Earlier I asked about the earliest known bank robberies in the U.S. Dave Ginsburg forwarded this Wikipedia article about a 1798
Philadelphia bank robbery. Thanks! -Editor
The 1798 Bank of Pennsylvania heist occurred late on August 31 or early on September 1, 1798 when $162,821 was stolen from the Bank of
Pennsylvania at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Patrick "Pat" Lyon, a blacksmith who had worked on the vault doors and fitted it with locks, was initially a suspect in the
heist. Lyon and a 19-year-old apprentice had left Philadelphia shortly before the heist, possibly in response to a yellow fever epidemic
that had been plaguing the city. They later arrived in Lewistown, Delaware, where the apprentice died of an illness. Lyon had learned of
the theft and suspected that he was wanted after speaking with an acquaintance of his.
Lyon himself had suspected the bank's caretaker, Samuel Robinson, and another man of committing the heist. They had visited his shop
once when he was working on the bank vault's doors. Lyon returned to Philadelphia to plead his case but was imprisoned in Walnut Street
Prison for three months. The bank showed no signs of forced entry and the vault was believed to have been opened with a forged key.
The sole perpetrators of the heist, Isaac Davis and Thomas Cunningham were later caught. Cunningham, who was the bank's porter, died
of yellow fever several days after the heist. Davis, the man who had visited Lyon's shop with Robinson, was depositing the stolen
money in several banks, including the one he had burglarized. This made officials suspicious of him and he later confessed to the heist.
However, he was reportedly pardoned without serving any jail time after he gave back the stolen money in a plea deal with the Governor of
Pennsylvania, Thomas Mifflin. Lyon was still kept in jail on suspicion of forging a duplicate key but released shortly thereafter. His bail
had been set at $150,000 but lowered to $2,000 after Davis's confession.
Lyon then wrote a book on his false imprisonment titled Narrative of Patrick Lyon Who Suffered Three Months Severe Imprisonment in
Philadelphia Gaol on Merely a Vague Suspicion of Being Concerned in a Robbery of the Bank of Pennsylvania With his Remarks Thereon and
went to trial for damages. He was awarded $12,000 for false imprisonment. This was appealed by the defendants and the new agreed upon
amount was set at $9,000.
Lyon later had his portrait painted by John Neagle, titled Pat Lyon at the Forge, depicting Lyon standing at a forge with the Walnut
Street Prison visible in the background.
Well, as it turns out, we already covered this topic on May 15, 2011, in a piece based on an article by Cole Schenewerk in The
California Numismatist (how soon I forget...). That's the painting "Pat Lyon at the Forge" shown above. Does anyone
know of a robbery BEFORE this one in 1798? -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
1798 Bank of Pennsylvania heist
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NEW YORK'S FIRST BANK ROBBERY (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v18n12a32.html)
AMERICA'S FIRST BANK BURGLARY?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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