Lord Gordon Gordon (or to some, Lord Glencairn) was a prominent Scottish aristocrat – or at least, that's what the people who knew him believed. He spent the years between 1869 and 1874 convincing wealthy people in Scotland, England, the United States, and Canada that he was a rich heir to a Scottish fortune, and that he could be trusted with other people's money. Needless to say, he could not.
The Scottish imposter used his accent, "foreign" clothing, and endless charm to pull the wool over the eyes of several wealthy railroad men, including Jay Gould – one of the richest and most ruthless railroad barons in American history.
When it comes to hard-and-fast Lord Gordon Gordon facts, there are few to be had. He spent his short time as a confidence man deceiving everyone close to him, telling lie after lie until there was no way to figure out who this man actually was. He took the secrets of his past to the grave, proving to the end that he called all the shots in his story.
Lord Gordon Gordon's true identity may never be known. His early history consists only of rumors, primarily that he was the illegitimate son of a clergyman and a maid. Some sources say he went by the name Hubert Hamilton, but it's possible the name was just one of his many aliases.
In 2018, a librarian named Jenny McElroy was given a grant to research Gordon's life and write a book about him. But even she doubted she'd uncover his real identity.
Gordon first came onto the scene as "Lord Glencairn" in Scotland. Around 1869, he began making upper-class connections, using a "foot in the door" scheme. He started by having his wealthy new friends trust him with small amounts of money. Once he'd proven he was responsible, Gordon had them lend progressively larger sums.
He also used his friends as references, using the promise of a fortune he was supposed to be inheriting to make expensive purchases from jewelers. By 1870, his game in Scotland had ended; he had given most of the jewelry he had purchased on credit to his friends, and fled for America owing somewhere around $100,000.
When he first arrived in Minnesota in 1871, Gordon immediately drew attention to himself. He dressed in expensive clothes, and made a bank deposit of several thousand English pounds soon after arriving. The roughly 20,000 people of Minneapolis were taken with him; he received countless invitations to dinners, and went on picnics with the city's elite. He was the uncontested man of the hour.
Gordon was sly. Rather than openly boasting about his fake identity, he simply sprinkled information here and there that hinted at his mysterious and exciting "background." He claimed he was the heir to the Earls of Gordon, and also a relative of Lord Byron, the famous poet. Gordon's sheer foreignness, paired with his new acquaintances' inability to check his story, allowed him to create whatever backstory he wanted.