Wednesday, July 13, 2016

St. Paul Gangster Tour

Erica here:

A couple of weeks ago the ACFW MN NICE group got together for a little field trip in the Twin Cities. We went  on the Wabasha Street Caves gangster tour! Did you know that St. Paul was a hotbed of gangster activity in the 1930s? I know, most folks think of Chicago or even New York when it comes to Prohibition Era Gangsters, but St. Paul was actually the Gangster Capitol of the world.

Why, you ask? It all goes back to the O'Connor System. Police Chief O'Connor decided 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,' and made St. Paul a safe-haven for gangsters on the lam. He only had three rules.

1. No crime within St. Paul city limits. (Which consequently made Minneapolis the bank-robbery capitol of the world for awhile.)

2. Check in with Harry Sawyer at the Green Lantern Tavern. (So when the FBI came knocking, the St. Paul police could drop a dime and let you know to get out of town ahead of the G-men.)

3. Make a donation to the Police Chief's Retirement Fund. (Hush money spread around the 20% of the police force that was crooked and the various politicians who were looking the other way.)

Simple, right? 

Below are some photos from our tour as well as a few 'mug shots' of the gangsters we learned about.

Our group with our tour guide...and a genuine Tommy Gun!
Edna "Rabbit" Murray, a gangster's moll,
(and the persona of our tour guide.)
Edna had a penchant for escaping from prison.
 She was also know as the "Kissing Bandit."
 She once offered to kiss a clergyman who
was being robbed by her boyfriend in order
 to cheer him up. :) 

Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, one time Public
 Enemy Number One and leader of the
Barker-Karpis Gang. He was an obsessive
 planner, and he had a creepy stare,
hence the nickname.

Doc Barker, unstable, vicious, and scary!

Edward Bremer, kidnap victim.
The Barker-Karpis gang kidnapped
 Edward Bremer within St. Paul
 City Limits, fracturing the O'Connor
 System. Edward Bremer and
 his family were big in
banking in MN. Still are.
My kids call our bank,
 Bremer Bank, the "Gangster Bank."

The Wabasha Street Caves. The lady in the red hat was our tour guide. 

John Dillinger who visited St. Paul
several times and was even shot
here, though he escaped.

Ma Barker, who was not a gangster
herself but who raised a nest of them.

Tom Brown, the most corrupt policeman
you'll ever find. He facilitated
the O'Connor System and aided in both
 the commission and investigations
of the Bremer and Hamm kidnappings.

The second time I took the tour
 (I've been three times now) this fellow
was our tour guide. He portrayed
John Dillinger, and he was great!!! :)

William Hamm, kidnapped by the
Barker-Karpis Gang. Not the brightest
crayon in the box...he
owned a brewery, and when
he was returned to his family,
 he was asked by the press whether
he was upset that he hadn't been
 given Hamm Beer while in captivity
instead of another brand. He replied
 that "All beer pretty
much tastes the same, right?" 

Gabe's lovely daughters on the
bus ready to get going on the tour!

If you'd like to learn more about the Wabasha Street Caves click here:

If you'd like to read more about St. Paul Gangsters, check out this book:

What is your favorite "Gangster Movie?"

My favorite is The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery.

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  1. A field trip--FUN! I wish I lived near other writers :( (Insert sad music)

  2. I wish you lived closer to MEEE!!!!

  3. Oooh, that would be fun! My mom was always intrigued by Bonnie and Clyde, so I learned about them growing up.

    1. It's a wonderful tour. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it!

  4. Fun time!!! The tour guide was such a hoot. My favorite was sitting with the woman who had all the answers to the questions the tour guide asked. Ahem. Erica. :)

    1. :D So much fun. I wish we hadn't run out of time to go see where Harry Sawyer bought the farm...

  5. Quite a field trip! As for a favorite Gangster movie,I'd say it's a tie between Little Caesar with Edward G Robinson and G-Mn with James Cagney. Speaking of movies it should be noted that it was his love of movies or rather a particular movie star that killed John Dillinger. When he came out of hiding to see Manhattan Melodrama with Myrna Loy (his favorite star),The so called "Lady in Red" tipped off the FBI. The agents gunned him down as soon as he stepped out of the theatre .

    1. G-Men! Cagney made great gangster movies. :) My second favorite gangster movie is Public Enemy with Johnny Depp as Dillinger. :) And Myrna Loy is one of my favorite's too!

  6. I was out of state and couldn't go, but I enjoyed this great coverage a lot. Thanks :)


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