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Posts about Crime

March 19, 1903: Janitor collars young marble thieves

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: March 20, 2013 - 10:17 AM
An above-average exercise in alliteration from the Minneapolis Tribune:


Six penitent desperadoes of the tender age of 12 or thereabouts are languishing in duress vile, prisoners of Hennepin county for a sufficient length of time to ponder over the fruitlessness of iniquity. The lads are Jesse Hall, Turner Tenneson, Carson Hendrickson, Norman Paul, Melvin Merrill and Harry Sorensen.
Legally the lads are burglars. In the light of the fact that they are very young amateurs, however, Judge Dickinson decided that twenty-four hours in the boobyhatch would be enough to squelch their buccaneering spirits.
Sunday the sextet of bold, bad bandits broke a window in the Greeley school building and entered. They turned up their collars in the most ferocious fashion, tip-toed and said “hist” just like the daring debonair dare devil Dicks in the books which incited them to adopt the profession of naughty boys.
Primarily their visit was for the purpose of recovering some canicks, and chinies, and falsies and flints – species of marbles, it developed in court – which a teacher had confiscated from one of the bad band. So far as the recovery of the marbles was concerned the expedition was a howling success. In addition one of the teacher’s desks was found to be treasure trove to the extent of 43 cents, and this was also appropriated by the lads.
Then there hove in sight the burly form of an interloper upon the chosen hunting ground of the piratical youngsters. It was that of Mr. Janitor, W.H. Adams, and he didn’t do a thing but collar the entire outfit and telephone for a policeman.
In court Judge Dickinson handed the boys a bunch of advice which made their eyes look as though they had been hit with peeled onions. Then to the dungeon they were hied.
And they are there yet.
These darling lads, shown playing marbles outside an Anoka elementary school in about 1904, wouldn't have lasted an hour in detention, let alone 24 hours in the county jail. (Photo courtesy



Dec. 27, 1893: Down in Fish Alley

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 28, 2013 - 1:34 PM
Known as the “slum of all slums” in the city’s early days, Fish Alley was a crime-ridden warren of decrepit structures and narrow paths on the northeastern edge of downtown Minneapolis. The block was bounded by Washington Avenue, S. Third Street and what are now known as Park and Portland Avenues S. The crumbling “fish building” for which it was named was condemned as unsafe on May 2, 1906, and ground was broken for the J.I. Case warehouse a few weeks later. The Case building, about a block from the Metrodome, is now home to an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant and other businesses.

Brace yourself, dear reader. The Tribune reporter did not paint a pretty picture of this blot on the city’s escutcheon.


Visit to a Place Which Frequently Figures in Police Annals – The Alley Is Not What It Used to be However, and Its Prestige as a Center of Criminality Is Gradually Being Lost – Sights and Scenes in Its Dark Recesses Which the General Public Little Dream of – The Day in Police Circles.
“Fish alley.”
Little that is pleasant can be said about it. Even the light of the universal festival just celebrated cannot penetrate those dingy rookeries to throw even a semblance of cheerfulness upon them. The usual pastime and even occupation of the inmates are cards and whisky, and petty crimes, and Christmas is usually celebrated by having a little more of these.
The place frequently figures in the annals of the police, and hardly ever comes to the surface in any other connection. Time was when crime of a more or less desperate nature was enacted in the place, or elsewhere by its boldest inmates, but whatever of the criminal element now found there is of the cheap, timid sort, and the people are utterly without stamina of any kind. Formerly the place swarmed with negroes, Chinese and low-down white trash, but the alley is now largely deserted. A few families are found there, but most of the population is composed of roomers, devotees of vice in various forms. The latest exploit was the enticing of a farmer into one of the upper rooms by a street siren whose alleged husband at the proper moment came rushing upon the scene. Hush money was of course demanded, and would no doubt have been paid had not Officer Conroy, on whose beat Fish alley is located, appeared to prevent the consummation of the crime. The woman was sent to the work house. Conroy has made it rather unpleasant for the criminal gentry, and more than 20 inmates have moved away since he began his duties there.
The place has its name from the fact that in early times a fish market was located there. The original building is still standing, a low, narrow structure, in the middle of the block between Seventh and Eighth avenues south. A narrow space separates it from the next building on the right, an alley just wide enough to permit a person to walk through to the rear. Here a concatenation of half-rotten stairs, galleries and doors lead to the rooms on the right and left and to the first and upper floors. Everything is in a condition of decay, corresponding well with the unwholesome moral and mental attributes of the denizens of the place. Many of the ground floor rooms fronting on Washington avenue are used for various sorts of business, meat markets, saloons, candy stores, second hand dealers, etc., and outward appearances are not so bad. But in the rear corruption and decay have full sway. The houses run into the ground here, and what is the second or third story in the front may be the first from the rear. The place swarms with rats. Dogs bark and growl as one threads his way carefully through the labyrinths, and the wails of children, or the carousal of debauchees fret the midnight air. Formerly it would have been a dangerous undertaking to go through the rookeries alone, but the danger is not great now. The surveillance of the police over the locality is so close that criminals find it but an insecure hiding place.
In its palmy days Fish alley was a city refuge for the criminal fleeing from justice. Negroes were then swarming in the block, and the razor artist who had carved a fellow citizen uptown would flee to the rookery and, sheltered by his friends, it was a difficult task to ferret him out.

Detail of C. Wright Davison's 1884 Pocket Map of Minneapolis shows the location of Fish Alley: Block 45, just south of the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway's "Car House."

Dec. 26, 1903: Ear transplant is a hoax

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 18, 2013 - 3:41 PM
In response to Deadspin’s piece on Manti Te’o and his imaginary love life, I scoured the Tribune archives for any story containing the words “hoax” and “girlfriend.” Alas, no matches. But I did find this. Check the dateline, Notre Dame fans.


SOUTH BEND, Ind., Dec. 26. – The story sent out from New York recently of a Western millionaire paying $5,000 for a human ear and having it transplanted to his own head to replace a missing organ, is declared to be a hoax.
The story is said to have been invented by a group of physicians, a newspaper space writer, a traveling salesman, and one or two others, who meet occasionally in New York, and who find amusement in concoting and circulating stories which, on account of their unusual features, will attract wide attention. This same group is said to have started the story that Elbert Hubbard was refused a room at the Waldorf-Astoria, and also the story of an elopement of Elbert Hubbard’s son.
The operation alleged to have taken place in Philadelphia, by which an ear was transplanted from the head of one man to that of another, is declared by a Chicago physician, to whom credit is given for uncovering the “fake,” to be impossible.

July 11, 1907: A baffling gender switch

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 28, 2012 - 11:46 PM
Here’s a century-old mystery that remains unsolved – unless you count the fanciful and self-serving explanation that appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune over the next two days.



“Was It a Dream?” Asks Hack Driver, Sorely Puzzled.
The “Mystery of the Hack, or, How Bold is Ann,” is the appropriate title of a strange story dealing with the experiences of two most unusual individuals in Minneapolis early Tuesday evening.
Who they were, where they were going, what crime they had committed, how long they have been crazy and what became of them are questions that remain unanswered.
It was several minutes after 7 o’clock when a very ordinary appearing man approached Wilman Franzo, a hack driver at the West hotel, and asked to be driven rapidly to the Milwaukee depot. The next train out was the Pioneer Limited and the cabbie couldn’t see just why he should tire his horses when there was plenty of time to catch the train. Nevertheless, he hustled along, and arriving at the station, jumped down and opened the door of his vehicle, and was astonished to see a smartly dressed young woman step out.
  The Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis in about 1901: Which "toilet room" did the passenger slip into, men's or women's? (Photo courtesy of the Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Collection)
She was the sole occupant of the cab. She gave the hackman a sweet smile and a $1 bill, and then disappeared into the depot toilet room. So astonished and bewildered was the hackman that he lighted a match to be sure that the man he had seen enter was not hiding under the seat. Nothing of an unusual nature was found inside the vehicle.
Greatly mystified, he slowly returned to his stand at the hotel, still positive, however, that it was a man whom he had picked up and as he had made no other stop, his deduction was that Mr. Plainlooking Man had changed himself into Miss Charming Woman.
At the hotel he was still further perturbed to learn that Carriage Agent George W. Shipton had just been approached by a peculiar looking black whiskered, nervous individual who wanted to know if a certain woman had taken a hack. He then proceeded to describe the woman whom the hack driver had left at the Milwaukee depot.
She was good looking; had auburn hair; her gown was well tailored, of a fluffy leather colored material. She wore long gloves and a sailor hat with green parrot colored feathers, which was draped with an automobile veil.
The man who inquired about her, upon receiving an unfavorable reply from the carriage agent, approached Chief Clerk Conry, who, of course, was likewise unable to give the desired information. The man then wanted to know what time the next train left on the Minneapolis and St. Louis road, and being told that it left at 3 o’clock made a hurried exit, and was not again seen.
Whether or not the uncanny passenger whom he handed into his hack carried a grip or not, the hackman is unable to say. He is under the impression that there was a grip, but he does not remember having handled it. If there was no grip, how the man disguised himself as a woman added to the already complicated episode.
Whether the person in the hack and the man, who later called, were partners in crime no one can say. One Sherlock Holmes, more brave than the rest, has it figured out that the person who got into the hack was really and man and that he changed his clothing on the way to the depot to escape detection while on board the train. The second man is thought to have missed his appointment with his pal, thus accounting for his nervous haste.
At any rate, the mystery remains as baffling as ever, and the more the hackman thinks about it the more troubled are his dreams.
The next day, with no fact-based explanation in reach, the Tribune identified the cab passenger as the fictional newspaper heroine “Fluffy Ruffles,” an attractive and well-attired young woman who couldn’t hold a job because she was such a distraction to men.
  Miss Ruffles, the creation of Carolyn Wells and Wallace Morgan, inspired a line of paper dolls and a Broadway musical.

Hack Mystery Is
Solved; it Was
Fluffy Ruffles?

The strange young woman who shocked a hackman by stepping from his vehicle at the Milwaukee depot Tuesday evening, when the driver believed he had a man, was probably Fluffy Ruffles, the stunning young woman whose marvelous feats have been watched with absorbing interest by readers of The Tribune.
Of course, there is no proof that it was really Fluffy, but it is known that the young woman contemplated taking a run out in the country for a breath of fresh air, and with her magical accomplishments she could easily have deceived the hackman.
If, however, it was not Miss Ruffles, the mystery is as deep as ever, for nothing more has been heard of the principals in the strange episode.
On July 13, the Tribune took the joke a step further, quoting the indefatigable Miss Ruffles in a story that listed the uncanny likenesses between the comic strip character and the gender-switching passenger.


Deductions of Amateur Sleuths Are Spoiled When Pretty Sunday Tribune Heroine Blushes When Asked Point Blank if She Is the “Guilty Party.”
Fluffy Ruffles admits having taken the ride and the mystery of the hack is cleared.
  Miss Ruffles opened a chocolate shop in an episode that filled an entire page of the Tribune on July 21, 1907. Click on the image to see the full page, which probably appeared in color in the newspaper.
Minneapolis evening newspaper of Wednesday told how a man got into a vehicle at the West hotel corner and when what was apparently the same person got out at the Milwaukee depot, it was a pretty young woman.
To add to the tangle an excited individual rushed up to the carriage agent shortly after the hack had gone and wanted to know if a young woman had been there and then described the young woman who got out at the station.
Since then there has been frantic efforts by “near” detectives and other amateur sleuths to solve the problem, but only The Tribune has made the proper deductions.
First – It was reasoned that whoever did the transformation stunt must have been an unusually clever woman.
Notation number one, in favor of Fluffy.
Second – The strange passenger smiled sweetly and gave the driver a dollar bill, with one corner missing.
Fluffy always smiles, and to know the money if she ever sees it again cuts the corners off her bills.
Third – The individual who chartered the cab was possessed of a rare power, pleasing, it is true, but none the less effective, by which she made the open-mouthed hack driver imagine she was a man. Fluffy Ruffles again.
Fourth – The excited man who inquired after the young woman had a milk pan which he wished converted to a Paris hat. It was easy to deduct that he was after The Tribune’s heroine, Fluffy Ruffles.
When point blank accused of the little escapades yesterday, Fluffy blushed prettily. “I did it with my little smile,” was all that she would say.

Oct. 31, 1912: A dinkey man’s sad story

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 1, 2012 - 3:10 PM
Alas, the Minneapolis Tribune did not provide readers with a translation of  the century-old slang in this piece. Perhaps you'd like to take a shot.

He Lost His “Buddy Boy”
But the Police Found Him

Something New in the Line of Slang is Uncorked at Headquarters.
Dinkey Man Tells Sad Story and Interpreter is Necessary.
He swaggered into police headquarters last night and edged up to the desk sergeant.
“I have lost me buddy,” he said. “Me buddy has been kidnaped. He’s been doped, I say. They just shot the hypo into him. Maybe he’s been croaked by now,” and he shed a silent tear.
“Who’s Buddy?” was the gruff inquiry.
“Buddy’s me pal, cul; him and me’re both dinkey men. We worked to’gether for weeks. Say, tell me, can you find him for me?”
“What’s ‘dinkey men’?” asked the desk sergeant, now thoroughly interested.
Been Running Dinkeys
“Aw, we’ve been running dinkey cars out to Hopkins,” was the impatient answer. “I know dey got him. Dey sifted him, that’s what dey done,” and he shook his head ominously.
“Sifted him?” There was a rising inflection in the sergeant’s voice.
“Yep, sifted him, strained him, cleaned him, don’t you know; put him through the cleaner and ribbed him for his cush. He had a rock on him, too, and dey maybe copped it. It was a swell piece of glass, I’m telling you.”
“Where’d all this happen?” snapped the desk sergeant.
“Aw, I dunno. I ain’t wise to the stems here yet. We meets a elegant piece of lace and she kind of cottons to me buddy and he falls for it, see, and dey goes away together. One of the hobbles lamps me, too, but I sidesteps and claps me hand over me roll, knowing it meant only highway robbery; but when I had made me getaway and has a look round, me buddy has vamoosed with the bundle of langsherie.” He dwelt lovingly on the last word, giving the “a” the full, broad sound.
His Buddy’s Picture.
“Now, I ain’t no piker,” he continued. “Here’s me buddy’s picture. Find him for me. I’m willin’ to spend a hunderd bones on de job,” and he flashed a respectable roll under the sergeant’s fascinated gaze, who silently motioned him into the office of Louis Hansen, captain of detectives.
Captain Hansen hurriedly requisitioned a newsboy to act as interpreter and then sent out two of his men to find “Buddy.” The recreant one was soon discovered and taken to headquarters.
The pair walked out of city hall arm in arm.
No dinkey men here: Minneapolis police and jail guards showed off their new riot shotguns in about 1910. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)




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