Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mail Clerks Armed in 1926

In 1926, the Post Office Department sent a memo to it's army of 25,000 railway mail clerks an order to shoot to kill any bandits attempting to rob the mail, this followed an ever increasing number of robberies by bandits on the mail service. They also issued a statement saying that if the robberies continue the U.S. Marines would be bought to protect the mail.

Viva Biggs wanted to know on the Stupid Questions website, "Why did bandits of yore always rob the mail train? What was so valuable about mail?"

According to John Ruch, "Bandits were after registered mail—documented and insured letters and packages—which often contained cash or securities. Often this mail was simply a bag of cash. Mailed cash included company payrolls, transfers from the Federal Reserve to regional banks, and transactions between banks, companies and private citizens."

He goes on to say, "Thieves were also interested in the safe in the 'express car,' which carried packages (not necessarily mail) being shipped by the fastest possible route. It could contain gold, silver, jewels, cash, commercial goods (gold watches, silk dresses) and negotiable bonds and securities. Much of the gold and silver was bullion going from mines to banks or assay offices."

Shown above, 1995 stamp featuring a frame from the classic 1903 film "The Great Train Robbery"

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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM