This New Yorker is supposedly the guy who came up with ballsy idea of “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to unsuspecting rubes after it opened in 1886.
Shockingly, the scam worked. Parker is said to have sold the bridge twice a week for years.
His typical marks: gullible tourists and immigrants. And it wasn’t just the bridge he sold but Grant’s Tomb, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other monuments.
“He preyed on unsuspecting foreigners who believed that America was the land of opportunity, assuring them they could buy as an investment the right to charge tolls or fees for access to the landmarks,” writes Tamar Frankel in The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle.
Parker’s success convinced other swindlers to try their hand at selling the bridge. But they may not have gone as far as Parker did, who set up a fake real estate office and forged documents proving he was the owner.
He was arrested for fraud a few times and finally sent to Sing Sing for life in 1928. His one legacy: the phrase “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” was inspired by his ruse.
[Images: NYPL Digital Gallery]