How a con man sold the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City for years

Posted on Aug 6, 2021      59

There’s an interesting expression in the U.S., “You could sell him the Brooklyn Bridge!” So they say about people who are too naïve and gullible in money matters. The phrase did not appear out of nowhere. A certain con man named George Parker successfully sold the landmark of New York for many years. It may seem strange, but customers were found.

The Brooklyn Bridge was inaugurated on May 24, 1883. Already on the first day, about 150,000 people used the structure. However, after a few days, there were rumors that the bridge was too unreliable and could collapse at any time. In order to prove its strength, the New York authorities took a bold step: they rented 21 elephants from the circus and led them over the bridge. Soon, there were those willing to sell and buy such a wonderful bridge.

Not much is known about George Parker himself. It is assumed that he was born in New York, and the first time he sold the Brooklyn Bridge was after an argument with friends. He assured them that he could sell anything. And they jokingly suggested that George sell the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s how it all started.

He would meet people right on the bridge and start telling them that he owned the bridge but had sold it. Parker explained how it was profitable to own such a wonderful structure. At any time, you could block it off with a barrier and charge pedestrians and vehicles.

George Packer was probably a born sales agent indeed: he found willing buyers for this wonderful bridge and closed the deal with false papers. If the buyer did not have the necessary amount of money, Parker made concessions - he allowed to purchase the bridge on credit and pay the money in installments.

The client left satisfied; he owned the whole bridge in a vast city. No one knew even that in New York City, city property could not be sold into private hands. As soon as the “owner” tried to set up a checkpoint to charge for the use of the bridge, the police would show up.

George Parker himself even opened a real estate office. Naturally, it was also “fake”. As can be seen, one Brooklyn Bridge fraudster was not enough, in the sphere of his interests have fallen and other objects. For example, he successfully “sold” New York’s Madison Square Garden Sports Complex, the Statue of Liberty, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All the buyers received the same phony certificates as the lucky “owners” of the Brooklyn Bridge.

But, all good things come to an end sometime. In 1928, George Parker was arrested. On December 17, the court sentenced the crook to life imprisonment. Parker was sent to Sing Sing prison, located in Ossining, 48 kilometers from New York. In the dungeons of the prison brilliant combinator spent 8 years, and here he died in 1936.