The year was 1903 and, calling themselves the Automatic Trio, Gustave Marx, Harvey van Dine and Peter Neidermeier could justifiably claim to be America’s first shoot-to-kill gangster team. During five months in 1903 they killed eight men, including two detectives. They went for the “big one” in August 1903, at a city centre railway station where at 3 a.m. staff were counting the previous day’s takings.

During the robbery a local simpleton they were using as a look-out raised a false alarm and, scared out of their wits, the masked gang opened fire, killing a cashier and a train driver before fleeing. Marx was soon caught – his distinctive gold teeth had shown through his mask and were remembered by the railway employees.

Marx confessed to 29 murders and led police to where his companions were hiding out. In their death cells Dine and Neidermeier both tried and failed to commit suicide. On the day of the triple execution, Friday, April 22nd, 1904, Dine had to be tied to a chair and dragged to the gallows and Neidermeier had to be pulled by his arms to the trap-door. Only Marx remained stoically calm.