I rob banks because that's where the money is (Willie Sutton January 20, 1951)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 7 20:46:56 UTC 2013

I remember Willie "The Actor" Sutton quite well. Can't say as how I
recall ever coming across "Slick" Wille Sutton, despite having been an
avid reader of, and a subscriber to. the Post, in those days.


That the SEP had been "founded by Benjamin Franklin" made a profound
impression on me, at the time.


On Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 3:08 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      I rob banks because that's where the money is (Willie Sutton
>               January 20, 1951)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A WSJ reporter asked me about the saying attributed to the famous bank
> robber Willie Sutton. The attribution of the statement is
> controversial because Sutton writing in his 1976 biography denied that
> he made the well-known remark.
> The ADS list archive has a relevant cite dated March 9, 1952. The
> words were not attributed to Sutton. There is no sender name on the
> ADS post, but I think Barry Popik found the cite. The same message has
> a relevant cite dated March 15, 1952. The words were attributed to
> Sutton, and this cite is listed in the YBQ. These cites are given
> further below.
> The first cite below is a 1951 cite I located with an instance of the
> saying credited to Sutton. Also, below is a cite I found dated March
> 30, 1952 that is interesting because Sutton used the quotation during
> an actual interview. This seems to be the earliest direct evidence
> that Sutton made the remark, but the context was not the traditionally
> understood context.
> [ref] 1951 January 20, The Saturday Evening Post, Volume 223, Issue
> 30, Someday They'll Get Slick Willie Sutton by Robert M. Yoder, Start
> Page 17, Quote Page 17, Saturday Evening Post Society, Indianapolis,
> Indiana. (Academic Search Premier) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> Someone once asked Slick Willie Sutton, the bank robber, why he robbed
> banks. The question might have uncovered a tale of injustice and
> lifelong revenge. Maybe a banker foreclosed on the old homestead,
> maybe a banker's daughter spurned Sutton for another.
> Sutton looked a little surprised, as if he had been asked "Why does a
> smoker light a cigarette?"
> "I rob banks because that's where the money is," he said, obviously
> meaning "in the most compact form." That eye for the simple essential
> may be the secret of a singular success.
> [End excerpt]
> [ref] Nevada State Journal, "Scuttling of Carson City's Mint in 1890's
> Set Off One of Nevada's Greatest Scandals" by Peggy Trego, Quote Page
> 3, Column 1, Reno, Nevada. (NewspaperArchive) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> There seems to be a standing philosophy among thieves that the best
> target for larceny is "the place where the money is." That's why
> Willie Sutton, recently arrested as one of the country's number one
> crooks, chose banks.
> [End excerpt]
> [ref] 1952 March 15, Redlands Daily Facts, The Newsreel by H. V. Wade,
> (Freestanding short item), Quote Page 8, Column 1, Redlands,
> California. (NewspaperArchive) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> An age-old question is cleared up satisfactorily by Willie (the Actor)
> Sutton. Asked why he robbed banks, he said, "That's where the money
> is."
> [End excerpt]
> [ref] 1952 March 30, Oregonian, Section: The American Weekly (Magazine
> Supplement), Willie Sutton talks by Fred Curran, (Subtitle: The First
> Reporter to Interview the Nation's Most Wanted Bandit), Start Page 4,
> Quote Page 4, Column 3, (GNBank Page 123), Portland, Oregon.
> (GenealogyBank) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> For a while after that Willie overworked his messenger-boy role. He
> brought a box of roses to Mrs. S. Stanwood Menken, a New York society
> leader, and left with $150,000 worth of her jewels. The same trick
> took a total of $375,000 from four other society women.
> But jewels were getting hard to dispose of, so Willie went back to
> banks. "That's where the money is," he explained to me simply. "Other
> people's money."
> [End excerpt]
> [ref] 1976, Where the Money Was by Willie Sutton and Edward Linn,
> Quote Page  120, Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> The irony of using a bank robber's maxim as an instrument for teaching
> medicine is compounded, I will now confess, by the fact that I never
> said it. The credit belongs to some enterprising reporter who
> apparently felt a need to fill out his copy. I can't even remember
> when I first read it. It just seemed to appear one day, and then it
> was everywhere.
> If anybody had asked me, I'd have probably said it. That's what almost
> anybody would say. Like Dr. Dock said, it couldn't be more obvious.
> Or could it?
> Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more
> alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in
> my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks
> later I'd be out looking For the next job.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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