George Parker (1870 – 1936) was one of the most audacious con men in American history. He made his living selling New York's public landmarks to unwary tourists. His favorite object for sale was the Brooklyn Bridge, which he sold twice a week for years. He convinced his marks that they could make a fortune by controlling access to the roadway. More than once police had to roust naive buyers from the bridge as they tried to erect toll barriers.
Other public landmarks he sold included the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant's Tomb and the Statue of Liberty. George had many different methods for making his sales. When he sold Grant's Tomb, he would often pose as the general's grandson. He even set up a fake "office" to handle his real estate swindles. He produced impressive forged documents to prove that he was the legal owner of whatever property he was selling.
Parker was convicted of fraud three times. After his third conviction on December 17, 1928 he was sentenced to a life term at Sing Sing Prison by a Judge McLaughlin in the Kings County Court. He spent the last eight years of his life there behind bars. He was popular among guards and fellow inmates alike who enjoyed hearing of his exploits. George is remembered as one of the most successful con men in the history of the United States, as well as one of history's most talented hoaxers. His exploits have passed into popular culture, giving rise to phrases such as "and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you", a popular way of expressing a belief that someone is gullible.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
- and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you
Posted by M. Christian