Tuesday, October 5, 2010
"Vice Pioneers" : Bank Robbery
First credited daylight robbery: Clay County Savings Association, Liberty, MO
Jesse James as part of the James-Younger Gang
Robin Hood characted John Dillinger
Bank robbery is one of the most forgiven crimes in America. When it happens, it's hard for an average person to feel bad for an institution that makes money off of money. Banks are hated for the most part (especially now admist the aftermath of scandal). Even when funds disappear, FDIC regulations protect a patron's money so there is no feeling of loss to a "real" person. But mostly, Americans just love bank robbers. They have been portrayed and glorified over and over in movies and the media ("The Town" being the most recent) and there is no sign of the love affair ending. Here's a look at a little history on the crime. If you'd like to read more about actual bank robberies that have taken place, Wikipedia has a great list of recorded bank robberies from around the world.
From Wikipedia: The first bank robbery in the United States is often (including in this encyclopedia) claimed to have taken place at the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri on 13 February 1866 when several men believed to be members of the James-Younger gang shot a 19-year-old student and escaped with $60,000. This is also claimed (including by the museum established at the bank where it happened) as the first bank robbery in daylight in peacetime, to distinguish it from robberies such as that from the banks at St Albans, Vermont more than a year earlier which were perpetrated by Confederate soldiers and which some historians consider to be not robberies proper but acts of war.
However, twenty-five months earlier, just before noon on 15 December 1863 a man walked into the Malden Bank in Middlesex County, Massachusetts and after shooting dead the 17-year-old bookkeeper stole $3,000 in large bills and a further $2,000 in small bills. The directors of the bank offered a $6,000 reward for the arrest of the murderer.
An even earlier alleged bank robbery is known to have occurred, but details are few. According to the New York Times, the first bank robbery in United States history took place on 19 March 1831, when the City Bank of New York lost $245,000 but the exact method is not clear so it cannot be confirmed that this was a robbery and not a burglary.
First known use of a getaway car:
The 21 December 1911 edition of L'Auto, a popular Paris newspaper, carried an announcement on its front page that Mr. Normand of 12 rue de Chalet, Boulogne, was offering a reward of 500 French francs for information leading to the recovery of his 1910 green and black Delaunay-Belleville limousine, license plate no. 783-X-3, which had been stolen seven days earlier. The same day, 21 December 1911, two armed men intercepted a bank messenger outside a branch of Société Générale in rue Ordener, Paris, and relieved him of a satchel of money he was about to deliver to the bank. The date of the crime was chosen to coincide with a strike by the seven thousand taxi drivers in Paris which was hoped would leave the roads clear for their escape, and also being a few days before Christmas they hoped the messenger would be carrying more money than usual. In the event that anyone should try to stop them, the gang carried Browning automatics which they were prepared to use if necessary. One of the men, Octave Garnier, carried no less than six revolvers while his three companions carried three each and they had four hundred rounds of ammunition in their pockets.
At eight O'clock that morning the messenger, Monsieur Caby, went to the rue de Provence branch of Société Générale where he picked up the cash, cheques and correspondence for his local branch then at the Place de Trinitie he boarded a tram for the twenty minute ride to the corner of rue Damremont and rue Ordener where Mr Peemans, a bodyguard from the bank met him with a handshake. The two men then walked the few yards to the bank and just outside they were stopped by two armed men, Garnier and Raymond Callemin, with guns thrust in their faces. The bodyguard, Peemans, covered his face with both hands and ran to the bank leaving Caby to be shot twice as he clung to his satchel. The robbers then jumped in Mr. Normand's stolen limousine being driven by Jules Bonnot and, firing shots from the windows at their pursuers made their escape up rue de Cloys. After leaving Paris they opened the satchel to find that their historic first motorised get away had netted them the unexceptional sum of 5,500 French francs. They missed that the bank messenger, Caby, had been carrying a wallet attached to the inside of his jacket that contained twenty thousand French francs.
It was September 1912 before the feat was repeated in the United States.
A Fake Bank Robbery:
One Saturday in May 1949 a second-hand Black Cadillac sedan drew up outside the First Security Bank in Provo Utah, US and a group of men in black suits and black hats, some of whom carried violin cases under their arms and one of whom carried a black satchel, walked into the bank in single file. They all had one hand ominously in their jacket pocket. Customers in the bank later reported that the men positioned themselves around the bank lobby and used their violin cases to signal the customers to stay out of the way. Two of the men in black suits approached a teller's window and one of them handed the teller a note. The money she handed over was swept into the satchel and as the six men departed, still brandishing their black violin cases, one of the other tellers fainted.
Police arrived soon after their departure and it quickly transpired that the note handed to the teller asked her to exchange the $5 bill that came with it for $5 in pennies. This cash was theatrically swept into the satchell and the "robbers", all high school students, made their getaway in the borrowed car.
Historical Bank Robbers:
Jesse James was one of the most popular and praised bank robbers in American history. In the early twentieth century Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks and he was famously reported as answering: "Because that's where the money is." This is, in fact, a quote invented by the interviewer to make the story more interesting.
John Dillinger was another famous bank robber, who robbed banks in mid-western America. Some considered him a dangerous criminal, while others idolized him as a supposed present-day Robin Hood. He gained this latter reputation (and the nickname "Jackrabbit") for his graceful movements during bank heists, such as leaping over the counter (a movement he supposedly copied from the movies) and many narrow getaways from police. On July 22, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois, Dillinger was cornered by FBI agents in an alley outside of a movie theater, where he was shot and killed by an agent wielding a pistol while walking outside.