ligget murder, december 9, 1935, newspaper morgue files, hclib, rita y

The Murder of Walter Liggett

Published December 4, 2013 by Kirsten Delegard

One of the crimes that prompted the “Murder in Minneapolis” map that I posted on Monday was the slaying of Walter W. Liggett, the radical publisher of the small Mid-West American. A couple of months before he was gunned down in the south Minneapolis alley behind his apartment, Liggett had predicted his own death in a letter to Chicago Tribune publisher Colonel McCormick. Liggett believed he had be…en targeted by the same gangsters who had gunned down another crusading editor–Howard Guilford–on Pillsbury Avenue in September, 1934. McCormick (a wealthy industrialist and publisher) and Liggett (a radical editor of a marginal publication that railed against vice and big banks) were strange bedfellows. But they were united in their animus towards Floyd B. Olson, the charismatic and popular governor of Minnesota who both men believed had deep ties to the underworld.
This photo from December 9, 1935 shows the Liggett murder scene at 1825 Second Avenue South, before police had removed the editor’s body. As was customary at the time, the newspaper published the grisly photo. Liggett was machine-gunned down on a wintry evening as he returned from grocery shopping with his wife and daughter, who were seated in the back seat of the Ford automobile in the background. Liggett’s wife was adamant that she recognized one of the gunmen as notorious gangster Kidd Cann. Cann was indicted for the murder but escaped conviction on the strength of testimony from a group of barbers from the Artistic Barbershop downtown, who claimed that the well-known mobster was getting a haircut at the time of the murder. Liggett’s daughter, Marda Woodbury, would later publish Stopping the Presses, a book that recounted her memories of the murder and the threats preceding this terrible moment in the cold alley.
Photo is from the newspaper “morgue” files at the Minneapolis collection, Hennepin County Central Library. My thanks to intrepid Historyapolis volunteer Rita Yeada for digitizing images from this uncatalogued collection.
postable version, murder in minneapolis map, chicago tribune, 1936, hclib

Murder in Minneapolis, 1936

Published December 2, 2013 by Kirsten Delegard

It’s map Monday.

Published by the Chicago Tribune in 1936, this “Murder in Minneapolis” map was designed to illuminate “the Facts about a Crime-Ridden City.” Compiled as the city hit bottom, the diagram reflects the town’s unsavory reputation in 1936. Between the Teamsters’ strike of 1934 and 1946–when Minneapolis earned the ignominious title of “anti-Semitism” capital of the United States–the city was regarded with fascinated horror by the rest of the country. One report after another declared that Minneapolis was beyond repair–its economy in tatters, its social relations poisonous, and its criminal element unchallenged. In the article accompanying this diagram, Tribune reporter Wayne Thomis wondered: “Why is it that the decent-law-loving men and women who live in that city and state do not take some bold direct action to eliminate gangsters, gang lawyers and hoodlum-befriending politicians?”

This “expose” of Minneapolis was compiled by the conservative Chicago Tribune, which laid responsibility for the city’s lawlessness at the feet of the state’s political radicals. The accompanying article was a screed against Minnesota’s Governor Floyd B. Olson, who grew up on the Northside of Minneapolis and went on to become District Attorney of Hennepin County before winning the governorship. In the early years of the Great Depression, Olson became nationally known for his fiery radicalism, declaring in 1934: “I am not a liberal. I am what I want to be — a radical.” He was seen as presidential material in 1936, a challenge from the left to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Conservatives (including Tribune publisher McCormick) hated him for his radical rhetoric, though he governed pragmatically until he died prematurely from stomach cancer, seven months after this article was published.

The map highlighted some of the deaths associated with the labor violence that had rocked the city since the global economic collapse. The article and accompanying graphic also detailed a series of murders that were blamed on local mobsters, including those of crusading journalists Walter Liggett and Howard Guilford, who sought to expose the connections between the state’s political and underworlds.

streetcar burning, 1954, minneapolis special collections

Streetcars in Minneapolis: Now and Then

Published June 19, 2013 by Kirsten Delegard

The city has decided to invest millions to build new streetcar lines. Which beggars the question, what happened to our old streetcar system? It met its demise in June of 1954, when this sinister-looking photo was taken. This image records the celebration organized by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company, when it declared streetcars to be relics of the past. On this early summer day, the company actually burned streetcars –like the one in the background–to demonstrate its commitment to progress and innovation. The men in this photo were celebrating the purchase of 525 buses, which had been financed with liberal terms from General Motors. This allowed them to discard the streetcars and dispose of assets necessary to maintain the rail network. This image shows TCRT treasurer James Towey handing a check (from NSP for the company’s Main Steam Station) to company president Fred Ossanna, who was later investigated for shady business dealings and political bribes.

Photograph Credit: Minneapolis collection, Hennepin County Central Library.