The World's Most Impressive Fakes, Forgeries, and Finds that Made History
The World’s Most Impressive Fakes, Forgeries, and Finds that Made History

The World’s Most Impressive Fakes, Forgeries, and Finds that Made History

Khalid Elhassan - December 23, 2022

The World’s Most Impressive Fakes, Forgeries, and Finds that Made History
Suckers were hustled to view the Cardiff Giant. Messenger News

Calling a Fake a Fake is Not Grounds for a Lawsuit

Archaeologists, scientists, and other scholars who saw the Cardiff Giant declared it a fake and a fraud. However, many theologians and preachers stepped forth and passionately defended its authenticity. In the meantime, crowds of the curious and faithful came in ever greater numbers. George Hull, who had spent the equivalent of about $60,000 in 2022 dollars, sold his share to a syndicate for about $600,000 in today’s money. The Giant was then moved to Syracuse, where it drew ever larger crowds.

Eventually, huckster PT 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 that his was the authentic Cardiff Giant, and that the one in Syracuse was a fake. That brazenness worked, and gave 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 were fake, 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

Adams, Mark – Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City (2015)

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Troy

Ancient Origins – Questioning the Mycenaean Death Mask of Agamemnon

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

BBC – El Dorado: The Truth Behind the Myth

California History, Vol. 81, No. 2 (2002) – Who Made Drake’s Plate? Hint: It Wasn’t Francis Drake

Centre of Church Studies – The False Donation of Constantine

Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Oct., 1968) – Father of History or Father of Lies; the Reputation of Herodotus

Cracked – 15 Ancient Artifacts That Turned Out to be Worthless Garbage

Dolnick, Edward – The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century (2008)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Donation of Constantine

Encyclopedia Britannica – Herodotus

Faulkner, Neil – Lawrence of Arabia’s War (2017)

Federer, Kenneth L. – Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walum Olum (2010)

Goodman, Matthew – The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Bat-Men in Nineteenth Century New York (2008)

Ha’artez, March 7th, 2013 – Con Artist: The True Story of a Master Forger

History Collection – 10 Examples of Fake News in American History

History Today, Volume 61, Issue 7, July, 2011 – The Discovery of Machu Picchu

Journal of the Society of the History of Discoveries, Volume 40, 2008, Issue 1 – Discovery as Autobiography: The Machu Picchu Case

Lawrence, T.E. – Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922)

Live Science – ‘Lost City’ of Atlantis: Facts & Fable

National Geographic – Atlantis

National Geographic – El Dorado

NPR – How Mediocre Dutch Artist Cast The Forger’s Spell

PBS – Lawrence of Arabia

Science Beat – Drake’s Plate: The End of the Mystery?

Science Magazine, November 7th, 2000 – Archaeologist Faked Important Discovery: Famous Amateur Admits Planting “Oldest” Stone Tools in Japan

Smithsonian Magazine, July 2nd, 2015 – The Great Moon Hoax Was Simply a Sign of Its Time

Smithsonian Magazine, October 16th, 2017 – The Cardiff Giant Was Just a Big Hoax

Tribble, Scott – A Colossal Hoax: The Giant From Cardiff That Fooled America (2009)

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