Born, William Jones in a gypsy tent in Yorkshire, England he eventually emigrated to Canada, where he learned the skinning game of three-card monte from veteran monte thrower, Dick Cady.
Moving to greener pastures, Bill headed to America and the Riverboats. After two decades of honing his skills on the boats he was acknowledged by his peers as the "greatest" three-card monte sharp of all times.
The great George Devol once stated that Jones was a character one might travel the length and breadth of the land and never see his match or run across his equal.
Imagine a man so skilled at "working" the cards he had no equal. But, his medium-sized frame supported a chicken tow-haired head with blue eyes and a mouth that reached nearly from ear to ear, who walked with a shuffling half-apologetic sort of gait and resembled an idiot with a face as smooth as a womans. He had a squeakish boy type voice and gawky manners. His clothes were always several sizes too large. Add to all this his ability to put on a good natured sort of grin that led most to believe he was the rankest sort of sucker, the greenest sort of country jake. You now have, in your minds eye, what Bill looked like and how he came across to strangers, his future victims.
Moving from the riverboats to the trains as the westward expansion took place he and his fellow sharps filled the trains much to the pleasure of the train owners. But it wasn't long before all those "Sharps" caused passengers to complain to officials and action had to be taken.
The railroads put in place a policy that prevented Sharps from plying their trade on the rails. Bill countered by writing to the Union Pacific Railroad, offering to pay $10,000.00 annually for the rights to work his three-card monte magic. Additionally, he promised to limit his victims to Commercial travelers from Chicago and Methodist Preachers. His offer was soundly rejected but it shows just how profitable his scam was. In todays money, $10,000.00 then amounts to $200,000.00 today.
For decades, Jones made money swindling people, not only in three-card monte, but also as a card sharp at poker and other games. However, he too, was a gambler, who loved the game of Faro, generally re-circulating his profits rather than holding on to them. As the legend goes, Bill once lost his stake in a crooked card game only to be admonished by a fellow gambler: " Didn't you know that game was crooked ?", to which Bill responded, " Sure, but it was the only game in town."
When he died in 1880 in Reading, Pennsylvania, he was penniless and was buried at public expense. However, when many of his fellow gamblers heard of his death, a group from Chicago raised some money, repaid the City of Reading and erected a marker for "Canada Bill".