The lawless anarchy that disrupted the lives of many St. Paul residents in the Roaring Twenties did not occur in a vacuum, but rather was aided and abetted by corrupt business owners, police officers, politicians and an inept FBI headed by J. Edgar Hoover.
The speakeasy era fascination never fades and now is being revived by Timothy Mahoney’s excellent book, “Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang.” Most recently a cable TV move, “Bonnie and Clyde,” capitalized on the public interest in Depression era gangsters.
Unlike the glamorous movie characters, the real life gangsters were monsters and with no assurance of police protection for law abiding residents. that led to lives of desperation here.
Tom Brown, the discredited officer and police chief, is just one actor in this sordid bit of history that also includes the Hamm and Bremer families, the prominent St. Paul brewers, the county attorney and the police commissioner.
Elsewhere on my blog I wrote about “Bloody Mama” wherein film director/producer Roger Corman portrays Ma Kate Barker as a “blood thirsty gangster” when in reality the FBI killed an “old woman who had not committed a crime,” Mahoney writes.
There are many characters in the St. Paul Twenties crime spree and often it gets confusing, but it’s worth the effort. If you enjoy true crime stories, this book is for you.
Many landmarks of the era exist today in the Twin Cities and the political payoffs of the Twenties explain why gangsters migrated to St. Paul. It wasn’t for the weather. daz