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10 Famous Depression-era Bank Robbers

Josh Fox . . . Comments

The Great Depression began with the Wall Street crash in 1929, and lasted well into the following decades. At this time, unemployment in the USA had risen to 25% and many more people were resorting to crime. Historians have labelled the 1930s as the “Public Enemy” era; a time when a small minority of criminals stood out as being particularly notorious and were hunted determinedly by the police and FBI.

These criminals weren’t like the bank robbers of today; handing a note to a teller and escaping with $100, only to be caught the next day. These ruthless thieves would burst in and ransack the bank, usually forcing a manager to open the vault. They would commonly participate in gun battles with police, in which innocent bystanders were often killed. I have tried to rank in order of reputation and skill.


John “Red” Hamilton

John Red Hamilton

Hamilton began his criminal career by robbing a gas station in Indiana, and being sentenced to a very long prison term of 25 years. Whilst incarcerated, he began to associate with prominent bank robbers such as John Dillinger, Harry Pierpoint and Homer Van Meter. On September 26, 1933, a total of 10 men, including Hamilton, escaped using smuggled guns from the recently paroled John Dillinger.

Hamilton and the rest of the gang learned that Dillinger had been imprisoned in Allen County prison, in Lima, on bank robbery charges. The gang were determined to free him, but first they needed cash to fund the break out. The gang robbed the First Nation Bank, in St. Mary’s Ohio, escaping with $14,000. Hamilton attended the liberation at Lima Jail but did not enter the building, instead serving as a lookout.

Hamilton went on to commit a spree of chaotic, yet lucrative, bank robberies with the Dillinger gang. In January, 1934, the gang robbed a bank in Chicago escaping with $20,376. During the heist, a police officer was gunned down and Dillinger was officially charged with the murder, even though many witnesses named Hamilton as the shooter.

Hamilton was at the top of the public enemy list, whilst Dillinger and associate Harry Pierpoint were imprisoned. Dillinger broke out, however, and Hamilton joined him once again to commit more robberies. On April 23, 1934, the gang were confronted by police and, during a getaway, Hamilton was wounded and died shortly after. Dillinger buried his friend at the home of Volney Davis and Edna Murray.


Volney Davis

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Volney Davis was the boyfriend of Edna “rabbits” Murray. The pair robbed banks together during the 1930s. He was also an associate of John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis and the Barker gang. He committed his first major robbery in the 1920s, burglarizing a hospital in Tulsa. The night watchman was murdered in this incident, and Davis was sentenced to life imprisonment. After a failed escape attempt, and after serving 7 years, he applied for a 20 month leave of absence which was granted. However, instead of returning to prison, he went on the run.

He reunited with girlfriend, and partner in crime, Edna Murray before joining Alvin Karpis and the Barker gang, who were at the peak of their criminal success. After many successful bank robberies and kidnappings, Davis was captured and charged with kidnapping. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent most of his adult life in Alcatraz.


“Slick” Willie Sutton

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Sutton was an accomplished bank robber, although he never carried a loaded gun and never killed anybody throughout his criminal career. He was nicknamed “slick” for the many disguises he wore on the job. For instance, he has robbed banks dressed as a maintenance man, a postman and a police officer.

He has also escaped from prison multiple times. The first time he was serving a 30 year sentence for robbery, he used a smuggled gun to hold a prison guard hostage, before using a ladder to scale the prison wall. After being apprehended again, he was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. This time he escaped through a tunnel along with other convicts, although he was recaptured the same day. For his third escape, he dressed as a prison guard and carried a ladder to the prison wall at night; when the searchlight hit him he shouted: “it’s ok!” and nobody stopped him.

Sutton carried on his criminal career whilst on the run, but eventually ended up spending more than half his adult life in prison. Sutton was once asked by a reporter why he robbed banks. His reply was: “Because that’s where the money is”. However, this was invented by a reporter who never even interviewed Sutton. Sutton later answered the question, after admitting he never said the famous quote:

“Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I’d be out looking for the next job. But to me, the money was the chips, that’s all.”


Homer Van Meter

220Px-Homer Van Meter

Homer Van Meter was a young member of John Dillinger’s gang, with a reputation for being particularly bloodthirsty. He took part in the Dillinger gang’s last bank raid, in which four innocent bystanders were murdered. During his first brief stint in prison, the director of research wrote the following:

“This fellow is a criminal of the most dangerous type. Moral sense is perverted and he has no intention of following anything but a life of crime … He is a murderer at heart, and if society is to be safeguarded, his type must be confined throughout their natural lives.”

As a young man, Van Meter became involved in crime after working as a waiter for a short while. He ended up being sentenced to a long prison term for a train robbery. Whilst in prison he tried to escape with another prisoner. The men beat a guard unconscious but were soon apprehended. As a punishment, Van Meter spent two months in solitary confinement where he was severely beaten by guards.

After serving seven years in prison, Van Meter was paroled. He aligned himself with Baby Face Nelson and Tommy Carroll to rob a Michigan bank, escaping with $30,000. The trio then proceeded to rob a bank in Minnesota for $32,000. These crimes labelled Van Meter 18th on the public enemies list. After linking up with the Dillinger gang, he participated in some other high profile bank robberies. In Indiana, Van Meter robbed a police station with Dillinger. The duo stole firearms and bullet proof vests. On August 23rd, 1934, Van Meter was ambushed by four police officers and brutally gunned down. He was shot dozens of times, and several of his fingers were blown off. At the time of his death, he was 27 years old.


Pretty-boy Floyd


Floyd grew up in Oklahoma, and was first arrested at age 18, after stealing $3.50 from a post office. After participating in numerous small time robberies, he was eventually jailed for 5 years. When he was paroled he vowed to never see the inside of another prison. He began to associate with big time Kansas City mobsters. Over the next few years he participated in several bank robberies, and it was in this period that he acquired his nickname. A payroll master targeted in the robbery described Floyd as:
“A mere boy — a pretty boy with apple cheeks.”

The law eventually caught up with Floyd, and in 1930, he was arrested and charged with the robbery of the Sylvania Ohio Bank. He escaped from prison but was sentenced, in absentia, to 12-15 years behind bars. He remained on the run for three years before crashing his car in thick fog. He wasn’t hurt, but the car was disabled, and soon after he engaged in a chase with police. He fled into an apple orchard where he was shot and killed.


Baby Face Nelson

150Px-Baby Face Nelson

Baby Face Nelson was a prominent member of John Dillinger’s gang who, along with Homer Van Meter, had a particular reputation for violence. He has killed more FBI agents than any other single American citizen. He also participated in many high profile bank robberies until his death at the Battle of Barrington.

Nelson was arrested for theft and joyriding at age 13, and was sent to a penal school for 18 months. Later in life, Nelson became involved with some local gangsters, driving bootleg alcohol for them through the Chicago suburbs. These gangsters graduated into armed robbers and became known as the Tape Bandits, of which Nelson was a respected member. They would routinely rob fancy houses and steal jewelry. In April 1930, Nelson robbed his first bank and got away with $4000.

After robbing the wife of the Chicago mayor, he earned his nickname. The victim said: “He was good looking, hardly more than a boy. He had black hair and a baby face”. He committed his first murder when the Tape bandits robbed a tavern and he shot a stockbroker. Eventually, most of the Tape bandits were rounded up, including Nelson. He received a life sentence but escaped during a prison transfer.

After being on the run for two years, Nelson robbed his first major bank. The robbery was a near disaster though he still managed to make a clean getaway. After this, Nelson began to rob banks with Homer Van Meter and Eddie Green. During one robbery Nelson was reported to have sprayed innocent bystanders with machine gun bullets while screaming wildly. For a short while, Nelson was number one on the FBI list of public enemies. He was gunned down in the so called “Battle of Barrington”, but not before taking FBI agents Herman Hollis and Samuel P Cowley with him. At the time of his death, he was only 25 years old.


Alvin Karpis


Karpis was raised in Kansas and began associating with criminals from an early age. He ran errands for gangsters when he was 10 years old, and soon garnered a reputation for reliability. When he was 19, he participated in a botched burglary and was imprisoned for 10 years. In prison he met Fred Barker who was serving a sentence for bank burglary. The Barker family were a notorious gang of siblings who robbed banks and killed without provocation. Karpis immediately joined them after he was paroled, and together they formed the Karpis-Barker gang. The gang soon became one of the most formidable in the country, brutally murdering anyone who stood in their way as they robbed banks, even innocent bystanders.

The gang even participated in kidnappings, however this proved to be their downfall. The father of a man who was kidnapped was friends with President Franklin D Roosevelt, and as a result the FBI stepped up their efforts greatly to foil this type of crime. Fred Barker and his mother were gunned down by the FBI in their homes, in 1935. Karpis nearly met his own violent death when the FBI located him in New Jersey. He managed to shoot his way to an escape, although his pregnant girlfriend was shot in the thigh.

Karpis continued his armed robbery career, although it became more and more difficult for him to escape capture. He was the last remaining public enemy, all the others having being captured or killed. A determined J Edgar Hoover had even vowed to personally arrest Karpis. Hoover wouldn’t have to wait long. In May 1936, the FBI located Karpis in New Orleans, and surrounded his car. He surrendered peacefully although no agents had brought any handcuffs, as they assumed Karpis would fight to the death. He was tied up with a necktie and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment, which he served in Alcatraz.


Bonnie and Clyde


Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are among the most famous outlaws in history. The pair robbed numerous banks as well as some gas stations and stores in rural areas. They killed at least nine people during their spree, including civilians. They often took photographs of themselves posing together with the weapons they used during armed robberies. These were shown in the newspapers to give the impression the duo were enjoying a lavish lifestyle, when in fact they lived under immense stress and were constantly on the run.

Parker first met Clyde Barrow at a friend’s house. Most historians agree she was completely smitten with him, and willingly joined him as his partner in crime. Barrow was imprisoned in 1927, for robbery of a gas station and it was here that he committed his first killing. A fellow inmate sexually assaulted him over the course of a year, until Clyde eventually cracked his skull with a metal bar. He was paroled in 1932, and began to commit small time robberies with Parker.

Parker was soon arrested during a botched robbery of a hardware store, although she was soon released having not been charged. Later, when Parker was visiting her mother, officers moved in to arrest her again, but Barrow and an associate gunned them down, committing what was Barrow’s first murder of a lawman. Barrow soon killed again, after a robbery at a grocery store where he shot the owner for showing resistance; during the robbery they stole just $28 and a few groceries.

The duo and their gang went on to rob numerous other stores and banks before their downfall. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were ambushed, in May 1934. A posse of rangers opened fire into Barrow’s stolen car as he approached, at high speed, down a rural Louisiana road. Barrow was killed instantly by a headshot and Parker, in the passenger seat, was sprayed with bullets soon afterwards. They were shot over 50 times, including numerous headshots on each corpse.


Baron Lamm

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Herman “Baron” Lamm was a German American bank robber who is widely considered the father of modern bank robbery. He is renowned for his brilliant and efficient style, planning and executing robberies like military operations. He moved to America shortly before the outbreak of World War I, and became a hold up man; quickly adapting his military training, his study of tactics and his precision and discipline to the art of crime.

His bank robbery style became known as the “Lamm Technique”, and was widely imitated by other famous bank robbers, such as John Dillinger. The most famous aspect of the “Lamm Technique” was casing the bank before the robbery, and planning getaway routes so as to leave nothing to chance. Other aspects involved each gang member being assigned a job such “vault man”, “driver” or “lobby man”. He also put his men through rehearsals using full scale mock ups of the bank interior, and didn’t commit the actual robbery unless he felt sure his gang knew exactly what they were doing.

Baron Lamm died, aged 40, after a botched bank robbery when his gang crashed their getaway car. He was cornered by over 200 police, and shot himself in the head to avoid punishment. Two members of his gang survived and James “Oklahoma Jack” Clark went on to join the Dillinger gang after being imprisoned, though Dillinger told Clark he couldn’t join them unless he told him everything he knew about the “Lamm Technique”.


John Dillinger


Among his associate criminals of his time, such as Baby Face Nelson, Homer Van Meter and John “Red” Hamilton, Dillinger was, by far, the most notorious. He was famous for his likable personality and charm. He would often flirt with female bank tellers whom he was robbing, and would also sometimes leap over the counter, a stunt he imitated from the movies. He was charged with the murder of a police officer during his criminal career, though many witnesses insisted John Hamilton performed the killing.

Dillinger was born in Indiana and originally had no ties to crime. As a young man he enlisted in the US Navy, but was dishonorably discharged after he deserted. He married Beryl Hovious, in 1924, but the marriage ended in divorce. After this he had difficulty holding down a job and began to plan a robbery with a friend. He was arrested after being recognized during the robbery and sentenced to 10 to 20 years imprisonment, which was a very harsh sentence, indeed, for a first time offender.

Whilst incarcerated he became embittered against society, and began to mix with notorious criminals such as Harry Pierpoint and James “Oklahoma Jack” Clark. He spent his time planning heists with his new found friends, that they would commit shortly after being released. Dillinger was paroled in 1933, at the height of the great depression, when a convicted criminal had almost no option of employment. He robbed a bank in Ohio, but was captured soon after.

Four days after his arrest, Dillinger oversaw the smuggling of weapons into his friend’s prison cells, and they escaped, but not before killing two guards. The escapees then travelled to Lima County jail to liberate Dillinger. They impersonated police officers, telling the Sheriff they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. He asked for credentials, so they shot him and Dillinger escaped with them. The newly formed group of escapees became the first Dillinger gang.

Dillinger and his gang began a spree of bank robberies across Indiana, accumulating over $300,000 in total. During their spree, they killed around 13 lawmen, although Dillinger was never proven to have killed anyone. As the gang became notorious, Dillinger rose to the top of the list of Public Enemies, with other members of his gang filling out most of the top ten. His numerous prison escapes also added to his legend. After being arrested and imprisoned in the “escape proof” Lake County jail, Dillinger was able to use a carved wooden pistol to trick guards, and lock them in his cell. He also stole the Sheriff’s new Ford car to make his getaway.

His demise finally came when he attended the Biograph Theatre, in Chicago. After exiting the theatre the FBI were waiting for him and he was shot down as he tried to escape down a nearby alleyway. At the time of his death, he was 31 years old. Dillinger was portrayed by Jonny Depp in the 2009 film Public Enemies, though the film has some major inaccuracies, such as the timeline of deaths of Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson. In fact, Dillinger was one of the first in his gang to be killed.

  • Some Random Person

    Why are all these people American. The Great Depression did take place in Europe too. I live in the US and I agree that there are way too many lists centered around America. I also agree that many modern americans don’t care so much for the outside world

    • Well, who’d you think?

      I feel the same way

    • Bullamakanka

      Ho hum. Go make your own list, then, so we can complain about how overly non-American it is.

      • Human?

        i wish there was a “like” button

      • Agent119


    • Mariam

      Well, maybe this list is centered around America because it originated and began in the United States. And by the way, the Great Depression took place all over the world, not just the U.S and Europe.

      • Some Random Person

        I just said US and Europe because it was most strongly felt there.

        • Don’t be so sure

          • You sad strange little person

            Do you just love to comment on here and get yourself noticed or what?!

    • timmar68

      Just shut up! I’m SO SICK of people ripping on lists being too American! The authors of lists write them based on what they know. I’m from America, I’ve never been to Europe so if I write a list it won’t have anything European as it’s subject. It seems more Americans submit lists, so OF COURSE THEY WILL WRITE WHAT THEY KNOW! If there are Australian bank robbers from that era, then write a list about it and don’t expect someone who didn’t live there to know enough about it to submit a list.

      If you don’t want American lists, then for cripes sake-people from other countries PLEASE WRITE MORE LISTS so we don’t have to hear griping.

      There are plenty of other lists with subject matters I don’t know about because they aren’t American and I would never gripe that the list shouldn’t have been written because it’s based on another country.

      And quit ripping on America/americans. If we’re so bad then people wouldn’t be so desperate to be here that they enter the country illegally.

      I know I’ll get flamed for this post but frankly I don’t care. I’ve fracking had it.

      • Chris Atherton

        Timmar68, You are a prime example of the average American. Very stupid. I’m European, yet I know about world culture and historic events in many countries, yet you Americans only pay interest to your own country, so I think you should shut up and learn something about other cultures for once instead of destroying them.

        • ConstableDubs

          To be fair, I think a lot of Europeans (not all, mind you) have this Superiority Complex and come across as a bunch of pricks.

        • Xyroze

          Huh, what an ignorant, prejudice, Eurocentric statement. Was that intended to be sarcasm? I don’t know about you, but in my mind logic would dictate that if one were truly as enlightened as you claim both you and your entire continent are, you would avoid making such grossly inaccurate, sweeping overgeneralizations about things you obviously don’t fully understand.

          Though I digress. I’m sure my simple little American brain must have obviously missed the point of your blatantly exaggerated hyperbole.

          • Chris Atherton


          • Chris Atherton


          • Chris Atherton

            Honestly, there is a reason everyone hates Americans. Both of your comments just added fuel to the burning fire of hatred the rest of the world has towards you…

          • Chris Atherton

            Eurocentric? I’m talking on behalf of world history, Not just Europe you joke of a country that stands at 250 years old.

          • Chris Atherton

            Overgeneralisations* I’m European and my language is superior to yours. Use it…

          • Xyroze

            @Chris Atherton

            Okay, sorry, thank you for confirming that your comments have indeed been sarcastic in nature. Its really hard to tell the difference between trolls and legitimately mentally handicapped people with out the cues and inflection provided during spoken communication.

            Honestly though, I think you may be taking your attempt at making Europeans look incompetent, arrogant, rude, and unable to comprehend even very basic statements a bit too far. I don’t see what your problem is with them, they are much like people from anywhere. You may have had a bad experience at some point, but that’s no reason to lash out against an entire continent of people.

            I won’t judge you though. Maybe you were raised by abusive parents or were born horribly disfigured and are just looking for a target to blame, but it really isn’t necessary to mock a collection of cultures that are so varied you would be hard-pressed to find even a single universal trait amongst the lot of them. It just really doesn’t hold any ground as an appropriate outlet of frustrations. Though, I suppose that would explain your tongue-in-cheek approach at insulting them, as if you were already aware of how little sense your prejudice makes so you left the door open for misinterpretation. Touche..

          • Pablo

            It’s fucking hilarious the lengths people go to in arguments on this site. I mean that comment by Xyroze clearly took a lot of time and effort to write. Can’t everyone just get along? (:

          • Chris Atherton

            Well done Xyroze, you can use big words. Yet, you made no sense at all. Americans…

        • Rz

          Oh please, enjoy living im your nanny state government, where you are a subject and not a citizen.

          • peter8172

            @ Chris Atherton. So you think that just because we are American and you’re from Europe, that makes the English language inferior to yours. O.K. give me the definition of the word ” floccinaucinihilipilification, I’ll give you a hint. The only English dictionary in the world that has the definition of that English word can only be found in the O.E.D. (if your stupid enough to know, that’s the Oxford English Dictionary which I have in my book collection………Oh, and by the way, as of this moment I am surfing the web and also cleaning my Glock 9mm with a couple of bullets with your name on it. So FU*K YOU, YOU bombastic fricken simpleton of a creature. What happened did Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler’s wife of one day give birth to you ? You sure as sound as evil as Hitler and probably have his DNA all over your body as proof !!!!!

        • don’t worry about it

          dude you are very arrogant and very insecure. your BEGGING for attention. “i’m european yet I KNOW ABOUT WORLD CULTURE!” you love the smell of your own farts huh? 300 million americans yet you’ve got everyone of them figured out…talk about judgemental…oh, and the definition of a douchebag

        • Kc

          Chris Atherton is the reason I hate Europeans.

      • badjokebob

        Two thumbs up for Timmar! I was was going to write a similar reply but timmar said it all, and did it well I must add.

    • Josh Fox

      First of all I would just like to say that I myself am from England. The reason so many of these are American isn’t because I was being biased, it’s mainly because the public enemy era in American is the main reason notorious criminals achieved near celebrity status. Banks were seen as the enemy during the great depression and the American public almost looked upon these outlaws as rebels and heros. The newspapers loved them which is why they are so famous even today.

    • Maggot

      Why are all these people American. The Great Depression did take place in Europe too.

      Once again, someone is reading too much into a list’s title. The list is not actually about the Great Depression, it just serves as a backdrop. If you read the intro, you’ll find that the list is actually about the so called “Public Enemy” era and the FBI’s efforts in tracking and capturing said “enemies” who had attained notoriety during that time and who were on their most-wanted list. Obviously the FBI’s jurisdiction did not extend to criminal activity outside the U.S., so the list has not wrongly omitted “famous depression era bank robbers” from other countries that were also experiencing the throes of depression era hardships.

      I live in the US and I agree that there are way too many lists centered around America. I also agree that many modern americans don’t care so much for the outside world

      So if you would like to regale us with tales of other depression era bank robbers who were notorious in other counties, please do. That would certainly be much more productive than your whining about this list. As the saying goes: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  • Bullamakanka

    Growing up in Australia, all we heard about was American this and American that. All the while we’re chopping away at the tall poppies who were trying to alter that image. Now that I’m here in the States, I have a better understanding of this psychosis surrounding anti-Americanism. America is the tall poppy so many around the world (and within, particularly from the left) would so like to see chopped down. But when this tall poppy goes away, the weeds take over.

    • Felicia

      Great analogy :)

  • Otter

    Great list! I love the “public enemy” era of the 30’s. Very well written and researched Josh.

    • Otter

      See what I did there guys? I left a comment about the actual list and not some stupid comment about “Too American” or blah blah blah. I agree with “Bullamakanka”, go write your own damn lists if you don’t like the ones published. I think the majority of listversers are tired of the “too American, not american enough, atheists are right, Christians are right crap that’s constantly being argued about in the comments. I’ll step off my soapbox now.

      • Well done :) totally agree

      • Stay on the soapbox Otter, you’re speaking more sense than most do.

      • Auburn Tiger

        Otter is a cool dude who doesn’t afraid of anything.

        • fragge

          I object.

  • Will Trame

    Another list documenting the dark side of human nature. Maybe a crime list is apropos for today as this date marks the 45th anniversary of Charles Whitman’s murderous rampage at the University of Austin. He wasn’t a bank robber, but still good and evil are monstrously mixed up in man. Was it Neitzsche or Dostoyevsky who said that? At this point in the morning I’m not too sure.

  • fraterhater

    I’m not bothered that this is an American list, in fact I had not even thaught of it untill reading some of the comments.

    But it does raise the question what was happening in Europe, Australia or wherever else during this time? I think it would be wonderfull for someone to make a list on this because for one thing I find myself largeley guessing even about my own country Australia, I know some things of the financial hardships but I’d like to read about some of the crimes, and stors of this era.

  • Plod


  • Plod

    I was talking to Bullamakanka and please in the comments actually talk about the list. It was a great list but i think how most of them worked with each other ruined it.

  • keyshock

    Very interesting list. I wonder how the general public viewed these robbers. Were they feared like criminals should be? Admired like celebrities? Empathize with them? Or maybe a combination of all three?

    • Josh Fox

      Dillinger was definately seen as a kind of Robin Hood figure. After he died people crowded around his body and cried, some people soaked cloths with his blood as a memento.

      • keyshock

        Hmm prolly cause he wasn’t the type to gun down innocent civilians. I guess his good looks helped too :p

  • hercules321

    First thing that popped in my head after seeing the title was “Public Enemies” :)

    Loved that movie!

    Good list.

  • venusbloo

    Did the author of the list just get a book entitled “John Dillinger & Friends” and make the list from that? It would have been more interesting if the list contained more robbers not associated with Dillinger.

    • inconspicuousdetective

      for that era, the most famous bank robbers were associated. so no, its not a list about Dillinger and friends, but it seems that way because at the time, the most famous bank robbers were associating.

  • Jonnnno

    Good list but would of been cool if the value of the money today was put next to the old price.

  • kennypo65

    Great list, very fine work Mr. Fox. I read “On The Rock” a book written by Alvin “creepy” Karpis. It’s about his time in Alcatraz and is a pretty good read.

  • acg3

    Great list! #10 looks like Tom Hanks!

  • vanowensbody

    Great list.

    Who will be the bank robbers of this Depression?

    • MeDan

      “Best Bank Robbers of the Millenium So Far.” That would be an interesting list, but you might have to make it a short list as I don’t think bank robbery still happens much, does it?

      • Josh Fox

        Yes it does, but only %35 are successful so most criminals go for drug trafficking or identity theft instead. Serial Bank Robbers generally get more time behind bars than some murderers.

  • John Hamilton

    another non-sense list…

  • oouchan

    Liked all the stories behind these robbers. Interesting to read. I’ve always liked the story about Bonnie and Clyde. Both sadistic people.

    Great list.

  • godwarrier

    People who think a list is ‘too American’ are traitors. America is the greatest place on earth. If someone thinks otherwise, they should be shot. Also, where are the Aliens? I demand more Aliens!

    • LOL WUT?

      Aliens are too American.

  • Magnumto

    Another great list, Josh, very entertaining – thanks for taking the time to write it. I had never heard of Hamilton, Davis, Van Meter, or Lamm, but the others are almost rock stars of their time and deeds. Machine Gun Kelly was another of that sort, although it seems that his wife was more responsible for his nickname than he was.

  • Killbilly

    Great list! I love reading about these guys and their exploits. Your picks were excellent.

    The only thing missing was how some of them died. It’s kind of interesting to find that a good percentage of these gangsters lived onto old age and sying for the most part quite peacefully.

  • Joboo

    I’d love to see more lists made by people from countries other than the United States about their histories and cultures. Is there anything stopping you from doing that? Or do you just want Americans to do it for you? I don’t get it. It makes you sound incredibly lazy to be honest.

    • Chris Atherton

      I want Americans to do it for us.

      • Pablo

        Agreed ^

    • MeDan

      Enter your foreign comment here. That would be great, Joboo, but that gauntlet’s been down for a long time and most lists are still by Americans and a lot of people still write in to say they’re too American. I would love to see someone submit a list from Japan (on the stock market?) or China (on the folklore maybe?) or Finland (banking? death metal?) or Australia (what it’s like to not give a damn), but those lists are very few.

  • Woody Guthrie wrote a song about Pretty Boy Floyd. The last verse says:

    As through this world I’ve traveled, I’ve seen all kinds of men,

    Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.

    But as through this world you ramble, as through this world you roam,

    You’ll never see an outlaw drive a family from their home.

    It’s even more relevant today than it was back then, isn’t it?

    • MeDan

      Eslpecially relevant right now as the recent mortgage crisis left such a bewildering paperwork mess that a lot of banks don’t know which homes they own, which have paid their mortgages, etc. One family apparently returned from vacation and found their house had been taken over by the bank and was up for sale although they’d completely paid off their mortgage. Hehehe. A recent Newsweek, I think, had a long article about this sort of thing.

  • wasd

    Cool list. Interesting read.

  • For those of you complaining about this being “all American”; Alvin Karpis was Canadian. He was deported when he was released from Leavenworth (he was sent there after Alcatraz was closed).

    By the way, he did an AMAZING long interview with Elwy Yost for TV Ontario. He looked like someone’s harmless GFather. But he was talking about Ma Barker, and Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone, how to pick a getaway car, etc. He even taught Charles Manson how to play the guitar in prison. Incredible.

  • Greg

    I really enjoyed this list…but the comments make me want to punch babies. A couple of suggestions to the comment-trollers:

    1) Write your own list about famous European, or Asian, or (insert-other-non-North-American-Continent-here) and submit to be published on this website…maybe it will show up (I’d read it).

    2) Start your own website…it’s free (seriously, there a numerous free blogging sites out there to get you started). If it’s well written, it will get hits.

    I’ve never understood what sort of inferiority-complex has to be involved with people going to a website written by an American and complaining that it’s too American…the internet is a place to freely distribute whatever information you want…so if you see something that you think is missing from the internet, feel free to add it.

    Rather than complaining about it, I would THINK you would use it as an opportunity to educate people who may not possess familiarity with your own culture…and I’d be interested to learn, because judging from the comments section on this post, it would appear that whatever culture you belong to has only one major export to the rest of the world…and that’s whining and crying like a wee girl who tore her pink dress.

    • Xyroze

      No offense intended, because I do for the most part agree with you, but this website is actually operated by someone from New Zealand, and this specific list was written by someone from England, which makes the bickering entirely unjustified due to the fact they are persecuting non-Americans for producing something too American.

      In the end it is just bickering for the sake of bickering. Regardless of how far you bend over to try and compromise enough to be fair, people will always find something to nitpick.

      • Chris Atherton

        Xyroze, please shut up. You talk non-stop bollocks. Thankyou.

  • Helena

    People are WAY too sensitive and are reading too much into it. It’s just a list, that is all, nothing more nothing less.

  • Alejandra

    Im not surprised john dillinger was #1 he was such a badass! I love him b/c he wasnt cruel like most bankrobbers plus hes hot and he wasnt racist in a time that most ppl were. LOVE U MR.DILLINGER U SEXY SEXY GERMAN MAN! ;)

  • brian

    I think it is rediculous to say that bank robbers today are incompetent.

    • Josh Fox

      Today most bank robbers have £1000 per day cocaine addictions and act out of desperation. The entries on this list concentrated their efforts on excelling in a life of crime. Alvin Karpis once robbed a bank and the takings was 25 times more than the average years salary for an American, the average bank robbery takings today is around $5000

  • Alejandra

    Really I right S.E.X.Y S.E.X.Y and they blur it out! >:( grrrr its nothing bad!

    • MeDan

      Alejandra, after they asterisked your words I wondered what you actually wrote and thought about it and the stuff I came up with was REALLY bad. You naughty girl!!!

  • She

    LOL! My Grandpa met Pretty Boy Floyd. I think he was given some money after feeding him. A modern day Robin Hood he was. Admired by the working poor for kicking those evil bankers behinds…..they need it again.

  • itswinston

    Interesting list, but not as interesting as the other list

    • Slappy

      Ah yes, the other list! Now there was a list. It glowed in the dark like precious radium and imbued all who read it with a sense of hope and optimism and the certain knowledge that things can- no, WILL- be better. The other list was a national treasure.

      But it was too American so we deleted it. Cheers.

  • im stupid

    americans are idiots and europeans are dumbs…

  • yorkshirepud

    im from yorkshire England,..and i reckon our best gangsters started around the late 50´s early 60´s, . we never had any prohibition so i reckon the Americans kind of had a good start on us,..all the gangster films i saw when i was a kid where mostly American,. (apart from good old robin hood) In the days of the gun totin wild ol prohibition even the good guys loved a beer now and then, understandable like is´nt it,..technically half the country where criminals,we lads of england where drinking like fuck, and gasping at the antics of your lot , no offence ladies and gents.

  • boyfromIndia

    they were amazinng….and I am not a Psycho…hahahaha.
    great list,good effort.Thanx:)

  • John Dillinger

    are of yall are gay

  • michael tuohey

    I’m trying to find info on my grandfather who robbed a bank in the 20s in Ohio,he ended up in Ohio state prison and was there during the fire.Anyway someone can help me finding info on him?He raised me and was a great man that I knew of.His name was Michael Francis Tuohey.Born Feb 12,1910

  • petet2112

    @ michael tuohey : Try or if you know your grandfather’s name (which I am sure you do) go into a death certificate website. I do warn you though, it will cost you a few bucks, so get your credit card ready. I tried getting my mother’s death certificate (she died in 1981) and it ended up that they wanted to charge on my credit card. So I declined. Good Luck to you

  • Sam the Sham

    The list isn’t bad, but I’d disagree with the order of listings and perhaps one left out. The list appears to confuse bank robbery success with violence. If the list order were to reflect the actual title of the list, Willie Sutton–New York City boy– should be top dog. His takings far exceeded all the others. Second on the list should be Harvey Bailey born in West Virginia and raised near tiny Pollack, Mo. Despite his obscure origins, he led or masterminded many numerous robberies, including that of the Denver Mint itself. I mean, c’mon… anybody can rob a bank of money (yes, it’s the getaway that’s the hard part), but how many have the brains and cajones to rob the place where the money actually originates? Only one, Harvey Bailey, voted during the era as England’s favorite American gangster for his success, intelligence, and good manners.

    • Sam the Sham

      sorry, that’s NUMEROUS or MANY, not many numerous… jeez. Pollock, Mo not Pollack. My bad!

  • shareyt

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