The Brooklyn Bridge was never for sale, but that did not stop the celebrated swindler George Parker from selling it hundreds of times from 1890 and 1928. Parker would begin by showing people smartly forged documents that suggested he was the owner of the bridge. Then, he would convince them that they can create a fortune by buying it and charging tolls. On many occasions, police had to get rid of the "new owners" on the bridge as they were attempting to set up tollbooths. But Parker did not just sell bridges; he also made money selling Grant's Tomb, MadisonSquare Garden, the Statue of Liberty, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Naturally, Parker was not just the con artist to sell the bridge. In the 1880s, Reed C. Waddell along with two brothers, Charles and Fred Gondorf, setup signs reading "Bridge for Sale" at the entrance, where they would baffle their prey out of hundreds of dollars. Sometime, they sold half the bridge for a dirt cheap price of $250, since the prospective buyer did not have enough cash.
Con artists frequently targeted recent immigrants looking for a new life in the land of opportunity. Beguiling newcomers had two benefits: Not only were they unfamiliar with American laws and much easier to convince, but swindling non-citizens bore fewer consequences. The trend became so common that officials at Ellis Island began passing out pamphlets informing immigrants that one could not really buy a street, public building, monument, or bridge. By the 1930s, the expression "selling the Brooklyn Bridge" had got into popular culture.