Captain Kirk would make a great con man, wouldn’t he?

rattlesnake oil advertisement from old newspaperI’m currently reading a reprint of David Maurer’s 1940 The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man. It’s totally fascinating; among other things, I had no idea how much the glamorous conmen of the first half of the 20th century relied on payoffs to crooked police and local political systems for protection from prosecution. (Am I naïve for thinking that sort of thing is no longer very common? Maybe.)

Anyway, here’s a tidbit I just had to share:

Indiana Harry, the Hashhouse Kid, Scotty, and Hoosier Harry [RL's note: apparently a disproportionate amount of top conmen have been from Indiana] were returning to America on the Titanic when it sank. They were all saved. After the rescue, they not only put in maximum claims for lost baggage, but collected the names of dead passengers for their friends, so that they too could put in claims.

And here’s something I can’t help finding pretty romantic:

Once Jerry Daley made a little side trip to La Salle, Illinois. To kill time there he dropped in on a beauty contest. There on the platform was a little raven-haired Irish girl who immediately caught his fancy. He began to circulate about the crowd and sound out sentiment for her. She didn’t seem to be very popular. The fact that the odds were against her aroused Jerry’s sporting blood to the extent that he began to buy votes for her. Whenever he encountered opposition he called into play all his ability as a fixer [someone in charge of bribes to police, politicians, etc.] with excellent success. When all the votes were counted afterward, his little protégée led by an overwhelming number. That night Jerry married her.

That really shouldn’t be so cute.

Any other con artist fans out there? Welcome to Temptation and Faking It are two of my all-time favorite romances, and I’d love recommendations for more con-themed stories!

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