmmm. Could be fun to employ a "Big Ed" type of person in some future Silver Rush tale. I'll have to remember that. Too bad there isn't a virtual Big Ed to take take of the anonymous posters of annoying comments to this blog! I'd even suffer a virtual chair through the virtual window to silence them.