Friday, November 09, 2012

The Friday Five - Gangster Style

Yesterday the boy and I took a guided tour of the Gangster Sites of St. Paul. What a great time! Our tour guide was Edna "The Kissing Bandit" Murray, member of the Barker-Karpis Gang.

Fascinating stuff! We learned all about the Three O'Connor St. Paul Layover Rules, speakeasies, bootleggers, Tommy guns, and so much more.

So, today's Friday Five is:

Five Famous Gangsters who lived in St. Paul:

1. Leon Gleckman. Chicago had Capone, St. Paul had Gleckman. Gleckman was the bootlegger king of St. Paul, funneling contraband liquor in and out of the city. He lived in the swankest hotel in the city, The St. Paul. The hotel is still in use today, and still offers the most luxurious accommodations in the city.This is where visiting political luminaries stay when they visit the city, which just goes to show you that not much in their clientele has changed over the years.

2. John Dillinger. America's first Public Enemy #1. Before he was shot to death outside a Chicago movie theater, he was wounded by police gunfire in St. Paul. (On a backstage tour of the MN History Center Archives, I got to see the gun that shot Dillinger, but that's a post for another day.)

3. Homer Van Meter. Dillinger's right hand man and best friend. He was ratted out by a fellow gangster (#5 below) and obliterated in an alley near the state capitol.

4. Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. The brains behind the Barker-Karpis Gang, the mastermind behind the Hamm and Bremer kidnappings, among many other crimes. Karpis served the most time by a single inmate at Alcatraz, and while incarcerated there, he gave guitar lessons to Charles Manson.

5. Harry Sawyer aka "Harry Dutch" the right hand man of Dapper Dan Hogan, who ran The Green Lantern Speak Easy and Casino in downtown St. Paul. Dapper Dan was murdered in a car bombing, and though the killer was never caught, it is suspected that Harry Sawyer was behind the explosion. Harry took over Dapper Dan's business and became the liaison between the corrupt St. Paul Police Chief Tom Brown and the gangsters laying low in St. Paul.

Oh, and the Three Rules of the O'Connor Layover System?

1. No gangster crime (bank robberies, kidnappings, etc.) within St. Paul city limits.

2. Payoffs are expected if the gangsters want the police to turn a blind eye and deflect federal and out of state investigations.

3. When a gangster hits town, he is expected to check in at the Green Lantern, provide an address and telephone number where they could be found.

This was my first tour through Rochester Community Education, and I very much enjoyed it. I learned a lot, had a great time, and I spent some quality time with my son.

How about you? Have you ever gone on a tour like this? Did you know St. Paul was such a hotbed of gangster activity during the 20's and 30's?


  1. All that happened in the Land of Here There Be Dragons? who knew! (-;

  2. I did not know this, but I love gangsta stuff and movies and their clothes! lol

  3. How odd that they honored a code. Who knew?
    I wish we had something like that here.