The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 3, January 21, 2024, Article 11


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on the 1922 Denver Mint robbery. Thanks! -Editor

  I Read a Book this Week

Robbing Banks Was My Business book cover I apologize in advance. My story this week is not about numismatists or numismatics. It is based on a book I got through interlibrary loan that is not numismatic literature. The book is Robbing Banks Was My Business by J. Evetts Halley. It tells the story of J. Harvey Bailey. What interested me most was chapter iv on The Great Denver Mint Robbery.

The Mint did not lose a coin that day. What was taken was $200,000 in newly printed $5 bills stored in the Mint vaults for distribution through the Federal Reserve Bank.

On Monday morning, December 18, 1922, a Federal Reserve Bank delivery truck backed up to the front door of the Mint. Guards went inside and soon came out carrying bundles of paper money.

A black Buick touring car pulled up alongside the truck and three armed men jumped out announcing it as a robbery. Guard Wilbert Havenor crawled under the truck. Cashier Joseph E. Olsen dropped to the ground. Federal Reserve guard Charles T. Linton drew his revolver and was hit by a shotgun blast. He died in a hospital the following day.

Guards inside the Mint grabbed weapons and rushed to the windows. Robbers fired their shotguns at the mint leaving marks that may still be in the granite wall a hundred years later. One report stated that there were 106 loaded rifles and revolvers available, but only sixteen shots were taken at the robbers. At least one of the robbers was hit and he slumped into the waiting car.

The robbers broke into the delivery truck, transferred bundles of cash into their car and drove off, along the way sideswiping a truck that took out a fire hydrant that shot water into the air. The Buick disappeared around a corner.

Let's switch the story to mention Prohibition. The 18th amendment to the constitution prohibited the production, transportation, distribution or sale of alcoholic beverages. An industry quickly developed for the illegal production, transportation, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. There was money to be made and criminal organizations flourished. Gangsters like Harvey Bailey became pop culture heroes.

Harvey Bailey got his start before Prohibition transporting whiskey across the Missouri River from St. Joseph into Omaha. After Prohibition he carried whiskey from Canada to a garage in Minot, North Dakota, paying border guards to let him through.

In 1920 he drove two experienced safecrackers to a job where they broke into a bank at night and blew open the safe. After a few nighttime jobs, he decided it would be easier to rob a bank during the day. Bailey earned the title, Dean of American Bank Robbers, gathering a million dollars from thirty banks between 1920 and 1934.

Harvey put together a crew to rob a bank in Denver. As they were planning the job, Bailey was called away to see his ailing brother. Left in charge was a man known by several names but we will call him Nick Trainor. He was standing on Colfax Avenue one day when he noticed activity at the Mint where money was being loaded into a truck. It occurred to him that this was an easier target than the bank.

The gang may have gotten inside information or may just have noticed that money pickups were at the same time each week. Nick Trainer was shot in the face, hand and chest during the robbery. A month after the robbery, his frozen body was found in the Buick hidden in a Denver garage.

The Meyer Undertaking Company donated a casket for the funeral and the Riverside Cemetery donated a plot. Gangsters were pop culture heroes and Trainor's funeral had a higher attendance than that of Federal Reserve guard Charles T. Linton.

Another of the robbers, James Clark took the money to meet up with Bailey in Chicago. They headed off to Minneapolis to get rid of the loot. At that time, St. Paul was known as a haven for gangsters. Corrupt officials gave them sanctuary as long as they didn't commit crimes in town.

Dapper Danny Hogan was an Irish crime boss who offered money laundering services. Cincinnati banker Hamilton came to town trying to recover from losses earlier at his bank. A North Dakota Banker was created who was looking to buy securities at a discount to cover losses in his operation. A transaction was negotiated through an intermediary and securities from the Cincinnati bank and cash from the Denver mint were sold back. Banker Hamilton talked too much and word got back to Hogan. That source dried up.

Danny Hogan went to start his car in his garage on December 4, 1928. The car blew up, killing him. That case was never solved.

Denver Chief of Detectives Albert T. Clark announced December 1, 1934, that the Denver Mint crime had been solved. Perpetrators Harvey Bailey and James Clark were currently serving life sentences for other crimes. Five others involved included three men and two women. Clark reported they were all dead but was short on details. No one was ever prosecuted for the Denver Robbery.

Charles Urschel was kidnapped on July 11, 1933, and held for $200,000 ransom. It is generally believed that George Machine Gun Kelly was responsible. He and his wife Katherine were sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

Harvey Jihn Bailey.01 A property where Urschel was held was raided by FBI agents. They found Harvey Bailey sleeping on a cot outside and in possession of money from the ransom. The capture of Bailey was a media sensation. He had at various times been suspected with involvement in the 1929 Chicago St. Valentines Day Massacre, the $2 million robbery of the Lincoln National Bank and Trust Company in 1930, the March 1, 1932, Lindberg Kidnaping, and the June 17, 1933, massacre at the Union Station in Kansas City.

The defense presented witnesses claiming that Bailey was not involved in the Urschel kidnapping but it made no difference. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was held in maximum security at Alcatraz from 1934 to 1946. His remaining time was served at Leavenworth.

The story Bailey told in the book is different from that presented by the authorities. One report claimed Bailey was the one who shot officer Linton. Denver detective Clark claimed Bailey drove the Buick in Denver. Bailey also claimed he was not involved in the Urschel kidnapping that put him in prison for 32 years.

Bailey was released on parole in 1964, the book was published in 1973 and he died in 1979. It is possible that he lied to hide his involvement in the most significant crimes. It is also possible that he was never charged with the many crimes he did commit and served time only for crimes he did not commit.

A hundred years have passed since the Great Denver Mint Robbery and we still can't be sure who drove the car and who shot Linton.

Great history. I've walked past the Denver Mint building, but didn't know to look for bullet marks. Have any of our readers done that? -Editor

To plan a visit, see:
Visiting the Denver Mint (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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