When Bankers Sought Permanent Solutions to Robbery

Article excerpt

The 1920s was the era of the bank robbers of legend. These legends look more appealing in history books, however. In reality, robberies frequently were violent.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Many articles in the magazine concerned how to stop robberies and who to watch out for. Nowadays, the emphasis tends to be on keeping the robber focused on the money and on getting him out. But in the 1920s things went much further.

In "Preparedness Prevents Holdups," January 1928, a banker wrote of state bankers association programs to train local vigilantes to help foil bank robberies.

"This plan involves the arming, training, and organizing of local citizens to answer hurry-up calls when the banks are attacked," the banker wrote. The article also described a a remote device allowing a bank's cashier to admit only known customers and anyone who "brings an honest face."

The article certainly reflects a different mindset, to wit: "... the Texas Bankers Association decided that, after all, the most desirable kind of a bank robber was a dead one. So they decided to offer a reward of $5,000 for each dead bandit."

Even back in the 1920s, the Texas program stirred controversy. But the association's leader insisted it was necessary due to "the seeming inability to get bank robbers into the penitentiary and keep them there. …