"...swampland in Florida to sell you"

Posted by Brian from Shawnee on February 20, 2005

In Reply to: "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you" posted by Ward on February 19, 2005

: : : trying to find this expression and it's origins for a friend. "If you believe that I've got a bridge to sell you" or ..."I've got a bridge for sale."
: : : We believe its regarding the Brooklyn Bridge, but can't come up with a date of first usage.
: : : any help would be appreciated.
: : : thanks.

: : Back in the 1970s, conmen went in for scams selling London bridges - usually they would pretend to have authority to sell Tower Bridge. To cap it all, some American did actually buy the original London Bridge - which wasn't particularly attractive, but IMO culturally wrong to do.

: : it is almost as bad as selling the Ponte Vecchio in Florence would be.

: : thank goodness for the decency of a German WWII officer who defied orders telling him to blow it up. also happened in Paris, from what I recall.

: : anyhow, only an idiot would be taken in by a conman selling a land-mark - hence the expression about selling somebody a bridge.

: : L

: The history of this expression goes back to the early 1900's at the peak of the immigration into the US from Europe. There were lots of scams that were designed to get whatever money these people had saved to bring into the new country, and the one to sell the Brooklyn Bridge or a piece of the bridge was the most well known.

In the 60's and 70's it was "swampland in Florida". The descendants of the people who had been offered the Brooklyn Bridge were now wealthy enough to have a second home, and many bought land in Florida that turned out to be worthless (unbuildable) swampland. Nowadays we have on-line Viagra (or should I say "V!a-g ra"), Cialis, Rolex watches, unclaimed fortunes in Nigerian banks, etc., etc.