The Brooklyn Bridge, near Manhattan, was completed in 1883.
At that time a 20 year old small time scammer by the name of George C Parker saw an opportunity.
Seeing a tourist looking at the bridge admiringly he decided to use the skills he had learned as a confidence trickster to see if he could sell Brooklyn Bridge!
Amazingly, he did.
When he considered how easy it had been to pocket a few hundred dollars from the gullible tourist he decided to give up on his other scams and concentrate on selling Brooklyn Bridge full time.
Parker would hang around the bridge for hours, looking for someone who looked gullible enough to fall for his lines.
His usual approach was to engage his target in a conversation about how he was going to set up a toll booth in order to collect a fare from everyone crossing the bridge.
As Parker was an engineer, rather than a businessman (or so he claimed), he needed assistance with this part of the operation.
If his victim seemed interested in running the toll booth for him then Parker would lead the conversation onto how he didn’t have time to spend on this bridge as he had more to build.
He would therefore offer to sell the bridge to his gullible listener.
This ploy worked many times.
THE $50,000 SALE
In fact, Parker received as much as $50000 for the bridge on occasion!
He also sold it for as little as $50 when he realised that his target had little money.
Parker would even offer loans to those who couldn’t afford to buy the bridge outright, charging them monthly interest on top of whatever he could scam them for there and then.
There were several occasions when ‘purchasers’ had to be ushered off of Brooklyn Bridge by police whilst trying to collect tolls or erect barriers.
Although Brooklyn Bridge is the landmark that Parker sold most, he also duped people into buying Madison Square Garden, Grant’s Tomb, Metropolitan Museum of Art and even the Statue of Liberty!
Parker managed to elude the law until 1928 when he was arrested on charges of swindling.
He received a life sentence at the notorious Sing Sing prison where he later died in 1937.