Historical Documents

Read about the original Confidence Man and his remarkably distilled swindling script in the July 8, 1849 edition of the New-York Herald on the occasion of his arrest.

Everyone in the 1870s and 1880s knew about the green goods men (also known as boodle or sawdust men), yet they managed to ply their trade with great success, selling “counterfeit” money at a fraction of its face value, but really sticking their marks with sheaves of newsprint or bags of sawdust. One of the most notorious of the New York green goods men was Tom Davis, and his death at the hands of one of his marks made headlines in 1885. It may not surprise you to learn that the sucker was a hot-headed Texan with a pistol hidden under his coat.

The following year, another mark tried to catch a pair of swindlers in a sting operation and got no thanks from the police. I guess the time was not yet ripe for “pulling a Norfleet.” Instead, the green goods men were only growing bolder and less euphemistic. It wouldn’t be until after the turn of the new century that the green goods swindle would begin to recede, a victim of modernity and the sharp minds of the United States Post Office Inspectors.

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