Remembering Green River’s 1933 April Fool’s Day Bank Robbery

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A Prohibition-era photograph of Railroad Avenue in Green River. Pictured at the right is the First National Bank, next door to the Candy Kitchen. Before Prohibition and after its repeal, the Candy Kitchen was the Green Gander Bar, still open today. (Sweetwater County Historical Museum Photo)    

January 23, 2022 — From the Sweetwater County Historical Museum

A Depression-era April Fool’s Day bank robbery in Green River and the chain of events that followed it are the subjects of a recent article on WyoHistory.org.  

Early on the afternoon of Saturday, April 1, 1933, 29-year-old cashier Ed Taliaferro had just locked up the First National Bank on Railroad Avenue when two men rapped at the door. They were there to inquire about a rental property managed by the bank, they said. When Taliaferro let them in, one of them produced a gun, and the pair forced him into the bank’s vault, where they tied him up and helped themselves to just under $20,000 in cash (worth well over $400,000 in 2022).

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The two robbers, later identified as Jim Stoddard and Harold Bradbury, made a clean getaway in a stolen Reo four-door and drove to Rock Springs, where they met up with James Costin, a career criminal who had masterminded the holdup.

Taliaferro managed to free himself and spread the alarm, though at first, some did not believe him, thinking he was engaging in an April Fool’s Day prank.

Costin, Stoddard, and Bradbury were later arrested and brought to trial. Stoddard and Costin were convicted and received prison terms, but Bradbury was acquitted when several witnesses were unable to identify him. Ten months later, on February 12, 1934, Costin and two other prisoners escaped from the Sweetwater County Jail in Green River. Sheriff Mike Dankowski tracked him to Denver, where he was recaptured in March.

James Costin – his Wyoming State Penitentiary mug shot.   (Wyoming State Archives Photo)

The story then took a strange turn when, at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, Costin told Warden A.S. Roach that he’d been kidnapped while hiding out in Denver by three men who “demanded money from him on the threat of turning him over to the police.”  Costin’s claim was taken seriously, and three men were ultimately charged in federal court with his kidnapping. Two of the three were convicted and received 11 years in Leavenworth.

While Costin received a sentence of eight to 10 years in District Court for the Green River robbery, he was released in 1938 and wasted no time in resuming his criminal career. Over the years he engaged in check forgery schemes in Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, South Dakota, Nevada, and Washington, was arrested, and served more prison time. He died in 1952 at age 65.

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“A Bank Robbery and its Mastermind,” by former Sweetwater County Historical Museum Executive Director Brigida R. (Brie) Blasi of the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center, appears on the WyoHistory.org website at https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/bank-robbery-and-its-mastermind.

WyoHistory.org, a project of the Wyoming State Historical Society, is an exhaustive online resource for articles and information on Wyoming history. Located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.

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