Last updated on August 16th, 2019
When you think of speakeasy and crime families in the Midwest, you probably think of Chicago. After all, we are in Minnesota. That wasn’t the case in the 1920’s. Prohibition was in full swing and the gangsters saw an opportunity. Thanks in part to a creative way to deal with crime by the Chief of Police, the criminal underground was everywhere but St. Paul. To get a peek at this time, I went on a St. Paul Gangster Tour.
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The Deal That Started It All
The gangsters of the 1920’s were causing a bit of a problem in the cities. With a limited budget, Chief O’Connor made a deal with the crime families. “You keep out of trouble in St. Paul, and we will overlook any transgressions you made in other cities.” They hade to check in with the police to let them know they are in town so the police can provide help if needed. If the gangsters were to throw some funds to the police station and they’d send the FBI in the other direction when they start to ask questions.
The scary part was it worked. They were so good; police started to get promotions for such outstanding police work. Good news for St. Paul, bad for Minneapolis and the surrounding communities.
The St. Paul Gangster Tour
The St. Paul Gangster Tour is offered by Wabasha Street Caves. The tour lasted a couple of hours and offered a lot of great information on the history of St. Paul. As a girl from the west side of the suburbs, I have to say I haven’t spent much time on that side of the cities. I was amazed at all the gangster history I learned. I kept making mental notes on places I wanted to go back to just to photograph. It turned out to be one of the best St Paul tours I have been on.
The St. Paul Gangster Tour was on an air-conditioned coach and took you through the streets of St. Paul. Along the way, one of the local gangsters of the day entertain you and filled you in on all the antics they were up to. They took you by John Dillinger’s house. You saw the location of famous shootouts and even the Ham’s kidnapping location. We found out where the Ma Barker’s gang was staying and how they managed to escape the FBI thanks to the help of the St. Paul Police. You’ll find out all about Baby Face Nelson and Alvin Creepy Karpis.
The End of Gangsters in St Paul
The O’Connor system of crime prevention didn’t work perfectly but it did last for a little over a decade until the newspapers exposed them all. For anyone who enjoys a little history, I defiantly recommend going on the tour. They take great care of you and you’ll be entertained the whole time. And if you’re are lucky, you’ll get the opportunity to hold a Tommy Gun at the end of the tour.
My family had such a great time. If you’re looking for more information on the history, check out the book John Dillinger Slept Here: A crooks’ tour of crime and corruption in St. Paul by Paul Maccabee. Otherwise, schedule your own St. Paul gangster tour by calling (651)292-1220. You can also pair it with a Wabasha Street Cave Tour for more gangster fun. You won’t regret it.