May 03, 2005

Behind the Curtain: Arthur Ferguson

I came across, in my wanderings, the following extract which I copied and pasted from I don't recall where but which inspired me to do another Behind the Curtain post:

In 1924, a Scottish conman by the name of Arthur Ferguson succeeded in extracting from a wealthy American businessman a down payment of £6,000 on Nelson's Column. Ferguson had met his victim in Trafalgar Square and convinced him that it was being sold to reduce the national debt and that he was the estate agent charged with effecting the top-secret sale. Emboldened by his crime, Ferguson went on to con other tourists out of a £1,000 downpayment on Big Ben and a £2,000 deposit for Buckingham Palace, before heading for America, where he was caught trying to sell the Statue of Liberty to an Australian tourist.

The information on Ferguson is scant, unfortunately. In fact, I suppose I can't really do a Behind the Curtain Post for him considering the paucity of material.

I found this as an aside in an essay about another conman, although it appears to have been cribbed without attribution from the FreeDictionary:

It finally dawned on Ferguson that America was indeed the land of opportunity, and so he emigrated there in 1925. He sold the White House to a rancher on the installment plan for yearly payments of $100,000 USD, and tried to sell the Statue of Liberty to a visiting Australian, who went to the police. The authorities had been looking for the mysterious salesman of public landmarks, and Ferguson went to jail, to be released in 1930. He profitably continued his trade in Los Angeles until his death in 1938.

Even if this is not really a Behind the Curtain post, I don't know what else to call it and I would have really enjoyed meeting this fellow. Although I'd have left my wallet at home.

Posted by Random Penseur at May 3, 2005 11:37 AM

Excellent scam!

Posted by: GrammarQueen at May 3, 2005 05:10 PM

It's amazing how many people fall for the "buy the bridge" scam. You can't even say it is because they are stupid. Stupid people generally do not have that level of liquid assets.

What is it about landmarks that makes people covet them unto idiocy.

Posted by: Jim at May 4, 2005 01:18 PM

Probably just to have their name associated with a well-known landmark. It's a trophy; a status symbol, I guess.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at May 4, 2005 11:15 PM
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