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
P. O. Box 280
Boston, MA 02117
Cost of the poster is
$10.00, Shipping is $2.50
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
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.
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.
- The robbery took place on the evening of
January 17, 1950.
- The Brink's offices were located in the
North Terminal Garage Building in the North End at 169 Prince Street. The building still
- $1,218,211.29 in cash and $1,557,183.83
in checks, money orders and other securities were stolen by the robbers.
- No one was hurt during the commission of
- Eleven men participated in the robbery
but there were hundreds of accessories.
- Only $51,906 of the Brink's cash was
- The government spent approximately
$29,000,000 to bring the gang to justice.
- 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
- All eight defendants pled innocent but we
know they were guilty. How? They confessed 20 years later.
- And who robbed Brink's? You'll have to
see the show to find out.
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.