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Posts Tagged ‘bank robbery

“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding”*…

 

On the heels of last Sunday’s look at the NYPL Labs’ extraordinary interactive version of the Green Books, another visit to the Library, which has taken advantage of it’s enormous public domain collection to enable one to compare the photos from the 1911 Fifth Avenue from Start to Finish collection with 2015’s Google Street View.   The work of Bert Spaan, it illuminates one of the Big Apple’s most storied thoroughfares:

Fifth Avenue, the street that became the social and cultural spine of New York’s elite, first appeared on the Commissioners’ Map of 1811. At that time, it was merely a country road to Yorkville (then just a tiny self-contained village), but in the proposed grid plan it would be a grand boulevard. As the City grew and prospered Fifth Avenue became synonymous with fashionable life, the site of mansions, cultural and social institutions, and restaurants and shops catering to the elite. In 1907, alarmed at the approach of factories, the leading merchants and residents formed the Fifth Avenue Association. The Save New York Committee became a bulwark against the wrong kind of development. Perhaps inspired by this contemporary movement, photographer Burton Welles used a wide-angled view camera in 1911 to document this most important street from Washington Square, north to East 93rd Street.

Take a stroll at “Street View, Then & Now: New York City’s Fifth Avenue.”

* John Updike

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As we spread the news, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that three armed men entered the Bank of America’s World Trade Center location, disarmed two Brink’s guards delivering money to a currency exchange center there, then fled with with $1.6 million.  The heist was the brainchild of former mob boss Ralph Guarino. Given the heightened security on the heels of the 1993 WTC bombings, he needed help from a long-time employee of the facility, who handed over his ID badge and informed Guarino of the next expected delivery of cash to the bank; three hired goons were dispatched to carry out the robbery on that day.  The three entered the bank via passenger elevator early in the morning, tying up employees and stuffing cash into duffel bags as planned.  Luckily for law enforcement, the theives were not very discreet; only one of the the trio bothered to cover his head, so the other two were readily identifiable on security cam footage.  They were apprehended quickly following the robbery, leading to the capture of Guarino, who chose becoming an FBI informant over jail time.

The heist is unpacked in detail in the 2003 book Made Men.

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Written by LW

January 14, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime”*…

 

In 1798  John Neagle, an honest Philadelphia blacksmith, was falsely convicted and incarcerated for America’s first major bank robbery; exonerated six months later, he then became America’s first recipient of a “wrongful imprisonment” settlement from the city.  The incredible tale in its entirety (and an explanation of the symbolism in the portrait of Neagle above) at  “The First American Bank Robbery Was An Epic Farce.”

* Howard Zinn

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As we take care not to throw away the key, we might send beautiful– but  deadly– birthday greetings to Benvenuto Cellini; he was born on this date in 1500.  A Renaissance goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, artist, poet, and memoirist, he was an important figure in the Mannerist period… and as he confessed inThe Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, a multiple murderer and maimer.

When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defense to a great dagger I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also such wise that he dropped it.
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Ch. XXVIII, as translated by John Addington Symonds, Dolphin Books edition, 1961

The Cellini Salt Cellar (or Salteria)

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Bust of Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

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Written by LW

November 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It would be lovely if a magician was fooled as well”*…

 

William Frederick Pinchbeck was a forerunner of Ricky Jay and the Masked Magician.  His 1805 book, The Expositor, was a demystification of the tricks and illusions of the day…

… taking place via the medium of a series of letters between W.F.P (the author William Frederick Pinchbeck) and a mysterious A.B., the recipient of the former’s knowledge. The epistolary unveiling begins with arguably the most enigmatic of the tricks listed, that of the “Learned Pig”, or as the excellent frontispiece refers to it “The Pig of Knowledge”. In this trick, which took London by storm in the 1780s, a pig is taught to respond to commands in such a way that it appears to be able to answer questions through picking up cards in its mouth. Several years before the publication of his Expositor, Pinchbeck had himself toured his own “Pig of Knowledge” to all the major towns of the U.S. Union including, so he claims, once introducing the pig to President John Adams to “universal applause”. In addition to the pig trick, as the brilliantly lengthy title of the book declares, other tricks unravelled by Pinchbeck in subsequent letters include “invisible lady and acoustic temple”, “penetrating spy glasses” and the rather marvelous sounding “philosophical swan.”

The Expositor or, Many Mysteries Unravelled. Delineated in a series of letters, between a friend and his correspondent, comprising the learned pig, invisible lady and acoustic temple, philosophical swan, penetrating spy glasses, optical and magnetic, and various other curiosities on similar principles: also, a few of the most wonderful feats as performed by the art of legerdemain, with some reflections on ventriloquism; 1805; Boston

Read more at Public Domain Review; find the full text at the Internet Archive; and download the pdf here.

* Ricky Jay

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As we say “shazam,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that John Wojtowicz attempted (with Salvatore Naturale and Robert Westenberg) to rob a Brooklyn branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank.  The heist, meant to pay for Wojtowicz’s lover’s (Ernest Aron’s) sex reassignment surgery, went sideways; Wojtowicz and Naturale ended up holding seven bank employees hostage for 14 hours (Westenberg had fled before police swarmed).  Wolfowicz was arrested; Naturale, killed.  The episode was the basis of Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (for which screenwriter Frank Pierson won an Oscar), in which Wolfowicz was played by Al Pacino.  (The real) Wolfowicz made $7,500 selling the movie rights to the story and 1% of its net profit– which he used to finance Aron’s surgery.

Elizabeth Debbie Eden– nee, Ernest Aron– post-op

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John Wolfowicz, in the midst of the stand-off

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Written by LW

August 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

“when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”*…

 

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Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) was a millionaire heiress and Chicago society dame with a very unusual hobby for a woman raised according to the strictest standards of nineteenth century domestic life: investigating murder. And she did this through a most unexpected medium: dollhouse-like dioramas. Glessner Lee grew up home-schooled and well-protected in the fortress-like Glessner House, designed by renown American architect H.H. Richardson, but she was introduced to the fields of homicide investigation and forensic science by her brother’s friend, George Magrath, who later became a medical examiner and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Instantly captivated by the nascent pursuit, she became one of its most influential advocates. In 1936, she endowed the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard and made subsequent gifts to establish chaired professorships and seminars in homicide investigation. But that’s not all…

Glessner Lee, rather than using her well cultivated domestic skills to throw lavish parties for debutantes, tycoons, and other society types, subverted the notions typically enforced upon a woman of her standing by hosting elaborate dinners for investigators who would share with her, in sometimes gory detail, the intricacies of their profession. Glessner Lee oversaw every detail of these dinners herself, down to the menu and floral arrangements. She could probably tell you which wine goes best with discussion about a strangled corpse found in a bathroom. But the matronly Glessner Lee — who may have been the inspiration for Angela Lansbury’s character in “Murder She Wrote”– wanted to do more to help train investigators. She wanted to create a new tool for them…

In her conversations with police officers, scholars and scientists, she came to understand that through careful observation and evaluation of a crime scene, evidence can reveal what transpired within that space. The physical traces of a crime, the clues, the vestiges of a transgressive moment, have a limited lifespan, however, and can be lost or accidentally corrupted. If a crime scene were properly studied, the truth would ultimately be revealed.

To help her investigator friends learn to assess evidence and apply deductive reasoning,  to help them “find the truth in a nutshell,” Frances Glessner Lee created what she called “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,”  a series of lovingly crafted dioramas at the scale of one inch to one foot, each one a fully furnished picturesque scene of domesticity with one glaringly subversive element: a dead body…

These miniature crime scenes were representations of actual cases, assembled through police reports and court records to depict the crime as it happened and the scene as it was discovered. They were pure objective recreations. The design of each dollhouse, however, was Glessner Lee’s own invention and revealed her own predilections and biases formed while growing up in a palatial, meticulously appointed home. She makes certain assumptions about taste and lifestyle of low-income families, and her dioramas of their apartments are garishly decorated with, as Miller notes, “nostalgic,” and “often tawdry” furnishings.

Investigators had to learn how to search a room and identify important evidence to construct speculative narratives that would explain the crime and identify the criminal.  Glessner Lee’s models helped them develop and practice specific methods –geometric search patterns or zones, for example– to complete an analysis of a crime scene. “The forensic investigator,” Miller writes, “takes on the tedious task of sorting through the detritus of domestic life gone awry….the investigator claims a specific identity and an agenda: to interrogate a space and its objects through meticulous visual analysis”…

Read the full story at “How a Chicago Heiress Trained Homicide Detectives With an Unusual Tool: Dollhouses.”

* Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four

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As we re-enact the crime, we might recall that it was on this date in 1831, that Edward Smith knocked over the National City Bank of New York (an ancestor of Citibank), and made off with $245,000– America’s first bank robbery.  He was quickly apprehended and sentenced to five years in Sing Sing (which was only five years old when Smith arrived as an inmate).

While Smith has claim to being America’s first “bank robber” as we tend to use the term, his stick up was not the first theft from an American bank.  That honor seems to belong to the 1798 burglary of the the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia.

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Written by LW

March 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

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