North Carolina History

This Day in North Carolina History

Gaston Means in court. Means is in the center of the photograph with his head tilted toward the camera. Image from the Library of Congress.

On July 11, 1879, private detective, bootlegger and all-around con man Gaston Means was born in Concord.

The son a prominent lawyer, Means attended UNC and worked as a schoolteacher and traveling salesman before moving to New York to work as a private detective in 1911. For the next 20 years, Means was involved in a variety of dubious activities from stealing money from a widow to advancing the German government’s interests in the U.S. while the country was still neutral during World War I.

Among his most famous hoaxes was his publication of the book The Death of President Harding, which falsely asserted that Harding had a been a central player in all the scandals of his administration and accused First…

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