The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, known as the Prohibition Amendment (1920-1933), prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages. The mandated shutdown of breweries and distilleries ended the lawful production of alcoholic beverages and created a vacuum that was filled by the unlawful production, sale, and control of "bootlegged" products and lawless allied activities: smuggling, gambling, prostitution, extortion, robbery, and murder. These became the province of such powerful crime czars as Chicago's Al Capone and of criminal gangs, and organized crime.
Lawlessness and the corruption of officials and police — the unintended consequences of the legislation — infected many American cities, including St. Paul. The city became a center of operation and a haven for such notorious gangsters as John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Roger "the Terrible" Touhy, Machine Gun Kelly, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, and the Barker gang, whose activities extended to robbing banks, holding up mail trucks and trains, and kidnapping and holding hostages for ransom.