Green River’s April Fool’s Day Bank Robbery
Photo #1 - A Prohibition-era photograph of Railroad Avenue in Green River. At right is the First National Bank, next door to the Candy Kitchen. Prior to Prohibition and once again after its repeal, the Candy Kitchen was the Green Gander Bar, which remains open today. (Sweetwater County Historical Museum Photo)
Photo #2 - Today, the Green River Basin Federal Credit Union occupies the First National Bank building, next door to the Green Gander, the Candy Kitchen at the time of the 1933 robbery. (Sweetwater County Historical Museum Photo)
Photo #3 - At left, a young Ed Taliaferro, the cashier tied up and left in the vault of the First National Bank in Green River during the robbery of April 1, 1933. At right, Taliaferro in 1985 during a visit to the Sweetwater County Historical Museum. (Composite Photo - Sweetwater County Historical Museum)
Photo #4 - James Costin - his Wyoming State Penitentiary mug shot. (Wyoming State Archives Photo)
Photo #5 - Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Dankowski. (Sweetwater County Historical Museum Photo)
Photo #6 - Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Dankowski’s badge, currently on exhibit at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum
(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - January 21, 2022) A Depression-era April Fool’s Day bank robbery in Green River and the chain of events that followed it are the subject of a new article on WyoHistory.org, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum reported on Friday.
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, (well over $400,000 in 2022).
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. 10 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.
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 kidnaping. 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.
“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
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.