Brinks Job Exhibit
Collections of the Print Department

3rd Floor, McKim Building, Central Library

WHAT? A pictorial investigation of the Brink's job, Boston's crime of the century.

WHY? Because January, 2000 was the 50th Anniversary of the Brink's Job and we thought people might want to see them.

HOW? Because the Print Department has hundreds of photographs of the "Big Job."

This poster  is available for sale through the Boston Public Library's Business Office.   The Business Office is open 9-5, Monday through Friday.  You may visit the office to purchase or to order through the mail please contact:

Boston Public Library
Business Office
P. O. Box 280
Boston, MA 02117
617.859. 2346

Cost of the poster is $10.00, Shipping is $2.50

Police question Brink's employees in the vault room on the night of the robbery. The open vault is in the background. Herald-Traveler Photograph, January 17, 1950

Two Brink's robbery suspects are escorted from the U.S. Marshal's Office in the Federal Building after their arraignment. Herald-Traveler Photograph by Daniel Murphy, January 1956

The Brink's Job

At 7:27 p.m. on January 17, 1950, the Boston Police received a frantic call from an employee at the Boston offices of America's biggest money mover, Brink's, Inc. Minutes later police squad cars squealed to a halt at 165 Prince Street in the North End. The cops on the scene found out that there had been a robbery. It was a big one.

Early estimates of the amount of money taken ranged from $80,000 to $100,000. This estimate was somewhat conservative. It turned out that the robbers had carried away $1,218,211.29 in cash and $1,557,183.83 in checks, money orders and other securities. It was the biggest cash haul in history. In the years to come it would be known as the "crime of the century" and the "perfect crime". It would take six years and the combined investigative efforts of the Boston Police and the FBI, not to mention the help of local police departments across the country, to bring the robbers to heel.

Early suspects were the gang headed by famed bank robber Willy Sutton, who was on the loose at the time of the robbery, and the Purple Gang from Detroit who had pulled off some of the most daring heists of the prohibition era. During a press conference on Brink's, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover theorized that there might be a communist plot behind the robbery saying: "It would be a fine sum of money to have for subversive purposes."

It turned out that the perpetrators were local talent, and in their own way, staunch capitalists. The crew that pulled off the Brink's Job were thorough professionals, career criminals to a man. They had taken off some big scores in their time but never anything like Brink's. Hey, nobody had pulled off anything like Brink's. The robbery had been planned to a tee. The few clues they had left behind led nowhere. The eyewitnesses were unable to identify the men. How well planned was the robbery? The FBI and the Boston Police knew by the end of 1950 who the Brink's robbers were, but still couldn't prove a thing. It would take five more years to crack the case.

The investigation, led by the FBI office in Boston, consisted of two strategies. First, they followed up every lead and talked to every snitch and wacko that called in with information on the Big Job. Second, they put a tremendous amount of heat down on the street. They pulled in every bookie and gambler who had a bigger roll of bills in his pocket than usual, and brought in every known thief in Boston, even if their crime had been stealing milk money from an eight year old. Soon the criminal underworld of Boston wanted the Brink's crew arrested more than the cops did.

And what about the general public, were they screaming for the blood of the bandits, cursing the day they were born? Not really, most people thought it was fun. Many would tell you that they wanted them to get away with it. Comedians everywhere made jokes about the robbery. On the Ed Sullivan Show a group of men were brought out on stage wearing masks and were introduced to big laughs as the Brink's robbers. In a time known as the age of conformity and right-living, the Brink's crew became a strange kind of American hero. Were they heroes? Not really, they were just a group of guys that did their job and did it well.

Brink's Job Facts:

  1. The robbery took place on the evening of January 17, 1950.
  2. The Brink's offices were located in the North Terminal Garage Building in the North End at 169 Prince Street. The building still stands.
  3. $1,218,211.29 in cash and $1,557,183.83 in checks, money orders and other securities were stolen by the robbers.
  4. No one was hurt during the commission of the crime.
  5. Eleven men participated in the robbery but there were hundreds of accessories.
  6. Only $51,906 of the Brink's cash was recovered.
  7. The government spent approximately $29,000,000 to bring the gang to justice.
  8. Only eight members of the gang were put on trial in 1956. Two had already died and one had turned state's evidence against the remaining guys.
  9. All eight defendants pled innocent but we know they were guilty. How? They confessed 20 years later.
  10. And who robbed Brink's? You'll have to see the show to find out.

The Boston Herald-Traveler Photo Morgue

Most of the photographs in the exhibit are from the files of the Herald-Traveler Photo Morgue. 'Morgue' is the term for a newspaper's working archive of photographs. By the end of the 19th century, The Boston Herald, founded in 1846, and the Boston Traveler, founded in 1825 as a bulletin for stage coach listings, were two of Boston's major daily newspapers. In 1912, the Herald bought the Traveler and until 1967 the paper, retaining both names, was published as a morning and evening edition. In 1967, the newspaper officially became known as the Boston Herald-Traveler. In 1972, the Herald-Traveler and another Boston newspaper called the Record-American merged to become the present day Boston Herald.

The Herald-Traveler Photo Morgue, the newspaper's archive of both published and unpublished photographs found a home in the Print Department of the Boston Public Library. The file contains approximately 500,000 photographs on a wide variety of subjects. One of those subjects was the Brink's robbery. Most of the photographs in this exhibit were taken by Herald-Traveler staff photographers. The exhibit is dedicated to their work.