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"On This Day" In Engineering History

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March 11, 1927 – The First Armored Car Robbery

Posted March 11, 2010 11:10 AM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, Pittsburgh's infamous Flatheads Gang used a battery, dynamite, and 100 yards of wire to commit America's first armored car robbery. Led by Paul Jaworksi (image left), a Polish-American gangster who had escaped from prison to avoid the electric chair, the Flatheads staged a series of violent heists across Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania during the 1920s.

Coal Mines and Dynamite

On March 11, 1927, two armored cars left an office of the Brink's Express Company to deliver the payroll for the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company. After making morning deliveries to mines two and three, the Brink's trucks traveled along the Old Bethel Road near Coverdale, about 7 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. When the vehicles turned onto a muddy thoroughfare called Liberty Road, the Flatheads Gang detonated two underground dynamite charges placed 60 feet apart.

The first blast, a direct hit, ripped up the road and threw the first armored car some 75 feet. Laden with $103,834.38 in cash, the lightly-armored vehicle landed on its roof, leaving the driver unconscious. The second blast missed an armored car filled with guards, but still forced the Brink's Express truck onto its side and into a new crater-like hole. All five guards were knocked unconscious, their weapons worthless.

The Case of the Stearns-Knight Automobile

While Paul Jaworski and the Flatheads Gang gathered up their loot, the guards and drivers who regained consciousness were told to "roll over and keep your faces down in the mud". The driver of the first car complied, but eventually lifted his head - just in time to watch the gangsters get away in their blue Stearns-Knight luxury automobile. William Tarr got the license plate number and gave local police their first lead.

In scouring the crime scene for evidence, detectives discovered the tracks of a car running on a rim. Investigators followed the tire-less marks from nearby Ginger Hill Road through a patched wire fence to a ravine. There they found an abandoned Stearns-Knight whose license plate number matched the one reported by William Tarr.

When Brink's Express offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of Paul Jaworski and the five other members of the Flatheads Gang, additional leads about the Liberty Road heist poured into police headquarters.

Chairs and Chainers

Eventually, Paul Jaworski was arrested - but then he escaped from prison again. Captured in Cleveland, Ohio, the wily leader of the Flatheads Gang was extradited to Pennsylvania in a steel-plated car who guards carried rifles, machine guns, and tear gas.

On January 21, 1929, Jaworski was executed in the electric chair. Later that year, Brink's Express began using a new armored car, the 1929 International KB3. Nicknamed the "chainer", this vehicle featured a sturdier chassis and a Thompson submachine gun mounted in the rear compartment








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Re: March 11, 1927 – The First Armored Car Robbery

03/11/2010 7:03 PM

It would appear that Mr. Jaworski was the most dangerous sort of men, for he would appear to be ideologically driven.

These are the most dangerous sorts of people.

Bones of the story are of a choirboy who went wrong.

Then he used a good car, and technology to wreck armored cars in ways similar to what is now common in Irag and Afghanistan using cell phones and shaped charges.

Why a man under prior conviction and a death sentence did not kill or have killed all witnesses is an interesting question.

It was not a particularly large gang, and rewards for information worked.

Mr. Jaworski apparently was somewhat philosophical, as not inclined to beg forgiveness of a God or men he apparently no longer believed in.

It is an interesting story. What it really means is watch out for those who believed, and changed their minds, as much as for those that believe too much.

At least, maybe that's what it is about, maybe, not sure...

You don't get wise because you got old, you get old because you were wise.

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In reply to #1

Re: March 11, 1927 – The First Armored Car Robbery

03/12/2010 8:19 AM

A very interesting story. Definatly worth looking at in further detail!

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