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A screen shot from 'The Great Train Robbery,' released in 1903

Train robberies were rare by the time this film, "The Great Train Robbery," was released in 1903

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The First Known Train Robbery in the U.S.
October 6, 1866

A wave of train robberies followed the Reno brothers' startling hold-up. Within two weeks, two trains were derailed and their safes were robbed. During another robbery in Indiana, an expressman aboard the train was thrown out the window before safes were emptied of $40,000.

Train robberies reached a peak in the 1890s, and robbers tended to stick to certain territories. The Reno brothers operated in southern Indiana. The Farringtons terrorized trains in Kentucky and Tennessee, and the infamous Jesse James gang wreaked havoc along the rails in the Midwestern states.

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VIDEO CREDIT: Porter, Edwin, producer. “The Great Train Robbery,” November 1903. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress. Call Number VBS 0062.