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Author Topic: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking  (Read 7400 times)

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Angie

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Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« on: February 17, 2008, 09:51:42 PM »

I've got my fingers crossed that somebody can help with this...

My husband is working on a heist story set in early 1930's Chicago. He's been googling like mad trying to find out how bank vaults would have been cracked and ran into trouble trying to get details. It looks like prior to 1930, the acetylene torch was the tool of choice for cracking vaults. The next generation of vaults evidently addressed this with a copper sheet within the wall of the vault that would melt and then re-seal. Okay, cool. But then there's nothing on how robbers got around this nifty impediment! Most of the safe-cracking info doesn't pick up again until the 1950's, so that's no help. Any ideas on where to look/who to ask?!

Any help would be much appreciated!

Thanks,

Angie J-S
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Dave Freas

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2008, 10:07:10 PM »

There's always dynamite or nitro.  ;D

Dave
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Elena

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2008, 11:46:04 AM »

It took practice and then a fair amount of time, but vaults used to be able to be cracked by listening (stethoscope) or feeling the tumbler action. 

Or they could break  into the back of the vault by tunneling or whatever got them there.  The backs were not particularly reinforced.

And, they really could use the acetylene torch since even if the safe building technology had improved, banks could not easily install a new safe.  Chances were good, especially considering the depression, that the safe was a pre-1930's model.  They were built into the building at the time of construction.  You can always depend on the false security of nothing have ever happened to make the bank even consider the extreme expensive of installing a new vault  :D

Elena
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Peg H

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2008, 03:17:47 PM »

Angie,
You got me curious about safe cracking in the 1930's so I did some research and came across an article your husband might enjoy reading.
 
http://tacomathenandnow.typepad.com/tacoma_then_and_now/2007/11/eddie-bentz-car.html  

The article gives another explanation as to why safe cracking became less popular.

Peg H  ;D
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Angie

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2008, 04:48:39 PM »

Thanks for the link to the article, Peg - I'm sure he'll get some good info out of it. I like the idea of the acetylene torch being big 'n heavy - adds another problem to be dealt with! And Elena, I've been thinking maybe he's making too much out of the new tech. That's a good point about it being a massive pain to put in a new safe.

Still wish I could just find a good book or website on the history of safe-cracking! The few that I've found just aren't that specific & have a big gap between the 1920's and 1950's.

Angie
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Elena

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2008, 01:32:12 PM »

Quote
The few that I've found just aren't that specific & have a big gap between the 1920's and 1950's.

I did a bit of poking around and suspect that there actually weren't as many safe crackings during that period.  In 1934 the FDIC was established which caused robberies of insured banks to become federal offenses invoking the FBI which always put a lot of emphasize on high profile crimes, including banks.

Between the depression and WWII I doubt that there was much happening in the safe cracking world.  As the article that Peg cited shows, cars, and technological improvements in guns seriously changed the culture of bank robberies, reducing safe cracking for the much much easier route of holding up banks.

However, that is not without it's perils - in the early 90's a man decided to hold up a bank in a little town just outside of Atlanta.  He 'cased the joint' for months.  Learned the schedules of cash movements and staff for months.  And, finally decided on a Thursday morning.  He sallied forth to put his evil scheme into effect, not considering the unusual number of people waiting for cashiers.

And, that was his undoing - that unusual batch of people were agents from the local FBI facility who had just been paid.  Needless to say - he was caught  quite handily :D

Enjoy,
Elena
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Janet Koch

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2008, 10:32:00 AM »

And, that was his undoing - that unusual batch of people were agents from the local FBI facility who had just been paid.  Needless to say - he was caught  quite handily...

Fun story, Elena. I laughed out loud :)  Thanks!

Janet

Charles King

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Re: Early 1930's Safe-Cracking
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2009, 12:35:35 PM »

Okay, It's very late to the party here, but I believe the heyday for safe cracking was post WW2, when there were a great many unemployed men--especially in Europe walking around with demolition skills learned in the war. ... There's a great series about this by Tony Broadbent, the first is called The Smoke, set in London. 1945 ...

C. King 8)
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