The History of How Scammers Became Known as Con Men in the Modern Lexicon

In a recent episode of the informative trivia series Today I Found Out, host Simon Whistler explains how the term “confidence man”, and its subsequent diminutive “con man”, came about to describe grifters, scammers and schemers in the modern lexicon.

“Have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?” With these 13 words politely expressed, as often as not William Thompson would acquire another watch. Of course, Thompson wasn’t even close to the first to run such a daringly simple scheme, but his bold method of gaining his mark’s trust led a writer in the June 8, 1849 edition of the New York Herald to pen a piece “Arrest of the Confidence Man,” giving us the first known documented instance of the term “confidence man.”