Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who wants to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

July 14, 2014

Brooklyn Bridge by Renee Leone | UncommonGoodsWe sincerely hope that it’s not you, because the bridge is not actually for sale, and anyone telling you otherwise is trying to part you from your money. This is a pretty well-known swindle, but the reason for its notoriety is that, back in the day, a lot of aspiring bridge-buyers had to face some serious disappointment. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883, at a time when a massive influx of immigrants was moving through Ellis Island and into New York City. Not all of these were the poor, huddled refugees we often picture. Plenty of them came with cash in hand, ready to buy property, invest in business, and take their own shot at the American dream. Sadly, they were the perfect mark for any conman with a convincing pitch and a “For Sale” sign. The bridge’s immense size made it easy for swindlers to set up shop out of view of the police, and its proximity to Ellis Island offered an endless stream of potential “buyers.” As time passed, however, immigrants began coming with an increased awareness of America’s customs and practices, making them immune to this particular crime. By the 1920s, “buying the Brooklyn Bridge” had already slipped into popular vernacular as a classic, old-time hoax.

Brooklyn Bridge by Renee Leone, $145-325

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