[Ads-l] Is this a con?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 6 02:03:29 UTC 2015

THE confidence game existed long before the term itself was first used,
most likely in 1849, during the trial of William Thompson. The elegant
Thompson, according to The New York Herald, would approach passers-by,
start up a conversation, and then come forward with a unique request. “Have
you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?”


Apparently not:

Arrest of the Confidence Man.—For the last few months a man has been
traveling about the city, known as the “Confidence Man,” that is, he would
go up to a perfect stranger in the street, and being a man of genteel
appearance, would easily command an interview. Upon this interview he would
say after some little conversation, “have you confidence in me to trust me
with your watch until to-morrow;” the stranger at this novel request,
supposing him to be some old acquaintance not at that moment recollected,
allows him to take the watch, thus placing “confidence” in the honesty of
the stranger, who walks off laughing and the other supposing it to be a
joke allows him so to do. In this way many have been duped, and the last
that we recollect was a Mr. Thomas McDonald, of No. 276 Madison street,
who, on the 12th of May last, was met by this “Confidence Man” in William
Street, who, in the manner as above described, took from him a gold lever
watch valued at $110; and yesterday, singularly enough, Mr. McDonald was
passing along Liberty street, when who should he meet but the “Confidence
Man” who had stolen his watch. Officer Swayse, of the Third Ward, being
near at hand, took the accused into custody on the charge made by Mr.
McDonald. The accused at first refused to go with the officer; but after
finding the officer determined to take him, he walked along for a short
distance, when he showed desperate fight, and it was not until the officer
had tied his hands together that he was able to convey him to the police
office. On the prisoner being taken before Justice McGrath, he was
recognized as an old offender by the name of Wm. Thompson, and is said to
be a graduate of the college at Sing Sing. The magistrate committed him to
prison for a further hearing. It will be well for all those persons who
have been defrauded by the “Confidence Man” to call at the police court
Tombs and take a view of him.
Source: New-York Herald, July 8, 1849


All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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