CONFIDENCE MEN and grifters have always been part of society, but they are perhaps most identified in the 19th century with the circus grifter and the riverboat gambler, and in the early 20th, with the world of the Big Con games, most famously portrayed in the 1973 movie, The Sting, and later the 1990 movie, The Grifters.

The world of the traveling circus was tailor-made for the con men, including the shell-game artists and other fraudsters. The circus management cultivated this relationship, providing their midway as a venue, and a fixer to avoid arrest, all in exchange for a cut of the profits. Mississippi riverboats and the transcontinental railroad construction camps, justly famous for nurturing gambling and vice, were also fertile ground for grifters, a life ...

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