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The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 12, March 22, 2015, Article 32

NEW YORK'S FIRST BANK ROBBERY

This week I came across a blog article on New York's first bank robbery. What was most interesting to me was the description of the 1831 haul, which included both bank notes and Spanish doubloons. Ads run afterwards by the bank detail the issuers of the banknotes. Together, these provide a view into the money circulating in the country at that time. -Editor

City Bank robbery ad When workers arrived at the City Bank at 52 Wall Street* on Monday, March 21, 1831, they were in for a rude shock. Sometime over the weekend—probably the evening of March 19 or the early morning hours of March 20—the bank had been robbed of $245,000 in bank notes and Spanish doubloons. This was New York’s first-ever bank heist.

Though suspicion immediately fell on workers at the bank, the police had little time to investigate the employees before they received a tip from Mr. Bangs, the proprietor of a “respectable private boarding house” (according to the New-York Evening Post) who was leery of his newest tenant.

On the Monday following the robbery, a man calling himself Mr. Jones had arrived at Mr. Bangs's boarding house on Elm Street with three small trunks, asking for a private room in which to write. He paid for the room in advance. After a few days, the landlord became suspicious over Mr. Jones’s apparent anxiety, especially concerning the contents of his trunks. When one of the trunks disappeared, Mr. Bangs contacted the police. The police—seemingly without probable cause or a warrant—picked the locks of the two remaining trunks and found bank notes they could positively identify as being from the City Bank robbery.

When Mr. Jones returned to the boarding house, he was promptly arrested. The robber was soon discovered to be Edward Smith, who lived on Division Street with his wife and two children and ran a shoe store. He was well-known to police, having been arrested for a store robbery in Brooklyn.

Of the $245, 000, only about $176,000 was recovered from Smith. The bank soon began advertising for people to keep an eye out for the other bank notes (and the Spanish doubloons). One apparent accomplice was arrested in Philadelphia in April when some of the missing bank notes were identified on his person. But it is unclear if the remainder of the money was ever recovered or if that man was, indeed, part of the robbery.

A jury found Edward Smith guilty in a one-day trial (that one day included jury selection, testimony, and deliberations) and he was sentenced to five years hard labor in Sing-Sing prison.

Is the blog author correct in calling this New York's FIRST bank robbery? 1831 seems late - banks had been around in this country for decades. Does anyone know of an earlier New York robbery? Or the earliest one in the country? -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
New York's First Bank Robbery (http://blog.insidetheapple.net/2012/03/new-yorks-first-bank-robbery.html)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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