Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Dawn Bakken
Indiana Magazine of History

Elisabeth Andrews
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bank robbers met their match in Hoosier vigilantes

Sept. 14, 2006

This photo ran on the cover of the June 1927 "Hoosier Banker" with the caption, "Muncie Bank Women Firing on the Pistol Range in the Basement of the Bank."

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In the lead article of the September 2006 issue of the Indiana Magazine of History, Paul Musgrave tells the little-known story of how hundreds of Hoosiers in the 1920s and early 1930s became armed vigilantes, defending the state's banks against gangs of robbers.

Musgrave, assistant editor of the journal Foreign Affairs, writes that the combination of a state police force without adequate funding, staff or equipment, and a criminal class that could easily escape in high-speed automobiles, resulted in the loss of more than $1 million (equivalent to $10 million today) from state banks during the 1920s. In response to this crisis, the Indiana Bankers Association trained hundreds of bank employees and ordinary citizens to act as vigilantes -- pursuing, shooting and, if necessary, killing bank robbers.

This unusual type of vigilantism, sanctioned by local law enforcement and state business groups, was short-lived, eclipsed after 1933 by legislation that created a strong state police force. Other Midwest states, including Illinois, Michigan and Kansas, supported similar programs during this brief period.

The second article featured in the issue is an account by Fort Wayne, Ind., historian Peggy Seigel of a decades-long stuggle by that city's women to obtain the right to vote.

The issue concludes with an interview with former Indianapolis mayor William H. Hudnut III, now a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. Hudnut offers an assessment of Unigov (the consolidation of Indianapolis and Marion County, Ind., governments) and the growth of Indianapolis at the end of the 20th century, and discusses the need to promote "civil cities" in the 21st century.

The Indiana Magazine of History is published quarterly by the Department of History at Indiana University Bloomington in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society, which offers the journal as a benefit of membership. For information on these articles, contact the editorial office at 812-855-4139. The magazine's Web site is located at