William Rudolph, known as the Missouri Kid, was a handsome con man and bank robber who kept lawmen on their toes in the early 1900s. Born in 1883, he grew up in a rotting, isolated house near Stanton in Missouri’s remote Franklin County.
As a boy, Rudolph was constantly in trouble. He had a brilliant mind but often got into fights at school, and by age 15 he was done with education. By then he was barred from several local stores for stealing.
Rudolph passed himself off as older than he was and charmed women wherever he went. He saved money from mining jobs out West and came to St. Louis, where he invested in a nice suit and a haircut. But when he ran out of money, he was caught burglarizing a store and was thrown in jail.
Unfortunately, jail was not going to be his salvation, for there he met the one man who was the perfect flint for his steel—George Collins. Collins was the brawn to Rudolph’s brains. Collins was a burglar who could use pry bars and skeleton keys; Rudolph was trained in the use of explosives. They schemed and planned for a life of stealing once they were freed from jail.
Details of their life of crime and murder, until they were hanged at the gallows, is included in It Ends Here: Missouri’s Last Vigilante by Joe Johnston, available now from the Missouri History Museum Press.