The First 'Confidence Man' And Other Historic Cheats
The First ‘Confidence Man’ And Other Historic Cheats

The First ‘Confidence Man’ And Other Historic Cheats

Khalid Elhassan - November 18, 2019

The First ‘Confidence Man’ And Other Historic Cheats
P. T. Barnum with some of his smaller show members. Pintrest

1. The Giant of Cardiff of Takes on a Life of Its Own

Archaeologists, scientists, and other scholars who saw the Cardiff Giant declared it a fraud almost as soon as they saw. However, many theologians and preachers stepped forth and passionately defended its authenticity, and crowds of the curious and faithful kept coming in ever greater numbers. Hull, who had spent the equivalent of about $60,000 in current dollars, sold his share in the Cardiff Giant to a syndicate for about half a million in today’s money. The Giant was then moved to Syracuse, where it drew ever larger crowds.

Eventually, huckster P. T. Barnum offered the equivalent of a million dollars for the find. When the owners refused to sell, Barnum commissioned his own plaster copy and exhibited it in New York City. He declared his to be the authentic Cardiff Giant, and that the one in Syracuse was a fake. That brazenness worked, giving rise to the phrase, coined in reference to those paying to see Barnum’s copy, that “there’s a sucker born every minute“. Lawsuits about authenticity followed, and in the subsequent litigation, Hull finally confessed to the hoax. The court declared both Giants fakes, and ruled that Barnum could not be sued for calling a fake giant a fake.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Archaeology Magazine, Volume 54, Number 1, January / February 2001 – “God’s Hands” Did the Devil’s Work

Atlantic, The, December 19th, 2017 – Trofim Lysenko: The Soviet Era’s Deadliest Scientist is Regaining Popularity in Russia

Head Stuff – William Chaloner, Master Counterfeiter

IO9 – This May Be the Longest Con in Pseudoscience

Levinson, Thomas – Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist (2010)

Listvrese – 10 of History’s Most Prolific Con Artists and Their Famous Cons

Live Science, June 25th, 2008 – A Savage Hoax: The Cave Men Who Never Existed

Marketplace, October 31st, 2018 – What Orson Welles and ‘War of the Worlds’ Taught Us About Economic Panic

Money Inc. – The 20 Most Notorious Con Artists of All Time

Museum of Hoaxes – Lord Gordon-Gordon

Natural History Museum – Piltdown Man

New York Herald, July 8th, 1849 – Arrest of the Confidence Man

Quartz, February 17th, 2017 – The Cottingley Fairy Hoax of 1917 is a Case Study in How Smart People Lose Control of the Truth

Smithsonian Magazine, December 15th, 2009 – Crop Circles: The Art of the Hoax

Smithsonian Magazine, February 1st, 2010 – When the Soviet Union Chose the Wrong Side on Genetics and Evolution

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