Modern images of this century-old bridge may be striking like the one I found on Wikipedia but the true beauty of the bridge is the old-world craftsmanship.
The Brooklyn Bridge was dedicated on a beautiful day in May of 1883 and the picture below is one artist’s depiction of the bridge as it appeared on that historic day…
To download the full-sized version of this image, please visit Vintage Brooklyn Bridge Image.
While that day may not be a large part of our history, the Brooklyn Bridge itself has become something of an icon related to the gullible and easily conned among us.
Brooklyn Bridge Folklore
Gullible people are often chastised with the phrase, “If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.” That well-known phrase typically refers to the Brooklyn Bridge and the many con artists who regularly tried to sell the bridge to unsuspecting tourists in the early part of the 20th century. This beautiful bridge thankfully remains in it’s original location and safely in one piece.
Oddly enough, it was a 45-year-old municipal worker who resurrected the selling of bridges scam in the 21st century. He almost succeeded in selling a bridge in Russia. Russian police “detained” the man after finding a 200-meter 360 ton metal bridge missing. The municipal worker, rather than sell the bridge in place; used his work truck, removed the span, chopped it up and sold it for scrap,
The bridge in the Ryazan region of Russia, east of Moscow, and it’s theft is being called by the region’s police as “the bulkiest theft of the year .”
While this fellow appears to have actually sold that bridge, it got me to wondering the story behind that old Brooklyn Bridge myth.
The Brooklyn Bridge for Sale
George Parker actually made his living selling many of New York’s most treasured landmarks to the gullible. His list of ‘available properties’ included the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant’s Tomb and the Statue of Liberty. But, Parker was most known for selling the Brooklyn Bridge.
The victim was convinced there was a fortune to be made in controlling access to the bridge. Police had to remove several of these investors from the bridge when they tried to erect toll barriers.
When he would sell Grant’s Tomb, he would pose as the general’s grandson.
His victims had been taken in by his realistic forged documents and a fake office.
George Parker’s real estate career came to an end eight days before Christmas in 1928. He lived his last eight years in Sing Sing Prison where he often entertained guards and his fellow prisoners with tales of his exploits.
Parker was not the only con-man to be sent to Sing Sing for selling the Brooklyn Bridge; William McCloundy served an 30-month prison term for selling the bridge to a tourist in 1901.
The reason these scams worked so well was that the confidence men often preyed on immigrants who were literally just off the boat. They often had money in their pocket, wanted to buy property and launch their American dream. Ellis Island officials in the 1920s were even handing out pamphlets to new arrivals saying ‘You can’t buy public buildings’.
While certainly not an original idea to sell a bridge, perhaps our unnamed thief in Russia can lay claim to being the first man to successfully steal one. Thank goodness no one thought to try selling the Brooklyn Bridge in pieces, otherwise this beautiful landmark and gateway into New York may not have retained its original beautiful stone-work and design.
Filed under: Then & Now