Harry Hayward burial card, soldiers and pioneers cemetery

Harry Hayward: “Pull her tight. I’ll stand pat!”

Published May 13, 2014 by Tamatha Perlman

Today’s guest blogger is Tamatha Perlman, a writer and museum professional, who is working on a book about murder, madness and unrequited love in 19th century Minneapolis. Tam has joined forces with Historyapolis to illuminate the holdings of the tower archives at City Hall. Here she spotlights one the thousands of burial cards in the archives from the Soldiers and Pioneers cemetery and introduces readers to notorious murderer Harry Hayward, one of the famous criminals in Minneapolis history.

Harry Hayward leaned back in his chair and vainly stroked the blond moustache on his well-shaven face. In an obvious show of disinterest, he stifled a yawn while he indictment of murder was read aloud. As the day’s proceedings came to an end, he slid on his overcoat and crossed the street to the jail. As the iron door locked Hayward into the cell, he addressed the sheriff, “I have a firstrate appetite. What have you for the bill of fare?”

Before December 1894, Harry Hayward was known around Minneapolis as a cad, a gambler and a ladies man living off of his parents’ money. Hayward had never worked an honest day, but managed to win and lose more money than most folks would see in a lifetime.

Hayward had become infamous overnight however when he was arrested for the murder of Miss Catherine “Kitty” Ging. Miss Ging was dressmaker from New York who was struggling to open her own dress shop. It was rumored that Hayward had lent Kitty money, about $9,500, to achieve her dream. As part of the deal, claimed Hayward, he took out a $5,000 life insurance policy on Miss Ging to ensure he got his money back.

On December 3, 1894, Hayward and Miss Ging met for lunch at a restaurant where Hayward made a show of handing Kitty a large roll of money, about $2,000 worth. Later that evening Kitty rented a buggy pulled by her favorite horse, Lucy and headed out alone on an errand even her closest friends were unable to pinpoint. Late that night however, as Lucy found her way back to the stables aone, Miss Ging was found laying face down near Lake Calhoun on Excelsior Boulevard. What first looked like an accidental fall from the buggy, soon became something more sinister. The coroner found a bullet piercing her skull.

As much as the city was enthralled by the murder of Miss Ging, they were more enthralled by Harry Hayward and his swaggering, unrepentant personality.He arrived each day in court, perfectly shaven and dressed in the finest attire. Early in the jury selection the papers noted that Hayward seemed well-rested and apparently well-fed, since he was starting to look a little soft around the edges. Hayward’s cool composure made police even more suspicious. He operated in court as he did playing cards. As one witness would state, “…no matter which way the game went, he did not seem to  than if the chips were of no value whatever.” Not even the confession of his triggerman, Claus Blixt, could elicit a stir.  But, Hayward’s pokerface began to work against him. Soon the police began pinning unsolved murders on him,  not just in Minneapolis, but all over the country.

The day before his hanging Hayward confessed to several murders, saving the murder of Miss Ging for last.”Throughout there was not a word that might be construed as contrition or sorrow for what he had done. It was the outpourings of a criminal who was only sorry that his career of crime had been checked so soon, for it had been his ambition to be the prince of criminals of his day,” wrote the Tribune on the day of his execution

Hayward ascended the gallows which had been painted red per his request, dressed in a cutaway coat and high collar. After a brief speech, he addressed the executioner. “Pull her tight. I’ll stand pat!”

A brief autopsy was performed on Hayward. The coroner confirmed that Hayward’s skull that the unusual thickness of his skull confirmed a mental illness that had created his heartless demeanor. Hayward was then taken by train to Chicago so that his remains could be cremated.  Upon his return he was buried at Soldiers and Pioneers cemetery.

Burial card is from the index to the Soldiers and Pioneers cemetery at the tower archives, Minneapolis city hall.

kidd cann bertillon record, city archives

The measurements of Kid Cann

Published April 24, 2014 by Kirsten Delegard

On June 11, 1920, a “Roumanian carnival man” by the name of Isadore Blumenfeld was arrested by Minneapolis police.  The young man had been brought into custody for “working crowds at a Norwegian church gathering at the Armory.” Blumenfeld was a pickpocket, according to this record. And had probably done pretty well for himself until he made some move that attracted the attention of law enforcement.

Police followed procedure. They recorded the charges against Blumenfeld, along with a brief physical description. And then Officer Jones set to work, measuring  eleven other parts of Blumenfeld’s body. Jones calculated the height and length of his head; the length of his left, middle and little fingers; his left foot; his left forearm; his right ear; his outstretched arms; and finally his trunk (the distance from the top of the head to a bench, for a seated person). He noted that Blumenfeld had a full set of teeth.

By 1920, most police departments had dispensed with this system of criminal identification, which was known as Bertillonage. Invented by French police clerk Alphonse Bertillon in 1883, this classification scheme was rendered obsolete by fingerprinting. But Minneapolis had been late to adopt this system. And it was slow to give it up. Which is why we have a complete set of physical measurements for the most notorious gangster in Minneapolis history. In the decade that followed his arrest, the Rumanian immigrant called Isadore Blumenfeld became the infamous Kid Cann, one of the most successful bootleggers of the mid-twentieth century.

In 1920, Blumenfeld was charged and received some kind of sentence, which was not recorded in the ledger. In the years that followed, he would abandon petty thievery in favor of the new business opportunities presented by Prohibition. Blumenfeld became a powerful leader in the illegal liquor trade in Minnesota during the 1920s. And when Prohibition was lifted in 1933, Blumenfeld used the social and economic capital he had accrued to corner the retail liquor business in Minneapolis.

In exchange for operating freely in the city, Blumenfeld gave generously to local political campaigns. And he diversified his business holdings, investing heavily in real estate in Las Vegas and Florida. He was pursued by the FBI for decades. And accused of multiple murders. But he was also known as generous and loyal to friends, family and community. He died an old man in 1981; at his funeral many people lauded Blumenfeld as a stalwart support of Jewish institutions in Minneapolis.

This page from the Bertillon ledger is another one of the treasures from the tower archives at Minneapolis City Hall. Historyapolis is working this month to illuminate the holdings of this forgotten cultural repository.

smaller version, image of police photographer, from costello book, history of police in mpls

Crime and Technology

Published April 22, 2014 by Kirsten Delegard

The police in Gilded Age Minneapolis were overwhelmed. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the population of the infant city exploded from 13,000 to 200,000. Newcomers landed in the city every day, traveling from all corners of the globe in search of new opportunities.

Honest strivers made up the vast majority of this influx. But the world’s criminal element also was attracted to the booming polyglot city. The question for police was how to distinguish the one from the other. Like colleagues all over the world who were seeking to systematize and professionalize law enforcement, the Minneapolis police decided to invest in technology.

In 1877, the police asked the city council to appropriate $25 annually to fund a modest experiment with the new technology of photography. The department sought “occasionally have the photographs of noted criminals and desperadoes taken.” Photography was known, according to contemporary writer Augustine Costello, to deter crime since “when such parties knew the police had their photographs they were more apt to keep clear.”

This faith in the power of the image sounds somewhat naive to modern readers, who understand how photography is a narrative tool that can be manipulated to tell different stories. For inhabitants of the late nineteenth century, however, photography promised immutable and scientific images. It suggested that identities could be fixed, allowing police to track down the shysters, swindlers and common criminals who sought to elude capture by moving across municipal, state and even national borders. It pierced the anonymity afforded by unprecedented urbanization and massive global migration, allowing law enforcement to tighten the noose on habitual offenders.

The 1877 appropriation reflected the ambitions of city leaders, who imagined their village on the river growing into a great global metropolis. They wanted a police force that was as modern and efficient as the city’s industry and recognized that information was as valuable to law enforcement officials as to grain traders and lumber barons.

Minneapolis became a global economic player. But it was never on the cutting edge of law enforcement. Over time, the police department amassed a rogue’s gallery of suspects and convicts. But after photography, the police were reluctant to embrace new developments in criminal science. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the department remained mired in a series of municipal corruption scandals. The police in Minneapolis were known less for their crime fighting and more for their cooperation with local n’er do wells.

Thirty years after the Minneapolis police began using photographs, the force adopted the Bertillon System, which was named for its creator Alphonse Bertillon, a Paris police clerk. This system for tracking and classifying criminal behavior came to Minneapolis in 1907, just as many cities around the world were abandoning it. More on that in later posts.

This image is taken from Augustine Costello, History of the fire and police departments of Minneapolis, published in 1890. It shows a Minneapolis detective as he struggles to photograph a burglar.

helpwanted add from st. paul globe

“A troublesome element of humanity”

Published April 18, 2014 by Tamatha Perlman

Today’s guest blogger is Tamatha Perlman, a writer and museum professional, who is working on a book about murder, madness and unrequited love in 19th century Minneapolis. Here she introduces readers to a young Irish girl named Kate Noonan, who became a servant for a prominent Minneapolis family while barely in her teens.

In 1878, the Daily Globe of St. Paul was filled with want ads like the one above. Thousands of young girls flooded into the growing city in search of economic opportunity. While they might have envisioned finding employment in the city’s expanding mills or factories, many ended up answering queries like these. For young, under-educated girls in the big city–especially immigrant girls like Kate Noonan–work in domestic service was the easiest to find. And least desirable.

Although they had food to eat and a place to sleep, these young girls were expected to rise by 4 or 5 am to make breakfast before starting on laundry and sewing. They worked with few breaks until 9 or 10 pm at night.

Kate first took this kind of position when she was a small girl. Her parents had immigrated from Ireland to Canada before the Civil War, moving to work on a farm in Minnesota after having children. Eventually the Noonan family found themselves settled in the East River Flats, which was nestled on the east side of the Mississippi River just south of the main milling district. It was here that the family encountered a priest who made them choose between faith and education. He demanded the children leave public schools, refusing communion to mother Margaret unless she enrolled them in Catholic school. Unable to send them across town, Margaret ended Kate and Abby’s formal schooling. The girls found themselves at a woolen mill when they were just eight and ten years old.

When Kate discovered that she could not withstand the physical demands of mill work she turned to domestic work instead. This type of work had its own challenges. Mistresses were imperious, shuffling servants in and out of their homes. Newspapers ran regular features condemning live-in help as a “troublesome element of humanity.”

But Kate met these demands, developing a sterling reputation among the city’s finest families by the time she was fifteen years old. One employer claimed, “all the girls are not of a gentle and good disposition; some are easily angered; Kate was not one of these.”

On rare nights out, Kate never missed an opportunity to have fun. Dressed in a black and white silk dress trimmed in velvet ribbon, Kate often attended dances hosted by the various societies around town. Most often she had a double date with Billy Dershon and her friend Kate Corchoran who, even Kate Noonan admitted “swore some and was saucy to men on the street.”

In most households on nights like these, the mistress would wait up for the help to arrive home. And woe to those who might have enjoyed themselves a little too much. Kate seemed to have avoided this type of scolding. But in the winter of 1877, she found herself in far more serious trouble.

On the evening of February 16th, Kate Noonan shot and killed her ex-lover Will Sidle on the corner of Nicollet and Washington Avenues. The trial of the young Irish domestic servant would ultimately divide the city, revealing an ugly underworld of urban danger and sexual exploitation.

Material from this post was taken from the Minneapolis Tribune, articles published in 1877 and 1879.

grand jury abortion indictment, theresa solie

“An Illegal Operation”: The Case of Theresa Solie, part 2

Published April 24, 2014 by Derek Waller

Today’s guest blogger is Derek Waller, a senior from St. Olaf College who interned with the Historyapolis Project for his January term. A history major with a minor in gender studies, Waller explores the history of abortion in Minneapolis in this two-part post.

Shortly after Theresa Solie died from a botched abortion, the Minneapolis Tribune reported “2 Face Arraignment In Illegal Operation.” An inconspicuous piece on page 20, the article gave the names and addresses of the doctor and Martin Schmidt, reporting that the men were put on trial for performing the operation. The doctor, R.J.C. Brown, was an African-American who had operated a small practice in the Near North side for over a decade.

The average cost of an abortion in the 1930s was $67; Solie paid less than half that amount for her abortion. This probably indicates that Brown was catering to a less affluent group of women. We have no way to know whether he specialized in abortions or merely began to offer this service as a way for making up for the income that many physicians lost in the economic collapse of the Great Depression.

At the trial, Dr. Brown was represented by Lena Olive Smith, a prominent civil rights pioneer and Minnesota’s first female African-American attorney. Smith called on only two witnesses at the trial, Dorothy Johnson and Marie Schmidt. Dorothy, a friend of Theresa’s, testified that she was working as a prostitute, and Mrs. Schmidt’s testimony supported this claim. She said that Theresa was rarely home in the evening, and was unemployed. Mrs. Schmidt testified further that Theresa had received a package with medication to induce an abortion. However, the court refused to admit the pillbox as evidence, which was found among Theresa’s belongings. At every turn during the trial, the court ruled against Brown and Schmidt, admitting all the testimony for the prosecution while blocking evidence and testimony from the defense.

The court charged Brown and Schmidt with first degree manslaughter, sentencing both to prison. Schmidt was released after a year, while Brown served nearly 10 years; racism was almost certainly a factor in this outcome. Whether either of these men were responsible for Theresa’s death, we will likely never know. What does seem likely is that Theresa was a sex worker. No records of employment or testimony from an employer surfaced during the trial. Under desperate circumstances, Theresa had few connections in Minneapolis, and did not really have other options. Given the economic climate of 1938, many women ended up working as sex workers. Without the money or support system to raise a child, Theresa had to terminate her pregnancy. An unregulated and non-standardized practice in 1938, abortion was more likely to lead to death than it is today.  The state found two men to blame for Theresa’s death, but did not recognize the material circumstances that caused it.

Thanks to William Mitchell law professor Ann Juergens, who shared this case and her other research on Lena Olive Smith with Historyapolis.


photo for solie abortion post, 6th avenue north and 7th avenue north, 1936, from the streetcar museum

“An Illegal Operation”: The Case of Theresa Solie

Published April 24, 2014 by Derek Waller

Today’s guest blogger is Derek Waller, a senior from St. Olaf College who interned with the Historyapolis Project for his January term. A history major with a minor in gender studies, Waller explores the history of abortion in Minneapolis in this two-part post.

When Theresa Solie arrived in Minneapolis in 1938, she hoped to find more opportunities than she had in her hometown of Cornell, Wisconsin. A high school graduate with a degree from a business college in Wausaw, Theresa had strong credentials for a young woman seeking employment.

But given the economic climate of the time, it’s not surprising that Theresa was unable to put her training to use. In 1938, the city was still mired in the Great Depression. The previous winter had been miserable; only a huge infusion of federal aid had kept the community afloat. Labor conflicts, escalating racial tensions and intensifying Anti-Semitism had fed the dark mood of the city.

During her first few weeks in the city, Theresa stayed with a distant relative, Clara Leines. She then found domestic work with various families around the near North side, which meant that she had food and a place to stay. Eventually, she got a job as a waitress and began renting her own room. At least this is the story she told Clara.

A year later, Theresa died a few days after undergoing an illegal abortion. On her deathbed, she identified the doctor who had performed the procedure. She also reported that her landlord, Mr. Martin Schmidt, gave her $25 to pay for the procedure. When a policewoman questioned her further, she said that Schmidt was also responsible for her pregnancy.

Abortion had been outlawed in the United States since the middle of the nineteenth century. The procedure was legalized in 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision. Solie died from a botched termination in the middle of this long century. The safety of illegal abortions varied according to the race and class of the patient. And from all indications Solie had no economic resources and little in the way of family support.

The criminalization of abortions never stopped women from seeing this procedure. Particularly during the Depression, women were desperate to control their fertility. Birth control became widely accepted. And a growing number of women sought abortions. The economic environment forced committed couples to delay marriage and put off child-bearing. Some families placed their children in orphanages, since they had money for neither food nor clothing. An unplanned pregnancy could bring economic catastrophe to a single woman.

Every city had doctors—like Dr. R.J.C. Brown—who were known to perform this procedure. In Minneapolis, Brown was probably well-known as an abortion provider, maintaining an office on 6th Avenue North, a main thoroughfare shown in this photo from 1936. This section of the near North side was known for its tippling houses and shabby brothels, a magnet for those seeking cheap liquor and illicit sex.

Despite the shifting landscape of reproductive rights, abortion was still considered a serious crime with severe legal consequences for doctors. And when Solie died, the state pressed charges against the doctor and Schmidt. When the defendants appealed for a retrial, the case went before the Minnesota Supreme Court nearly a year after Theresa’s death. The testimony before the court and the aftermath of court’s decision complicated Theresa’s story, shedding light onto a darker history that Minneapolitans of the time preferred to overlook.

This 1936 photo is of the intersection of 6th Avenue North and 7th Avenue in Minneapolis. It comes from the Streetcar Museum via the Digital Public Library of America. Thanks to William Mitchell law professor Ann Juergens, who shared this case and her other research on Lena Olive Smith with Historyapolis.