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Indiana National Bank, 1880’s. Built “when stumps dotted Washington Street.” Image credit: History of Indiana National Bank

The earliest banks in Indianapolis did business on a handshake and not much more. College students, business moguls, working-class men and women — all made the trip from bedroom communities like Haughville and Irvington to the “downtown” banks for loans, deposits and withdrawals.

The Indiana National Bank welcomed everyone including immigrants and former slaves who, for the most part, could not read or write. Since tellers had no way to verify identities, physical descriptions were sometimes written in the books, rather than signatures. Many such entries survive among historic bank records. For example:

– Henry Thompson, a dark man of about eighty-four years
– Harriet McGrinder, a five-feet, two-inch “colored” woman, seventy-three years of age
– Rosero Scarpetello, living on East Washington Street
– Solomon Winger, a man, short, heavy, Hebrew, living at 179 Indiana Avenue

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Interior of the Indiana National Bank at 11 East Washington Street. Image credit: The History of Indiana National Bank

Audacious Bank robbery: Indiana National Bank, 1877

Into this more trusting time, strode “The Quincy Kid” who would perpetrate the most sensational bank robbery the city had ever seen. On March 21, 1877, the Indiana National Bank, then located at the northeast corner of Meridian and Washington Streets, fell prey to a notorious gang of ruffians led by a mystery man.

While a cluster of criminals may have been involved in the planning of the historic heist, it only took one man … “The Kid” … to pull off the caper. Newspaper accounts described a stunning scene: a lone man of about 20 years entered the bank carrying a large box wrapped with paper. He sat the box down in a “gingerly manner” then jumped upon it and vaulted over the iron railing of the bank counter, behind which large packages of bills were stacked in full view. Apparently, no weapon was brandished. The thief relied on the element of surprise to dumbfound the witnesses, while he deftly snatched piles of cash and then bolted.

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Point of interest: Indiana issued national bank notes from 409 banks in 206 different towns.

According to the Indianapolis Daily News, the man was out the door,

“…like a flash. The bank attaches, though dazzled by the audacity of the thief, gave pursuit.”

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Indiana Daily News, March 1877

Though The Kid escaped untouched, he did drop a packet of bills containing $500 — the only portion of the loot that was ever recovered. Outside the bank, a crowd gathered. Bank employees gave chase, eventually nabbing two suspected accomplices — Mike Welsh and Charles Sanford–AKA Cincinnati Charley–who were suspiciously running in different directions, perhaps as decoys.

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Indiana Daily News, March 1877

Deputies were sent on horseback to neighboring towns, and as far north as Chicago, in the hopes of apprehending members of the gang. However, without reliable means of identification, a great many false arrests were made. Subsequent newspaper accounts postulated that “The Kid” was believed to be a “crooked character” named Moore, and for weeks, there were daily mentions in the Indianapolis papers of progress (or lack of it) toward apprehending him… and no lack of opinion tendered as to the competence of law enforcement.

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Well, at least someone had a sense of humor about the whole thing…

“Now that the mischief is done, precautions will be taken against further depredations of this kind. In the search for the robber, Chief Dewey appears to have called to his aid three pseudo ‘detectives’ of this city, having no connection with the police force, and in who those who know them best have little confidence. If this be true, the police board should break the connection and caution the chief that he is losing his grip by employing them.”

The bank posted a $5000 reward for information leading to arrests and the recovery of the stolen $25,000. The bank counters were swiftly remodeled and wire screens were installed over the tellers booths.

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Indiana Daily News, March 1877

Four suspects were arrested before the week was out, and a fifth, named May Myers–a song and dance man from Breswick and Mai’s–was detained a week later. In total, seven persons were eventually apprehended and charged, but to our knowledge, the man who risked his neck, the Quincy Kid, was never apprehended.  Neither was the dough. (Check those barns and attics!)

Sources:
Indiana State Library: newspaper archives, microfilm, Indiana Daily News, March 1877
Indiana Historical Society: A History of the Indiana National Bank: Pioneers in Banking by Linda Weintraut and Jane R. Nolan
Indianapolis Star, News article November 7, 1971

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