“I’ve always loved movies about con men. I think con men are as American as apple pie.” – Bill Paxton, actor
Victor Lustig was born on January 4th, 1890. Maybe. He said, more than once, that he came from the Austria-Hungarian town of Hostinné, in what is now the Czech Republic. He said once that he was the son of the town’s burgomaster. He also said that he was the son of the poorest couple in the village. Believe what you like about the childhood of Victor Lustig, just know that there’s not a lot of upside in taking the word of a con man.
As a boy, Victor Lustig was an excellent student. Not of books and notes, not of procedure and equations. He was a student of people. He picked up languages quickly and he saw patterns in people’s behaviors where others didn’t.
He studied at the University of Paris and became fluent in Czech, French, English, German, and Italian. While he never was an imposing person, he learned charm and poise, and he learned to make them work for him.
Lustig, Betty Jean. From Paris to Alcatraz: The True, Untold Story of One of the Most Notorious Con-Artists of the Twentieth Century. Xlibris Corporation, 2011. Print.
Maysh, J. (2016, March 9). The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/man-who-sold-eiffel-tower-twice-180958370/
King, G. (2012, August 22). The Smoothest Con Man That Ever Lived. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-smoothest-con-man-that-ever-lived-29861908/