Crowding in for Minnesota's Gangster Past

Chad Lewis, second from left, speaks to a crowd of 45-50 people at the New Prague Library about “Minnesota’s Gangster Past” on Tuesday, Jan. 30. (Patrick Fisher Photo)

A group of 45 to 50 people crowded together in New Prague Library’s main meeting room on Tuesday, Jan. 30, to find out about the less than legal aspects of the state’s past. Chad Lewis, author, lecturer and researcher, recounted the days of bootlegging and bank robberies with “Minnesota's Gangster Past.” The evening was made available through the state’s Legacy Amendment.

Lewis explained he has a degree in psychology and enjoys traveling and finding the “strange, unusual, bizarre and just plain weird.” It was during one trip in Wisconsin when he had to stop and fix a tire that he found a resort called Little Bohemia. It had memorabilia from when a group of gangsters had stayed there. Seeing the articles he began his hunt for stories and historical sites where they would hang out. “Every year we’re losing more of those historical treasures,” he said.

As to why he concentrated on Minnesota, he related that when other city officials were trying to keep big name criminals out of their communities, St. Paul Police Chief John O’Connor took a different approach. He invited gangsters to St. Paul where for a registration fee they could enjoy life in St. Paul as long as they didn’t do their “business” in St. Paul. Lewis said that in the 1920s and ‘30s more crooks frequented the St. Paul area than other places. It was such a popular site that bank robber Alvin “Creepy” Karpis was noted as saying if he hadn’t seen a friend lately he was either in prison or St. Paul.

Lewis mentioned several spots in St. Paul and around the state that are still standing that have connections to gangster history. One is a....

To see more on this story pick up the February 8, 2018 print edition of The New Prague Times.