Make the most of London

 

The Oldest Trick in The Book

Posted by Rob Smith, Tour Guide at London Guided Walks on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 Under: Museums

The Oldest Trick in The Book

I am always amazed when I cross Westminster Bridge to see the Three Card Trick in operation. In case you don’t know it, this is where three criminals con people out of their money in a rigged card game, also known as Find The Lady. One person has three cards set up on a table or box and they invite you to guess which one is the Queen of Hearts – the lady. One of the accomplices poses as a punter, who is doing well at the game and winning lots of money. The third person then befriends people who stop to watch, pointing out how much the other person is making, and persuades passers by to have a go. The card dealer then uses sleight of hand to ensure that the passer by loses as much of their money as possible, and if they protest, the card dealer claims the police are coming and ups and runs. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and I wonder how the passers by have never come across it.

 

You don’t have to walk far to see how long the history of this con is, to Tate Britain to be precise. In part of William Powell Frith’s 1858 painting Derby Day you can see a version of the Three Card Trick using thimbles at work. The man with the smart black boots and riding crop looks like the con mans accomplice, while to his left, in the green coat the next victim is getting his money ready. The man to the left pointing is the other accomplice – showing how easy it is to make money. He looks like he has convinced the man in the brown bowler and the farmworkers smock, he looks like an out of towner who will shortly be losing all his money if he ignores the pleadings of his wife on the far left, the only person with any sense it seems! On the far right a sheepish looking victim realises he is now penniless!

 

Derby Day was a phenomenal favourite at the Royal Academy Summer Show of 1858, where a rope had to be put in front of the painting to control the crowds who wanted a look. The people in the crowd would have been familiar to the viewers of the painting. Frith had worked from photographs of the crowd at the Epsom Derby, one of London’s big sporting occasions. The Illustrated London news complained of tricksters at the Derby in 1860, who set up their stall at the edge of a wood, so they could melt into the trees at the first sign of trouble. Victorian magistrates courts often dealt with Three Card Trickster, for instance three men Spires, Wright and Joseph are sentenced to three months hard labour for stealing from people with the trick in Hyde Park. While no one likes to see con men at work in London, I find it fascinating that some things never change in this city!

 

Find out more about Paintings of London, Tate Britain with Rob for London Guided Walks.

In : Museums 


Tags: gallery  tate britain  rob 
comments powered by Disqus

Tags

"online bookings' cpd #earthrise 17th 1930s 50th a abbey adele afternoon afternoon tea age ages alastair ancient and animals annie anniversary apps architecture arsenal art arts attack awards baker bank bankside barbican bathhouses bazalgette bear beasts bishopsgate blitz bombers books borough bowie breakfast brewery brick bridge britain british bronze bronze age brunch burger burlesque buses cabaret cake canal canary captain carl carol caroline cathedral cemetery cenotaph century chapman charles charlton cheap cheapside cheese childhood chips chiswick chocolate christmas church city city of london clerkenwell cocktails coffee coffeehouses concert corporate covent covent garden covid-19 crime cross crown cruise david day december deptford dick dickens dinner do dock dockland museum dragons dreamtime earth eat eating eats ecommerce edward edwin egypt end ernst event events exhibition exhibitions facebook fairytale fall family fantastic farringdon february festival film finance fire first fiscus florence folklore food for francis free friars gallery galliard garden george georgian german germany gibb gift grade great greenhithe greenwich group guided guides half hall halsk harle harry potter havering havering hoard hawksmoor hazel heroes hidden highbury hill hilton history holloway homes hot hotel house how i ian ianmcd ice cream icelandic ii iii in inigo islington italian iv jack jack the ripper james jenny jewels johns jones joseph katharines kelly kenneth kew gardens kids kidstours killer kim kings kingston lambeth lane lewis lights limestone literature liverpool locations londinium london london bridge london's londoners lunch lutyens magnus market markets martyr mary maufe mayfair mcdiarmid measure medical medieval memorial middle millennium mock-tudor modern montague monument moorgate mosaic murder murderers museum museum of london docklands music musicals n7 national gallery national history museum ned new newcomen news nhs nichols night nightingale nurse of old street oliver open opera paddington pancakes pandemic panoramic park parties path pauls people photo photograhy photography photos pizza places plays plumstead podcast poetry pokemon polly pop poplar prince priory private tours pub public purbeck qe2 queen queenhithe quirky recording reid religion rembrandt renaissance restoration ripper river road rob roman roundhouse royal saga saxon sculpture scupture seacole second serial sewers siemens sir smartphone smith smithfield smithfields soap soho somme south southbank southwark spitalfields spy squirrels ss st statue stories street stuart studios subscription summer susan sydenham tate tea term thames thamesmeade the theatre thiepval things things to do thrifty thriftytheatre to tour tours tower travel truman tudor tumblety twelfth twist und underground update v&a ve victoria victorian victorian london viking virtual vouchers wales walk walking walks wall war water werner west wharf wheeler whitechapel wilde wildlife willelm william wine winter women wood woodland woolwich world wyatt york 1888 2019 2020

LONDON GUIDED WALKS:

LEARN MORE:

CONNECT WITH US:

USEFUL LINKS:

Site by Hazel  |  Photographs by Hazel or Ian