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Gangsters in St. Paul: Overview


The 18th Amendment, Prohibition, made the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages illegal. This 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 organized crime and of powerful crime lords like  Al Capone. 

Lawlessness and the corruption of officials and police — the unintended consequences of Prohibition — 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.

Best Bets

John Dillinger, 1934.John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks' Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920-1936, by Paul Maccabee.
St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.
MNHS call number: Reading Room HV6795.S3 M33 1995, also available for purchase.

Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang, by Timothy Mahoney. 
Saint Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013.
MNHS call number: Reading Room HV7936.C85 M34 2013, also available for purchase

St. Paul Gangster History Research Collection, 1981-1995.
Research and interview notes; correspondence; photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles and book excerpts; photocopies of FBI, St. Paul Police Department, and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation records; photocopies of federal and state prison inmate and court records; and photocopies of birth and death certificates, all created or compiled by Paul Maccabee for his book John Dillinger Slept Here.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Criminal History Files.
Fifty-one criminal history files, mainly documenting high-profile 1930s gangsters, including Arthur (Doc) and Fred Barker, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, John Dillinger, Arthur Flegenheimer (Dutch Schultz), Alvin Karpis, Frank Mitchell (Pretty Boy Floyd), George Nelson (Baby Face Nelson), Clair Ralph Gibson, Robert W. Markwood, Fred Ryan, Rocky S. Lupino, and Homer Van Meter. Several criminals involved in high-profile Twin Cities crimes are also documented. The files contain photographs (including "mug shots"), fingerprint cards, correspondence with the FBI and law enforcement agencies nationwide, wanted posters, criminal history transcripts, and newspaper clippings.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

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MNHS Reference Staff

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