Daring robbery in Saranac Lake

The Enterprise front page headline on October 17, 1938 read: “Police Press Search for Four in Daring $5,000 Fur Robbery.”

Edelberg’s Fur Store was next to the Pontiac Theater and in the 1940’s the store was owned and operated by brothers Samuel and Morris Edelberg. It was a very upscale store. I remember reading some time ago that trappers would sell their furs there where only the best were accepted. Apparently they made their coats or had tailors make them because their father was a tailor who started out with a store on Main Street.

Google tells me that $5,000 in 1938 would now be worth $80,919.79 so it was a lot of dough back then. According to the Enterprise, in a story found in the archives of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, here is what happened..the problem is, without being able to find a follow-up story, we don’t know if they ever caught the crooks.

“The aid of the state’s G-Men the Bureau of Criminal Investigation was summoned today to augment state and local police in an intensified search for two women and two men who staged a daring $5,000 fur robbery at Edelberg’s store, 13 Broadway, shortly before midnight and then effected a spectacular escape.

“Working on the theory that the quartet are hiding out in the immediate vicinity, members of three law enforcement agencies centered their activities on this village. Authorities based the theory on the fact that a teletype alarm was sent out by the state police within 30 minutes after the robber-car had left the scene and that all roads in Northern New York were guarded within 10 minutes after the alarm went off.

“The possibility that the crooks made good their escape over seldom-used back roads was not entirely ruled out by authorities, however.

“Meanwhile, in Albany, BCI experts sought to identify the four robbers through fingerprints taken at the store and sent to them by authorities here.

[It is a long story so here is a briefing to help condense itgetting to the good parts further on. There were eye witnesses who observed the robbery but they were not aware it was a robbery in progress because the Edelberg brothers were known to transport garments themselves late at night. Witnesses said that the two women removed the fur coats and capes from the store as one man waited in the car and the other man was across the street posted as a lookout. The authorities described the robbers as fur experts but, according to Sam Edelberg they had “cased the joint” before the robbery.]

“Samuel Edelberg told police that 24 fur coats and capes valued at $5,000 were taken in all. He said the loss was covered by insurance. He told police that the two women had come into the store on Thursday apparently to try on several coats. [Apparently they wanted to get a couple of coats that fit them, in the event they didn’t sell them all]. Mr. Edelberg said they appeared again Saturday evening at about 10 o’clock, this time accompanied by the two men. Police believe that while the women werei selecting the coats the lock was picked by the men.

“Alton B. Anderson, manager of the Pontiac Theater adjoining the store said he notified police at exactly midnight when informed by of the theft by usher Benjamin Angima, who seen the robbers make their getaway. He described the car as a late model green Packard sedan with white-walled tires and bore a 9N license plate.

“Police said the robbery was planned to coincide with the last movie letting out and with the changing of the police shifts at midnight. Officials said that the theft, reported to be the largest ever staged in this vicinity, was so well-planned out that it was the work of big-time crooks from New York City.

“According to authorities, the robbery was carried out in about five minutes, as witness, Mrs. Edward Brown, who lived across the street reported. She told police she saw the women make three or four trips into the store and loading the coats into the car which she thought belonged to the owners of the store. She said the theft was carried out so swiftly and expertly that the robbers were away before she had a chance to act.

“Other witnesses said the car headed north on Broadway turning right at Bloomingdale Avenue and was last seen heading east.

“The women were described as both about age 30 and the men between 35 and 40. All four were well dressed and one woman was described as ‘blonde of medium height’ while the other was described as ‘tall, dark and slender. The men were said to be both of medium height and one bore a scar on the right side of his face.”