Though it’s by no means the full story — to find that you might want go to my book, An Infinite Deal Of Nothing — and it does not even reveal the name of the man who was actually guilty of the biggest con tricks in history, it’s good to see that a part of the story of the Great Diamond Scandal that was known back in 1872 is remembered here for the anniversary of its discovery. So here’s a shameless plug for the book…
An Infinite Deal of Nothing
A desert full of diamonds; a mine filled with silver; a story full of lies
In just one year in the 1870s newspaper stories revealed that people had been taken in by not one but two of the most audacious confidence tricks ever tried on an unsuspecting public. In his book, An Infinite Deal of Nothing, author and historian Martin Hedges tells how one trickster convinced the public of two continents that somewhere in American desert you could scoop diamonds out of the dirt. During the same year, an American rival followed him to London to try to seduce Britons out of their money. He claimed a silver mine he owned was the most productive in the world.
But there were no diamonds. There was no silver. The diamonds scattered across the scrubland half way up a mountain were bought wholesale in London. The silver mine was ‘salted’ with ore glued to the walls of the mine.
The two swindlers stood to take literally billions in today’s money. One failed — though he was only beaten by an unlucky meeting on a train and an unexpected change in the weather.
The other fraudster made a killing, escaped the reach of British courts and entered history for a time as the fourth richest men in America. Neither was prosecuted, though evidence available at the time and gathered in this book would have convicted them both.
Among the cast of principal characters in this fast moving tale of greed and gullibility are:-
- A Southerner with a back story — during the Civil War he nearly succeeded to rob the Union of millions of dollars in gold by piracy on the high seas
- The doyen of British financial journalism, the financial editor of The Times, caught taking bribes
- The most famous one-man bank in Britain, duped when he took the fraudsters at their word
- The drunken, dishonest, jealous, wife-beating son of an umbrella manufacturer from Birmingham
- A so-called expert on mines nicknamed Professor “Sell-a-Mine”
- A vain cowboy prospector who could not keep his mouth shut
- America’s foremost geologist — a white man who had a secret second life pretending to be an African American railroad conductor
New research in An Infinite Deal of Nothing uncovers evidence from London which has been overlooked for nearly 150 years to provide definitive answers to the guilt of the perpetrators