The Manhattan Savings Institution Bank Robbery.

On October 27, 1878 The manager of the Manhattan Savings Institution found the vault empty and nearly $3 million in currency and securities was missing. In real dollars it remains the largest bank robbery in history.

The heist was three years in planning, tightly scripted and well-rehearsed; in timing and precision of execution the robbery.

The manager & financier of the operation was a woman known as Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum who at the time was the most successful fence in New York City, she ran a dry goods store on Clinton Street and had warehouses full of stolen merchandise throughout the city. She had a hand nearly every major crime in Manhattan.

Her crew was the who’s who of the New York underworld at the time, George Leslie, an architect & the son of a wealthy Cincinnati brewer, who moved to New York to become a bank robber. He was a trained architect, adept at engineering and invention. Mandelbaum was especially intrigued by a safe-cracking tool he had invented. He called it “the little joker”—it was a metal disk that, when placed behind the dial of a combination lock, would record the numbers of the combination.

The gang consisted of hard core criminals, different from Leslie in every way. It included Shang Draper, saloon owner, and thief who earned the name “Shang” by his practice of shanghaiing sailors. He was also a noted conman.

The muscle of the gang was Red Leary, who stood six foot four and had a hair trigger temper. While the plan explicitly avoided violence, it didn’t hurt to have some intimidation, if only to keep the gang in line.

But there was a problem, George Leslie had been having affairs with Draper’s and Leary’s wives and they wanted revenge. On June 4, 1878 George Leslie’s body was found at the foot of Tramp’s Rock, three miles outside of Yonkers, New York. He had been shot twice, once in the heart and once in the head.

The Manhattan Savings Institution was robbed on October 27, 1878 by the gang, now headed by Shang Draper, using George Leslie’s plan. The take was $2,747,700

Owen Forsyth

Web Designer, Teacher, Artist, Writer, 3D & Visual Effects, DJ

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