Burglar Alarms: History of Robbers and Robberies in the U.S.

The history of the United States is dotted with episodes where criminals have pulled off memorable criminal activities. Dating back to the days of the Wild West in the early 19th Century, the exploits of these criminals have captured the attention of the American people. Criminals such as John Dillinger, the James Gang, Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have become famous with their criminal activities.

Ever since the days of westward expansion in the United States, the lure of easy money prompted many people to try a life of crime. With the California Gold Rush and people moving into new areas, the lack of organized law became a temptation for many people. With the expansion west meant that people were traveling by stage coach or train to set up new homes, which became tempting targets for robbers.

Once towns and cities were established, criminals became more sophisticated in their robbery attempts. They evolved from simple, strong-arm hold ups of individuals to elaborate plans to rob banks, armored cars and museums. The targets also changed from getting just cash to include stocks, bonds, negotiable instruments, jewels, gold and a host of other valuable objects.

Many of these robbers and robberies have been turned into books and movies. While the accounts are embellished for the sake of the public, the stories are essentially the same. We hope you enjoy learning more about the exploits of some of the United States most notorious criminals and their activities.

Famous Robberies

Famous Robbers

  • Depression Era Robbers Listing of ten of the most famous bank robbers during the Great Depression.
  • Notorious Bank Robbers Informative page from CBS News on some of the most famous bank robbers in history.
  • Female Bank Robbers Helpful article discussing ten of the most famous female bank robbers in U.S. history.
  • Ma Barker Information and biography of the famed and dangerous bank robber.
  • The James Gang A look at the criminal lives of Frank and Jesse James.
  • John Dillinger Informative biographical look at the original public enemy number one.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Useful page with information on the exploits of the Hole in the Wall Gang.
  • Pretty Boy Floyd Information on Charles Arthur Floyd and his criminal activities.
  • Baby Face Nelson Biography of Lester J Gillis, who became known as Baby Face Nelson during his criminal activities.
  • Bugs Moran Website detailing the life of the Prohibition Era gangster in Chicago.
  • Willie Sutton Informative site covering the life and criminal work of one of the most successful bank robbers in history.
  • Stanley Mark Rifkin Information from Time Magazine on the Ultimate Heist conducted by Rifkin of over ten million dollars.
  • Philip N Johnson Los Angeles Times account of an armored car driver who disappeared with over twenty million dollars.

Hollywood Adaptations

  • Best Bank Robbery Movies Listing of some of the best bank robbery movies along with descriptions.
  • Bank Robbery Movies Article from ABC News listing five of the best robbery movies of all time.
  • Robbery Movies Partial listing of many of the famous robbery movies that have been filmed.
  • The Town Information on the movie based in Boston of a bank robbery.
  • Dog Day Afternoon New York bank robbers are caught in the act and are faced with a stand off.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Adaptation of the lives of the Hole in the Wall Gang starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman
  • Bonnie and Clyde 1967 movie about the lives of the famous couple starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
  • The Brink’s Job New York Times review of the 1978 movie about the Boston robbery starring Peter Falk and Peter Boyle.
  • Dillinger Information about the 1973 adaptation about the life of John Dillinger starring Warren Oates and Ben Johnson.
  • Public Enemies Site providing information on the 2009 movie about John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and others starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.

As with all lists, this is completely subjective and you probably have your own opinions about the most infamous robbers, robberies and movie adaptations. We hope our lists help you think about completing your own list!