Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Great Train Robbery – October 6, 1866

As the Library of Congress site makes note, today marks the anniversary of what some consider to be the first train robbery in the United States. On October 6, 1866, masked thieves boarded a train near Seymour, Indiana, and entered an Adams Express Company car. They pointed guns at an employee named Elem Miller and demanded the keys to the safes on board. He only had keys to a local safe, so they thieves emptied the contents of that safe and threw the other locked safe overboard intending to open it later.

Some believe this train robbery to be the first, but it was preceded by a similar incident nine months before. However costly these robberies were, these crimes did not go unpunished as agents from the Pinkerton National Detective Agency quickly identified the bandits. Train robberies increased in frequency from the 1870s to the 1890s and Pinkerton Security agents were frequently called upon to find those responsible. Famous train robbers from this period included the Reno brothers, the Farringtons, and the Jesse James gang.

With this bit of history in mind, it can come as no surprise that a train robbery served as the plot for one of the earliest motion pictures. Here is the Edison Manufacturing Company’s The Great Train Robbery from 1903. Enjoy!

[Images via Metro-Cincinnati and Silent-Volume]

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