Willie Sutton at the Queens County Courthouse in 1952, preparing to testify in his trial for a $64,000 bank heist.
By BRYAN BURROUGH. for The Wall Street Journal
I’ve often thought that America’s fascination with bank robbers has far less to do with the physical act of robbing a financial institution and more to do with the masculine fantasy of the open road and of an escape from familial and other responsibilities, not to mention the attraction of adrenalized adventure, casual violence and women of loose morals. These are the hallmarks of all our most infamous bank robbers and their stories
Think about it. Far more banks are robbed nowadays than during the Depression or the Wild West, yet almost all our legendary stickup men hail from these two freewheeling eras: Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Doolins, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, even Bonnie and Clyde, though they robbed more drugstores than actual banks. Unlike the largely anonymous bank robbers of today, all operated in a kind of mythic America—a simpler America—many still pine for. Dillinger’s occasional exploits in Chicago aside
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