Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Most folks, when you ask them what they know about gangsters from the Roaring Twenties will mention Capone and Chicago, and rightly so, but did you know that Minnesota was a hotbed of gangster activity in the 1920's and early 30's? No kidding! I had no idea before I moved here, but the number of crooks, gangsters, robbers, rum-runners, kidnappers, and otherwise undesirable individuals who sought refuge in St. Paul during Prohibition is off the charts.

Our most famous residents during this time were the Barker-Karpis Gang (remember Ma Barker and her boys?) Baby-Face Floyd, and John Dillinger.

The reason so many bad guys headed to St. Paul when the heat was on was because most all of the police force in St. Paul was on the take. They operated under "The O'Connor System." This system had three rules:

1. You must check in with Harry Sawyer (thought to have murdered his boss, Dapper Dan Hogan, using a car bomb, in order to take his place as kingpin gangster of St. Paul) at the Green Lantern Saloon when you hit town.

2. You must leave a telephone number and address with Harry where you could be reached for the duration of your stay in the city. (This was so they could call and tip you off if the Feds started sniffing around.)

3. You must make a contribution to the Chief of Police's 'operating fund.' (Tom Brown was the most corrupt chief of police any city ever had. He was in cahoots with criminals of every stripe, taking bribes, payoffs, and portions of ransoms. What a creep!)

To learn more about the gangsters of St. Paul, I recommend:

John Dillinger Slept Here


Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang

Were you aware of Minnesota's Gangster History? Did any famous gangsters live in your area?


  1. Interesting post, Erica!!

    I had never given any thought to gangsters in Minnesota, however, we would probably be surprised at the number of cities in which they reside. I am not aware of any in Ky..

  2. Very interesting! I had heard a bit about the gangster activity in Minnesota, but not much. (And I believe you were referring to Baby Face Nelson in your list of famous gangsters in Minnesota.)
    Oklahoma has seen it's share of gangsters. Ma Barker and her boys, "Pretty Boy" Floyd (who grew up in Oklahoma & is buried in Atkins, OK), Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie & Clyde) & "Machine Gun" Kelly, among others all spent time in Oklahoma.

    I found this to be interesting reading --


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