America’s First Bank Robber Did Not Have The Greatest Idea

Samuel Reason | August 9th, 2018

Picture Philadelphia in 1798, yellow fever was ravaging the state and many people simply abandoned the city though some were forced to stay. In a matter of weeks, over a thousand people would perish from the deadly illness.

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Patrick Lyon, a blacksmith, was able to escape the turmoil and make his way over to Delaware by boat, hoping to rest up and return when the disease had passed. It was then that he learned he was a prime suspect in a great burglary, the first bank robbery of America. A huge sum for the time of $162,821 had been stolen from the vaults of the Bank of Philadelphia. Just before leaving for Delaware, he had indeed changed the locks of this bank and they suspected him of making an extra key.

It was obvious that it was an inside job as there were no signs at all of a forced entry, Patrick immediately knew it was the carpenters who had helped with the job and went back to clear his name. The lawman did not believe his story, so Patrick was locked up and sent straight to prison. The lawmen were adamant he had made an extra key.

And that is when the bank discovered someone was depositing the money back in the bank, a move that will go down in the annals of bad decisions. The robber, one of the carpenters, Isaac Davis had started to deposit the stolen money in his account. Which happened to be with the very same bank, the bank immediately made the officials aware and Davis was arrested. Somehow by agreeing to return all the money, he was able to weasel out of never spending a day in prison!

Patrick had to wait several weeks before finally being released, where he promptly opened up legal actions against the bank and law officials. In 1805, his legal civil case was finally settled and he was paid $12,000 in restitution for false imprisonment.

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