This surge in immigration was primarily driven by economic opportunities in the United States, which was at the height of the industrial revolution. This combined with a desire among some to escape growing political instability in Europe, while ethnic and religious violence led Jews from the Russian Empire in particular to seek a new life elsewhere.

Elisha Otis was an American mechanic who invented the safety elevator, which featured a mechanism to prevent the platform from falling if the hoisting cable failed.

The heist was masterminded by James Honeyman and James Murray entered the bank late at night on 19 March where they raided the vault and safe deposit boxes. Together they left with approximately $245,000 in bank notes and coins, which is the equivalent of more than $50 million today.