When you think of speak easy’s 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 undergrown was ramped, everywhere but St. Paul.
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 look the other way. Make sure to check in with us to let us know you are in town so we can help. Throw some funds to the station and we will send the FBI in the other directions when they start to ask questions. The scary part was it worked. They were so good, they even 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
This summer I got the opportunity to take a St. Paul Gangster Tour offered by Wabasha Street Caves. The tour lasted a couple 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 history I learned. I kept making mental notes on places I wanted to go back to just to photograph.
The St. Paul Gangster Tour was great. They show up in a nicely 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.
As you’ll find out 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 won’t regret it.
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