The Reno brothers carry out the first train robbery in U.S. history - HISTORY
Year
1866

The Reno brothers carry out the first train robbery in U.S. history

On this day in 1866, the brothers John and Simeon Reno stage the first train robbery in American history, making off with $13,000 from an Ohio and Mississippi railroad train in Jackson County, Indiana.

Of course, trains had been robbed before the Reno brothers’ holdup. But these previous crimes had all been burglaries of stationary trains sitting in depots or freight yards. The Reno brothers’ contribution to criminal history was to stop a moving train in a sparsely populated region where they could carry out their crime without risking interference from the law or curious bystanders.

Though created in Indiana, the Reno brother’s new method of robbing trains quickly became very popular in the West. Many bandits, who might otherwise have been robbing banks or stagecoaches, discovered that the newly constructed transcontinental and regional railroads in the West made attractive targets. With the western economy booming, trains often carried large amounts of cash and precious minerals. The wide-open spaces of the West also provided train robbers with plenty of isolated areas ideal for stopping trains, as well as plenty of wild spaces where they could hide from the law. Some criminal gangs, like Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, found that robbing trains was so easy and lucrative that for a time they made it their criminal specialty.

The railroad owners, however, were not about to sit back and let Cassidy or any other bandit freely pillage their trains. To their dismay, would-be train robbers increasingly found that the cash and precious metals on trains were well protected in massive safes watched over by heavily armed guards. Some railroads, such as the Union Pacific, even began adding special boxcars designed to carry guards and their horses. In the event of an attempted robbery, these men could not only protect the train’s valuables, but could also quickly mount their horses and chase down the fleeing bandits–hopefully putting a permanent end to their criminal careers. As a result, by the late 19th century, train robbery was becoming an increasingly difficult–and dangerous–profession.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Yom Kippur War begins

Hoping to win back territory lost to Israel during the third Arab-Israeli war, Egyptian and Syrian forces launch a coordinated attack against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Taking the Israeli Defense Forces by surprise, Egyptian troops swept deep ...read more

First Mennonites arrive in America

Encouraged by William Penn’s offer of 5,000 acres of land in the colony of Pennsylvania and the freedom to practice their religion, the first Mennonites arrive in America aboard the Concord. They were among the first Germans to settle in the American colonies.The Mennonites, ...read more

Natchez Trace Parkway arches are complete

The last segment of the Natchez Trace Parkway’s Double Arch Bridge is put into place on October 6, 1993. The $11 million, 1,572-foot–long bridge carries the parkway over Route 96 near Franklin, Tennessee. It was the first precast segmental concrete arch bridge to be built in the ...read more

First U.S. train robbery

This new method of sticking up moving trains in remote locations low on law enforcement soon became popular in the American West, where the recently constructed transcontinental and regional railroads made attractive targets. With the western economy booming, trains often carried ...read more

Pierre Laval attempts suicide

On this day in 1945, former French premier and Vichy collaborator Pierre Laval tries to kill himself on the day he is to be executed for treason. He fails.Laval served as premier of France twice, the second time from June 1935 to January 1936, but fell from power primarily ...read more

U.S. jets strike targets in North Vietnam

U.S. Navy pilots fly 34 missions as they again strike the Chien Chiang and Lang Son bridges near the Chinese border, another bridge 39 miles northeast of Hanoi, a railroad yard near Mo Trang, and two anti-aircraft sites south of Dong Hoi.Other jets attacked the Nam Dinh power ...read more

Babe Ruth sets a World Series record

On October 6, 1926, Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hits a record three homers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game of the World Series. The Yanks won the game 10-5, but despite Ruth’s unprecedented performance, they lost the championship in the seventh game. In 1928, in ...read more

Bill Clinton debates Bob Dole

On this day in 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton faces his Republican challenger, Senator Bob Dole from Kansas, in their first debate of that year’s presidential campaign.The debate, which took place in Hartford, Connecticut, and was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS, gave the ...read more

Jane Eyre is published

On this day in 1847, Jane Eyre is published by Smith, Elder and Co. Charlotte BrontË, the book’s author, used the pseudonym Currer Bell. The book, about the struggles of an orphan girl who grows up to become a governess, was an immediate popular success.BrontÝ was born in 1816, ...read more

Country superstars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw wed

Born just five months apart in May and September of 1967, respectively, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill followed similar paths to stardom and arrived there at nearly the exact same time. Both were raised in the South—McGraw in Delhi, Louisiana, and Hill (born Audrey Faith Perry) in ...read more

Liz Taylor marries husband No. 7

On this day in 1991, the actress Elizabeth Taylor marries her seventh husband, the construction worker Larry Fortensky, in a ceremony held at the pop singer Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California. Taylor, a Hollywood screen legend known for her violet-eyed beauty and her ...read more

Train derails in Mexico

On this day in 1972, a train carrying religious pilgrims derails near Saltillo, Mexico, killing more than 200 people and injuring hundreds of others.Wednesday, October 6, was Saint’s Day in Mexico, a holiday many extended families came together to celebrate. People in the central ...read more

The president of Egypt is assassinated

Islamic extremists assassinate Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, as he reviews troops on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Led by Khaled el Islambouli, a lieutenant in the Egyptian army with connections to the terrorist group Takfir Wal-Hajira, the terrorists, all wearing ...read more