This image is the cover for the book Old West Swindlers

Old West Swindlers

True stories of nineteenth-century crooks, con artists, and quacks—including the man who “sold” the Brooklyn Bridge.

Gunslingers and outlaws weren’t the only ones who made the West wild. The nineteenth century was the golden era of riverboat gamblers, crooked railroad contractors, and filthy-rich medical quacks. These crooks made a living deceiving people who took a stranger at face value and left their doors unlocked. Throw in some get-rich-quick schemes and a generous mixture of whiskey and there was never a shortage of suckers.

Conman George Parker was able to stay in business for forty years by “selling” public structures such as Madison Square Garden and the Statue of Liberty. He even “sold” the Brooklyn Bridge as often as twice a week. For most, the Salted Gold Mine or the Magic Wallet cons were enough to satisfy their greed. However, the more ambitious grifters tried the Big Store, an illegal underground betting parlor like the one seen in the movie The Sting. With an honest-looking face and a lack of morals, these scammers played a big role in giving the frontier its lawless reputation—and this book tells their stories.

Laurence J. Yadon, Robert Barr Smith

Laurence J. Yadon is an attorney, mediator, and arbitrator. He presents on various legal subjects and crime history. A number of Yadon’s ancestors participated in some of the most violent wartime incidents in Missouri and were related by marriage to the Youngers of the James-Younger gang and their first cousins the Daltons. He is the coauthor of Pelican’s 100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen: 1839-1939; 200 Texas Outlaws and Lawmen: 1835-1935; Ten Deadly Texans; and Arizona Gunfighters. Yadon resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A History Channel commentator, Robert Barr Smith is the author of more than thirty articles and five books on the American Old West. He has edited several titles on outlaws, including the four that Yadon previously coauthored for Pelican. A retired colonel, Smith served more than twenty years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and earned the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit while serving in the United States Army. He is a former deputy attorney general of California and a retired professor of the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Pelican Publishing Company