Sunday, September 26, 2021

Public Enemy#1 & The end of the Gangster Era

 They were the reality stars of their day.....crooks who shot and killed their way to fame.

I guess it all started with the economic collapse that dragged the world into the Great Depression. 

People in America (and around the World) were starving, money supplies dwindled, food was scare, jobs were very hard to find. The rich got less richer, while the poor hit rock bottom.

America was already fighting a new kind of crime as a result of prohibition and now new banditos were using automobiles, lack of communication and loopholes in the law to rob stores, gas stations and banks.

Before bank robbery became a Federal crime and subject to the jurisdiction of the newly formed FBI, it was easy to rob a bank and cross the border into the next state to avoid capture.

This was also before police radios were invented, so if you could get out of sight of the police you had a good chance of getting away.

In addition this was before there were Federal gun laws in America. Anyone could walk into a store and buy a fully automatic rifle, without paperwork or ID.....although many gangsters still preferred to steal them (Dillinger stole his from the Police Stations and National Guard Depots).

Some of these stories were included in the 2009 movie Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger. Although they took some creative license with the truth and the timeline of events, they got most of the facts correct.

Rather than tell the life stories or criminal exploits of these men and women. I chose to tell the stories of how and where these criminals met their end. The reason is simple, it happened really fast, from Sept 1933 to May 1936 eight of the highest profile criminals and most of their accomplices were taken down or jailed.

We'll start with the gangster who had the coolest name....but also because his crime spree ended first.

Machine Gun Kelly's (George Kelly Barnes) criminal resume was colorful. He was a bootlegger, kidnapper, bank robber and possibly a murderer.

Kelly was given the nickname by his wife who supposedly bought him his machine gun, a Thompson.

Federal Agents had been searching for Kelly and his wife and finally tracked them down to Memphis. In the early morning hours of September 26th, 1933 agents conducted a raid at 1408 Rayner Street in Memphis. Agents entered through the front door which was unlocked as Kelly had just picked up the newspaper off the porch.

Kelly and his wife were arrested without incident.

Coincidently, that same day 10 members of Dillinger's gang escaped from Indiana State Prison.

They were both convicted and sent to prison. Kelly spent time on Alacatraz. He was on the Rock from 1934 through 1951, during that time Alvin Creepy Karpis and Al Capone were also locked up on the island.

In 1951 Kelly was transferred to Leavenworth Prison (Leavenworth Kansas) and he died of a heart attack at the prison hospital on his 59th birthday (July 18, 1954).


Next up is perhaps the most infamous criminal couple in history: Bonnie and Clyde.

Bonnie and Clyde's rise to criminal stardom started off slowly, but after killing some police officers, law enforcement took off the gloves. The Governor of Texas persuaded retired Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to search out and bring Bonnie and Clyde to justice dead or alive.

Hamer put together a posse of six men, one of whom (Ted Hinton) was once a regular customer of the Dallas area restaurant where Bonnie Parker worked as a waitress.

The search was long and took Hamer and his crew through several there was such a thing as jurisdiction, but Hamer didn't let that stop him, he was a Texas a word of don't ever tell a Texas law enforcement officer that he is out of his jurisdiction.....

Eventually they were able to get the help of a fellow gang member's family to trap the criminal couple. They set up an ambush, using the gang member's father as bait, along Louisiana Hwy 154 between Gibsland and Sailes.

At 9:15 on May 23rd, 1934 Hamer's posse laid in wait and just as they had hoped Bonnie and Clyde pulled up. 

One of the posse members, Prentiss Oakley, fired first, hitting Clyde in the head, killing him instantly. Oakley's shot started a hail of gun fire, with Clyde dead, the car lurched forward into a ditch. The agents fired until they had pumped 112 bullets into the car and couple. 

Bonnie and Clyde had so many holes in them that the undertaker had trouble embalming their bodies......a side note, one of the people who assisted with the embalming was a women that Bonnie and Clyde once kidnapped.....what goes around comes around

The posse found numerous weapons and ammo in the car.

The site of the ambush, still looks the same as it did in 1934, except for a stone marker alerting the uninformed that this is the spot Bonnie and Clyde met their Waterloo....It can be found on Hwy 154 south of Gibsland, Louisiana (GPS Coordinates 32 degrees, 26'28.21"N by 93 degrees 5' 33.23" W)

John Dillinger is next on the list, having met his end just two months after Bonnie & Clyde.

Dillinger was known for bank robberies, arsenal robberies and his famous escapes. He was also charged with the homicide of a police officer.

After the creation of the FBI and a task force to bring down these gangsters, Dillinger became Public Enemy #1. A coincidence or perhaps on purpose, the AG declared him Public Enemy #1 on Dillinger's birthday, June 22, 1934.  He was the first such person to be named Public Enemy #1 by the FBI (Capone was named Public Enemy #1 by the Chicago PD, not the FBI)

Like Bonnie and Clyde he was constantly on the run and had to rely on others to hide him and his gang. One of those gang members gave up some info which led FBI Agent Melvin Purvis and his posse to the Biograph theater in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago.

At around 8:30pm on July 22 1934 the show was letting out and the agents spotted Dillinger and his female companions heading out of the theater. Dillinger spotted the G-Men and headed for an alley just south of the theater. 

Before Dillinger could enter the alley or get his gun into play, the agents fired and killed him with four shots. He died in the entrance to the alley, in the photo below the police officer is shining his light on the pool of Dillinger's blood.

Crowds gathered at the theater once the news hit the radio.

The theater is still in business (it is on the register of historic places). It can be found at 2433 North Lincoln Ave in Chicago. The theater and alley way were used in the filming of the 2009 movie Public Enemies

The alley just south of the Biograph

Next on our list is Pretty Boy Floyd, Floyd's real name is Charles Arthur Floyd. He picked up the nickname while working in the oil fields due to being overdressed for manual labor. It was a nickname he despised.

Floyd's resume included bank robberies, highway robbery, car theft, vagrancy and murder. Upon the death of John Dillinger in July of 1934, Floyd was declared Public Enemy #1. He and an accomplice were the prime suspects in the Kansas City Massacre.

Agents tailed Floyd throughout 1934 and in October they tracked him to Ohio. He was spotted outside a pool hall in East Liverpool, OH and a chase ensued. The date was October 22nd.

The chase ended on a farm where Floyd was shot 4 times by Melvin Purvis' posse.

The location can be found on route 428 (Sprucevale Road) outside of Calcutta Ohio.

Upon the death of Pretty Boy Floyd the FBI turned their attention to Baby Face Nelson (Lester Joseph Gilis), making him the new Public Enemy #1. Like Floyd, Nelson did not care for the nick name given him because of his small statue and youthful looks. He preferred to be called "Jimmy", while his wife called him "Les".

Nelson was a member of Dillinger's gang and had participated in bank robberies, shootings, tire theft, organized crime, car theft, jail breaks, bootlegging and numerous other crimes.

He helped Dillinger escape the Crown Point jail and was present during the botched Little Bohemia raid.

The Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin

The same agents that brought down Dillinger were on the hunt for Nelson and on November 27th 1934, Agents McDade and Ryan spotted Nelson driving down US Hwy 12 north west of Chicago in the Barrington area.

A chase ensued with Nelson's car and the FBI agents Hollis and Cowley (who had taken over the chase from McDade and Ryan). 

The two cars skidded to a stop at the corner of Lions drive and US Hwy 12 (now US Hwy 14/Northwest Hwy) at the entrance to the Barrington North Side Park (now Langendorf Park).

A gun battle ensued. During the melee, Nelson murdered Agents Hollis and Cowley while receiving 9 gun shot wounds.

Nelson escaped with his associate and wife, but not before getting guns, ammo and supplies from his car. The trio drove away in the Hudson previously occupied by Hollies and Cowley.

They went to a safe house in Wilmette on Walnut Ave where in the early morning hours Baby Face Nelson died of his injuries suffered in the gun battle.

The house at 1627 Walnut Ave in Wilmette, IL

After dawn Nelson's body was wrapped in an imitation Indian blanket and dropped off at St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery on Hamms Road in Skokie, IL.

After recovering his body, the bloody clothes (thrown out the window by Nelson's wife) and the Hudson, the police put Nelson's body on display, still wrapped in the blanket.

With Baby Face Nelson crossed off the list, Alvin Creepy Karpis became Public Enemy #1.

Karpis was born Albin Francis Karpavicius in Montreal Quebec. He was engaged in numerous nefarious activities including car theft, mail theft, robbery, burglary, kidnapping and murder. Karpis was given the name "Creepy" because.....well he looked creepy, just look at the guy

He was known as the brains behind the Karpis-Barker gang. On the 1st of May 1936 the FBI had found Karpis hiding out in New Orleans. J. Edgar Hoover flew down in person in order to be a part of the arrest.

On May 2nd agents surrounded his car at the intersection of Canal Street and N. Jefferson Davis Parkway (now Norman Francis Parkway) and took him into custody. He was the only one of the FBI's four Public Enemy #1s to survive his capture.

the plan for the arrest:

The car Karpis was driving.....

What the G-Men found in the trunk

The site of the arrest today:

In August of '36 Karpis was sent to Alcatraz prison where he served with Al Capone, Mickey Cohen and Machine Gun Kelly, he was incarcerated on Alcatraz longer than any other inmate, 26 years.

In April of 1962, with Alcatraz set to close, he was transferred to McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington State, where he met a young and yet unknown Charles Manson. He taught Manson to play guitar.

Karpis was released from prison in 1969 and deported to Canada. In 1973 he moved to Spain. It was there in 1979 he died, at the age of 72, by either suicide or an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.

I wasn't able to find the address of his home in Spain.

The capture of Karpis put an end to the Depression Gangster era....World War II was on the horizon, which ended the depression. Police now had radios and Federal Laws were written making bank robbery a Federal Crime....and then there was the way in which many of the gangsters met their end, that had to be a bit of a deterrent.

The FBI has not used the term Public Enemy #1 since naming Karpis as the fourth and final enemy.


Time Line

September 26th, 1933 - Machine Gun Kelly is arrested in Memphis

1934 - Bank robbery becomes a Federal Crime

March 3, 1934 - John Dillinger escapes custody using a wooden pistol

April 22, 1934 - The FBI raid the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin 

May 23, 1934 - Bonnie and Clyde are ambushed by Hamer's posse near Gibsland, LA

July 22, 1934 - John Dillinger is killed as he exited a theater in Chicago

July 23, 1934 - Pretty Boy Floyd becomes Public Enemy #1

August 1934, Alcatraz prison begins taking in inmates.

October 22, 1934 - Pretty Boy Floyd is killed by law enforcement near East Liverpool, OH

November 27, 1934 - Baby Face Nelson dies in bed from wounds suffered in a shootout with Federal agents

November 1934 - Alvin Creepy Karpis becomes Public Enemy#1

1935 - The FBI gets its name and becomes an independent division within the Department of Justice.

January 16, 1935 - Ma & Fred Barker are shot and killed in a shootout with the police

May 2, 1936 - Alvin Creepy Karpis is arrested in New Orleans

July 18, 1954 - Machine Gun Kelly dies of a heart attack in Leavenworth Prison

March 21, 1963 - Alcatraz prison closes

August 26, 1979 - Alvin Creepy Karpis dies from an apparent drug overdose


Ma Barker - Wikipedia

Pretty Boy Floyd - Wikipedia

John Dillinger - Wikipedia

Bonnie and Clyde - Wikipedia

The Forgotten Hero - True West Magazine

(724) Bonnie & Clyde - Real death footage - Mellotron - YouTube

THE PUBLIC'S ENEMY: The Life, Times and Death of Bonnie and Clyde (

Violent End to Bonnie and Clyde’s Life of Crime (

Real Story Of Bonnie And Clyde—On 80 Year Anniversary Of Their Death - Popdust

Machine Gun Kelly and His Lost Years on Alcatraz - Alcatraz Cruises

The Battle of Barrington - Chicago Tribune

American Hauntings: "THE BATTLE OF BARRINGTON" (

Nelson death 3 (

The New Orleans mechanic and the FBI's most wanted: Our Times | Crime/Police |

A Byte Out of History: The Alvin Karpis Capture — FBI

Monday, September 20, 2021

Featured Gun: Standard Arms Model G

This month's featured gun is the Standard Arms Model G

The story of the Standard Arms Model G starts with the man who designed it. 
Morris Ford Smith was born on September 29th, 1846 in Philadelphia. Smith was, like many in his day, an inventor. He had at least 13 patents awarded to him at the time of his death, among them firearm designs and inventions for tooling to install rifling on a cannon barrel (retrofitting?).

In his lifetime he had witnessed the change in firearms from muzzle loading to breech loading, from black powder to smokeless powder, from single shot to repeater and from repeater (manual) to fully automatic. It seemed that every change opened doors for more inventions.

If you know the history of the U.S. Military Ordnance Department, you know that they were a finicky bunch and on a near constant search for a better weapon. We can't really blame them, guns were changing at a very rapid rate.
In the span of 30 years the U.S. Military adopted three different rifles (1873, 1894, 1903).
After the turn of the century the Ordnance Department was looking for a possible semi-auto rifle for infantry troops.

Morris Smith was working on designs and had received several patents. Some of these designs went into limited production, but one design, refined over the years, showed promise.

Smith worked with W.D. Condit create a firm to manufacture his designs. 
He and Condit had previously created the Smith-Condit Arms Company of Philadelphia (which failed) and they were ready to have another go of it.
They decided to call their new company "Standard Arms". The word standard became much more common in the American lexicon after the start of the Industrial Revolution. A "standard" was the model of product or design on which others would be judged, a perfect example.

On May 16th, 1907 the company was organized in Wilmington, Delaware, they had an investment of $1 Million and had already purchased a factory at 102 F Street in Wilmington (on the corner of F and Spruce streets south of the Christina river). The address on the advert above showed 116 F street, which was probably the company offices. Neither of these addresses exist anymore.

They had plans to hire 150 employees and produce 50 rifles per day. Their goal was to win a lucrative military contract, but also to offer commercial guns for American hunters.

To help promote sales among hunters, the civilian version of their rifles were given a bronze forearm that were cast with wildlife scenes on them

The butt plate, also cast in bronze was adorned with the company logo and foliage. 

While the guns did not fare well at the 1910 military rifle trials, the company forged ahead and went into production of the commercial guns. The initial offering was a gas operated rifle, that could also be used in manual mode, manual operation was much like a pump action shotgun.

The chamberings were .25, .30 and .35 Remington, which were loaded via the spring loaded floor plate. Chambering a weapon utilized the manual operation and required the depressing of a locking button on the forearm.

Later a manual model, the model M, was added and the gas operated model dropped due to problems with cycling. It seemed to be in the design of a pin in the gas system that was the weak link that often failed.
The company reorganized in 1911, I assume some investors wanted to pull out after the guns failure to perform at the military trials

By 1914 the company was closing up shop. Some 12,000 or so rifles were produced.

Rumor has it that an additional 3500 or so rifles were put together from the parts by the party that purchased what remained of the company. Some say it was a Texas gun shop, others say it was an import/export firm in New York or possibly R.F. Sedgley in Philadelphia. This period of production ended around 1920.

At any rate the guns soon slipped into obscurity, only to surface once in a while due to the attention given to them by blogs like this one.

I have posted links at the bottom if you wish to do some research on your own and let me know if you find anything additional.

As it is with the majority of my featured gun posts, I actually owned one of these rifles for a short time. It was a model G, chambered in .30 Remington (rimless 30-30 Win). The serial number was 5198, I was told this put its manufacture date around 1910, but there is no way to verify that.


Williams, David (1907, May 23rd) Iron Age, Vol 79, page 1615

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Interesting Firearm Photos #54


In the Great War we needed these kind of innovations

Have you got your tickets to the Boogaloo?

I don't know much about this pistol.....but I want one

Gotta love the girls of the IDF

A family armed with what appear to be a Remington Rolling Block and a Volcanic Rifle, state of the art for 1866

The photos above were found on the internet and used here for educational and entertainment purposes under the fair use doctrine of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. If you hold the rights to any of the above photos and would like them removed or credited, please contact me immediately.