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From the publisher…Boatright took the preexisting big-store confidence scheme and perfected it. With the assistance of a talented coterie of confederates known as the Buckfoot Gang, this “dean of modern confidence men” fleeced the gentry of the Midwest on fixed athletic contests in the turn-of-the-century Ozarks. Working in concert with a local bank and an influential Democratic boss, Boatright seemed untouchable. A series of missteps, however, led to a string of court cases across the country that brought his criminal enterprise to an end. And yet, the con continued. Boatright’s successor, John C. Mabray, and his cronies, many of whom had been in the Buckfoot Gang, preyed upon victims across North America in one of the largest Midwestern criminal syndicates in history before they were brought to heel. Like the works of Sinclair Lewis, Boatright’s story exposes a rift in the wholesome Midwestern stereotype and furthers our understanding of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American society.


Men of No Reputation is about the confidence racket in the Ozarks circa 1900, but along the way Kimberly Harper gives a compelling account of local politics, prizefighting, foot races, attitudes toward crime, and much else. I finished reading this wonderfully written book feeling I’d just been educated.”
—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone

“Harper’s finely tuned study of this successful con-artist gang shows how capitalist dreams blurred into criminal schemes as confidence men, shady bankers, perfidious cops, and crooked politicians turned a bustling Ozarks community into a swindler’s paradise. Men of No Reputation brings to life a forgotten story of greed and corruption that sounds a timely warning amid today’s cons, big and small. For readers interested in charlatans and their marks, this book is a sure bet.”
—Jarod Roll, author of Poor Man’s Fortune: White Working-Class Conservativism in American Metal Mining, 1850–1950

“Masterfully woven and grounded in meticulous use of newspapers and court records, Men of No Reputation is a solid, flesh-on-the-bones contribution to the literature on American confidence men. Harper leaves no stone unturned as she tracks down a sophisticated, understudied gang of Ozark swindlers who fleeced high-stakes suckers in rigged foot races and prizefights at the turn of the twentieth century. A further reminder of the American culture of greed and crime in an age of flimflam and humbug.”
—Gregg Andrews, author of Shantyboats and Roustabouts: The River Poor of St. Louis, 1875–1930

“An original work fully supported by sound scholarship, Men of No Reputation will prove indispensable to regional historians, legal scholars, and afficionados of the American underworld.”
—Eric B. Easton, author of The Life and Crimes of Jared Flagg: Adventures of a Gilded Age Huckster, Swindler, and Pimp